The Empire

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From 1940 to 1945 , the Reich was a German weekly newspaper that was one of the most successful and widely read publications in the “ Third Reich ”. It always appeared on Sundays and, compared to other National Socialist periodicals, stood out for its special journalistic quality, high information content and comprehensive reporting. With a circulation of up to 1.4 million copies, Das Reich temporarily had a net reach of over 15 million readers. The single edition cost 30 pfennigs . Production, printing and distribution were carried out by Deutsche Verlag .


After the " Gleichschaltung" , there were still newspapers and magazines in the Nazi state that tried to maintain a high journalistic quality and their independence. Examples include the Berliner Tageblatt , the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung and the Frankfurter Zeitung . Their options changed from 1936 when, as part of the four-year plan , efforts were made to reduce the number of press products by means of work and raw material management as well as paper quotas. Overall, the number of newspapers fell from 4,700 in 1932 to 2,500 in 1937 and to 977 by 1944. The drastic control measures resulted in a one-sided and uniform press landscape.

Rolf Rienhardt , head of the administrative office for the Nazi press and deputy of Max Amann , wanted to counter this monotony . As early as 1937, he designed a new newspaper concept, which was to be characterized by journalistic standards, cosmopolitanism and a high level of information as well as a mixture of the latest daily newspaper and cultural monthly. In two memoranda, Rienhardt called for an “intellectual deepening of National Socialism” and criticized the fact that it was not possible to “make a good newspaper that was worth reading if the journalist saw his own existence as a threat to his existence”. He proposed reforms through journalistic freedom of movement and described his ideas as follows:

"The newspaper should not be one of many newspapers, but rather it should be the leading large political German weekly newspaper that represents the German Reich equally effectively and journalistically for at home and abroad."

As a prerequisite for the functioning of the newspaper, the new magazine should be exempt from the instructions of the “daily slogans” and instead have direct contact with all government agencies. Rienhardt wanted to achieve exclusivity, a high information content and comprehensive reporting. He did not rule out that "some of the articles could also have critical grades", but that was not a problem, since "the National Socialist overall attitude of the newspaper excludes any doubt about the positive intention."

The monotony of the press also did not correspond to the ideas of Joseph Goebbels , who advocated that "the press could be monoform in will, but polyform in the development of the will". The Propaganda Minister is said to have euphorically approved Rienhardt's concept and to have raised no objections to the list of persons presented, although it was clear that the members of the editorial board were not selected on the basis of party affiliation but on journalistic skills.

Content and structure

A Wehrmacht soldier reading the weekly newspaper Das Reich , Russian Campaign 1941

For chief editor was Eugen Mündler appointed, who as editor in chief on solid experience Berliner Tageblatt and the Kreuzzeitung could fall back. He put together prominent authors for the editorial team , almost none of whom were members of the NSDAP . The editorial came from December 1940 often by Joseph Goebbels. They were also distributed via the Reich broadcasters and distributed to the Reich speakers. All articles conformed to the system, with great value being placed on objectivity, soundness, exclusivity and the avoidance of propagandistic phrases . From today's perspective, many reports can be described as highly interesting and politically absolutely neutral. Reports with anti-Semitic content were not uncommon.

Due to the large number of foreign correspondents, Das Reich was not dependent on official news and press agencies . This gave the newspaper information that was withheld from other newspapers. The editors worked independently and left the graphic design of the pages to the individual department heads. One reporter took part in the daily ministerial conferences in the Propaganda Ministry, another was permanently represented in the Reich Chancellery , who was also in direct contact with Albert Speer's Ministry of Armaments. These liaison men were always National Socialists. It ensured a domestic political information content that other newspapers could not possibly achieve.

The newspaper appeared in a special format (390 mm × 590 mm). It had a length of 32 pages with black and white and color photographs as well as high quality art reproductions. With the mettage , new standards were set worldwide. For the time, Das Reich impressed with a perfection of graphics, text and images. The clear structure and the calm, emphatically sober language lent the paper an aura of impartial seriousness. Graphics, text and pictures had a modern, calm change. Antiqua was chosen as the font . In terms of content, the weekly newspaper was divided into six parts:

  • World events in foreign reports
  • Burning mirror of the events and cultural news
  • Letters from the Reich
  • Pictures from the German present
  • German economy and world economy
  • Features section .

