‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ was the main official newspaper of the Nazi Party. The primary aim of ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ was to spread the word of Nazism and to print the propaganda requirements of Joseph Goebbels, the minister responsible for propaganda. The production of ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ ended when Nazi Germany collapsed in May 1945.
‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ translated as ‘People's Observer’. It was not originally a Nazi newspaper as it had started its editorial life’ before World War One when it was the ‘Műnchener Beobachter’ (Munich Observer) and concentrated not so much on news but on gossip and tittle-tattle.
After World War One, the ‘Műnchener Beobachter’ became the ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’, and was printed twice a week. It became a virulent anti-Semite newspaper and on March 10th 1920, its front page headline was ‘Clean Out the Jews Once and For All’ and the lead story wrote of a ‘final solution’ for the Jews some years before Hitler ever did. It stated that the government should be “sweeping out the Jewish vermin with an iron broom”.
However, in 1920 the paper was in a dire financial state and it was bought by members of the German Workers Party, one of whom was Ernst Rőhm. The party raised the 60,000 Marks required to buy the newspaper by persuading Major General Xaver Ritter von Epp, Rőhm’s commanding officer in the Reichswehr, to get the money from his rich friends and acquaintances. It was later rumoured that Epp may well have got some of the money from army funds.
In 1921, Hitler took effective charge of ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ when he became head of the newly named NSDAP.
Its first editor under Hitler was Alfred Rosenberg who from 1921 to 1926 was one of the few who worked on the newspaper as the wages paid to any journalists were so poor that they could barely be lived on.
Rosenberg’s work greatly increased when Hitler decided that ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ should become a daily newspaper. Rosenberg filled the newspaper with issues concerning race and what constituted a good Aryan. When Rosenberg was not pushing home Nazi beliefs on race, he littered the paper with anti-Semite articles including anti-Semite poetry by Josef Czerny.
However, Rosenberg ended up clashing with Max Amann, the treasurer of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg wanted ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ to be a newspaper that was for the erudite and intellectual. Amann wanted a newspaper that appealed to a much broader mass – a newspaper of sensational news that would bring in money for the party – “I spit on Party members, business comes first”. (Amann)
Truth and propriety were not always priorities for those who wrote for ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’. Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch was portrayed as a triumph; the Weimar government was labelled a pawn of Jews and Masons while the most senior member of the army, General Hans von Seekt, was vilified simply for having a Jewish wife.
The paper was banned in 1924 while Hitler was in prison. It next reappeared on February 26th 1925 in an issue where the editorial was written by Hitler. Titled “A New Beginning”, Hitler was desperate to give a kick-start to the Nazi Party after it had stalled during his time in prison. Hitler wrote in this editorial:
“I do not consider it a task for the political leader to attempt to improve, or even fuse together, the human material ready to his hand.”
He was attacking the apparent split within the Nazi Party between left and right. In 1926, Joseph Goebbels split from the Strasser brothers and used ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ to denounce them. Goebbels also used ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ to make a direct address to Hitler:
“Only now do I recognise you for what you are: revolutionaries in both speech and deed. We bow to the Fuehrer. We feel that he is a greater man than all of us, greater than you or I. He is the instrument of the divine will who shapes history with a fresh, creative passion.”
However, ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ was always in financial difficulties. Hitler had even started up an edition that was meant for the army only. It served to push up costs and in 1932, the printer of the newspaper, Hans Műller, threatened to stop printing it such was the debt owed to him by the Nazi Party. The paper was only saved by the intervention of Kurt von Schleicher who promised to use army money to pay off the debt.
Once Hitler had gained power on January 30th 1933, ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ served the sole purpose of pushing home Nazi ideology. Controlled by Joseph Goebbels it only printed what Goebbels knew Hitler would appreciate and approve of. Hence, it was the Jews that caused Krystalnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) and it was Rőhm’s treachery that led to the Night of the Long Knives. As World War Two approached, it was the Poles who violated German soil and murdered German border guards. During World War Two, the ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ only ever published good news or re-wrote what was obviously bad news as good news. Goebbels control over the printed word was total and right up to the end of the war, the ‘Vőlkischer Beobachter’ claimed that the Nazis would win.