Hans Zehrer

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Hans Zehrer (born June 22, 1899 in Berlin ; † August 23, 1966 there ) was a German journalist .

First years

In 1917 Zehrer volunteered as a war volunteer. After the end of the First World War he remained a soldier and took part in the Kapp Putsch as a volunteer . He broke off his studies at the University of Berlin for economic reasons, but remained an active member of the Corps Silingia student association and an avowed student of the Corps .

From October 1923 to October 1931 he was editor of the Vossische Zeitung . He turned down the post of editor-in-chief of the Vossische Zeitung , offered to him in 1931 . Instead, in October 1929 he had taken over the clandestine editing of the monthly magazine Die Tat , published by Eugen Diederichs , which, under Zehrer's direction, was able to increase its circulation considerably: within three years it increased its circulation thirty-fold from 1,000 copies per issue to 30,000 - at that time a considerable circulation, especially since there was no shortage of right-wing political journals at the time. Together with Ernst Wilhelm Eschmann , Giselher Wirsing and Ferdinand Friedrich Zimmermann (pseudonym: Ferdinand Fried ) he formed the so-called “ Tat-Kreis ”, which exerted a considerable influence on public opinion in the late phase of the Weimar Republic . Hellmuth Elbrechte also belonged somewhat loosely to the group . Zehrer soon assumed a dominant position in the Tat group. This prompted Zehrer's opponent from the left-wing magazine Die Weltbühne to bitingly refer to him as the “ Duce of the Tatkreis”. Although Zehrer rejected National Socialism , as his wife later reported, he had chosen the NSDAP since the early 1930s . The hope that he attached to it was to contribute to the erosion of the Weimar state and "finally to overthrow the system."

Zehrer's original willingness to use the Nazi movement as a whole to help build a new state and even to tolerate Adolf Hitler as Chancellor and to control it with the help of the Reichswehr gave way in the days of December 12th and 13th. August 1932 with the aim to split the NSDAP. In order to prevent the " seizure of power " by the NSDAP, Zehrer henceforth worked towards a cross-front alliance between the "left" wing of the National Socialists around Gregor Strasser , trade unionists and social democrats - under the leadership of Kurt von Schleicher - but this failed. At the beginning of January 1933, Zehrer did indeed publicize the alliance between Hitler and Papen that had been uncovered by his colleague Hellmuth Elbrecht . On January 24, he advised Schleicher to prevent the threatened loss of power through a coup d'état by the Reichswehr: "Parliament must be eliminated, and with it the parties."

time of the nationalsocialism

A few weeks after Hitler came to power in the spring of 1933, Zehrer had to give up editing the act , which Giselher Wirsing now took over. The daily review , which Zehrer only took over in September 1932 , was temporarily banned by the Gestapo in May and finally in July . He retired to Blankenese and lived on Sylt from 1934 , where he met the young Axel Springer . As a former protégé of Schleicher and because of his Jewish wife Margot Susmann-Mosse, Zehrer was de facto subject to a professional ban, even if this was never explicitly stated.

After the November pogroms in 1938 , Zehrer sent his wife to safety in Great Britain. He took over the management of the Berlin branch of the Oldenburg publishing house Gerhard Stalling . Zehrer foresaw the Second World War from 1938 and wrote to his wife on November 11: “The end has begun and will be bitter, and I am convinced that the catastrophe will be behind us next autumn. But it will be a catastrophe. ”In November 1939 he got divorced and justified this with a long separation and“ racial difference ”.

In April 1941 he became a member of the management board of Stalling AG and took over management of the company after Stalling's death in 1942. In the following years he won Helmut Rößler , Franz Schnabel , Michael Freund , Edwin Redslob , Ernst Wagemann and Ferdinand Friedensburg as authors . In 1943 Zehrer was drafted into the air force and served on a staff in Karlsbad . In 1945 he was transferred to Berlin. Shortly before the end of the war, he fled to Sylt via Hamburg.

