Guido Knopp

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Guido Knopp and his wife at the Radio Regenbogen Award 2017

Guido Friedrich Knopp (born January 29, 1948 in Treysa , Hessen ) is a German journalist , historian , publicist and television presenter . He is best known for his preoccupation with contemporary history.


Knopp was born in Treysa, Hesse, and grew up in Aschaffenburg . On his father's side his family comes from Upper Silesia , on his mother's side from Upper Hesse . After finishing high school at the humanistic Kronberg high school in Aschaffenburg, he graduated from the Friedrich-Alexander high school in Neustadt an der Aisch . Knopp studied history , politics and journalism in Frankfurt am Main , Amsterdam and Würzburg , among others with Werner Maser . After completing his doctorate on the history of the SPD and USPD , he was an editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and head of foreign affairs at Welt am Sonntag .

In 1978 Knopp went to ZDF . In 1980 he took over the weekly series "Questions about the time". Since 1984 he has been in charge of the ZDF editorial team “Contemporary History”, which he initiated and for which he was responsible for ZDF as an independent program area. Since the 1980s, contemporary history television series and documentaries such as Hitler - Eine Bilanz , Unser Jahrhundert - German fateful days , Hitler's helpers , Holocaust and Die Deutschen have been produced there. His editorial team was also responsible for the weekly history programs moderated by Knopp, Damals (until 2000) and History (since 2000). Knopp also regularly published books and DVDs accompanying the television documentaries, some of which became bestsellers. On February 3, 2013, when Knopp reached the age limit, he ended his work as head of the ZDF program area Contemporary History.

Knopp initiated the Aschaffenburg Talks , a panel discussion series on various topics of contemporary history, which he organized and led from 1978 to 2008. These discussions were recorded and broadcast by ZDF and Phoenix .

Since 2010 he has been chairman of the non-profit association “ Our History. The memory of the nation ”, which has set itself the task of“ recording the memories of contemporary witnesses on film and making them available to future generations ”. A “bus of the century” has been on the road in Germany since October 2011, in which contemporary witnesses are asked about their memories.

Knopp taught journalism at the University of Giessen and at the Catholic Gustav Siewerth Academy in Weilheim-Bierbronnen , a private university at the time. Knopp was appointed professor by her in 1994. At the Gustav Siewerth Academy, Knopp is a member of the Academy's Circle of Friends, and he has acted as a moderator at their festive events in the past. A course catalog certified Knopp a seat in the Senate of the Academy and identified him as head of one of a total of four departments. Knopp is an advisor to The Wall Museum East Side Gallery, which opened in 2016 .

Knopp lives in Mainz , has a second marriage to the Hungarian teacher Gabriella and has two children from each marriage.

Working method and target group

ZDF established historical documentaries at prime time and thus reached a wide audience. His style is also described with the suitcase wordhistotainment ” (a term analogous to “ edutainment ” and “ infotainment ”). Knopp himself puts his work under the motto "Enlightenment needs reach". The productions from Knopp's editorial team are also successfully marketed internationally by ZDF Enterprises .

Since the large series are always limited to the biographies of individual personalities, critics criticize his presentation of history as superficial and see an over-simplification of complex historical contexts (cf. popular scientific literature ). Proponents of Knopp's work, however, emphasize that the target audience is not historians, but people without detailed historical knowledge. Well-known historians from all epochs such as Ernst Baltrusch , Alexander Demandt , Heinz Duchhardt , Joachim Ehlers , Lothar Gall , Dieter Langewiesche , Sönke Neitzel , Heinz Schilling , Hagen Schulze , Heinrich Schwendemann , Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger , Michael can be found in the specialist advisory staff of Knopps Produktionen Striker , Hans-Ulrich Wehler , Heinrich August Winkler or Stefan Weinfurter ; The Association of History Teachers in Germany also cooperates with Knopp's editorial team and recommends productions such as B. "The Germans" for use in school lessons.


In Thomas Leif's book Passion: Research , the argument between the journalist Thomas Schuler and Guido Knopp is used as an example of possible complications in research. In 2000, Schuler had classified Knopp's professorial title as dubious, as he had it from the Gustav Siewerth Academy , whose management staff, according to Schuler, was linked, among other things, to the right-wing organization “ Association for the Promotion of Psychological Knowledge of Human Being ”. Numerous legal measures were taken against the article by people from the Gustav Siewerth Academy and, as a precaution , the Berliner Zeitung did not publish the article in the publicly available archive, although Schuler won in court .

Peter Kümmel sums up US and German critics of Knopp's documentaries as follows: Knopp's films functioned like “role-playing games that help Germans reconcile with their grandfathers.” The films appeal to the “we” feeling more than the facts . Memory is empathically charged with him , too benevolent. Wulf Kansteiner certifies that the spoken comments and messages are correct. The “visual pull” of the partly re-enacted and sound-backed scenes, however, often overlay the voiceover and create a clever way of identifying with, for example, a military idol and leaving out opposing perspectives of perpetrators and victims.

