Antiqua-Fraktur dispute

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Comparison of round and broken fonts

The Antiqua-Fraktur dispute was a political dispute in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries about the importance of broken scripts for the written German language .

In a broader sense, the entire transition process, which lasted around 200 years, is meant in which the Antiqua replaced the broken fonts as everyday font. In the middle of the 18th century, German was written exclusively in broken scripts. In the second half of the 20th century, the broken scripts had almost completely disappeared from everyday life. In the case of books and printed matter, the replacement - with certain fashion fluctuations - gradually took place over the entire period. On the other hand, there was a long argument about handwriting and school curricula, but the actual changeover took place at an accelerated rate from 1941, due to the Ordinance on Normal Handwriting .

From the Gothic to the Reformation

In the 15th century, Gothic was still the dominant style in art and architecture throughout Europe. In palaeography this was expressed in broken scripts such as Textura , Rotunda , Bastarda and Gothic minuscule . Since the advent of letterpress printing with movable metal letters ( Johannes Gutenberg , 1550), these broken fonts have also been used in the new field of typography .

The “old script” Antiqua ( Latin antiquus “old, once”), on the other hand, is a relatively new development of Renaissance humanism , which related to antiquity in terms of content and style . At the beginning of the 15th century in Italy, the humanists developed the humanistic minuscule from ancient Roman models ( capitalis ) and the Carolingian minuscule, which was believed to be ancient . With the advent of the printing press, this was adapted to a typeface that we call Antiqua . The Antiqua quickly gained importance as the standard font for texts in Latin as well as for the Romance languages derived from Latin .

It is controversial to what extent the Reformation contributed to the politicization of the written question. Martin Luther's German Bible was set in the popular Schwabacher broken script , on the one hand to distinguish itself from the textura of the Roman Church (in which the Latin Gutenberg Bible was set about a hundred years earlier ) and on the other hand against the humanistic Antiqua.

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Fraktur in the narrower sense was created at the court of the German Emperor Maximilian I. It was preferred by German-speaking typographers, but was also used in other European countries.

Mixed forms

Parallel to the emergence of the humanistic minuscule or antiqua, mixed forms (hybrids) of broken and humanistic scripts, the Gotico-Antiqua scripts , emerged in the 15th century . However, these fell out of use again by the end of the 15th century; such hybrid forms have only very rarely been resumed since then.

Two writing

Two scripts: German text in Fraktur, Latin and French-derived words in Antiqua (1768)

At the beginning of the 16th century the German peculiarity developed to maintain two scripts. Text in German was still printed and written in broken scripts, and Latin text in Antiqua. In the case of mixed-language texts, the fonts are also mixed: Fraktur for printing German-language words, Antiqua for foreign-language words. This rule has remained in the Fraktur theorem to this day. This distinction has also been established colloquially in the terms " German script " and "Latin script", even if both cases are of course Latin letters .

Two scripts also applied to cursive scripts . Handwriting in German was written in Gothic cursive, such as German Kurrentschrift or Sütterlin script . Handwriting in Latin was written in humanistic cursive .

The German script disputes were about the question of whether the German language should also be written in Antiqua, as well as about overcoming the two scripts in favor of a single script. In Italy and France the question was decided in favor of the Antiqua as early as the 16th century.

Enlightenment, classicism, wars of liberation

In the second half of the 18th century, the Enlightenment , Classicism and the French Revolution increased Germany's interest in literature from France and ancient Greece and Rome. This promoted the spread of the Antiqua.

The first climax of the written dispute coincided with the occupation of Germany by the French Emperor Napoleon . In 1806 he forced the establishment of the Rhine Confederation , which meant the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation . Although this “Roman Empire” was not yet a nation-state in the modern sense, the origins of the German nation-state movement lie around this time.

At first, the administration of the French occupying power gave rise to a dispute over the writings, as most of the ordinances were distributed in Latin script. Broken fonts were used by German nationalists as a symbol of the external demarcation against the military and cultural superiority of France.

