Merkur (magazine)

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Mercury. German magazine for European thinking
Cover Merkur January 2015.jpg
description Cover after the graphic revision of Merkur in January 2015
Area of ​​Expertise Politics , aesthetics , history , philosophy ,
economics , society , art and literature
language German
publishing company Klett-Cotta (= Germany )
Headquarters Berlin
First edition 1947
Frequency of publication per month
Widespread edition 3500 (printed) copies
editor Christian Demand and Ekkehard Knörer
Web link
ISSN (print)
ISSN (online)

Der Merkur (subtitle: founded in 1947 as the German magazine for European thinking ) is a monthly cultural magazine published by Klett-Cotta in Stuttgart . The editorial office has been in Berlin since 1998, previously the editorial office was based in Munich. Founded in 1947, Merkur is one of the oldest cultural magazines in Germany. In 1990 he was awarded the German Critics' Prize. The Ernst H. Klett Stiftung Merkur has been providing funding since 1978 . The Mercury is a partner of Eurozine - Society for networking culture media mbH , which the online magazine Eurozine publishes.


1947–1978: Hans Paeschke and Joachim Moras

The first edition of Merkur appeared in 1947. The imprint initially only named Hans Paeschke , from the sixth edition also Joachim Moras as publisher. Although involved in the planning and design of the magazine from the start, Moras' involvement was initially concealed for strategic reasons: During the Third Reich, he had worked for the magazine Europäische Revue , which was financed by the Propaganda Ministry ; In order not to jeopardize the licensing of the Merkur by the French military administration, it did not appear in the media until its acquittal by the Munich judicial chamber in July 1947. During the war, Paeschke was editor-in-chief of the Neue Rundschau , which the National Socialists had banned in 1944. He therefore enjoyed an impeccable reputation with the French authorities.

Hans Paeschke and Gerhard Heller , who were founders of Merkur along with Joachim Moras , had been part of the editorial team of “Lancelot, the messenger from France” in Baden-Baden since the turn of the year 1946/1947, a rather left-wing magazine shaped by the spirit of the French Resistance. From the Lancelot editorial team, Paeschke and Heller planned their own magazine, with support from conservative circles in the military government.

In October 1946 there was a meeting with Peter Suhrkamp, ​​who was interested in Paeschke and Heller's plans. However, when he saw the article planning for the first issues of the future Merkur , Suhrkamp reacted with dismay. He could see "hardly a surprising topic", the authors are "secondary and labeled as eclectic". Everything works like “a second infusion” of the Neue Rundschau in “its degenerate emergency form” (meaning: the issues from 1933) and that today, “under conditions that contain all possibilities”. After the rejection, Heller and the Hamburg publisher Christian Wegner founded the Heller-und-Wegner-Verlag, in which the Merkur was initially published every two months from mid-1947. After the currency reform, the number of copies sold fell sharply. Gerhard Heller left Merkur , and the first change to the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (DVA) followed. Since there was initially no editorial office for the magazine, Paeschke and Moras corresponded by letter about proposed topics and submitted articles. In the summer of 1952 they moved into a shared editorial office in Munich.

Right from the start, the editors made high intellectual demands on their readership. About the first reactions to his magazine Paeschke noted in 1947: “Previous judgments about Mercury from approval to the anthem, isolated reviews say that the level is a bit too high. So everything's in order. ”However, the satisfaction did not last long: During the first few years, the financing and continued existence of Mercury were constantly on the brink. This led to tensions between the two editors, which erupted in their correspondence, which was maintained despite the close proximity. Up to Moras' death from cancer on March 25, 1961, there were numerous violent disputes, which were sparked both by the dispute over individual articles and by the two repeatedly stated loss of level of the magazine.

After Moras' death, Paeschke continued the business as sole publisher. The Mercury has established itself increasingly as a forum for intellectual debate in Germany and counted with Martin Heidegger , Günther Anders , Gottfried Benn , Max Bense or Werner Heisenberg some of the most influential contemporary thinkers to its authors. After a break with the DVA, with which Moras in particular had maintained contact, the Merkur first moved to Kiepenheuer & Witsch in 1963 , then to Ernst Klett Verlag in 1968 (since 1977 Klett-Cotta). Under pressure from Ernst Klett , Paeschke resigned in December 1977 after thirty years as editor of Merkur .

1978–1983: Hans Schwab-Felisch

Paeschke's designated successor, Karl Heinz Bohrer , had been active as an author for the magazine since the late 1960s. Before he wanted to be firmly committed by Mercury , he aspired to a professorship in literary studies and was therefore not immediately available. As an interim solution, Hans Schwab-Felisch became Paeschke's successor with a five-year contract. Michael Rutschky was initially at his side as the new editor, but only one year later he switched to Hans Magnus Enzensberger's TransAtlantik . His successor as editor was Kurt Scheel , who worked for Merkur from 1980 to 2011 without interruption .

