Julius Streicher was the unofficial official newspaper propagandist for the Nazis, often referred to as "Jew-baiter Number One" (a title he had no problem with). As publisher of the Der Stürmer ("The Attacker"), he worked to mold public opinion and incite hatred against Jewish people in Germany (and the rest of the world).
Early years and Party membership
He was an illegitimate child born in February 1885 in Fleinhausen, Germany. He became an elementary school teacher and served in the first World War (he received several medals for distinguished service). Following the war, he taught in Nuremberg (Nürnberg)a fact not without ironyand helped found the German Socialist Party (Deutsche-Soziale Partei). In 1921, he joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and merged his with it a year lateran action that endeared him to Adolf Hitler, who wrote of Streicher's "generosity" in Mein Kampf (1925; Hitler would continue to function as "protection" for him even when he fell into disfavor with other members of the Party).
Birth of a Paper
Already an avowed anti-Semite, it would be two years before he started the weekly four page paper upon which his infamy lies (the paper was later expanded to more pages). Interestingly, it wasn't begun for the purpose of antiJewish propagandait was to attack members of the Party he was in conflict with. It was a matter to trying to establish control over the NSDAP in Nuremberg and on 14 April 1923, it came to a head with an "Evening of Revelations," staged by those who were against him.
They accused him of being "a liar and a coward, of having unsavory friends, of mistreating his wife, and of flirting with women" (www.calvin.edu). In retaliation, he began his little newspaper the next month, attacking those who had accused him (during his life, he started other papers and journals but none were even close to his "accomplishments" with Der Stürmer). Subsequent issues continued those attacks, particularly harsh on the mayor. On the other hand, he did mention the Jews: "As long as the Jew is in the German household, we will be Jewish slaves. Therefore he must go. Who? The Jew!" (www.calvin.edu). With each issue, however, the content began to shift toward the later rabid anti-Semitism for which it was known.
Streicher took part in Hitler's November 1923 Beer Hall Putsch which resulted in his arrest and the paper's being out of circulation for four months (two of which were while he was serving time). It had already gained several thousand readers and when he restarted it, he worked to increase that readership. More advertising was sold, the pages expanded to tabloid-size, and he began increasing the content beyond news, politics, and his party conflict to the Jewish problem. The first cartoon appeared shortly after.
The weekly thrived on scandal and sensationalism, particularly crime and sex. As early as 1925, the paper was accused of being "pornographic" and full of "tastelessness." One person wrote the "thanks to Streicher's 'education' every lad is familiar with homosexuality and prostitution," adding that the topics were valid for a paper to speak out against, but the problem was "how one speaks of them. Streicher gives these matters great prominence" (www.calvin.edu). It was something of an obsession.
Any rumor of Jewish depredation or "offense" against the German people (Jews, of course, by definition, not considered proper Germans) was repeated and expanded upon. If a new story didn't arise before going to press, old ones were revisited. There was little shortage of stories and Streicher refused to pay for information (ideas often came from readers' letters). The cartoons became an integral part of the message. Stooped over, leering, drooling, hook-nosed old lechers waiting to pounce poor German girls or in the process of doing so. Girls that were often in various stages of undress.
With editorials (usually by Streicher) about the evils of Jewry and reports of crimes or the dangers inherent to unsuspecting and nonvigilant Germans (especially children and young girls) wrapped around pictures of these sort of crude but effective ultra stereotypical Jews, the correlation and connection was imprinted on the minds of the readers. The liberal use of the unclothed or "revealing" female form made it especially enticing to youth, who in turn, absorbed some of the ideas contained within.
Papers were placed on display in public places making the readership even larger than thousands that were sold. By 1927, it was 14,000 a week and it reached nearly 500,000 eleven years later. His supporters even stood guard at the cases to protect from vandalism (not ovely uncommon, apparently).