Beyond the criticism in the feature pages, there are only a few historical, detailed discussions with the productions of the ZDF editorial team Zeitgeschichte . A comprehensive discussion provides z. B. Oliver Näpel in the journal for history didactics . This is a systematic review of the functions and effects of the various components of Guido Knopp's docutainment programs, the main focus of which is on the series on the Third Reich. The trivializing or emotionalizing interviews with eyewitnesses would cover up historically explosive facts, criticized Evelyn Finger of the ZDF documentary series “ Kinder der Flucht ” from autumn 2006. It is depoliticizing to show individual fates and to withhold historical judgment if the claim is made, a whole To represent the epoch. In his introduction to this trilogy, Knopp did not mention the expulsions, resettlement known as mass murders, individual fear, pain, hunger and burdens that are often displaced by German armies. Not forgetting these, too, would not mean adding up to one another. Michael Jeismann in the FAZ, on the other hand, took the view that an extra reference about the war of annihilation of the German Reich in the east was unnecessary and that the individual interviews provided relevant information. The findings, however, are not due to Knopp, but to the director Hans-Christoph Blumenberg .

The question of authorship is controversial in the media and in the professional world. Each documentary or series of programs was created by a staff of co-authors, scientific advisors and editors that changed in size . According to Knopp's own statement, this also applies to his many books accompanying the program. Contemporary witnesses also play an important role in the documentaries. Often Guido Knopp was only the initiator, but not involved in the implementation. However, as editor-in-chief, he is responsible for most of the documentation. In addition, the name Guido Knopp has developed over time into a trademark that stands for a very special form of historical documentation - a star cult that guarantees global success through its own aesthetic style, but does not guarantee clear authorship.


  • A song with the title Guido Knopp , in which the German songwriter and cabaret artist Rainald Grebe humorously deals with Knopp's work, was published on the 2005 album Rainald Grebe & the Chapel of Reconciliation .
  • Guido Knopp is a member of the German Academy for Football Culture .
  • In the ZDF heute-show , Knopp appears in the category heute-show history without Prof. Dr. Guido Knopp parodied by Dietmar Wischmeyer .
  • Since 2012 Knopp can be seen in the ZDF television quiz Der Super-Champion and the follow-up program Der Quiz-Champion as an expert on contemporary history.

Honourings and prices

Filmography (selection)

  • 1984: then - 40 years ago; Series up to 2000.
  • 1986: The Nuremberg judgment
  • 1986: The German economic miracle; First broadcast: December 21, 1986.
  • 1986: The beautiful glow - Olympia '36 (GF Knopp / PC Schmidt); First broadcast on July 27, 1986.
  • 1989: This is how the Federal Republic came into being
  • 1989: The seeds of war - Hitler's attack on Europe (with Harald Schott) First broadcast: 20./24. August 1989.
  • 1990: German unity; 6 pcs. (Knopp / Piechowiak / Kuhn / Steinhauser)
  • 1990: Pact with the Kremlin (Knopp / Lenze)
  • 1991: The Damned War - Operation Barbarossa; 6 pcs. (Guido Knopp / Valerij Korsin / Anatolij Nikiforow / Harald Schott)
  • 1991: Pictures that made history; 20 pieces; Until 1992.
  • 1993: The Damned War - Stalingrad Decision; 5-part (One of the first programs to be offered for sale as VHS)
  • 1994: The great photos of the century
  • 1994: Liberation - France after the "longest day"
  • 1994: Top Spies - Traitors in the Secret War; 6 pcs.
  • 1995: The end of 1945
  • 1995: Hitler - a balance sheet
  • 1996: Hitler's helper
  • 1997: Vatican - The Power of the Popes; 5-part
  • 1998: Our Century - German Fateful Days; 16 pcs.
  • 1998: The Third World War
  • 1998: Hitler's helper II
  • 1998: Hitler's warrior
  • 1999: 100 years - The great pictures of our century
  • 1999: Chancellor - The Mighty of the Republic
  • 2000: Hitler's children; 5-part
  • 2000: Germany game; 2-part
  • 2000: Holocaust
  • 2000: "History"; Series; Started October 2000.
  • 2001: The Great Escape; 5-part
  • 2001: Hitler's women and Marlene
  • 2002: The War of the Century; 9 pcs.
  • 2002: The test of nerves
  • 2002: The SS - A Warning of History; 6 pcs.
  • 2003: Stalingrad; 3-part; - The attack; - The boiler; - The downfall
  • 2003: Stalin
  • 2003: The uprising
  • 2004: The Liberation
  • 2004: You wanted to kill Hitler
  • 2004: The miracle of Bern
  • 2004: the final battle
  • 2004: Hitler's manager; 5-part
  • 2005: The Storm; 4-part
  • 2005: Until death do us part
  • 2005: The drama of Dresden
  • 2005: The Prisoners; 5-part
  • 2006: We world champions; 3-part
  • 2007: The Wehrmacht
  • 2008: The Germans
  • 2009: Stauffenberg - The real story
  • 2009: The seizure of power
  • 2009: The great moments of the Germans
  • 2010: The Germans (2nd season)
  • 2011: The race to the South Pole
  • 2011: The Holy War
  • 2012: World Fire (ZDF)
  • 2013: History Live
  • 2018: 100 years of the Weimar Republic