Schwab-Felisch had through his editorial career a. a. Gained journalistic reputation in the Neue Zeitung and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . In his memories of his time in Merkur , Rutschky writes about him: “With his Merkur editorship, he fulfilled a wish that moved many columnists in their later years: away from the daydreams of culture, towards real reality, seen from the features section : to politics. ”Both he and Scheel later complained about Schwab-Felisch's tendency to prefer to publish articles by old journalistic companions in Merkur . "It was left to Karl Heinz Bohrer to empathically renew Merkur's claim to modernity ."

1984–2011: Karl Heinz Bohrer and Kurt Scheel

Before Bohrer took over the editorial office in January 1984, he asked Scheel to speak to Bielefeld, where he now held a chair for the history of literature. Until then, Scheel had assumed that his editorial work would end when Bohrer took office. During this first encounter, the (more conservative) Bohrer and the (more left-wing) Scheel found, despite their “fundamental political difference”, many similarities in their views. Bohrer then offered Scheel to continue to hold his post. This went hand in hand with an upgrading of Scheel's position, who in Bohrer's absence - he spent most of his time in Bielefeld, Paris and London - became de facto editor-in-chief of the magazine.

Since 1985 (until 2013), Merkur has published a double issue on a focal topic with an increased circulation. Also since the mid-1980s and until today, columns have been part of the booklet, which should serve to concentrate the reviews in Mercury on historical, psychological, sociological and philosophical literature. With contributions that have been ongoing over the years, u. a. the “Glossa continua” by Jürgen Manthey and the “European Diary” by Ralf Dahrendorf , the editors also tried to increase the continuity between the individual issues.

In the summer of 1998 the editorial team moved from Munich to Berlin. This, according to Bohrer, “made a new form of external contact possible”. Since then, discussions have been held with eight to ten invited intellectuals in the so-called Berlin room of the editorial office every quarter. In this way Bohrer and Scheel, who was promoted to co-editor in 1991, were able to implement an important concern of their editorship: Instead of the "opinion-loving general intellectuals" (Scheel), they wanted to build on greater specific expertise of their authors.

Since 2012: Christian Demand (from 2017 together with Ekkehard Knörer)

At the suggestion of his predecessors, Christian Demand , previously professor of art history at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg , took over the editor in early 2012. The new editor was the literary scholar Ekkehard Knörer , who has been co-editor since January 2017. They expanded the offer of the magazine to include an online blog, which gives readers the space - not available in the magazine - to comment on essays published in Merkur . In addition, shorter and more current articles such as event reports and conference information appear here. The Mercury was a hitherto non-existent Editorial supplements and visually modernized 2015. The magazine presents itself to the public as the organizer of the “Merkur Talks” series, in which current issues from science, society and culture have been discussed since summer 2015. In the entertaining video “Second Reading”, the editors talk to authors (such as Michael Rutschky , Gustav Seibt , Hanna Engelmeier and others) about classics from the Merkur archive.


The Mercury treated humanities and cultural studies in particular subjects, but not in the form of scientific articles, but in the classic essays . The spectrum of text forms also extends from reviews, interviews and obituaries to poetry, stories, diary entries, travel descriptions and scenic dialogues.

The magazine does not see itself as a “concern sheet of a certain generation, a party, a milieu or an interest group”, but as a forum for “the most convincing arguments, the most exciting theses, the most stimulating suggestions” in the “contested field of culture”. In the first issue of 1947, Hans Paeschke formulated three key concerns of the magazine: “Establishing responsibility for guilt as the first responsibility of the spiritual at this time. (...) responsibility before the word. (...) Courage to distance itself from all supposedly final solutions. ”At first, Merkur also kept its distance from current issues: In the first editions, historically reflective tones dominated. From the mid-1950s onwards, the magazine became more open to contemporary political issues.

When Karl Heinz Bohrer took over the publishing house in the 1980s , the Merkur took an “aesthetic turn”. Bohrer's intention to bring up "modern aesthetics and diagnostics of the time" in the magazine at times led to controversies with Kurt Scheel, who wanted to take a more politically pragmatic course. They reached a compromise: during their joint editorship, aesthetic and political priorities alternated from issue to issue.