In addition to content and cartoon, he deliberately wrote in simple, often short, sentences so that it could be easily read and understood by the masses. It was accompanied by a style that imitated his speaking style. For both an example and a clear view of his feelings toward the Jews, one can look at a speech he gave in 1925:
You must realize that the Jew wants our people to perish. That is why you must join us and leave those who have brought you nothing but war, inflation, and discord. For thousands of years the Jew has been destroying the nations. Let us make a new beginning today so that we can annihilate the Jews (www.us-israel.org).
This sort of rhetorical writing appealed to the common man, particularly ones looking for a scapegoat for post-WWI conditions in Germany and those who already had anti-Semitic sentiments. The repetition of the ideas and massive litany of crimes and warnings discussed eventually fed on itself and became functioned as self-supporting propaganda.
One of the more despicable things accomplished by Streicher through Der Stürmer was the wholehearted reintroduction of the age-old "blood libel" slander that has been thrown at Jews since at least the Middle Ages (similar charges go back even further). The general idea is that Jews need the blood of Christians (most often children) to partake in various rituals (usually Passover). To accomplish this, kidnapping, sacrifice, and murder were used.
So important was this to Streicher, that it became a fairly regular topic in the paperso much that an entire issue was devoted solely to it in 1939. In 1937, there was an alleged "photo" of a ritual murder "depicting" three Jews murdering a young girl by cutting her throat. Numerous alleged incidences from history would be brought out and paraded as truth and readers were informed that "the wine and Matzoh, unleavened bread, contains non-Jewish blood. The Jew prays before the [Passover] meal. He prays for the death of all non-Jews" (www.us-israel.org). Torture in the course of these rituals/murders was also asserted as fact. Drawings and other "photos" accompanied by the expected captions would be scattered among the text.
It is difficult to imagine a much more effective means of incitement. Considering the success of various similar scares featuring alleged Satanists or similar and their defilement and murder of children and recalling the situation in Germany with Jews being non-citizens and a state that codified discrimination and if not fully encouraged it, tacitly approved (more likely to avoid international condemnation beyond what was already occurring). That it could lead to assaults and worse was practically inevitable.
It wasn't entirely without problems (for the Party). The issues tended to inflame international opinion, even invoking protest from the Archbishop of Canterburywho, in the infamous 1939 issue, was shown in a picture with an old Jewish man accompanied by the caption: "Dr. Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest dignitary of the English Church, and his allies a typical example of the Jewish race" (www.us-israel.org).
As a result, Hitler allowed the issue to be bannedthough most of the copies had already been distributed. There were a few other times when the Party was allowed to rein in the paper, but it was always for political/public relations reasons. For the most part, Streicher was unsupervised.
In 1925, Streicher became the Gauleiter (district leader) of Franconia. He was a member of the provincial legislature (Bavaria) from 1924 to 1940, was a member of the Reichstag, and held the rank of Obergruppenführer in the Sturmabteilung (SA, the paramilitary wing of the NSDAP). When the Nazis came to power, he was placed as chairman of the Central Defense Committee against Jewish Atrocity and Boycott Propaganda (Zentralkomitee zur Abwehr der Judischen Greuel und Boykotthetze). That said, he was never highly placed within the party, despite Hitler's appreciation of his work and contribution to the cause"One must never forget the services rendered by Der Stürmerand never had any real decision-making power beyond the paper (though it wasn't political, his influence on the ideology of the German people was considerable). Outside of his district, his influence was only through his publications.
In addition to the ongoing work of putting out the paper (which, because of legal arrangements, he did not even own until 1934 when his publisher died), Streicher was important in two of the early anti-Jewish actions. The first was the 1933 Anti-Jewish Boycott. He had been appointed to the committee in charge of organizing the boycott of Jewish establishments. Harassment of Jews by the SA was already going on at the time, but the boycott was an organized national campaign fully supported by the Nazi power elite.
It was claimed to be both a "reprisal and warning against the world, to cease what the Nazis called Greuelpropaganda (horror propaganda) and economic boycott against Germany" (motlc.wiesenthal.com)there had some anti-Nazi boycotts in other countries. While it was hardly a secret boycott, world opinion did matter (the Nazis already had something of a public relations problem). The plan clearly stipulated that violence against Jews was not allowed. In addition to those considerations, if Jewish proprietors fired any (non-Jewish) employees as a result of the boycott, they could not use German violence as an excuse.