Other books, some of which are accompanying books to the film documentation:


  • T. Fehrensen: Hitler as a quota striker . Commentary on the films by Guido Knopp. In: Rheinischer Merkur . October 2, 1998.
  • Joachim Käppner: Review: “G. Knopp u. a .: Holocaust ” . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . October 23, 2000.
  • Wulf Kansteiner: The radicalization of German memory in the age of its commercial reproduction: Hitler and the “Third Reich” in Guido Knopp's television documentaries . In: Journal for Historical Science (ZfG) . No. 51 , 2003, p. 626 ff .
  • Peter Kümmel: A people in the time machine . In: The time . No. 10 , 2004 ( ).
  • Drehli Robnik: Postnational nobility and rabble around Guido Knopp . In: Historical Aesthetics and Affect Politics. Stauffenberg and July 20 in the film 1948–2008 . Turia + Kant, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-85132-557-7 , pp. 125-151 .
  • Rolf Rietzler: In the Knopp cinema: The secret of the red armband . In: ders .: Mensch, Adolf. Hitler's image of the Germans since 1945 . Munich 2016, pp. 384–412.

Web links

Commons : Guido Knopp  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Unification debate and unification action in the SPD and USPD 1917–1920 with special consideration of the “Central Office for Unification of Social Democracy” . Wuerzburg 1975.
  2. Knopp stops . ; Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  3. Thomas Schuler: Research in court becomes research for court. In: Thomas Leif: More Passion Research: Stories of scandal and disclosures; a manual for research and information gathering. VS Verlag, 2003, pp. 68-69; Google books clipping ; Excerpt from the book with a complete article on Network Research (PDF; 1.1 MB)
  4. Compact: Features section compact. In: . March 26, 2016, accessed October 7, 2018 .
  5. Interview: Guido Knopp on history from July 21, 2011, accessed on January 27, 2018
  6. Guido Knopp turns 70
  7. Bernhard Schulz: Moving images, moving witnesses ZDF chief historian Guido Knopp is retiring. To say goodbye, there's 30 years of contemporary history
  8. ^ "The peaceful revolution was endangered". Retrieved December 6, 2018 .
  10. Learn history with films and multimedia. ZDF series “Die Deutschen” supports school lessons. In: November 14, 2010, accessed June 22, 2020 .
  11. Thomas Schuler: Research in court becomes research for court. In: Thomas Leif: More Passion Research: Stories of scandal and disclosures; a manual for research and information gathering. VS Verlag, 2003, pp. 73-83; Google books clipping ; Excerpt from the book with complete article on Network Research (PDF; 1.1 MB)
  12. Peter Kümmel: A people in the time machine. In: The time . No. 10/2004, February 26, 2004.
  13. Wulf Kansteiner: The radicalization of German memory in the age of its commercial reproduction: Hitler and the "Third Reich" in the television documentaries by Guido Knopp. In: Journal of History. 51 (2003), p. 634.
  14. Oliver Näpel: Historical learning through 'docutainment'? - A historical didactic outline. Chances and limits of a new aesthetic of popular historical documentaries, analyzed using the example of the series Guido Knopp. In: Journal for History Didactics. 2 (2003), pp. 213-244. (online on the author's website)
  15. Evelyn Finger: All were victims. In: The time . No. 48/2006, Nov. 23, 2006, p. 57.
  16. G. Knopp in a sign of reconciliation (about the ZDF series " The Children of Flight "), ZDF from November 26, 2006 ( Memento from December 1, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  17. Michael Jeismann: TV preview - Experienced stories of flight . In: FAZ. November 28, 2006, No. 277, p. 42.
  18. Wulf Kansteiner: Hitler and the "Third Reich" in the television documentaries by Guido Knopp. In: Journal of History. 51. Issue 7 2003, p. 626.
  19. a b The clip school from Lerchenberg . In: Der Spiegel . No. 46 , 1999 ( online ).
  20. ^ ZDF yearbooks 1984 to 2010, ZDF yearbook 2010
  21. To success with Hitler. ( Memento from October 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) at:
  22. ( Memento from September 6, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  23. , ( memento from October 6, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  24. Report on the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award on