“World events” naturally dealt with the development of the war, characterized by reports on the situation and the front, news of diplomatic relations between friendly and enemy countries, articles about military successes, but also failures and reports from the home front , which dealt with the effects of the Allied bombing raids on Germany were not played down. The reports even dealt with the situation of the opposing soldiers or the suffering of the population in England, for example, as well as the destruction of English cities by the German air force , although the cause was never the English people, but always an individual, especially Winston Churchill , being held responsible. This was not made as a “flat claim”; such statements were almost academically justified.

The economic sector was characterized by a high level of expertise and knowledge of the editors. Mainly it was about the economic situation during the war and the expected consequences. In the features section, which comprised half of the newspaper, domestic and foreign cultural issues were dealt with. Due to the variety of topics, the employees found far more journalistic freedom here than in "world events". Theater, film, music, art, literary criticism , travel reports found their place as well as science, education and technology. The diversity and the high importance of this cultural section, which also contained most of the advertisements , makes it clear that the weekly newspaper Das Reich as a whole was aimed at a large target group .

Heinrich Böll said in an essay in 1963: “I read the 'Reich' maybe three, maybe four times, of necessity because there was nothing else to hand, and I hated the newspaper: not because it was stupid, but because it was made so intelligent . "

Circulation and distribution

On March 15, 1940, the first issue of the newspaper appeared as the zero number . The market launch took place on Sunday, May 26, 1940. The planned circulation of 100,000 copies had to be doubled for the first edition. Under Mündler's aegis , Das Reich quickly developed into a journalistic and computational success. The consistent implementation of the line proposed by Rienhardt played a key role in this.

In less than a year the circulation rose to one million and reached its peak in March 1944 with 1.4 million copies. The German publisher finally had the newspaper printed in Cologne and Oslo in addition to Berlin , as the demand could no longer be met otherwise. The Reich found buyers far beyond German borders, including in Athens, Belgrade, Oslo, Paris, and was also sent by field post . About 250,000 copies went abroad. For Switzerland 50,000 subscribers are given. The German Air Force had ordered 19,000 copies for its reading group . In army units , up to 50 soldiers are said to have read an edition together because often no further copies were available.

The circulation figures clearly show the intended high demand, which was met up to the last issue despite the paper shortage. After the Völkischer Beobachter, the Reich was the most widely read and second largest press organ in Germany. In the course of the paper allocation, the newspaper shrank to eight pages towards the end of the war; the cultural and political part remained until the end. The last edition appeared on April 22, 1945.


In recent research it is emphasized that Das Reich was not an “intelligence paper”, as was rumored by several former contributors in the post-war literature. On the other hand, the purchase price of 30 pfennigs, the deliberately interesting variety of topics, with which a broad section of the population could be reached, but above all the very high circulation and production until the end of the war, speak against it. As a mainstream product that was perfectly designed for propaganda purposes, Das Reich reflected the cultural tastes of a large majority. The publicist Hans Dieter Müller judged Das Reich : “Despite Goebbels' striking ideological leading articles and anti-Semitic articles that the paper also contained, Das Reich was a great success with the public, which also raised doubts among critical readers as to whether there was something about National Socialism It is debatable ".

The Belgian professor Ine Van Linthout investigated the question of why, despite its importance as the second largest newspaper, Das Reich is today much less known than the Völkischer Beobachter , and sees as a possible reason “the fact that Das Reich is badly reflected in today's image of the Dictatorship leveling all differences can be inserted ”. Furthermore, the importance of this is likely to be downplayed, since quite a few of the journalists involved later took up influential positions in politics, the press and at universities in Germany. The political scientist Peter Reichel noted that "your writing embellished the criminal face of the Third Reich". Carl Linfert , who worked as a correspondent for Das Reich , later stated in reflection that the journalists "made a not inconsiderable contribution to the upgrading and stabilization of the Hitler state [...]".