On the other hand, the question of whether the German language could not also be written with Antiqua typefaces remained a matter of taste. Traditionalists valued the familiar typeface of broken scripts, new humanists preferred the Antiqua for philosophical reasons. The educated aristocratic and bourgeois circles in Germany were familiar with the Antiqua not only because French had established itself as the international diplomatic and social language, but also because almost all foreign-language literature was in Antiqua and knowledge of it was an indispensable part of higher education .

The correspondence between Goethe and his mother Katharina is significant. Goethe preferred the Antiqua, but had his works printed in both fonts. His mother wrote on June 15, 1794

"I'm glad about all the expression that your writings ... did not see the light of day with the Latin letters that were fatal to me."

- Katharina Goethe

Important proponents of the Antiqua are the Brothers Grimm , whose collection of fairy tales and German dictionary are among the most important works of German language culture. The fracture is "misshapen" in capitals and prevents the distribution of German books abroad.

With the introduction of the elementary school in the 19th century, Prussia made school compulsory for the first time for large sections of the population. The German Kurrentschrift ("Spitzschrift") was taught in reading and writing lessons .

French remained the most important lingua franca for the nobility and bourgeoisie; Due to the economic and scientific exchange with the industrial leader Great Britain, English also gained in importance. Therefore, educated German letter writers also had to be able to use Latin cursive ("Rundschrift").

Imperial times

"8 alphabets" around 1900: The letters S and E in Latin and German script, block and cursive, upper and lower case letters, including the " long s " ("ſ")

The German federal state was founded in the period 1867/1871 . At that time a lot of things were standardized in Germany, but it was not until 1901 that a common German spelling was agreed , for example . During this period there was also a debate about scripture. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, for example, was an avowed supporter of the Fraktur.

The antiqua-Fraktur dispute as a public debate was triggered in 1881 by reform proposals by the stationery manufacturer Friedrich Soennecken , which led to the establishment of the “ Verein für Altschrift ” in 1885 (“Altschrift” as a German designation for Antiqua). The völkisch counter-position was represented by the chief proofreader of the Reichsdruckerei Adolf Reinecke and the publisher Gustav Ruprecht , who participated in the dispute with the leaflet Das Kleid der Deutschen Sprache (1912) and founded the booksellers' Frakturbund. The public dispute culminated in a debate in the Reichstag in 1911 , but this did not lead to a decision.

Pan-German and ethnic movement

At the end of the 19th century, the Pan-German Movement and the Völkische Movement also took up the question of writing. Above all, Adolf Reinecke and the "Allgemeine Deutsche Schriftverein" he founded in Berlin in 1890, as well as the Heimdall magazine he founded and published in 1896, pushed the dispute forward with increasing severity. Reinecke regarded the Antiqua as a script imposed by the Romans after the runes of the Teutons as "pagan script" fell victim to Christianization . In the development of the broken scriptures he believed he recognized the workings of the German being:

“The round, rolling letters [have] gradually developed according to our nature into straight, angular, gnarled, branched and artistic structures for so-called Gothic or corner script. In this transformation we see a creative act of the Germanic spirit taking place. The wälschen font was stamped with the German language. "

- Adolf Reinecke : German rebirth. Basic building blocks for the Young German movement.

However, Reinecke's reasons fail to recognize the historical development of writing: the Germanic peoples referred to oral agreements in everyday life, runes mainly had a cultic and religious meaning. The change from the “round” Carolingian minuscule to “angular” Gothic fonts began in “ Welschen ” (!) Northern France, not in Germany, and was continued throughout Europe. Many of the Fraktur typefaces so popular in Germany, with their “ elephant trunks ”, are much rounder than the Gothic textura and much more ornate than the clear Antiqua.


On May 4, 1911, the written question was discussed in detail in the German Reichstag. In the mid-1890s , the association for old typefaces that propagated the roman had turned to the petition commission of the Reichstag to introduce the roman in schools alongside the Fraktur. After the application was initially approved, Reinecke, together with other nationalist groups, sparked a very emotional public debate. As a result of this public dispute, the Reichstag withdrew the resolution by 85 votes to 82. In the final vote on October 17, 1911, 75% of the MPs voted against the motion. So everything stayed the same.