The boycott began 1 Aprilthe previous day in some placeswith uniformed guards (many armed) blocking entrances to Jewish shops and places of business (including doctors and lawyers). Trucks with anti-Jewish slogans drove up and down streets, and some buildings were marked to identify them. But not all went according to plan. Some people, including a few foreign nationals, were attacked, vandalism took place, and even some non-Jewish businesses suffered.
The boycott, which was supposed to be last indefinitely, effectively was over after one day and the whole thing called off on 4 April. Other than harassment and assault of the Jews and their businesses (by extension, their economy and community), it mostly caused further "indignation" from other countries. This was no small blow to the Jews, but the boycott never came close to achieving the aims its organizers had hoped to accomplish. This first major effort against the "Jewish problem" was a warningthe opening move of what was to come.
In 1935, Streicher played an important role in the writing and implementation of the Nuremberg Laws, which codified exclusion of Jews from normal German life and paved the way for later, stronger laws (and actions). They specifically dealt with citizenship and marriage. Jews were made Staatsangehorige or "state subjects" rather than Reichsburger (citizens of the Reich). Only one who was of German "blood" (or related "Aryan" ethnicity) could be a German citizen. This took away any political voice they may have had as well as left any legal, political, and civil rights arbitrarily at the discretion of the Nazis. It was expanded in subsequent years.
The second, called the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor, barred Jews from marrying or even having extramarital intercourse with non-Jews. It also disallowed any Jewish maids to be employed in "German" homes under the age of forty-five and prohibited the raising of the German flag by any Jew.
Previous exceptions for WWI veterans and state officials who had been in office prior to 1914 were thrown out the window. The laws, besides taking away the ability to seek recourse politically or legally and opening the door for later legislation, allowed the Nazis to "justify" previous, current, and later harassment and assault on the Jewish people and their culture/community.
Into the mouths of children
By 1937, the paper was established as an unofficial part of the NSDAP, putting out over 400,000 copies an issue. Its anti-Semitism was ingrained, as was its style and approach. Every copy had "Die Juden sind unser Unglück" ("The Jews are our misfortune"). So successful was the paper, that Streicher branched out into publishing, including children's reader and books of "fairy tales" (all properly anti-Semitic and full of warnings for children).
The best known was Der Giftpilz (1938, "The Poisonous Mushroom"). While it wasn't written by Streicher, it was published through the paper and the illustrations were done by Der Stürmer's chief cartoonist. It tells a story of a mother informing her young child, while walking in the woods, that there are two kinds of people: good and badjust like mushrooms. It goes without saying who are the "bad mushrooms."
A classroom discussion has the children learning "how to recognize a Jew" with the thick, drooping lips and thick, flashy eyelids, a nose that's crooked, and their "sly and sharp look" (another source substitutes "lurking" for "sly"). They proceed to recite a verse:
From a Jew's countenance, the evil devil talks to us,
The devil, who in every land is known as evil plague.
If we shall be free of the Jew and again will be happy and glad,
Then the youth must struggle with us to subdue the Jew devil. (www.nizkor.org)
Perhaps it takes a former school teacher to best know how indoctrinate the young.
Other stories in his little instruction manual include a German girl who learns why her mother and youth leader warned her that "a German must not consult a Jewish doctor! And particularly not a German girl," many of whom ended up finding only "disease and disgrace!" Fortunately, she slaps the man with the "devil's face" and "two criminal eyes" ("Now I've got you at last, little German girl!") and "escapes breathlessly from the Jew house" (www.nizkor.org). Streicher, himself, was worked into a section with German youths, excited over a billboard proclaiming Streicher to be giving a speech, then listen attentively to a friend describe a previous speech he had heard. Of note is his description of the style and presentation:
All he said was so clear and simple that even we boys could follow it. Again and again he told about examples taken from life. At one time he talked most amusingly and cracked jokes, making all of us laugh. Then again he became most serious, and it was so quiet in the hall that one could hear a needle drop. He talked of the Jews and their horrible crimes. He talked of the serious danger which Judaism is for the whole world.