Federal Republic

From January to March 1946, Zehrer was editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Die Welt , founded by the British occupying forces , but had to resign from this post after protests by the Social Democrats. From February 1948 to September 1953 he was the editor of the Hamburger Sonntagsblatt . Then he was again editor-in-chief of the world until May 1966 , which was taken over by Axel Springer in 1953, and also a columnist for the Bild newspaper . Zehrer was one of Axel Springer's closest confidants. His trip to Moscow with Springer in 1958 meant that Die Welt and Springer finally moved away from the idea of ​​an all-German neutrality.

Zehrer's political ideas

Authoritarian state ideas

In the crisis years of the Weimar Republic, Zehrer drafted plans to build a state in which “people are led by good authorities ” who “ orient themselves towards the common good ”. His idea of ​​the state was based on the three basic concepts of auctoritas , potestas and will of the people.

With auctoritas he meant the ability to lead through the suggestive ability to move others to followers, with potestas he meant the power, others with violence to force for compliance. In the struggle between National Socialism and Communism , he did not expect the complete victory of one over the other, but rather the dissolution of both and their merging into a third community, the Volksgemeinschaft : “The NS moves on the line from nationalism to socialism , the unions on the line from socialism to nationalism [...] The political unity of the people, the national community, is only created by the fact that the national and the social coincide and unite to form a unity. "

Accordingly, Zehrer rejected liberalism in the state and in the economy and considered it necessary to liquidate the "two twin brothers, parliamentarism and capitalism ". Liberalism - for Zehrer the main evil of the time - is ultimately nothing but an "imposed idea of the West " that does not correspond to the " German view of the state and life in the state". What liberalism has brought the Germans is a "sticky, conceptless chaos." It promotes egoism and group interests and hinders the aspired national community.

Zehrer rejected a fascist state based on the Italian model as unsuitable for Germany.

On foreign policy

Under the guise of a “cultural mission”, Zehrer represented imperialist doctrines. In doing so, he tied in with Arnold Gehlen's concept of breeding , which Gehlen combined with domination, leadership, will and performance.

To culture

During the Weimar Republic he represented an aggressive anti-intellectualism, which for him arose from an "anti-rationalism" fed by preferences for the romantic and mystical. Furthermore, Zehrer turned against the “ mass ” as a factor in politics and culture , also typical of the time : The democratization of the spirit leads to a “terrible devaluation of the spirit” and to an incessant decline: “The general leveling and vulgarization of style is the noblest Signs of today. ”The leadership of the crowd“ is the death of every spiritual direction ”. Instead, elites should lead. He preferred intellectuals with the attributes “left” and “Jewish”.

Zehrer saw a "rising puckering", " cultural Bolshevism " and " godless movement ", "night culture" and " subhumanity " as perishable phenomena that "lay down like powdery mildew on all areas of culture ". Zehrer hurled the following remark after the exiles and concentration camp inmates of the years after 1933: “What we have always felt still clings to this spirit, to the sharpness of the wit and style, to the brilliance of the language and the ease of the diction: a certain uncleanness and greasiness of disposition that resulted from human inadequacy. Today's fate punishes this arrogance of the intellect harshly but justly, whose lack of human substance never led to the only justification of the spirit. "


  • Man in this world . Rowohlt, Hamburg 1948. Foreword by Hanns Lilje . (Philosophy of History, 656 pages)
    • (English) Man in this world . London 1952, New York 1955. (abridged and edited)


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Ebbo Demant, p. 10.
  2. Ebbo Demant, p. 72. The best-known sheet of the left, the Weltbühne , only reached 13,000 copies.
  3. Ebbo Demant, p. 97.
  4. Ebbo Demant, p. 99.
  5. Ebbo Demant, pp. 108 and 318.
  6. ^ Letter from the President of the Chamber of Literature to the NSDAP, Gau SH dated January 3, 1941, Personnel File, Berlin Document Center, Folder No. 10258, AZ 16229. In the same place it is said that before 1933 Zehrer had “intellectualistic signs when assessing the situation shown."
  7. Ebbo Demant, p. 42.
  8. Ebbo Demant, p. 43f.
  9. Ebbo Demant, p. 54.