German Publisher Plans to Halt ‘Der Landser’

Der Landser

Bauer Media Group, a German magazine publisher of Life & Style, In Touch, and other popular publications, has announced its plans to discontinue the publication of “Der Landser”. The magazine is criticized for its portrayal of Nazi war criminals.

The Hamburg based publisher said that the magazine simply featured the stories of ordinary World War II soldiers. However, it received numerous complaints, especially from Jewish Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Der Landser was founded in 1957 by a veteran of the Luftwaffe, the German air force before and during World War II. Its name is from a colloquial term for foot soldiers in World War II. The magazine features the greatest war in world history in the perspective of the ordinary soldiers.

Since its first release, the Der Landser has faced numerous challenges. There has been a struggle on how to appropriately strike a balance on freedom of speech and ongoing efforts on eradicating the neo-Nazi movement and anti-Semitism.

This announcement serves as a major win for Jewish Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is an international NGO headquartered in Los Angeles. It was founded in 1977. One of its main activities is to hunt surviving Nazi war criminals. Last July, Wiesenthal Center publicly revealed its complaints against Der Landser regarding spreading right-wing ideas. The NGO invoked German laws against the use of Nazi symbols, sedition and holocaust denial.

Bauer Media Group made the announcement on Yom Kippur, the highest Jewish holiday, which highlights repentance.

“We are very pleased that Bauer Media Group made the right decision,” said Efraim Zuroff, who heads the Israel office of Jewish Simon Wiesenthal Center. “We did some serious research and clearly showed that there was a problem. People who served in units that had committed war crimes were presented in a completely neutral way and their crimes were being swept under the carpet. They were publically portrayed as people who simply did their duty, rather than as war criminals.”

With ongoing criticisms against Der Landser, the image of Bauer Media Group is at stake. The German publisher has denied allegations that the magazine has glorified Nazi crimes. In respond to complaints from Wiesenthal Center last July, the publisher reiterated that the magazine abide current German laws. The publisher also hired an independent criminal law expert, Otmar Kury, to assess the content of the magazine. In addition, the German Federal Review Board for Publications Harmful to Young Persons has checked the magazine in a number of occasions. Both assessments reveal that there is nothing objectionable about the magazine.

Peter Conrady, who studied “Der Landser” ten years ago, is surprised by the latest development about the magazine. “I didn’t think that Bauer would take such a bold step,” he said. He warns that “As a result, we shouldn’t simply keep quiet and rejoice – in fact we should do the opposite. We should really make use of the discussion that has started up in the last two months in the press.” He also believes that there should be new political measures to be implemented to combat right-wing ideas.

Robert Manto

Robert Manto is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE