Each edition of Zeitungszeugen – or Newspaper Witnesses – will include three to four original newspaper sections from 1933-1945 sandwiched between commentary and analysis from a team of experts, which will be sold at kiosks across Germany for €3.90.
“Zeitungszeuen should be read by people who would never read a contemporary history textbook, but still value quality analysis of the information,” Peter McGee, head of British publisher Albertas Limited, said in a statement. “To steer this project responsibly I collected leading experts in contemporary history and communication.”
For the next year, newspaper excerpts will be restored and scanned from German publications such as Nazi paper Der Angriff, Communist Party mouthpiece Der Kämpfer and conservative daily Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, as well as foreign German-language papers based in cities like Prague, Paris, Vienna and Budapest, the publisher said. Some 100,000 copies per week will be available at newsstands after the first week’s edition of 300,000.
The first run covers the takeover by Adolf Hitler’s National Socialists in 1933, and the last edition will cover the Third Reich’s collapse and the democratisation of the German press after the war.
But not everyone is convinced of the project’s historic value.
“I’m not sure what impact the Zeitungszeugen project will have,” the respected German Jewish journalist Ralph Giordano told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Thursday. “But what is certain is that Hitler might have been militarily defeated, but he hasn’t been beaten intellectually even 60 years after his downfall.”
Publisher McGee has led similar projects in eight other European countries and told The Local on Thursday that he hesitated to try in Germany for “obvious reasons,” emphasising that Zeitungzeugen is not a political or moral statement on his part.
“As a foreign publisher coming into a clearly sensitive area it would be arrogant to say whether it is correct or not,” he said. “I don’t claim to be an expert on German history, I have simply created a platform for discussion.”
After completing a sister project in Austria called NachRichten, McGee said he only felt comfortable beginning the publication with the approval of his team of top experts and advisors, some of whom he said have called the newspaper an “educational necessity” for the next generation.
“They see both disadvantages and benefits, but the benefit for them is that it’s important to enhance public debate,” he said.