The Völkischer Beobachter (pronounced [ˈfœlkɪʃɐ bəˈʔoːbaχtɐ]; "Völkisch Observer") was the newspaper of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP or Nazi Party) from 25 December 1920. It first appeared weekly, then daily from 8 February 1923. For twenty-four years it formed part of the official public face of the Nazi Party until its last edition at the end of April 1945. The paper was banned and ceased publication between November 1923, after Adolf Hitler's arrest for leading the unsuccessful Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, and February 1925, the approximate time of the rally which relaunched the NSDAP.
The "fighting paper of the National Socialist movement of Greater Germany", or "Kampfblatt der nationalsozialistischen Bewegung Großdeutschlands" as it called itself, had its origin as the Münchener Beobachter, or Munich Observer, an anti-Semitic semi-weekly scandal-oriented paper which in 1918 was acquired by the Thule Society and, in August 1919, was renamed Völkischer Beobachter.
Acquisition by the NSDAP
By December 1920, the paper was heavily in debt. The Thule Society was thus receptive to an offer to sell the paper to the Nazis for 60,000 Papiermark. Major Ernst Röhm, who had joined the German Workers' Party, forerunner of the Nazi Party, before Adolf Hitler did, and Dietrich Eckart, one of Hitler's earliest mentors, persuaded Röhm’s commanding officer, Major General Franz Ritter von Epp, to purchase the paper for the NSDAP. It was never definitively established where Epp got the money, but it almost certainly came from secret army funds. This would suggest an early link between the army and right wing radicals like the Nazis. After the Nazis acquired the paper, Eckart became the first editor.
Acquisition by Hitler
In 1921, Adolf Hitler, who had taken full control of the NSDAP earlier that year, acquired all shares in the company, making him the sole owner of the publication.
The circulation of the paper was initially about 8,000, but it increased to 25,000 in autumn 1923 due to strong demand during the occupation of the Ruhr. In that year Alfred Rosenberg became editor. With the prohibition of the NSDAP after the Beer Hall Putsch of 9 November 1923, the paper also had to cease publication, which resumed, however, on the party's refoundation on 26 February 1925. The circulation rose along with the success of the Nazi movement, reaching more than 120,000 in 1931 and 1.7 million by 1944.
As a propaganda instrument
During the rise to power, it reported general news but also party activities, presenting them as almost constant success. Guidelines for propagandists urged that all posters, insofar as the police allowed, contain propaganda for it, and all meetings should be announced in it, although reports should be sent to the Propaganda Department, which would then forward corrected versions to the paper. Posters did indeed urge reading it. When Hitler was banned from public speaking, it was the main vehicle to propagate his views.
Joseph Goebbels published articles in it to attack the United States for criticizing anti-Jewish measures, and to describe Russia.
The final issues from both April and May 1945 were not distributed.
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