As the communication scientists Katharina Veit and Christian Schäfer-Hock show, there are parallels between these so-called embedded journalists and the present day.

Regular authors (selection)




  • Erika Martens: For example “Das Reich”. On the phenomenology of the press in the totalitarian regime. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1972, ISBN 3-8046-8459-9 .
  • Hans Dieter Müller (ed.): Facsimile cross section through the empire . Scherz, Bern / Munich 1964.
  • Albrecht Linsen: The culture section of the German weekly newspaper 'Das Reich' . Munich 1954 (dissertation).
  • Victoria Plank: The weekly newspaper Das Reich. Revelation or instrument of rule? In: Sönke Neitzel , Bernd Heidenreich (ed.): Media in National Socialism . Schöningh, Paderborn 2010, ISBN 978-3-506-76710-3 , pp. 309-328.
  • Petra Rentrop: Das Reich (1940–1945). In: Handbook of Antisemitism , Volume 6: Writings and Periodicals. 2013, pp. 583-585.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Christoph Studt: “Servant of the State” or “Resistance Between the Lines”? The role of the press in the “Third Reich”. LIT Verlag, 2007, p. 134.
  2. Heinz-Werner Eckhardt: The front newspapers of the German army 1939-1945. Braumüller-Verlag, 1975, pp. 172-173.
  3. ^ Kurt Koszyk : German Press 1914–1945. History of the German Press, Part III. Colloquium Verlag, 1972, p. 997.
  4. ^ Norbert Frei, Johannes Schmitz: Journalism in the Third Reich. CH Beck, 1999, p. 108.
  5. Christoph Studt, p. 134.
  6. ^ Norbert Frei, Johannes Schmitz, p. 35.
  7. Christoph Studt, p. 134.
  8. Erika Martens: For example, "Das Reich". On the phenomenology of the press in the totalitarian regime. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1972.
  9. Christoph Studt, p. 30.
  10. Christoph Studt, p. 135.
  11. ^ Heinrich Böll: Kölner Ausgabe, Volume 12, P. 130.
  12. Marcus M. Payk: The spirit of democracy: intellectual orientation attempts in the features pages of the early Federal Republic: Karl Korn and Peter de Mendelssohn. Oldenbourg, 2008, p. 45.
  13. Hans Dieter Müller: Facsimile cross section through the empire. Scherz Verlag, 1964, p. 7.
  14. Christoph Studt, p. 136.
  15. Christoph Studt, p. 145.
  16. Hans Dieter Müller: High above grave and grief and death and torment. Der Spiegel, 34/1964 (August 19, 1964).
  17. Ursula Rautenberg, Ute Schneider: Archive for the history of the book industry. Volume 69.Walter de Gruyter, 2015, p. 67.
  18. Heinz-Werner Eckhardt: The front newspapers of the German army 1939-1945. Braumüller-Verlag, 1975, pp. 172-173.
  19. Susanne Grebner: Der Telegraf: Creation of an SPD-affiliated licensed newspaper in Berlin 1946 to 1950. LIT Verlag, Münster 2002, p. 44.
  20. Ursula Rautenberg, Ute Schneider: Archive for the history of the book industry. Volume 69.Walter de Gruyter, 2015, p. 67.
  21. Hans Dieter Müller (Ed.): Facsimile cross section through the empire. Scherz-Verlag, 1964, p. 14.
  22. Ine Van Linthout: The book in the Nazi propaganda policy. Walter de Gruyter, 2012, p. 31.
  23. Peter Reichel: The beautiful appearance of the Third Reich: Fascination and violence of fascism. Carl Hanser Verlag, 1996, p. 178.
  24. Erika Martens, p. 217.
  25. ^ Katharina Veit, Christian Schäfer-Hock: Embedded Journalism. In: Deutscher Fachjournalisten-Verband (Ed.): Journalistic Genres. UVK-Verlag, 2016, p. 155.