Axel Springer

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Axel Caesar Springer (born May 2, 1912 in Altona near Hamburg , † September 22, 1985 in West Berlin ) was a German newspaper publisher and founder and owner of today's Axel Springer SE . Because of the company's abundance of power and the way in which Springer used it, he is one of the most controversial personalities in German post-war history.

A bust of Axel Springer by Kurt Arentz in front of the main entrance of the Hamburg publishing house
Axel Springer left (1974)



After attending a secondary school in 1928–1932, Axel Springer completed an apprenticeship as a typesetter and printer in his father's company. This was followed by an internship in the Wolffsches Telegraphen Bureau and the Bergedorfer Zeitung .

In 1933 Springer returned to his father’s newspaper, Altonaer Nachrichten , later the Hamburger Neue Zeitung . In 1935 he was promoted to deputy editor-in-chief before the paper was discontinued in 1941 at the behest of the National Socialists as part of the first of three major press shutdowns due to paper shortages. Therefore, from 1941 Axel Springer worked as a publisher for fiction literature in the family's own publishing house.

Axel Springer publishing house in Hamburg, 2004

At the end of 1945, Axel Springer and his father received a license to publish books from the British military government responsible in Hamburg. Springers first published calendars and from 1946 the Nordwestdeutsche Hefte , in which contributions from the newly founded Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk (NWDR) were printed. With the establishment of Hör Zu! In 1946 the rise of his empire began. Together with the publisher John Jahr senior , Springer received the license for the Constanze magazine in 1948 , which was another success of his newly founded publishing house. In the same year he published the Hamburger Abendblatt as the first daily newspaper licensed by the Hamburg Senate.

When setting up the newspaper publisher, the Springers were happy that the British had set up the communication center for their zone of occupation in Hamburg . The first party newspapers and the weekly Die Zeit also appeared in Hamburg .

From 1950 Springer built the Hamburg publishing house on Kaiser-Wilhelm-Strasse. Springer's radio and television magazine Hör Zu! (later Hörzu ) achieved a circulation of over a million for the first time . In 1952 he conceived his medial recipe for success: The first issue of the tabloid Bild , which has appeared daily since then. To this day, the Bild-Zeitung has a very polarizing influence on the opinion of a readership of millions and for decades it was the highest-circulation newspaper in Europe (today still the highest-circulation in Germany). Springer's fast-growing media company bought Die Welt , Das Neue Blatt and Die Welt am Sonntag from the British in 1953 . 1956 took place a participation in the Berlin Ullstein Verlag ; In the same year the first issue of Bild am Sonntag was published . In 1959, at the same time, he took over the majority of the Ullstein group with the daily newspapers BZ and Berliner Morgenpost in the western part of Berlin .

In 1961 Springer sold his shares in Constanze magazine to fellow publisher John Jahr . In 1964/65 Springer took over the tabloid Mittag , the magazines Bravo and twen , the sports illustrated kicker and the Munich publishing house Kindler & Schiermeyer. Christian Kracht became his general representative . In 1966 he founded the magazine Eltern .

In 1966, Springer opened his newly built publishing house in the presence of Federal President Heinrich Lübke on Kochstrasse (there today: Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse ) at the corner of Lindenstrasse (there today: Axel-Springer-Strasse ) in Berlin-Kreuzberg, in the immediate vicinity of the Berlin Wall. In 1967 the headquarters of the publishing house was completely relocated there.

In 1968 a federal government commission put additional pressure on the newspaper mogul and criticized his weakening of the freedom of the press in Germany. As a concession, Springer then sold his shares in the publications Bravo , Das Neue Blatt , Eltern , Jasmin , Kicker and twen . The German Association of Newspaper Publishers BDZV recognized this with recognition. In the two years that followed, Springer pushed ahead with the merger of its subcontractors Ullstein, Hammerich & Lesser and Axel Springer & Sohn and in 1970 became the sole shareholder and chairman of the supervisory board of Axel Springer Verlag AG, as well as the acquisition of the regional newspapers Bergedorfer Zeitung and Lübecker Nachrichten , which again made the Media guard woke up.

17 employees were injured in a bomb attack carried out by the terrorist organization Red Army Fraction (RAF) on the Springer building in Hamburg in 1972 . In 1973 Springer opened its sixth printing plant in Kettwig near Essen, making it the largest offset printing plant in Europe at the time .

In 1976 Springer founded the magazine Kontinent , in which persecuted Eastern European regime critics and writers were allowed to express themselves and publish. In the same year he started various "special interest" titles ( technical jargon for trade magazines ) such as Musikjoker , Ski-Magazin and the tennis magazine . Springer also acquired shares in Münchner Zeitungs-Verlag GmbH & Co KG . His request to buy the majority stake in the Munich publishing house was, as before, forbidden by the Federal Cartel Office in order to put a stop to a hegemony in the German press landscape.

