Propaganda und Widerstand

Page 225-226, Press Photography in the Context of National Socialist Propaganda Means in the Reichsgau Wartheland

Page 225-226 > access to source at the UDK > Teilband 1 > Link

Translation of contents with the friendly permission of Verlag Dr. Kovač Hamburg.

Author information: Miriam Y. Arani
ISBN: 978-3-8300-3005-8
Publisher: Verlag Dr. Kovač
Place of publishing: Hamburg
Document type: Book (Monograph)
Language: German
Year of completion: 2008
Publishing Institution: Universität der Künste Berlin
Date of release: 23.02.2022
GND keyword: Wartheland; Poland – people; Germans; photography; self-image; foreign image; Wartheland; Polen – Volk; Deutsche; Fotografie; Selbstbild; Fremdbild
Page number: 1014
License (German): No license – copyright protection

From Chapter III: National Socialist Press – Reichsgau Wartheland

[…] 2. Press Photography in the Context of National Socialist Propaganda Means in the Reichsgau Wartheland


Even if the German press photographers – as they themselves frequently emphasized – belonged to a professional group that emphasized the “individualism” of the group members, it was possible for the Propaganda Ministry, in conjunction with the state organs and party institutions that exercised violence, to steer the majority of the “German” photojournalists in the desired political direction. On the other hand, it is also known from press history research that during the National Socialist era, individual journalists who personally rejected National Socialist ideology and politics and secretly helped fellow citizens of Jewish origin nevertheless served National Socialist press propaganda with their journalistic products. [172] Such paradoxical constellations must also be considered in the case of press photographers.

So far, it is unclear to what extent political distance from propaganda can be expressed in press photographs. The repressive character of the National Socialist dictatorship must be taken into account, as well as the fact that since the earliest days of mankind, “tyrants” have instilled mortal fear in political dissenters in order to subjugate them in this way. In honor of the few people who nevertheless dared to violently resist a tyrant’s rule, “democrats” for example, erected a stone monument already in ancient Greece. [173] The communication processes within a modern nation-state at the beginning of the 20th century in Poland or Germany are far more complex than in the Greek city-states in the 5th century BCE. For this reason, this study aims to provide as differentiated an understanding as possible of the scope of action of German press photographers under the conditions of National Socialist “tyranny”.

In order to resolve the contradictions that arise between some of the previous explanatory approaches and the empirical findings, it proved useful to distinguish between a micro level of individual cases (individual photographers and individual photographs) and a macro level of National Socialist media policy in its entirety (as a socially dominant framework of action), following sociological approaches to the analysis of complex social networks of relationships [174] in the analysis of press photography in the National Socialist state. In order to arrive at an adequate understanding of photographic image propaganda in the National Socialist state and to reconstruct the contexts in which the press photographs were created, the overall media policy context and the cross-media National Socialist propaganda steering system must be included in the analysis: National Socialist media policy significantly limited the scope of action of press photographers. When analyzing the various organizational levels at which press photographs were created and distributed, a distinction must be made between the photographers, as producers of the photographic images, and the exploiters of these photographic images (picture editors, publishers, etc.), who were the people primarily responsible for the political line of the printed products during the Nazi dictatorship. The picture editors, publishers and propaganda experts were responsible for the practical implementation of the instructions from the Ministry of Propaganda in Berlin. Indirect censorship and National Socialist propaganda were realized in the interlocking of several state and party institutions and organizational levels at the same time. If one asks which organizations and hierarchical levels were responsible for photographic image propaganda, one encounters procedures based on the division of labor: Functionaries of the propaganda apparatus formulated propaganda goals, which were then realized by the picture agencies or editorial offices with the help of press photographers. Representatives of the propaganda apparatus were involved in the formulation of the captions officially distributed to the newspapers.

Fig. III.39: Ostdeutscher Beobachter [East German Observer] of 23.1.1944, p. 6

The first question is how the National Socialist dictatorship caused a large number of German photojournalists to produce photographic images that could be exploited for the political propaganda of National Socialism. In connection with a sketch of the framework of journalists’ activities under the National Socialist dictatorship, the specific production, selection and regional publication contexts of press photographs from the Warthegau are explained in more detail.

[172] One of the best-known individual cases is the journalist Ruth Andreas-Friedrich; see Frei/Schmitz 1989, pp. 73, 82, 121, 132.

[173] In Athens in the 5th century B.C. there was a famous bronze statue group of the tyrannicide Harmodius and Aristogeiton, which can be seen today in the form of a Roman marble copy in Naples. The represented had fought the tyranny of the Peisistratids and murdered one of them, Hipparchus, during the Great Panathenaea. Harmodius was killed by the bodyguard of the Peisistratids, Aristogeiton was tortured and executed. The monument in memory of them – created by the sculptor Antenor after the expulsion of the Peisistratids in 510 BCE – was of extraordinary importance for the subsequently developing, time-specific “democratic” self-image (slavery!) of the Greek city-state in the 5th century BCE. In antiquity, the Greek city-states were repeatedly invaded by the Persians, who at that time were a world power like the United States of America today. The Persians at that time desecrated the temples of the Greeks, toppled their statues and stole valuable bronze statues, among them in 480 B.C. the bronze statue group of the tyrant murderers. In 447 B.C., the artists Kritios and Nesiotes created a new statue of the Tyrannicide as a pictorial expression of their Athenian “struggle for freedom” and political self-image. This statue group is so famous that one can find some sentences about it in every relevant handbook on classical archaeology (“Strict style”). Tyranny was a form of rule that occurred intermittently in the Greek city-states at the time, pushing back the rule of the nobility and favoring the very heterogeneous urban population of Athens in comparison. Due to the greed for power and extravagance of the tyrants, it was not a form of government that was stable in the long term.

[174] See, for example, Aulinger 1992, p. 139f.; Wössner 1986, p. 163. Macrosociology examines the systems of action that govern society, in contrast to microsociology, which examines interpersonal relationships between individuals.

[Excerpt: page. 225 to 226]

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