Julius Streicher has become one of the most notorious Nazi leaders despite the fact that he played little part in World War Two and lost a great deal of power during the war. Julius Streicher is infamous for his publication “Der Stűrmer”, a virulent anti-Semitic magazine/newspaper, and for his anti-Semitic speeches.
Julius Streicher was born on February 12th 1885 in Bavaria. Like his father, Streicher became a school teacher. He also started to get involved in politics when he joined the German Democratic Party. When he later wrote for “Der Stűrmer”, Streicher made the point that it was when he involved himself in local politics for the first time that he first came into contact with Jews. He wrote that it was then that he started to develop his anti-Semitic beliefs.
Streicher fought all through World War One winning the Iron Cross and being promoted to the rank of lieutenant. It was not an insignificant achievement.
Post-war Germany infuriated Streicher. He viewed the Weimar government as weak and thought that Germany was under the threat of a communist takeover. He only tolerated Ebert because he was seen as being the least worst of two evils – Ebert’s government or communism. Pre-war Germany had been economically and militarily strong and a major power in Europe. Now the nation was defeated and economically ruined. The Treaty of Versailles had greatly reduced Germany’s military strength. Streicher came to the conclusion that communists and Jews were conspiring against Germany. He initially joined the German Socialist Party and tried to turn it into an anti-Jewish party. His speeches met with such hostility among some in the party that he was forced to leave it. However, he took with him those who supported his views.
In 1921, Streicher heard Hitler speak in Munich. His experience of this left him deeply moved and he joined the fledgling National Socialist German Workers Party. His followers also joined the Nazi Party. From that moment Streicher became a loyal and devoted follower of Hitler. He stood with Hitler in the failed Beer Hall Putsch. It was an act that Hitler always remembered; Streicher was seen by Hitler as a man who had been willing to die for the movement and he became a member of Hitler’s inner circle – something many top Nazis could not claim. While Streicher made enemies in the constant infighting that was a common theme in the senior ranks of the Nazi Party, he could always rely on the protection of Hitler.
From 1925 until 1933, Hitler rewarded Streicher’s loyalty by appointing him Gauleiter of Franconia. It was a fairly meaningless title and position as it only had any influence among Nazis in Franconia. From 1925 to 1929 the party remained a small if noisy political party. The 1929 Wall Street Crash transformed the party and by January 1933, Hitler had been appointed Chancellor. It was now that those named as Gauleiters started to wield huge power within their designated regions. Streicher was also elected to the Bavarian parliament where he could voice his racist views protected by parliamentary immunity. His position as Gauleiter also gave him a great deal of protection from the law.
Protected in this manner, Streicher continued with his anti-Semitic campaign except on a much broader scale free from any thought of prosecution. In the early years of the Nazi Party few people bought “Der Stűrmer”. Its views would only have interested members of what was then a small political party. Now, protected by Hitler, Streicher could do as he wished with regards to his publication which had as its slogan ‘The Jews are our misfortune’. Some publications bordered on the obscene and pornographic in terms of the images it printed. But its one incessant theme was how the Jews were undermining all things that were German. Most of what was written was total nonsense but such was the fear of the Nazi state post-1933 that few dared to complain. The Jews were openly accused of slavery and forcing German women into prostitution. They were accused of tax evasion and the murder of German children. Jewish men were accused of luring young girls into depravity. But with no one capable of stopping Streicher, “Der Stűrmer” continued to be printed. Hitler announced that it was his favourite publication and this seal of approval allowed Streicher to continue his work unabated and free from interference. At its peak, 600,000 copies were bought each week.
Ironically, some senior Nazis loathed “Der Stűrmer” because it was so crude. Men like Göering wanted the world to see Nazi Germany as the pinnacle of culture and a semi-pornographic publication did not fit in with this. Göering was one of Streicher’s harshest critics but even he could do nothing to stop him despite his seniority within the Nazi ranks and his long relationship with Hitler. Streicher was aware of Göering’s antipathy towards him and attacked him in “Der Stűrmer” making numerous false accusations against him and his family.
Streicher’s position started to unravel as Germany headed towards World War Two. He held no military position and as Europe drifted into almost certain conflict Streicher had less and less power and influence as Hitler was more concerned with his military commanders. It was during this drift to war that his enemies realised that they had the opportunity to get at Streicher. He was accused of keeping Jewish property in Nuremberg that was meant to have been confiscated for the state after the ‘Night of the Broken Glass’. They also exposed his adultery. In February 1940, with Hitler’s attention solely focussed on war in Europe, all of Streicher’s party offices were taken from him. He withdrew from public view but occasionally published “Der Stűrmer”.
Streicher was arrested in May 1945. While other Nazis were charged with crimes against humanity, crimes against peace and plotting war in Europe, Streicher was charged with inciting hatred against the Jewish people of Germany. His behaviour at the Nuremberg Trials hardly helped his case, especially as he faced the death penalty. He verbally attacked the Jews and on occasions had to be silenced by court officials because his attacks were so abhorrent. Nick-named ‘Jew Baiter Number 1’, Streicher was found guilty and sentenced to death. He continued his diatribe against the Jews even as he was led to the gallows and at the bottom of the steps that took him up to the gallows he shouted “Heil Hitler”. He was hanged on October 16th 1946 along with other senior Nazi figures.