In 1911, the graphic artist Ludwig Sütterlin received the order from the Prussian Ministry of Culture to develop new school output fonts. In 1915 Prussia introduced the German and Latin " Sütterlin script " into the curriculum. By 1935, most of the other German states also adopted the two Sütterlin scripts.

See also: Book Art Movement

Weimar Republic

During the Weimar Republic (from 1919) the two-scripts continued to exist in school curricula and everyday script usage. The Antiqua gained importance as an international typeface.

In the context of the functionalist Bauhaus and the typographer Jan Tschichold , a new typography was created in the 1920s . Serif -less grotesque fonts gained prominence.

During this time, numerous tests were carried out to improve the legibility of one of these two typefaces, in which the broken script - contrary to the subjective assessments of the test participants - won against the roman.

National Socialism

The National Socialists had a contradicting relationship to the traditional broken scripts. On the one hand, at the book burning in Germany in 1933 , students demanded “the sharpest intervention against the misuse of German writing”. On the other hand, Adolf Hitler mocked this backward-looking attitude in a speech at a "cultural conference of the party congress of the NSDAP" on September 5, 1934 in the Apollo Theater in Nuremberg:

"[...] the National Socialist state [must] guard against the sudden appearance of all those backwards who think they have to hand over a 'German art' ... from the curious world of their own romantic ideas of the National Socialist Revolution as an obligatory inheritance for the future [ ...] Your supposed Gothic internalization does not fit well into the age of steel and iron, glass, concrete, of female beauty and male strength, of a lifted head and a defiant mind. "

- Adolf Hitler

The NSDAP and the National Socialist government themselves used fonts inconsistently in their propaganda material in the 1920s and 1930s. As an exclusive feature of the Nazi typography actually be only the swastika , the Siegrune ( SS ) and the combination of David Stern and pseudo- Hebrew script with the " Star of David evidence" and anti-Semitic propaganda. It is controversial to what extent the broken grotesques that came into fashion after 1933 are to be regarded as "Nazi script".

Font of the Germans

On May 9, 1933, Reich Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick demanded in a speech to the ministers of culture of the federal states that the German script "must never lose its precedence over the Latin". On August 8, he followed a suggestion from the booksellers' Fraktur Association and ordered the Ministry of the Interior to only purchase “typewriters with German characters”. It is not known how many of these typewriters were actually purchased and used.

In the winter of 1933/34, the Rudolf Blanckertz Museum of Writing in Berlin organized a large exhibition on the subject of “The writing of the Germans”, which was then shown as a traveling exhibition in most major cities until 1938. On September 7, 1934, a decree by the Reich Minister for Science, Education and Public Education, Bernhard Rust, regulated the use of the German script. On July 30, 1937, the Propaganda Ministry forbade Jewish publishers from using Fraktur to print publications.

The market share of Fraktur as a script had fallen to five percent by 1932. In the years 1933 to 1935 it increased by up to 50%, but fell rapidly again before 1940. Despite this brief wave of fashion, the proportion of antiquarian cuts in German print production was significantly higher than that of Fraktur cuts during the entire period of National Socialism. Fraktur only made a significant contribution as a typesetting machine font. Antiqua remained the norm for typewriters and commercial typefaces .

The transition to the sole use of the Antiqua

Theodor Fritsch Handbook of the Jewish Question 1943 Titel.jpg
Theodor Fritsch Handbook of the Jewish Question 1944 Titel.jpg

Bestsellers in the Third Reich: 49th edition, 1943: 41,000 copies in Fraktur and in 1944 for the first time 11,000 copies in Antiqua
Martin Bormann's circular dated January 3, 1941 with Adolf Hitler's decree to introduce the Antiqua as a “normal font”

When Hitler had reached the height of his power in 1940/41 and occupied a large part of Europe, there was a change from the preference for Fraktur to the predominance of Antiqua, first with a view to foreign countries. Joseph Goebbels published a new weekly newspaper, which was also intended for the intelligentsia abroad: Das Reich . This newspaper first appeared on March 15, 1940, set in Antiqua.

