Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Newspapers as the first rough draft of History

Is it just me but does the IHT have a particular interest in the Nazis and their genocidal regime. I think they do, I haven't quantified it, nor made any comparative studies with any other general interest newspaper, but Nazi Germany is something that strikes me as being a topic that the paper frequently covers.

This is by no means a complaint. The growing strength of Hitler, reported regularly in In Our Pages on page 2 (take the edition of Monday, 10 December as an example - 1932 - Revolt in Hitler Party) makes chilling reading.

However Monday's piece, about the revolt of 'Gregor Strausser' and his been granted 'three weeks of absence' made me think more closely about the role newspapers play in writing the first rough draft of history. Reading the account of the revolt one would think that under Hitler's regime, the future of the insurgents mentioned would have been short.

Firstly, I couldn't think who 'Gregor Strausser' was (IHT; 10 December, 2007) , so I turned to a reference book (Who's Who in Nazi Germany, by Robert S. Wistrich, published by Routledge) and couldn't find a Gregor Strausser.

I did see Gregor Strasser, Reichsorganisationlieter from June 1932, who indeed quit the Nazi party in December 1932, after being offered on 7 December the post of Vice-Chancellor and Prime Minister of Prussia by the new Chancellor , General von Schleicher. Strasser however did not want to quit from the Party, 'nonetheless advocated Nazi toleration of von Schleicher's cabinet, which infuriated Hitler who had insisted that he refuse the offer.' (Source: Who's Who in Nazi Germany.)

I think the Paris Herald Tribune, as it was known at the time, may have misspelled Strausser. Can we expect a correction shortly in the IHT, or does the first rough draft of history stand on its own merits as exactly that - wrong.

Strasser not surprisingly ended up murdered in the Night of the Long Knives.

As for the others, Feder was dismissed from the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 1934 and returned to private life. He died in Upper Bavaria in 1941 (b 1883).

Wilhelm Frick, for an 'insurgent', did rather too well. He became Minister of the Interior a year later, in 1933, a post he held until 1943. He not only drafted the laws that culminated in the Nuremberg race laws, but also the legal framework for the Night of the Long Knives purge of his fellow insurgent, Strasser. Frick refused to testify at the Nuremberg Trials after WWII and was hanged at Nuremberg in 1946.

Alfred Rosenburg also went on to terrible things, and was duly hanged, along with Frick, at Nuremberg.

This extract from the Herald 75 years ago, shows just how misleading the first drafts of history can be, if not simply plain wrong in the case of Gregor 'Strausser'.

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