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Scandal ( listen ? / I ) refers to a sensational annoyance and the events or behavior associated with it. The word has been used in German since the end of the 16th century. The derived adjective scandalous with the meaning "annoying, offensive" and "unheard of, unbelievable" has been found since the beginning of the 18th century. Audio file / audio sample

Scandal is often used synonymously with the term affair . Affair describes - next to the love affair - today above all as scandalous affairs in politics and economy. In contrast, the term scandal can address a broader spectrum of public perception, for example a scandal within art.

Word origin

Scandal was borrowed from synonymous French scandale , which goes back to the church Latin scandalum . This in turn is derived from the ancient Greek σκάνδαλον skándalon ("pitfall, offense, annoyance").

Scandal and society

A scandal is (general) indignation or outrage in the sense of a moral feeling. Knowing what a society is upset about reveals where and how the crossed borders lie. In this respect, conclusions can be drawn about the respective norms and values or conventions of a society via scandals .

A process that causes a scandal in a certain region or a certain society does not necessarily have to lead to the same in another. What used to cause a scandal doesn't have to lead to one again today. A frequently cited example in this context is the "scandal" of the film Die Sünderin in the Federal Republic of Germany in the early 1950s. The two Swedish scandalous films Das Schweigen and 491 called the " Clean Screen " campaign on the scene in the 1960s and thus achieved cultural and historical significance.

Scandal and media

Scandals are an expression of a functioning public and therefore also have a positive aspect. The extensive concealment of possible scandals in the GDR is seen as a sign of oppression. Scandalous public disputes, for example about theater performances in the 1950s and 1960s, the self-immolation of Pastor Brüsewitz in 1976, the expatriation of Biermann or the coffee crisis in the GDR from 1977 onwards remained exceptions that are closely related to reports in western media that were accessible to GDR citizens. In the exhibition Scandals in Germany after 1945 , therefore, hardly any GDR scandals were considered, which was controversial.

As a rule, a scandal calls for general social attention, which today is mainly achieved through the mass media . The media and journalism, especially investigative journalism , play an important role in the uncovering of scandals and processes such as corruption , bribery and the personal gain of public officials in politics and business . Not least from this, the role of the media and press as corrective and so-called “ fourth power ” is derived.

Since the media and press are also interested in high numbers of viewers, listeners and readers, it can happen that individual processes are “scandalized” beyond their significance. Where the line between “legitimate indignation” and “artificial excitement” lies depends on the viewer and his or her social, religious and political background.

Scandalization often goes hand in hand with commercialization , tabloidization or entertainment of media content (see also pop culture ).


Media scandals are based on an actual or suspected grievance. They are mostly similar:

  • In the latency phase , a grievance becomes known; the number of media reports on the topic increases suddenly. The protagonists of the scandal are introduced. The phase ends with a
  • Key event. This leads to the conflict escalating into a scandal. In the following upswing phase , further facts become known that are connected to the first grievance. If this expansion is successful, it begins
  • Establishment phase . At this stage the scandal reaches its climax. Now the guilt or innocence of the protagonists is judged; Consequences are demanded. At the beginning of the downturn, the scandalized person or organization buckles under public pressure and draws conclusions from the incidents (e.g. resignation )
  • This resolves the conflict in media perception. The intensity of the reporting decreases quickly.
  • In the rehabilitation phase , the social system is restored. The media only report sporadically. With the five phases, the structure of a media scandal largely corresponds to that of an ancient drama .

Scandals and affairs

Some scandals and affairs have become established terms. With regard to economics and politics, both terms can appear as part of a word in the relevant compositions (compound words). For example, the Watergate scandal is also known as the Watergate affair . Outside of economics and politics, only “scandal” is generally spoken of, but not “affair” (“ theater scandal”, “art scandal”, “drug scandal ” , “ care scandal ”).


Empire, Weimar Republic and Nazi era

  • Eulenburg Affair , 1907–1909. Lawsuits for homosexual behavior and defamation.
  • Daily Telegraph affair , 1908. An interview with Wilhelm II plunges the empire into a deep crisis.
  • Zabern Affair , 1913-14. Riots in Zabern, Alsace, a troop base after a soldier insulted the Alsatian population.
  • Eastern aid scandal , 1932/1933. Scandal about economic support for East German (now Polish) agricultural regions and their embezzlement.
  • Wittorf affair , 1928. Embezzlement by a confidante of the KPD chairman Ernst Thälmann.
  • Blomberg-Fritsch affair , 1938. Staged by the Nazi leadership to take over command and command of the Wehrmacht.


  • Contergan scandal , 1961–62. Side effects of the drug Contergan on unborn babies harmed a large number of children.
  • Fibag Affair , 1961-62. Fibag (Finanzbau Aktiengesellschaft) was to build several thousand apartments for the US Army with political backing.
  • Starfighter affair , from 1962. The circumstances of the procurement and the technical problems with the Lockheed F-104 "Starfighter" fighter aircraft.
  • Spiegel Affair , 1962. The news magazine Der Spiegel was prosecuted for alleged treason due to a critical article.


