Julius Streicher: Striking Hate Into Germany

Men gather to read Der Stürmer, displayed in the town square of the Rhineland-Palatinate city of Worms, in 1933. The sign bears the newspaper’s slogan, “Die Juden sind unser Unglück,” or “The Jews are our misfortune.” | Source: German Federal Archive.

By Daina Beth Solomon

Adolf Hitler once said that the only newspaper he read cover to cover was Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer. Illustrated with drawings of Jews as germs, criminals, rapists, and Christ killers, the tabloid’s repeated claims of Jewish conspiracy and crime tapped into the fears and paranoia of working-class Germans, sanctioning their hostility toward Jews and setting the stage for genocide.

Streicher claimed in the 1946 Nuremberg trials that he had aimed to “enlighten” the German people, and that the “destruction” he urged as a solution to the “Jewish question” was a figure of speech. Antisemitic, white supremacist and racist groups today hide beyond the same warped semantics, and, unlike Streicher, have the Internet at their fingertips to spread incendiary and bigoted claims to a vast swath of followers.

Streicher came to publishing through politics. Born in 1885 in the state of Bavaria, the youngest of nine children, Streicher became an elementary school teacher, joined the Nazi party, and participated in the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. His role won him Hitler’s friendship as well as a parliament seat in Nuremberg, one of the largest cities in Bavaria and an emerging Nazi stronghold. Political infighting in Nuremberg prompted him to launch Der Stürmer, roughly translated as “the stormer” or “the storm trooper,” as a personal mouthpiece of counter-attack. Streicher become a regional leader for Bavaria in 1925, and when the Nazis came to power, advanced to the Reichstag.

Streicher made Der Stürmer an outlet for the antisemitic views he had cultivated since childhood, penning long editorials with headlines such as “The Way to Slavery,” “Bolshevism and the Synagogue,” “The Battle with the Devil,” and “When Will the Jewish Danger Be Over?” The slogan, “The Jews are our misfortune!” blazed across the front page every week.

His retelling of the 1933 Reichstag fire in Berlin exemplifies the hateful, mendacious spin that pervaded his writing. Streicher pinned the blame on communist Jews despite a lack of evidence, describing their goal as “world dominion.” Only Hitler, he went on, could “see through” this plot. He concluded: “Germany will not be at peace until the last of these guilty ones is tried and convicted.”

Streicher soon went beyond informing readers of this alleged Jewish conspiracy; he agitated for murder. In “Secret Plans against Germany Revealed,” Streicher again detailed the supposed “Jewish plan for world conquest” with what he described as chaos and robbery and murder. Then, after extolling Hitler, he concluded: “The Jewish people must be exterminated from the face of the earth.” According to Randall Bytwerk, a Nazi propaganda historian at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., this urging became common by the time war broke out in 1939. As Streicher found new and inventive ways to hit readers over the head with antisemitism, he created the “hallmark of propaganda,” Bytwerk said. Streicher’s popular children’s book Der Giftpilz (“The Poisonous Mushroom”), for example, compared Jews to innocent-looking but deadly fungi.

Der Stürmer reached a peak circulation of 486,000 people in 1938 and was eventually circulated among German-speaking communities in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. Streicher continued to publish the paper even after 1940, when a Nazi tribunal ousted him from the Reichstag for corruption, brutal behavior, and feuding with Hermann Göring. He was hung at the Nuremberg trials in 1946, convicted of inciting Germans to murder Jews.

 

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