"Without a solution of the Jewish question there will be no salvation of mankind".
That is what he shouted to us. All of us could understand him. And when, at the end, he shouted the "Sieg-Heil" for the Fuehrer, we all acclaimed him with tremendous enthusiasm. For two hours Streicher spoke at that occasion. To us it appeared to have been but a few minutes (www.ess.uwe.ac.uk).
The paper also helped publish collections of Streicher's speeches and writings, pseudoscholarly books, a book of anti-Jewish proverbs, books on the Nuremberg rallies, and an anti-Semitic medical journal. Also, since 1933, the paper collected and maintained thousands of pieces of (largely anti-Semitic) Jewish-related material in its archives, including books, magazines, pictures, photographs, cartoons, religious works and items, and Jewish paraphernalia.
Perhaps not so surprising (given the lurid and often prurient content of the paper), it also included a huge collection of pornographyin fact, in 1940, the Gestapo (who helped procure much of the various material along with eager and civil-minded citizens) was given a letter specifically asking for any and all pornography written, published, or sold by Jews.
As the decade went on, the circulation grew, peaking in the final years. The paper was not only available at home, but was distributed to any country with a large German population, including: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.
Surprisingly, the paper was sometimes too extreme for some people who subscribed to its anti-Semitic views. There were protests, vandalized display cases, and angry (often anonymous) letters (which Streicher dutifully turned in to the authorities). Sometimes Christians complained that they and their religious beliefs were being smeared along with those of the Jews (in particular, his comparison of the sacrament of communion to ritual murder elicited outrage).
People as high up in the Party as the press secretary, Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels (the Minister of Propaganda), and others tried to get something done about Streicher and his paper but nothing became of these attempts. On more than one occasion temporary bans of the paper were ended by Hitler (following personal appeals by Streicher).
In 1938, Streicher actively took part in anti-Jewish demonstrations, during which Nuremberg's synagogues were destroyed and burned, along with vandalism to some of the remaining shops. In a speech made during the demonstrations, he stated his beliefs in his simple, common style:
From the cradle, the Jew is not being taught, like we are, such texts as, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," or "If you are smitten on the left cheek, offer then your right one." No, he is told: "With the non-Jew you can do whatever you like." He is even taught that the slaughtering of a non-Jew is an act pleasing to God. For 20 years we have been writing about this in "Der Stuermer"; for 20 years we have been preaching it throughout the world and we have made millions recognize the truth (www.us-israel.org)
The paper remained strong and by the end of the decade there were over three hundred people working for the paper. Interestingly, one employeeJonas Wolkwas Jewish. Under a pen name, he even wrote some of the articles for the paper. Despite his contributions, Streicher refused to shake hands with him.
Fall from power
Following the demonstrations, Göring set up a commission to look into certain "irregularities" in the "Gau of Franconia" (of which Streicher was, of course, the head). It seems that monies that were supposed to go to the State from the Aryanization of Jewish property (a process by which Jewish property was transferred to "Aryans," the proceeds of which were marked to the State) were not all getting there. While the charges were serious enough, the rest of the report was more enlightening.
It turned out that Streicher's taste for sensationalism and violence and his obsession with sexuality was not confined to the articles and editorials (and cartoons) on his paper. On a number of times he beat people senselessusually only in the company of others and with help (whether it was due to needing protection "just in case" during his attacks or because he needed an audience or both, it is unclear). One incident involved a man in a prison cell, after which he reportedly said "now I am relieved. I needed that again" (www.us-israel.org). The report also noted his fondness for carrying around a riding whip with which he would administer the means through which he was "relieved." He beat other party members as well as the obvious victims.
In another telling incident, on 2 December 1938, three teenaged criminals (robbery) were taken to a room at the police station where Streicherwho had his son attendinterrogated them one by one about their sex lives and practices, taking particular note of whether they masturbated and how long it had been since they had last done it. After the last one was questioned, he beat him about the head and body with the whip.