In 1977 the critical journalist and writer Günter Wallraff dismantled the Bild newspaper with his revelatory book Der Aufmacher . The socially critical documentation Wallraff exposed the downside of the Springer press and its methods and cast a dark shadow on the media tycoon. The process led by Bild against Wallraff lasted until 1981 and was ultimately decided in Wallraff's favor. More negative news reached Axel Springer, as his publisher in 1978 to an estimated 50,000  DM for pain and suffering was sentenced after the Bild newspaper in its coverage of the murder of the CEO of Dresdner Bank , Juergen Ponto , the student Eleonore Poensgen denounced as "terrorists Girl" would have. In 1978 Springer founded the journal for women . Due to the suicide of his son in 1980, Springer increasingly withdrew and gradually handed over the scepter for his newspaper empire to confidants within the publishing house such as Peter Boenisch and Günter Prinz as well as to his wife Friede and sold further shares in his publishing house. Another veto by the Cartel Office initially failed to sell its shares in Burda-Verlag ; eventually it was approved in 1983. In the same year, Springer's last co-designed publications Bild der Frau and the TV-Illustrierte Bildwoche (again as a pseudo competition for Hörzu ) were launched. In 1985 he sold 49 percent of the total capital of his empire to various interested parties; the publisher was listed on the stock exchange.


Axel Springer's father was the publisher Hinrich Springer from Altona, owner of the Hammerich & Lesser publishing house, publisher of Altonaer Nachrichten and treasurer of the German Democratic Party (DDP) . His mother was Ottilie Springer, b. Müller.

In 1933 Axel Springer married the Hamburg builder daughter Martha Else Meyer . In the same year their daughter Barbara was born. According to the Nuremberg race laws during the Nazi era , Meyer was classified as a so-called " half-Jewish woman ". The marriage ended in divorce in 1938.

Springer's second marriage began in 1939 with Erna Frieda Berta Holm from Berlin.

In 1941 his son Axel Springer junior was born, who later became known under the pseudonym Sven Simon as the photojournalist and editor-in-chief of Welt am Sonntag, which was then published by his father . Axel Springer himself was spared from any war effort due to a red certificate of withdrawal (permanent incapacity for military service).

In 1953 Springer married his third wife Rosemarie Alsen , née Lorenz, daughter of Werner Lorenz .

Axel Springer Verlag headquarters in Berlin on the former sector border, 2010

In 1961 he separated from his wife Rosemarie, around 1962 his fourth marriage to Helga Alsen, b. Ludewig to enter. Like Rosemarie Alsen, Helga Alsen was previously married to Springer's neighbor Horst-Herbert Alsen. Springer's son Raimund Nicolaus comes from this marriage.

In 1978 he married his fifth and last wife, Friede .

Son Axel Springer junior committed suicide on January 3, 1980 to a Hamburg park bench suicide . This event weighed heavily on the father. In the following years, the publisher increasingly withdrew from the public on his property on Sylt.


Axel Caesar Springer died on September 22, 1985 in West Berlin and was buried by the bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church , Jobst Schöne , in the Evangelical Churchyard in Berlin-Nikolassee . His grave is dedicated to the city of Berlin as an honorary grave .

To person


In 1948 Springer became a member of the Hamburg Freemason Lodge "Die Brückenbauer" o. O. in which Paul Sethe ( FAZ ), Fritz Singer ( dpa ), Carlo Schmid , Ernst Fromm , Rolf Dahlgrün and Rolf Appel were members. At Springer's request, the monthly colloquia were held in his private library in the 1950s. In the summer of 1957 Springer suffered from schizophrenic attacks in which he believed himself to be the born again Messiah . He was largely shielded by confidants and excused for health problems.

In 1972 arson attacks were carried out on Springer's guest house " Klenderhof " in Kampen on Sylt and on his chalet near Gstaad . The chalet burned down completely. The perpetrator could not be identified until the Swiss author Daniel de Roulet confessed to the attack in 2006. In the same year, Springer received another award from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem . The following year, 1977, he was awarded the American Friendship Medal for the friendly position of his press with the United States.

In the following year, 1981, Springer was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Boston and the Konrad Adenauer Prize of the Germany Foundation . In 1982 he received the Berlin Ernst Reuter Medal .

Political commitment

As an employee of the Altonaer Nachrichten he was jointly responsible for anti-Semitic propaganda during the Nazi era . He also joined the NS motor corps as a candidate .

In order to achieve a reunification of Germany in a patriotic sense , Springer met with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in January 1958 . Springer had his personal astrologer calculate the ideal time for the handover of the reunification plan drawn up together with Hans Zehrer . Except for a detailed interview for the world , the meeting was inconclusive. As a result of the failure, there was a break with his former mentor Zehrer and Springer began to increasingly journalistically fight Khrushchev's Soviet Union as the “Empire of Evil”. In the course of the Cold War , Springer now increasingly used foreign correspondents and in 1959 founded the Springer Foreign Service (SAD).

Much to the displeasure of Axel Springer, the magazine Der Spiegel , which was always critical of his publisher, was printed in his house in the mid-1960s .