At a secret ministerial conference in the Propaganda Ministry on March 27, 1940, it was decided that all propaganda material intended for distribution abroad should only be used in the Antiqua printing customary there.

On January 3, 1941, Hitler made his decision. The Gothic fonts should all be given up in favor of the "normal font". In a closed circular, Hitler had Martin Bormann spread:

“To see or to designate the so-called Gothic script as a German script is wrong. In reality, the so-called Gothic script consists of Schwabach Jewish letters . Just as they later took possession of the newspapers, the Jews residing in Germany took possession of the printing works when printing was introduced, and this led to the strong introduction of Schwabach Jewish letters in Germany.
Today, in a meeting with Reichsleiter Amann and the owner of the book printer Adolf Müller , the Fuehrer decided that the Antiqua typeface should in future be designated as normal typeface. Gradually, all print products are to be converted to this normal font. As soon as this is possible in textbooks, only normal script will be taught in the village schools and elementary schools.
The use of the Schwabach Jewish letters by authorities will no longer cease; Appointment certificates for civil servants, street signs, etc. The like. Will only be produced in normal font in the future.
On behalf of the Führer, Mr. Reichsleiter Amann will first convert those newspapers and magazines that are already distributed abroad, or whose distribution abroad is desired, to normal font. "

Hitler's reasoning stands in stark contrast to all arguments ever exchanged in the decades-long written dispute. At the time when Schwabach letters were created in the 15th century, printing was reserved for Christians. The script itself has its roots in the Franconian Bastarda, a traditional Gothic script. Much more important than the Schwabach script was the Fraktur from the environment of the Roman-German Emperor Maximilian I. The designation “Schwabacher Judenlettern” is mostly interpreted as an expression of Hitler's hatred of Jews and rejection of everything Gothic. Others consider it a propaganda trick to weaken German writing associations, the German language and broken script as a cultural unit.

The meeting in which Bormann's decree was passed was attended by the “book printer owner” Adolf Müller , who printed the party organ Völkischer Beobachter . This used the Bernhard Fraktur developed in 1913 by the Jewish graphic artist Lucian Bernhard . This script "hit the zeitgeist ... Even the National Socialist Völkischer Beobachter - probably unaware of the Jewish creator - used the 'official aura' of the script."

On January 13, 1941, Hans Heinrich Lammers forwarded the decision to the highest Reich authorities, but on the grounds that “the use of the characters incorrectly described as Gothic is harmful to German interests at home and abroad, because foreigners who use the German language master, mostly not being able to read this script ".

Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary on February 2, 1941: “The Führer orders that the Antiqua will in future only be counted as a German script [He probably meant: ... that in future only the Antiqua will be counted as a German script]. Very good. Then the children no longer need to learn 8 alphabets at least. And our language can really become a world language. ”At that time, the“ eight alphabets ”were the lower and upper case letters of Latin and“ German ”block letters as well as Latin and German cursive letters.

The responsible ministries also decided to abolish the ß in Antiqua, as the letter was unknown abroad and rarely found in Antiqua fonts. But Hitler intervened. From a letter from the Reich Minister of the Reich Chancellery: “The Führer has decided to keep the 'ß' in the normal script. But he spoke out against the creation of a capital 'ß'. When using capital letters, the 'ß' should rather be written as 'SS'. "

On September 1, 1941, a decree by the Reich Minister for Science, Education and Public Education regulated writing lessons in schools. The "German Volksschrift" introduced in 1935, a variant of the pointed Sütterlin script , was abandoned. Instead, from the school year 1941/42 onwards, only Latin cursive, the new "German normal script", was to be taught. The decree also gave precise instructions on how this script should look. To regulate the changeover to normal script in reading lessons, another decree was issued by the Reich Minister for Science, Education and Public Education, which ordered that the reading of Fraktur scripts be “taught in the second and third school year” so that these scripts “in the previous books and scripts can still be read [fluently] ”, but that“ [a] reading cursive scripts in 'German script' ... must be dispensed with ”.

A sudden implementation did not take place, for logistical reasons alone. It was not possible to exchange all teaching materials immediately in the middle of a war . The newspaper and book publishers could not buy enough Latin lead letters either. Nevertheless, the Ordinance on Normalschrifts marks the end of sharp German fonts as general utility fonts.