Major authors and controversies

In the course of its history, Mercury gathered contributions from important intellectuals and the like. a. from philosophy ( Hannah Arendt , Theodor W. Adorno , Ernst Bloch , Hans-Georg Gadamer , Jürgen Habermas , Christoph Menke ), sociology ( Arnold Gehlen , Niklas Luhmann , Hans Joas , Dirk Baecker ) and literature ( Ingeborg Bachmann , Ilse Aichinger , Jean Améry , Alfred Andersch , Hans Magnus Enzensberger , Iris Hanika , David Wagner ). Despite the comparatively low circulation, the magazine has therefore repeatedly been able to provide impetus in contemporary debates. Public discussions a. Essays by Margret Boveri (“The Germans and the Status Quo”, July 1954) and Rolf Schroers (“Uprising Against Reunification”, February 1962), which Hans Paeschke counted at the end of his editing as “among the high points in the history of the magazine's impact” .

A special feature in the composition of the authorship was the juxtaposition of conservative authors, some with a National Socialist past, and young, more left-wing thinkers. According to Rutschky, Paeschke gradually introduced a generation change, "away from the old, 'contaminated' names (Gehlen, Eschmann ), towards the up-and-coming young ones (Adorno, Habermas)". During the '68 movement , Merkur published several articles expressing the editor and authors' “reflected sympathy” (Bohrer) for the movement.

The question of German reunification in the autumn of 1989 led to a break with parts of the readership and some authors . The withdrawal from the magazine by Jürgen Habermas, whom both Paeschke and Scheel had considered one of their most important authors, was particularly decisive. Bohrer had written an essay in favor of reunification and asked Habermas for his opinion before it was published, to which Habermas reacted with harsh criticism. The finished text did not appear in Merkur , but in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ; Habermas took the publication as an opportunity to inform Bohrer by letter about his departure from Mercury .

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 , Bohrer and Scheel held a public dispute with various German daily and weekly newspapers. The reason was the pro-American attitude with which the editors reacted to the attacks. This again led to a break with parts of the “left intelligence” (Scheel), which had made up an important part of Merkur's readership .

In the recent past, Joachim Rohloff sparked a controversy: In February 2013, he attacked Frank Schirrmacher's book “Payback” in a review on the Merkur blog (the text appeared later in the March edition) by proving that Schirrmacher had various technical defects. In the fall of 2014, Ingo Meyer started a debate with an article on the “decline of the novel”, which was also continued on the magazine's blog.


Web links

Wikisource: Complete table of contents  - sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Merkur media data on, accessed on January 21, 2017.
  2. ^ Ku .: Berlin? Berlin. End of comfort: The "Merkur" moves to Berlin. In: Berliner Zeitung , May 28, 1998.
  3. Demand, Knörer: "We agree on the failure of the magazine": Crisis from the early days of Mercury . In: Merkur , issue 766, March 2013, p. 229 f.
  4. Michael Klein: wake-up call for a ´disoriented´ Germany. Lancelot magazine and its book publisher 1946-1951. Marginalia, 237. Quartus-Verlag, Bucha 2020 ISSN  0025-2948 p. 59f.
  5. ^ Suhrkamp in a letter to Heller and Paeschke. November 29, 1946, cit. with Michael Klein: wake-up call for a ´disoriented´ Germany. Lancelot magazine and its book publisher 1946-1951. Marginalia, 237. Quartus-Verlag, Bucha 2020 ISSN  0025-2948 p. 60.
  6. Demand, Knörer: "We agree on the failure of the magazine": Crisis from the early days of Mercury . In: Merkur , issue 766, March 2013, p. 231.
  7. See Bohrer: Hans Paeschke and the Merkur . In: Merkur , issue 510/511, September 1991, p. 992.
  8. See Scheel: I actually never wanted to go to Mercury . In: Merkur , issue 751, December 2011, p. 1105.
  9. Rutschky: My year with Mercury . In: Merkur , issue 794, July 2015, p. 38.
  10. Rutschky: My year with Mercury . In: Merkur , issue 794, July 2015, p. 36.
  11. a b Scheel 2011, p. 1110.
  12. Bohrer: Aesthetics and Politics . In: Merkur , issue 751, December 2011, issue 751, p. 1092.
  13. Bohrer: Aesthetics and Politics . In: Merkur , issue 751, December 2011, issue 751, p. 1101.
  14. Scheel 2011, p. 1112.
  16. Second Reading - Mercury. Accessed April 4, 2018 (German).
  17. Self-Presentation (Christian Demand)
  18. Paeschke: Responsibility of the Spirit. In: Merkur , issue 1, January 1947, p. 102ff.
  19. Bohrer 2011, p. 1094.
  20. Bohrer 2011, p. 1091.
  21. Paeschke: Can't be mourning . In: Merkur , issue 367, December 1978, p. 1181.
  22. See Bohrer 2011, p. 1096.