In both private and journalistic terms, Springer strongly advocated reconciliation with the Jewish people and made several trips to Israel.

The publishing house opened in 1966 on today's Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse (corner of Axel-Springer-Strasse ) in Berlin-Kreuzberg, in the immediate vicinity of the Berlin Wall, was a clear declaration of war on the part of the publisher and his signal against the GDR system . 1967 turned into one of the most uncomfortable years for Springer-Verlag: While Springer was looking for peace abroad, a violent storm blew against him in his own country with the slogan “Dispossessed Springer!” And marked the beginning of the 1968 student unrest. In addition, criticism of the publisher, who dominates the media, grew from intellectuals and writers such as B. Group 47 . In-house, Springer issued four principles, the third publishing principle was added in 2001, so that today there are five principles:

  1. The unconditional advocacy of the peaceful restoration of German unity in freedom.
  2. Bringing about reconciliation between Jews and Germans, this also includes supporting the rights of the Israeli people to live.
  3. The support of the transatlantic alliance and the solidarity in the free community of values ​​with the United States of America.
  4. The rejection of any kind of political totalitarianism.
  5. Defending the free social market economy.

After reunification, the first point of principle was changed to “The unconditional advocacy of the free constitutional state of Germany as a member of the Western community of states and the promotion of the unification efforts of the peoples of Europe”. In order to emphasize the non-recognition of the GDR as the second German state, it was written in quotation marks in the Springer newspapers on instructions from Axel Springer. After the shooting of Benno Ohnesorg in 1967 and BILD's one-sided reporting on this, the demonstrations and protests of a predominantly left-wing student body against the publications from the Springer publishing house that they called "Springer-Presse", especially against the BILD newspaper , began conveyed a rather bourgeois and conservative view of the world and politics and decisively fought communism , the student APO and the SDS under Rudi Dutschke . Further student unrest followed after the assassination attempt on Rudi Dutschke in 1968. One of the slogans was "BILD shot with". Axel Springer was accused of “inciting criminal offenses”, censorship and degrading the students and their positions. The result was arson attacks on Springer's company vehicles. Springer's closest colleague Peter Boenisch just managed to prevent a rush of demonstrators on the Springer building in Hamburg.

In 1975 Axel Springer was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Israeli Bar-Ilan University for his efforts to bring the Federal Republic of Germany closer to Israel . For his consistent support of Israel Springer received a lot of recognition from Israel and he became the first recipient of the Leo Baeck Medal for the reconciliation between Germans and Jews. The publisher was the first German to receive the honorary title “ Preserver of Jerusalem ”.

Addendum and Notes

Axel Springer's legacy is largely managed by his fifth wife, Friede Springer .

Architecturally interesting is the property at Grotiusweg 79, also known as Landhaus Michaelsen (designed by Karl Schneider ), which has been home to the Falkenstein Puppet Museum run by gallery owner Elke Dröscher since 1986 . Springer himself wanted to have the house demolished in 1970. Another house from the 1950s now serves as the club house of the Rhe sailing club .



Feature films and documentaries

Web links

Commons : Axel Springer  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl Christian Führer: Media metropolis Hamburg. Media publics 1930–1960 . Dölling and Galitz, Munich and Hamburg 2008, p. 347. The date 1937, which is often mentioned in the literature, is wrong, as Führer shows on the basis of the newspaper's imprint.
  2. Walter Habel (Ed.): Who is who? The German who's who . XV. Edition of Degeners who is it? Berlin 1967, p. 1911.
  3. Irmgard Zündorf, Regina Haunhorst: Axel Springer. Tabular curriculum vitae in the LeMO ( DHM and HdG )
  4. ^ History and analysis of the Springer Group (I) . In: Der Spiegel . No. 2 , 1968, p. 62 ( online ).
  5. Katja Strube: Man with the biggest heart . In: taz , July 14, 2007.
  6. Henno Lohmeyer: Springer: a German Empire , p. 66 ff.
  7. Springer's life: The “GröVaZ” and its eternal search for meaning
  8. philipmilitz: Rolf Appel - an outstanding Masonic talking to Knut Terjung. July 31, 2010, accessed January 2, 2017 .
  9. ^ A b Michael Jürgs: The Redeemer from Altona . In: Der Spiegel . No. 26 , 1995 ( online ).
  10. ^ Jens Rosbach: Enigmatic friendship . In: Deutschlandfunk , April 13, 2012.
  11. Hans-Peter Schwarz: Axel Springer: the biography . Propylaea 2008, p. 59.
  13. The “reunification plan in five phases”  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. accessed on May 8, 2017@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  14. Axel Springer AG - 60 Years of the Axel Springer House Hamburg ( Memento from November 4, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  16. Axel Springer died 25 years ago, in: Archive
  17. Michael Jürgs: The Axel Springer case .
  18. Landhaus Michaelsen: Puppenstube with a difference, Hamburger Abendblatt from June 12, 2012