On 2/3 November 1941, Hitler said in one of his “monologues at the Führer Headquarters”: “In a hundred years our language will be the European language. The countries of the East, the North and the West will learn our language in order to be able to communicate with us. The prerequisite for this: the Gothic script is replaced by the script that we previously called the Latin script and are now called normal script. We can now see how good it was that we decided to take this step in the autumn of last year [...] I believe that with the so-called Gothic script we are not losing anything that is peculiar to us. The Nordic runes are much more like the Greek characters. Why should baroque flourishes be the expression of German! "

Post-war period, division of Germany and the present

Distribution area of ​​the German language after 2010

With the unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945, the rule of the National Socialists and the legal sovereignty of the German Reich ended. Written questions and school curricula were regulated by the respective occupying powers in the occupation zones. Austria and Czechoslovakia were again independent states. In the western occupation zones, the use of German script was prohibited in many places by the Allies because they could not read it.

The German Kurrent script was taught again in the Federal Republic from 1954 in the schools of some federal states as an additional starting script, but could no longer prevail over the Latin scripts.

The Gothic script was used as a bread script in exceptional cases until the 1960s or 1970s, for example in some Bible editions, in the Protestant church hymn book or in the Latin-German school dictionary Der kleine Stowasser . Otherwise, complete books were only occasionally set in broken fonts.

In most German-speaking Swiss newspapers, Fraktur typeface was used - longer than in Germany - until the late 1940s. Since the German-speaking Swiss media imported their fonts from Germany and hardly any sentences in Fraktur font were produced there, the Swiss media were gradually forced to switch to Antiqua.

Since around 2000, broken printouts have gradually lost their special status for the written German language. The usage adapts to international customs. In public debates, broken fonts no longer meet with any noteworthy interest as “German writing”, in complete contrast to linguistic demands or the heated debate about the reform of German spelling in 1996 .

Gothic script in a tattoo

The Fraktur is sometimes still used as a markup font. Otherwise, it has remained in public life where street signs, company names or other lettering are supposed to symbolize antiquity, a long company history, rusticity or solidity, for example on pub signs and beer brands. The fourth series of DM banknotes issued by the Deutsche Bundesbank from October 1990 had the word “banknote” in Fraktur. Fractional typefaces are internationally widespread in computer typesetting and have found a new role as decorative typefaces in pop culture , for example in certain musical genres such as hard rock , heavy metal or dark wave , as well as in tattoos .

