Völkischer Beobachter

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To implement their highly ambitious “25-point” program, Nazis needed to come to power in Germany. To come to power, they needed to transform their fledgling local party into a powerful nationwide mass movement.

To make it happen, they needed a nationwide newspaper. And, given their very limited funds, the only way to get a nationwide newspaper was to acquire a local one – and make it national.

Fortunately for them, such an opportunity soon presented itself when the essentially bankrupt weekly newspaper Völkischer Beobachter was put up for sale in mid-1920.

Originally called Münchener Beobachter, (Munich Observer), it was a an anti-Semitic weekly scandal-oriented paper (i.e. tabloid) that was established before the Great War. In Munich it was known as “a gossip sheet devoted to scandal mongering”.

In 1918 was acquired by the Thule Society and, in August 1919, was renamed Völkischer Beobachter (“People’s Observer”). It is worth noting that already in March of 1920 it advocated the “final solution for the Jewish question” well before the Nazis did (and even openly called for placing all German and Austrian Jews in concentration camps).

However, it did not achieve much success with German public (to put it mildly) and thus by summer of 1920 was heavily in dead (essentially bankrupt). Hence, Thule society (already in decline by that time) had no other choice but to put the newspaper up for sale.

Apparently, the effectively bankrupt newspaper had a powerful enough brand and an efficient enough infrastructure (editors, designers, printers, distribution, etc.) to attract several potential buyers in December of 1920.

Including Nazis who apparently (and, as it turned out later, correctly) believed that Adolf Hitler could achieve the same success with the printed word as he could with the spoken one.

Hitler, Eckart and Drexler arranged for a complicated financing structure and on December 17th, 1920 the latter became an official owner of the newspaper and Eckart – its editor-in-chief.

60,000 Marks were provided as a loan by General Franz Xaver Ritter von Epp who at that time controlled the secret Reichswehr fund used for political purposes. Eckart guaranteed the loan with his house and other property.

30,000 Marks were given by one Dr. Gottfried Grandel – Augsburg chemist and factory-owner (and a personal friend of Eckart). Drexler himself took over the remaining debts of 113,000 Marks (no small sum at that time).

Nazis did manage to turn newspaper around and in a very short time transform it into a powerful force that generated awareness, recognition, membership and huge crowds at Nazi meetings (and violent confrontations and scandals, of course). And a not insignificant amount of cash for the party coffers.

But it was still not enough. To survive (let alone prosper and come to power in Germany), the party needed sponsors. Wealthy sponsors. And a lot of them.

 

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