Background: This page provides Chapter 6 of Eugen Hadamovsky’s book on the principles on Nazi propaganda. For more details, see the table of contents page.
The source: Eugen Hadamovsky, Propaganda und nationale Macht: Die Organisation der öffentlichen Meinung für die nationale Politik (Oldenburg: Gerhard Stalling, 1933).
The National News Monopoly
There are few facts that can tell their own story,
without explanation to bring out their meaning.
— Mill —
As the press became more active and its circulation grew at the beginning of the Napoleonic era, the first attempts to supply newspapers with news from a central source were made. Finally, Reuter opened a news agency in Frankfurt (M) in the first half of the past century. At the same time he made an offer to the Prussian government to establish a central news agency on an official or semi-official basis. The offer was rejected. Since he had no luck in Germany, he soon moved to England where in 1849 he founded the parent firm of Reuters, whose boundless distorted material about Germany during the war is still well remembered by us. After the war, the close pre-war associations again developed between the semi-official German Wolff Telegraph Agency, the Italian Stephani Agency, and Reuters. Materials were freely exchanged.
For many years, no other news agency could succeed in Germany because of the dominance of the Wolff Agency, which even before the war was superior to everyone else in its international connections. The Wolff Telegraph Agency knows just as well today as it ever did how to establish close relations with the Wilhelmstrasse [the Berlin street housing many government offices] wherever possible. Previously it did this under the imperial government, now under the republican. The semi-official status of the W.T.B. goes back to 1871 when it helped the government by transmitting official reports.
As early as 1913, Schwerin had made an attempt to compete with the Wolff Agency by combining many smaller agencies. He founded the Telegraph Union. It was not able to achieve extensive influence for many years because of the limited capital at its disposal. After the war, the W.T.B. was forced (by the cartel agreement that had existed since about 1870) to carry a thousand words of Havas news a day. A Reichstag committee which investigated this intensely anti-German propaganda in our own nation came to a very secret conclusion after an investigation that lasted for weeks.
In any event, the final push was given to the financing of the Telegraph Union, which under Hugenberg’s leadership was combined with Otto Wolff’s concern in 1921. By 1924, it had achieved such a strong position alongside the Wolff Agency that it also secured a radio license permitting it the right of transmitting its news by the radio to its newspapers.
Breaking up the Wolff news monopoly still did not eliminate the danger to the national news service resulting from the relations between the semi-official W.T.B. and foreign agencies.
The Wolff Telegraph Agency is still the largest German news agency, employing over 800 people. Its stock is owned by the Berlin banking houses of Bleichroder, Delbruck, and Schickler. The W.T.B. has had cartel agreements with Reuters, Havas, Agencia Stephani, and other large foreign agencies for over sixty years. It receives the greater part of its foreign news from them and is also dependent on the help of foreign news agencies in its capacity as official news agency to the government. The foreign agencies follow a quite deliberate nationalistic policy. It is common knowledge, for example, that Reuter systematically gave the public one-sided news about Germany before and during the war.
Besides its forty-five branch offices in German cities and its correspondents in all major European cities, Wolff also has a large number of investments and subsidiaries. The most important of these is the Wolff Trade Agency, which is today part of the Deutscher Kursfunk Company. It prepares foreign and domestic economic reports, as well as stock exchange reports, for those interested in the German economy, and transmits them by the Wireless Radio Service, the “Economic Radio” [Wirtschaftsfunk].
Hugenberg’s Telegraph Union employs about 700 reporters, etc. The fact that there are almost a hundred editors working for the Telegraph Union shows that the news is not simply collected, with the news agency making a simple choice, but rather that news is deliberately “edited.” Next to the W.T.B., the T.U. is the largest news agency in the German-speaking world. It also controls a press radio service and prepares political, general, and economic news. It controls about thirty branch offices in Germany, has foreign correspondents in important places, and has likewise built an extensive organization of subsidiaries, such as the Parliamentary Agency and the extensive agricultural service, etc. The “Express Service for Politics, Culture, and Economics” is affiliated with the T. U., which also publishes the official bulletins of the German National People’s Party. Furthermore, the Wipro, the Economic Office for the Provincial Press, which supplies provincial and county papers with material and matrix services, belongs within the framework of the Hugenberg press organization.About 1,600 German newspapers receive news from the Telegraph Union, according to a statement from the Hugenberg circle (Ludwig Bernhard). It is notable that many also receive material from the W.T.B. The nonpartisan press carries a colorful mosaic of Wolff and Hugenberg news.
Dr. R. Dammert’s press firm provides material to over 700 German papers, and is apparently closely connected with liberal circles. It puts out People’s Party material, especially illustrated magazine supplements set in type, news and articles of a political, entertaining, economic, or special content, novels, etc. The firm also has a special service for about 400 foreign German-language newspapers.
Further news agencies which are worth mentioning are: the Democratic News Agency, which is closely related to the German State Party and which appears daily; the news agency belonging to the Union of German Newspaper Publishers, which has become a subsidiary of the Wolff Agency; the National, Liberal Agency of the German People’s Party; the Social Democratic News Agency which is under the control of the Social Democratic Party, and which will soon have its license granting it permission to use the internal German radio service revoked; and finally, the Ullstein Agency.
In the United States of America and Great Britain, newspapers have cooperated in financing and operating the news agencies. The Associated Press of America in New York, for example, is a cooperative news agency on the part of about 1,300 American newspapers. It provides about 145,000 words a day by wire, with an additional 367,000 printed words. The London Press Association is a cooperative association of English papers that controls its own telegraph system. It controls the majority of the directors of Reuter, Ltd., which controls the international news service in the interests of English power politics by means of its worldwide organization and its agreements with the most important agencies in Paris, Berlin, Rome, Madrid, Tokyo, and New York.
The cooperative press organizations are nonprofit and give no dividends; rather, they provide news to their customers at no cost.
The outline of the news agencies in other countries also shows extensive fragmentation. No one has thus far succeeded in achieving an absolute monopoly over the press by means of purely capitalistic policies. The struggle between industrial, agricultural, and financial groups has always resulted in the establishment of different news agencies and competition between them.
We learned during the war how private news agencies can work against the interests of the government. We have had to watch while the Foreign Ministry established an ineffective news agency using diplomats and military attaches. These military attaches and officials were forbidden to act as a secret news service. While the diplomats and military attaches of foreign nations working in Germany acted as a news service for their governments, even at times endangering their careers, our foreign representatives had to ensure a total lack of understanding and bureaucratic restrictions, even official prohibitions from superior agencies.
As a result, both the navy and the army established their own news services alongside that of the Foreign Ministry. A reliable news service that could have informed the government of internal developments and given continuous information on foreign affairs never developed. That which the War Press Office had established was slowly and systematically destroyed by the growing struggles between the Union of the Berlin Press, the Federation of the German Press, the publishing associations, and the party struggles that were behind those associations. The government’s legal authority to establish a monopoly at least in regards to war news was neither preserved nor maintained with sufficient forcefulness. The psychological treatment of the press by the General Staff left something to be desired, but the government entirely bungled things.
For technical reasons, the War Press Office had to give the Wolff News Agency priority in reporting. The official reports were, because of bureaucratic channels, carried exclusively by this agency. The reports themselves were of insufficient detail, appearing once daily, although later an evening supplement was added. The enemy reports, on the other hand, were voluminous, psychologically designed, and appeared two or three times daily. The enemy even used our army report as material.
The enemy was of the opinion that it was necessary to give a picture of the entire front and of the entire military situation. Since we had a front some 2,400 kilometers long to report on, whereas the English front was at times only 135 kilometers, the condensed German method naturally had to result in total coldness and sobriety, and a so-called “impartial” method of presentation. It was wholly without color or character, and was fundamentally unmilitaristic. While the enemy’s army reports went into the details of battles for individual farms, woods, and hills, and described the exploits of individual units, officers, and soldiers in great detail, German reports had no room for such things. As a result, the German reader really got only a picture of the general military situation, but he never felt like a bystander, he was never in the actual situation. The enemy report was thus superior to ours as propaganda in that it encouraged and whipped up the enemy’s desire to fight, while our report, with its stylized format (as for example the phrase that Remarque borrowed for the title of his well known book All Quiet on the Western Front) was simply boring. It killed any interest in the conduct of the war.
If the Germans had adopted enemy methods, rapid reporting, quick overviews of the general situation, and detailed descriptions would have been given. Certainly it was always possible on a front as lengthy and active as ours to provide the reader with many exciting and inspiring individual events. The purpose of the army report is not to provide material for beer hall strategists, but rather to harden the will of the homeland. That cannot be done with impartiality, only with passion. From the beginning, however, that was not the goal. In his very first speech, Moltke demanded not enthusiasm and passion from the public, but rather the spirit of devotion and unity. In the first stormy days of August 1914, the appeal was not addressed to strength, will, and activity, but to endurance, patience, and passivity!
The worst psychological mistake committed by our news service and war reports was that the German press was allowed to use and publish the enemy military reports. The reader, of course, could not differentiate and distinguish between the control on one side and the lack of instinct on the other. Instead, the lack of action and passion in our material, as well as its boring nature, by contrast suggested the fiery and enthusiastic interest and fervent passion of the enemy soldier.
The notion that publishing enemy army reports would lead to “complete frankness” had already been disproved in this discussion. If there is no objective news agency, there is no so-called complete “frankness.” No news agency can say everything. That which it does say, however, must be significant and important for the will and life of the nation.