  • Bundesliga scandal , 1971. The football clubs Rot-Weiß Oberhausen and Arminia Bielefeld managed to remain in the 1st Bundesliga due to manipulated point games.
  • Guillaume affair , 1974. A closest colleague of the then Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt is exposed as a GDR spy.
  • Traube eavesdropping affair , 1977. An illegal wiretapping operation by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution directed against the nuclear physicist Klaus Traube.


  • Flick donation affair , 1982. Concealed party donations by the Flick Group in connection with a decision by the Federal Ministry of Economics.
  • Kießling affair , 1984. A Bundeswehr general was accused of homosexuality, he was classified as a security risk and prematurely retired.
  • Barschel Affair , 1987. Incidents in Uwe Barschel's election campaign before the state elections, after which he was re-elected Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein.


  • Infections from blood products contaminated with HIV . As early as the 1980s, infections caused by HIV-contaminated blood products occurred in many countries around the world; After 1990, their often fatal consequences for hemophiliacs became public knowledge in Germany as well.
  • Drawer affair, 1993. Payments to Reiner Pfeiffer, which triggered the Barschel affair in 1987.
  • Amigo affair , 1993. Bribery allegations against the then Prime Minister of Bavaria Max Streibl and other Bavarian politicians.
  • GWG scandal , 1998. Investigations into 1,300 corruption suspects, 600 of whom are public officials in Wuppertal, on real estate transactions.
  • CDU donation affair , 1999. Illegal donation practice of the party in the 1990s under the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl.


  • Visa affair , from 2000. Cases of abuse in the issuing of visas in various German embassies and consulates.
  • Berlin banking scandal , 2001. Events surrounding the state-owned bank company in Berlin.
  • Bonus miles affair , 2002. Individual members of the Bundestag habitually used the bonus miles they had accumulated on business for private trips.
  • Munich CSU affair , 2003. A group of young CSU members influenced internal party elections.
  • RWE affair , 2004. The chairman of the CDU workers' organization receives payments from his former employer, RWE.
  • Soccer betting scandal 2005 . Manipulation of football games that became known in the course of the investigation against a referee.
  • VW corruption affair , 2005. Members of the works council received special benefits from the company's management.
  • Telecom spying affair , 2008. The company had telephone data, bank details and emails of employees and journalists monitored.
  • Liechtenstein tax affair , 2008. The Liechtenstein tax affair is the largest complex of investigative proceedings for tax evasion initiated in the Federal Republic of Germany to date.
  • Football betting scandal 2009 . Manipulation of football matches on an international level.


  • Guttenberg plagiarism affair , 2011. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg loses his doctorate due to copyright infringement.
  • National Socialist Underground , made known in 2011. Series of murders from 2000 to 2006 with a right-wing extremist background
  • Wulff affair . The Wulff affair is an affair of the former Federal President Christian Wulff; it began in December 2011 and resulted in Wulff's resignation in February 2012.
  • Surveillance and espionage affair, 2013. Affair surrounding the espionage and surveillance activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence services, triggered by the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden.
  • VW emissions scandal , 2015.



  • Ship christening in Fußach , 1964: Vorarlberg residents prevent a ship from being christened because they don't like the planned name Karl Renner and violate an informal rule from 1919.







Great Britain


  • Fichenskandal , early 1990s: The Swiss government has "index cards" made by over 900,000 Swiss citizens.
  • Borer affair, 2002

United States


See also



Web links

Wiktionary: Scandal  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Meanings of scandalous according to Duden "Etymology" - dictionary of origin of the German language , 2nd edition, Dudenverlag, 1989.
  2. cf. Lemma Affair in Kluge Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , 24th edition, 2002 [...] today mainly for "scandalous matters" (especially in politics and business) .
  3. Etymologie after Duden "Etymologie" - dictionary of origin of the German language , 2nd edition, Dudenverlag, 1989.
  4. Martin Sabrow (Ed.): Scandal and dictatorship. Forms of public outrage in the Nazi state and in the GDR , Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2004; Frank Bösch: Political scandals in Germany and Great Britain in: From Politics and Contemporary History 7/2006 on the subject of "Staged Politics".
  5. ^ Adolf Dresen: Der Fall Faust (1968) - The last public theater scandal in the GDR , in: Friday, November 19, 1999.
  6. "Scandals in Germany after 1945" New temporary exhibition in the Contemporary History Forum Leipzig.
  7. “An audio interview with Claus Strunz, editor-in-chief Hamburger Abendblatt, about investigative journalism and the uncovering of scandals” ,, May 11, 2009.
  8. ^ Steffen Burkhardt: Media scandals. On the moral explosive power of public discourse . Cologne 2006, p. 181 ff .
  9. Reading sample