It may not be a very well-known fact all around but Der Spiegel (one of Germany’s leading political weeklies) has a somewhat murky past. When it comes to some of its leading figures, there are many facts that are never spoken of too loudly, at least not in public.
The End of the World
(as we know it)
As it happens, Spiegel founder Rudolf Augstein and many of his leading senior editors had quite a career before they started “the German news magazine” that it smugly appointed itself to be via its tag line. Now, for the benefit of the uneducated, let’s quickly remind ourselves exactly which chapter of German history lay before the founding of Der Spiegel in British occupied Hanover in 1946.
Shouldn’t be too hard, really.
Rudolf Augstein was born in Hanover in 1923. He entered the Wehrmacht and was posted on the Russian front as a signals corps officer which he left as a lieutenant, decorated with an Iron Cross 2nd Class. He was demobbed and sent home, where in 1946 he was approached by three British press officers (John Seymour Chaloner, Harry Bohrer and Henry Ormond) with a view to founding a German news weekly, a copy of the American “Time” magazine, in the British zone.
Augstein apparently was forthcoming and, lacking any skills that could be put to good money making use in civy street, put up his first business in Hanover, from where he quickly relocated to Hamburg, which – while also in the British zone – proved to be a little bit closer to world events than the sleepy backwater he had grown up in.
Though politically innocuous and probably not a fascist himself, Augstein liked to surround himself with figures who undoubtedly were Nazis. Two of his most senior editors where former Gestapo-chief Rudolf Diels and Bernhard “Bernd” Wehner, the latter the personal assistant of the head of the 3rd Reich’s Kriminalpolizei, the investigative arm of the Staatsanwaltschaft, which would of course be the CPS under Common Law.
In this function, Diels executed the mass arrests of communists and social democrats after the Nazis burned the Reichstag down in a false flag operation that was later framed as evidence of a “Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy”. (Oh, hello Meena…!)
After the war, these two senior editors took to “correcting” history at Augstein’s Spiegel: Hauptsturmführer Wehner specialised in portraying Nazi crimes against humanity as an act of barbarity in which the perpetrators were the “true” victims – for suffering so much from a bad conscience after their deeds.
Now, as any modern social justice warrior will confirm, a bad conscience is much worse than actual bodily harm. And being called wicked names is a fate worse than death…
Diels and Wehner were later joined by SS-Hauptsturmführer Georg Wolff and Dr. Horst Mahnke at Der Spiegel’s Hamburg offices.
Mahnke was part of Einsatzgruppe B operating on the outskirts of Moscow which randomly murdered Jews and “bolshevists” in their thousands. Or whoever they thought fit the bill. Mahnke was officially de-Nazified by German authorities in 1949 and let off with a fine of 400 DM; about 35 Pound at the time.
German authorities also prohibited Mahnke from ever becoming “a teacher, journalist or editor” – which didn’t seem to stop Augstein from hiring him. And apparently there was a work-around to solve such minor inconveniences with the authorities, too.
SS-Hauptsturmführer Georg Wolff was Head of Staff of the SD Operation in Oslo; SD, or Sicherheitsdienst, was the secret service of the SS that had arrogated itself far-reaching responsibilities in dealing with civilians in occupied Europe – mostly extra judicially and terminally.
And here’s another interesting bit of trivia. Eichmann (yes, that Eichmann) and Wolff had the same boss: Franz Six. After the war, Six was the publisher of Augsteins first book: “Deutschland – ein Rheinbund”. Remarkable coincidence really, I must say. Being a successful one, the business relationship was extended to further projects between “Der Spiegel” and Six’s publishing house called “Leske Verlag”.
seen at proceedings in Nuremberg
You get the picture: four senior editors of Augstein’s “Spiegel” were highly prolific Nazi functionaries, experts in their field. Another one – quite instrumental in the Endlösung – was his publisher.
All were members of the Nazi party and most served in its “elite” paramilitary brigade, the SS. Yet, this apparently doesn’t make the “German news magazine” a far-right or – heaven forbid! – neo-fascist hate rag, but a paragon of lefty virtue. At least that’s the gospel as per our modern-day socialists. Double standard if ever I saw one but nothing says cognitive dissonance quite like a true believer, I suppose.
Now, it should come as no surprise that the characters of these illustrious personalities somewhat reflected on the editorial line Der Spiegel would take towards shaping public opinion; or, as today’s BBC would put it “entertain, inform and educate” a helpless public, mostly against its free will.
Wolff’s first scoop was a serialised “report” on the involvement of Displaced Persons (those he and his ilk couldn’t murder fast enough) in what he termed “coffee smuggling” – done presumably with the aim of undermining the re-nascent German state. So, the dirty buggers hadn’t learnt their lesson meted out to them by the self-appointed master race, or what? This “narrative” got Wollf an immediate promotion from Augstein. Spin + angle = momentum.
As a Head of Department, Wolff now co-operated with Wilfred von Oven (no pun, that was his real name). Another high-ranking party member serving in the Ministry of Propaganda (that was Dr. Goebbel’s joint) until April 22nd 1945. Being born in La Paz, Bolivia, von Oven made it back to Buenos Aires in 1951 with a little help from his employer, Rudolf Augstein, to become the Spiegel man in South America.
Now, as could be expected, Augstein had a somewhat troubled attitude to most things Jewish. And Der Spiegel was particularly keen of castigating the Jewish state for imaginary or perceived human rights abuses, such as defending themselves too vigorously or too successfully against another annihilation. It’s a lefty rag, after all.
Yeah right. Just like the good ol’ days, eh?
Der Spiegel was also tellingly keen on blurring the line between the Nazis and their victims, at times not stopping short of conflating Zionism with Nazism. This particular strand of moral relativism is still highly acclaimed in lefty land. And of course, anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism posing under a different name. No, not at all.
And some things apparently do run in the family: Augstein’s son Jakob, editor in chief of a somewhat unsellable weekly called “Freitag” (Friday) is no stranger to publishing bold commentary whenever ”The Juice” get a bit too uppity for his taste – honi soit qui mal y pense.
The point I’m trying to make here is that all this would be quite a career ender for anyone but a lefty. Der Spiegel’s founding generation has a history of deep and highly proficient involvement with the 3rd Reich, with genocide, war, proforma de-Nazification, unresolved anti-Semitism and an unquenchable thirst to charge Israel for any and all things that go wrong in its part of the world – but above all in the world at large.
This would be enough to term any person a Nazi, or more precisely: a neo-Fascist. But because he could quite pass himself off as a lefty and his “German news magazine” was highly useful for some people, Rudolf Augstein got away scot-free and what’s more: as a highly respected “moral” authority of the new, reformed, “improved” Germany. The nation where lessons had been learnt.
But no, all of this is rarely talked about at Der Spiegel even today, and when it gets mentioned at all, then only in a hushed voice and on threat of losing your livelihood.
And yes, sometime the facts are better than fiction. These were the people entrusted with shaping the public’s political perception in Germany after the war. What could go wrong…