He was also inebriated with his own sense of power, bragging that "in Franconia the Gau acts first and then orders the absolutely powerless authorities to approve" (www.us-israel.org), even stating at a meeting in 1935 that no one could remove him from office. Not only did he make clear to whomever he addressed on the subject that it was he, alone, who gave orders in the district, but that he would not be beaten by anyonenot even Hitler (this after a detailed description to colleagues of his beating of a professor).
It is likely that a combination of his "irregularities" and out of control ego and sadism led to his being removed from office (contrary to his earlier assertion). On 4 February 1940, Streicher ceased to be the Gauleiter of Franconia.
Despite losing his position in the NSDAP, Streicher remained important and influential by continuing to publish and write for his paper. On the other hand, as the war went on, the circulation began to drop. There are two main reasons for this (a possible third might be that Streicher's sort of virulent propaganda was less important/necessary once the war was well under way).
The first was due to paper shortages because of the war. Der Stürmer continued to be printedHitler made sure it had enough to publishbut the numbers obviously dropped. By 1944, it had dropped back to four pages from as many as sixteen in more prosperous years. The second reason if far more chilling.
A paper that had essentially required that Jews be "visible" and "in mind" for its material to be effective (lest an "out of sight, out of mind" situation arise), had lost that for the simple fact that there were next to no Jews around. By the time the war was in full swing, most of the Jews had been sent to camps or (the lucky ones) had emigrated. Of course many, were simply already dead. Those in the camps were being systematically wiped out so there was little chance they would make any "appearances" to revive the scapegoating and hatred on a more personal level (rather than the more abstract sense, once they were no longer a facet of daily life). The dwindling of the highly sensationalistic and scandal-laden stories, as a result, no doubt contributed to loss of interest in many.
Der Stürmer became primarily involved in discussing international affairs. The immediacy it once had was gone and the war was far more important and prominent in people's minds. A final issue appeared in February 1945. In it, the invading allies were accused of being "tools of the international Jewish conspiracy" (www.calvin.edu).
When the Nazis fell hard in 1945, signing the unconditional surrender on 7 May and ratifying it the following day, Streicher made an attempt to escape by disguising himself as a house painter. He was discovered in Bavaria by US soldiers on 23 May and captured.
He became one of the Nazi leaders that were indicted for war crimes at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. As a precaution (for his "own protection"), Streicher's defense counsel requested an examination to determine if he was sane and able to stand trial (Streicher felt this was not an issue and he was fully able to proceed). After examination, it was determined that it was the "unanimous conclusion of the examiners that Julius Streicher is sane, [and] he is for that reason capable of understanding the nature and policy of his acts during the period of time covered by the indictment."
He was charged with "crimes against peace" and "crimes against humanity." The first indictment was thrown out because there was no evidence he was part of Hitler's "inner circle of advisers" or was "closely connected with the formulation of the policies which led to war." There was no evidence that he was present at any meetings and conferences when those policies were laid out and explained or that he had knowledge of those polices. Therefore: "In the opinion of the tribunal, the evidence fails to establish his connection with the conspiracy or common plan to wage war as that conspiracy has been defined in this judgment."
The second indictment held, however. Possibly more than any other Nazi, Streicher's feelings and beliefs were easily accessible through the a massive amount of back issues of his own paper(s). His part in the boycott, the Nuremberg laws, the demonstrations and destruction of synagogues and other Jewish property, his advocacy of extermination (despite the oft-used apologetic that he felt the solution to the Jewish problem was merely mass emigration). The Judgment quoted a 1939 article wherein he stated:
A punitive expedition must come against the Jews in Russia. A punitive expedition which will provide the same fate for them that every murderer and criminal must expect: Death sentence and execution. The Jews in Russia must be killed. They must be exterminated root and branch.
Another quote offered was from 1944: "Whoever does what a Jew does is a scoundrel, a criminal. And he who repeats and wishes to copy him deserves the same fate, annihilation, death."