See also


  • Friedrich Beck : “Schwabacher Judenlettern” - Scripture disapproval in the Third Reich. In: The Art of Networking. Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg, 2006, ISBN 3-86650-344-X . ( online , PDF file; 577 kB)
  • Friedrich Beck, Lorenz Friedrich Beck: The Latin script written documents from the German-speaking area from the Middle Ages to the present. Böhlau, Cologne, Weimar, Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-412-12506-6 , pp. 63-66.
  • Silvia Hartmann: Fraktur or Antiqua. The written dispute from 1881 to 1941. Lang, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1998. 2nd edition 1999, ISBN 978-3-631-35090-4 .
  • Albert Kapr : Fraktur. Form and History of the Broken Scriptures. Schmidt, Mainz 1993, ISBN 3-87439-260-0 .
  • Christina Killius: The Antiqua-Fraktur debate around 1800 and its historical derivation. (Mainz Studies in Book Studies 7.) Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 3-447-03614-1 .
  • Peter Rück : The language of writing. On the history of the 1941 ban on Fraktur . Homo scribens, Tübingen 1993, pp. 231-272 ( reading sample ).
  • Peter Rück: Paleography and Ideology. The German science of writing in the Fraktur-Antiqua dispute from 1871–1945. In: Signo.  1, 1994, pp. 15-33 ( [1] , PDF file; 63 kB).
  • Friedrich Naumann : Antiqua or Fraktur? Naumann's speech in the Reichstag on May 4, 1911 . In: Help. Weekly for Politics, Literature and Art 17 (1911), No. 19, pp. 299–300.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Gugel: Focus on fracture. outdated, ridiculed - forgotten? A portrait . 2006. ( pdf )
  2. a b Quoted from Beck 2006, p. 256.
  3. See Thomas Müller: Imaginierter Westen. The concept of the “German western area” in the national discourse between political romanticism and National Socialism. Bielefeld 2009, p. 136.
  4. Published by the Pan-German Language and Writing Association, Lindau 1901
  5. ^ Negotiations of the Reichstag: Stenographic reports (1911), Volume 266, pp. 6361–6378 ( online ).
  6. ^ Negotiations of the Reichstag: Stenographic Reports (1911), Volume 268, pp. 7363-7364 ( online ).
  7. ^ Adolf Hitler: Speeches on art and cultural policy. Edited and commented on by Robert Eikmeyer. Revolver, Archive for Current Art, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-86588-000-2 , pp. 75–76. In a footnote on p. 78, the editor expresses the assumption that the “backwards” were the spokesmen of the “ Völkische ”, presumably Alfred Rosenberg as well . Audio recordings of the speech: or Youtube (12:08, 15:24).
  8. ^ “Pre-1933 Nazi Posters”, German Propaganda Archive, Calvin College, USA (accessed June 26, 2015)
    “Nazi Posters: 1933–1939”, German Propaganda Archive, Calvin College, USA (accessed June 26, 2015)
  9. ^ After Friedrich Beck, 2006
  10. Beck 2006, p. 259 and Fig. 7a.
  11. Beck 2006, p. 258.
  12. Peter Rück: Language of Writing, p. 152.
  13. Friedrich Beck, 2006
  14. Federal Archive in Koblenz signature NS 6/334
  15. ^ Uwe Westphal: Advertising in the Third Reich. Transit Buchverlag, Berlin 1989, p. 114.
  16. Hubert Riedel : Typokunst. Font drafts, book and magazine designs by Lucian Bernhard. In: Institute for Foreign Relations (Ed.): Lucian Bernhard - Advertising and Design in the Dawn of the 20th Century . Stuttgart 1999, pp. 120-145, especially p. 121.
  17. ^ Joseph Goebbels: Diaries 1924–1945, Volume 4, 1940–1942. Piper Verlag, Munich 1992 and (as paperback) 2003.
  18. ^ Letter from the Reich Minister and Head of the Reich Chancellery to the Reich Minister of the Interior of July 20, 1941. BA, Potsdam, R 1501, No. 27180. Contained in: Silvia Hartmann: Fraktur or Antiqua - the writing dispute from 1881 to 1941. Peter Lang Verlag , Frankfurt am Main u. a. 1998, ISBN 3-631-33050-2 .
  19. Writing lessons. RdErl. D. RMfWEV. v. September 1, 1941 - E II a 334/41 E III, Z II a -. In: German science education and public education. Official journal of the Reich Ministry for Science, Education and National Education and the teaching administration of the states. Volume 7, Issue 17, published on September 5, 1941, pp. 332–333 ( digitized in the digital text archive Scripta Paedagogica Online of the library for educational history research of the German Institute for International Educational Research ).
  20. Conversion to normal script in reading lessons. RdErl. D. RMfWEV. v. September 1, 1941 - E II a 1544/41, 1217/41 -. In: German science education and public education. Official journal of the Reich Ministry for Science, Education and National Education and the teaching administration of the states. Volume 7, Issue 17, issued on September 5, 1941, p. 334 ( digitized in the digital text archive Scripta Paedagogica Online of the library for research on the history of education of the German Institute for International Educational Research).
  21. ^ Adolf Hitler: Monologues in the Führer Headquarters . Memory protocols, recorded by Heinrich Heim , edited and commented on by Werner Jochmann . Orbis, Munich 2002. Also in the news magazine Der Spiegel , issue 12/1980: “I am a general against my will.” Adolf Hitler's monologues in the Führer Headquarters (II) ( online, November 2nd / 3rd , 1941).
  22. ^ Peter Bain, Paul Shaw: Blackletter: Type and National Identity. Princeton Architectural Press, 1998.