On April 20, 1923, the first copy of Der Stuermer ("The Attacker") was published. The first few editions of the Nazi weekly lacked many of the central elements that were to make Der Stuermer so popular and so notorious; they consisted of four small pages, focused on Julius Streicher's (the paper's founder and editor) political enemies (rather than against Jews), offered few if any cartoons, and carried only a few ads. But Der Stuermer already had a circulation of several thousand when it was forced to take a four month hiatus, beginning in November 1923.
In November 1923, Hitler attempted a putsch. The editor of Der Stuermer, Julius Streicher, was an active Nazi and participated in the putsch, for which he was soon arrested and forced to spend two months in the Landsberg Prison. But upon Streicher's release, the paper was again published, beginning in March 1924. Only a month later, Der Stuermer published its first cartoon directed against Jews.
The Appeal of Der Stuermer
Streicher wanted Der Stuermer to appeal to the common man, to the worker with little time to read. Thus, Der Stuermer's articles used short sentences and a simple vocabulary. Ideas were repeated. Headlines grabbed a reader's attention. And the cartoons were easily understood.
Though Der Stuermer had already published a few cartoons, they were not well received and not a major part of the paper until December 19, 1925. On this date, the first cartoon of Philippe Rupprecht (pen name "Fips") was published in Der Stuermer.
Rupprecht's cartoons were caricatures used to present various themes of anti-Semitism. He drew Jews with large, hooked noses, bulging eyes, unshaven, short, and fat. He often drew them as vermin, snakes, and spiders. Rupprecht was also very good at drawing the female form - usually nude or partially nude. With breasts bare, these "Aryan" women were often depicted as the victims of Jews. These nude women made the paper especially attractive to young males.
The paper was filled with stories about scandal, sex, and crime. Though perhaps based on a true story, the articles were exaggerated and the facts were distorted. The articles were written by only a couple of staff writers, Streicher himself, and readers who submitted articles.
The Displays in Der Stuermer
Though Der Stuermer began with a circulation of only a few thousand, by 1927 it had reached 14,000 copies weekly, and by 1938 had reached nearly 500,000. But the circulation figures do not account for the number of people who actually read Der Stuermer. Besides being sold at newsstands, Der Stuermer was put up on display in specially constructed display cases all around Germany. These were constructed by local supporters in places where people naturally congregated - bus stops, parks, street corners, etc. These were often large cases, adorned with phrases from the paper such as "Die Juden Sind Unser Unglueck" ("The Jews Are Our Misfortune"). Lists of newly erected display cases as well as pictures of the more grandiose ones would appear in Der Stuermer.
Local supporters would often stand guard the display cases to protect them from vandals, these people were called "Stuermer guards."
Though the circulation of Der Stuermer had continued to rise during the 1930s, by 1940, the circulation was dropping. Some part of the blame is given to paper shortages but others say the attraction for the paper lessened with the disappearance of Jews from everyday life.*
The paper continued to be printed throughout the war, with its final edition appearing on February 1, 1945 condemning the invading Allies to be the tools of an international Jewish conspiracy. Julius Streicher was tried by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg for his work in inciting hate and was hung on October 16, 1946.
* Randall L. Bytwerk, "Der Stuermer: 'A Fierce and Filthy Rag,'" Julius Streicher (New York: Stein and Day, 1983) 63.
Bytwerk, Randall L. "Der Stuermer: 'A Fierce and Filthy Rag,'" Julius Streicher. New York: Stein and Day, 1983.
Showalter, Dennis E. Little Man, What Now?: Der Stuermer in the Weimar Republic. Hamden, Connecticut: The Shoe String Press Inc., 1982.