Of such statements, the tribunal said "such was the poison Streicher injected into the minds of thousands of Germans which caused them to follow the National Socialist policy of Jewish persecution and extermination." It also went on to state that he continued his attacks and incitement (his "propaganda of death") with full knowledge of the extermination that was, indeed, taking place. He attempted to deny any knowledge, but again his paper proved otherwise. He had a photographer visiting the Eastern ghettoes at the time of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto. He received the Jewish paper that continually listed the tens of thousands of casualties and had, in fact, quoted from one that the Jews had "virtually disappeared from Europe," adding that "this is not a Jewish lie."
The tribunal found that
Streicher's incitement to murder and extermination at the time when Jews in the East were being killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitutes persecution on political and racial grounds in connection with War crimes, as defined by the Charter, and constitutes a Crime against Humanity.
He was sentenced to be hanged, which was carried out 16 October 1946.
There are some potential problems with his conviction in that he was inciting rather than taking direct action in the exterminationsa freedom of speech/press issue. On the other hand, whether or not it can be unequivocally proven with some sort of "physical" (for lack of a better word) evidence that it resulted in Holocaust or at least facilitated it, it seems absurd to maintain (as some apologetics do) that his wordstwenty-two years of themhad no effect on the mindset that allowed such extreme events to take place. Or that there was no conditioning that resulted from weekly exposure to his propaganda. A glance at some of the letters (granted that not all may have been genuine) shows that there was, indeed, an effect on the populace. Even if it was stirring an all ready extent or latent anti-Semitism (which many agree it was), Streicher was deliberately doing so.
Further, while it was not an official organ of the Nazi Party, it clearly had at the very least tacit approval (in some cases glowing, according to letters from some Party members)Hitler's occasions of praise or spoken approval (which still was not "official") certainly gave the paper the appearance of the Party's imprimatur. Problematic though it might be in some sense, he clearly was party to a conspiracy to dispose of the "Jewish problem," which worked itself out as the Holocaust, an exceedingly serious and frighteningly successful (though not ultimately so) attempt at a truly "Final Solution."
Epilogue: Streicher's children
In 1976, a Louisiana right wing Christian extremist group published an English edition of the 1934 "ritual murder" issue, calling it the "Julius Streicher Memorial Edition." It reportedly sold well.
An attempt to track down the group found a website (seems the last update was 2001). It has a listing for a few hundred booksmost of them probably very short or even pamphlet-sized as most were $3 or $4. It was a lot of the expected stuff on enemies: the Catholic Church, the United Nations, Illuminati, freemasons, communism, the federal government. There are books on racism (and inexplicably one on The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroethough one can guess the list of suspects), particularly the Jews.
One finds numerous Jewish conspiracies and links to the other official enemies. One finds that there is apparently a Jewish "fifth column" not only in India, but Islam and Japan. And that they wish to "dominate the Negroes." They were involved in Watergate (another plot to control the US government), Christ was not a Jew, and Jewish TV: Sick, Sick, Sick. It also offers the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Henry Ford's embarrassing The International Jew and Martin Luther's vile The Jews and Their Lies. A further note: these are all listed under "patriotic books."
They offer audio cassettes, including the hit "Songs and Marches of the Third Reich" (on three tapes for $25) and movies, including the notorious Judd Suss and The Eternal Jew (needless to say Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will is represented). And of course: D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation ("favorable silent movie on the Ku Klux Klan").
Then there it was. For $5, one can purchase "JEWISH RITUAL MURDER by Julius Streicher. Translated from the German. Newspaper format. Well illustrated."
More about Der Stürmer
Sources: www.us-israel.org/jsource/Holocaust/Streicher.html, www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/faculty/streich3.htm, history1900s.about.com/library/holocaust/aa113098.htm, motlc.wiesenthal.com, www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/mushroom1.htm, www.nizkor.org quotes from the Nuremberg Judgment are from here, www.britannica.com
The "epilogue" is from my Der Stürmer writeup.
Christian Defense League/New Christian Crusade Church website: http://www.cdlreport.com)