It is common knowledge by now that both economic and military warfare was waged against us, and that it was economic in conjunction with propaganda (psychological) warfare that finally defeated us. It is surprising that we had no news agency concerned with economic matters during the war, aside from the news agency created by the Imperial General Staff and the one that existed in the Foreign Ministry. It is also surprising that we still do not have a governmental agency that would provide necessary services both for our foreign and overall trade relations as well as for political developments. A really effective economic news agency was established during the war by England, our most energetic opponent, and repaid England well both during and after the war. The news gathered by the English Economic News Agency was used first in English propaganda activities. The material was prepared in cooperation with the navy, the army, and the commerce news office, so that England could tighten its blockade around Germany and deny us all necessary economic supplies. The English Economic News Agency so totally destroyed our foreign trade that we had to build it up again from nothing in 1919-1920.
Ludwig Bernhard defines the difference between the commercial and industrial capital that are behind the W.T.B. and T.U. respectively as the difference between fluid and fixed capital. The opposition of these two is unthinkable as a permanent condition in Germany, for the geopolitics of the German Lebensraum do not permit a fluctuation resulting from the varying strengths of these forces. In England, where the opposition is expressed between the Liberal and Conservative parties, centuries of geopolitical conditions permit interest groups to exist along side each other and struggle for power.
Our hemmed in fatherland, which Karl Peters compared to a noble tree successfully growing in a dark and rocky canyon, is incompatible with the English system because of our situation. We are not geopolitically able to wage world war against everyone. We can exist in the future only if the cramping and binding ring of these groups is replaced by the victory of a new idea and the establishment of the lasting predominance of a principle.
The English two-party system, which our two public news agencies present as perfect, is a straightjacket that will not simply work here.
Germany can be governed only by a national state idea and it must completely eliminate internal opposition. This requires a German news agency.
It must be characterized by flexibility, initiative, national activity, and a complete monopolistic centralization. The Wolff Agency is a model, but it also shows us that a German news agency may not, in an effort to maintain its competitiveness, endanger the nation by making agreements with international agencies. To ensure that the agency concerned with foreign politics does not suffer a lack of means, large scale governmental subsidies might be necessary. The whole system should not be dominated by bureaucracy, but it should also be organized and led independently of private economic principles. That it can remain flexible and effective despite its close connections with the government and bureaucracy is shown by the examples of all great official news agencies. Bureaucracy is only a threat when one fails to exercise leadership.
Although the news requirements of the press are of a different character than those of the radio, one must still consistently work out a plan for centralization of the news system.
This means the establishment of a common news monopoly for radio, the press, and picture news, and the creation of departments in which news will be prepared for the radio or tailored to suit the press. The news agency is therefore a distinctive organization standing behind these two methods of public opinion.
The capital for the news agency would accordingly come from the radio as well as the press. Today, the press almost entirely finances the news agencies. If one sets about a reorganization of the radio, it will be possible to free a substantial amount of capital (about thirty million marks) from the radio and Postal Ministry to be used for the news agency and other tasks of national propaganda and educational work. According to the present financial head of the radio, it would be possible to free 30% of the current radio budget by a determined reorganization. The capital with which our large central news agencies work today is difficult to establish because of careful secrecy and interlocking, and also because of their extensive marketing networks.
The secret news agency of the Imperial General Staff, however, had less than half a million marks annually at its disposal, a quite insufficient amount. Extensive and ample means are naturally necessary if an up-to-the minute radio and press are to furnish a hundred million people with new information every hour. The establishment of a governmental news agency is probably the most difficult problem in the entire reorganization of public opinion.
The national news agency would have the following tasks:
1. The acquisition of news, pictures, and films from here and abroad, organized into various internal and external departments, with the following subdivisions:
a. an economic news agency;
b. a political, cultural, and general news agency;
c. a secret economic, political, and military new agency that would be an entirely independent department.
2. News editing and distribution for the domestic organs, with departments for:
a. dissemination of news to the press;
b. dissemination of pictures to the press;
c. dissemination of films;
d. dissemination of news to the radio.
3. The dissemination of news to foreign customers (organized as 2.)
4. Security service and radio protection.
The tasks of the security service would be directed towards every form of enemy news service. It would correspond roughly to the secret field police that existed during the war under the internal military command. The security service’s work would be supported by a special security police that would cover the entire nation. It would be a national governmental body unrestricted by the authority of the states — by their police laws, for example. The security police would be a part of the radio protection department, consisting of a group of men trained in radio and in locating interference. Such an agency is just as important now as it was during the war. Then, it was necessary to defend against the attacks of enemy news agencies, today against demoralizing Bolshevist propaganda that undermines our entire public life, against the pacifistic incitement financed primarily from France, and against Moscow, which beams radio propaganda at us with the strongest transmitter in Europe.
The intellectual diversity and lack of discipline of our
public life has led to a degree of demoralization that is frightening.
The solution will not be found by doctoring with a single instrument of
public opinion, nor is the answer press censorship, emergency decrees,
or the imprisoning or fining of the opposition. Only a resolute, systematic,
and complete centralization of the news agencies, carried out by all means
of power, will guarantee the instruction and leadership of public opinion
in ways recognized as necessary by the government.
Go to Chapter 7
[Page copyright © 2007 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]
Go to the Hadamovsky table of contents.
Go to the 1933-1945 Page.
Go to the German Propaganda Home Page.