The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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12 May 1933

Letter from the Rudolf Mosse publishing house to a former subscriber

Who was the "most honorable sir" who canceled his subscription to the Berliner Tageblatt in May 1933 and then received this letter from the Rudolf Mosse publishing house with an urgent appeal to reconsider his decision? Unfortunately we will never know. No record of the reasons behind the reader‘s decision has survived—in fact it is doubtful that they were ever put to paper. Nevertheless, the writer of the letter speculates on the reader‘s motives and then seeks very politely to argue against them.

In order to keep the subscriber‘s business, the publishing house‘s head office offered him a temporary subscription at no cost so that he could make comparisons with other publications within the greatly changed German press landscape. What is interesting is the writer‘s perception that the newspaper continued to be highly respected abroad and could, through what he suggests is its critical news coverage, help keep Germany from becoming "intellectually isolated."

The Berliner Tageblatt, launched in 1872, was Germany‘s leading liberal newspaper for decades. After the Nazis assumed power, the company that published the newspaper and its publishing director Hans Lachmann-Mosse—son of company‘s founder Rudolf Mosse—soon came under considerable political pressure. In the space of three months, many of its leading Jewish staff members were forced to leave Germany. In mid-February the theater critic Alfred Kerr fled to Prague and two weeks later editor-in-chief Theodor Wolff sought refuge in Switzerland. Ernst Feder, head of the domestic politics desk, went into exile in Paris, as did Hans Lachmann-Mosse. Additional employees left the country in the ensuing months and those who remained in Germany were dismissed.

As a result, the publishing house was under new management by the time this letter was written on 12 May. Reading between the lines, one senses the tightrope act that management is engaged in between maintaining journalistic independence and coping with the tangible political pressure. The decision to transfer all the publisher's businesses to a charitable foundation and use profits to "benefit the victims of the war irrespective of denomination" was hardly magnanimous, but made under duress.

However, once the Berliner Tageblatt had been "ideologically aligned" and brought under control, the Nazis granted it a degree of independence. It continued to be published until late January 1939.

Aubrey Pomerance

Categorie(s): Berlin | journalists
Letter from the Rudolf Mosse publishing house to a former subscriber, Berlin, 12 May 1933