|A lunatic Chaplin imitator|
and his greatest fans
|First as tragedy|
|Then as farce|
“”With my riding-whip, I sometimes give it to prisoners I have had taken into protective custody to save them from the mob. Take that school-teacher Dr. Steinruck who used to talk so big! I went with several Party members into his cell. He began to talk with a weeping voice and acted like a schoolboy. He did not act like the man I had expected after so much big talk. I gave him a good thrashing with my whip!
|—Julius Streicher, 1935 |
“”Antisemitism was beyond question the most important weapon in Hitler's propaganda arsenal, and almost everywhere, it was of deadly efficiency. That was why he had allowed Streicher, for example, a free hand. The man's stuff, too, was amusing and very cleverly done. Wherever, he wondered, did Streicher get his constant supply of new material? He, Hitler, was simply on thorns to see each new issue of the Stürmer. It was the one periodical that he always read with pleasure, from the first page to the last.
|—Hermann Rauschning, who claimed to be Hitler's "confidant", in the mid-1930s|
Julius Streicher (1885–1946), known also as Jew-Baiter No. 1, was a publisher and one of the earliest major supporters of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, and possibly one of its most antisemitic. He was the founder of the newspaper Der Stürmer, one of the most central newspapers to the Nazi propaganda machine and its most virulently antisemitic, and published three antisemitic children's books. Through his work of indoctrinating the idea that Jews were the absolute scum of society, Streicher became a millionaire, all while his works influenced the Nazis to go ahead and begin dealing with the people that Streicher accused of a plethora of crimes ranging from pedophilia, to rape, to murder, and to even blood rituals. Streicher's antisemitism was so extreme that even members of Hitler's inner circle begin distancing themselves from him and began urging Adolf Hitler to abandon Streicher. Yet, his close friendship with the Fuhrer proved to keep him at least in the know about many events. In the end, Streicher would be captured, be one of the first people charged with incitement to genocide at Nuremberg, found guilty, and be
strangled to death after a botched hanging executed.
One thing that Streicher did have over the other members of the Nazi Party who just larped as big-time military men even though most never saw combat was that he was a soldier, and apparently a good one. He served in World War I with distinction, being awarded the Iron Cross and earning a battlefield commission as an officer (in a time when the only people allowed to be officers in Germany were those with a "von" in their name somewhere). After the war, he resumed his job as a teacher (which is what he was before the war started). By all accounts, Streicher should have just gone down as a teacher who fought well in the Great War and should have been honored in his community for the rest of his life for that. In 1919, something happened that turned Streicher into a "radical anti-Semite".
Streicher's path to antisemitism was less vague though. Before World War I, Streicher was a follower of the philosophy of Theodor Fritsch, a German anti-Semite who wrote The Handbook of the Jewish Question, which levied a significant number of conspiratorial charges at European Jews, and called upon good Germans to not intermingle with them [note 1]. In 1919, Streicher joined the German Nationalist Protection and Defense Federation, one of the most significant anti-Semitic factions in the Weimar Republic following the end of World War I. The faction famously claimed that "Jew" and "Bolshevik" were synonymous and equated being a Jew to being a traitor to Germany. In 1920, Streicher joined the German Socialist Party or DSP. Yet, he was quickly chastised by the Party because he kept preaching that the socialists should strive for the death of all Jews. After he left the DSP, he joined the German Working Community, where he was shat on for having an obsessive "hatred of the Jews and foreign races."
Bottom line here, Streicher fucking hated Jewish people, so much that it even scarred other anti-Semites enough to tell him to chill.
The most obvious development in history
If you are surprised that Streicher ended up joining the Nazis, I don't know what else to tell you. Streicher joined the Nazi Party very early on in its life, in 1921[note 2] after leaving the German Working Community remarking that his time with them brought him into contact with German Jews, which apparently MADE HIM EVEN MORE ANTISEMITIC. He brought with him many DSP members since hating Jews seemed to be a common thing in both right-wing and left-wing circles during the Weimar Republic. He heard Adolf Hitler first speak in 1922, and he said the experience left him transformed, religiously converted to the Nazis, and gave him the life purpose to serve Hitler in every capacity because of course it fucking did.
He would prove his loyalty to his new
God leader in 1923, when he stood with Hitler in the front of his march in Munich during the Beer Hall Putsch. Because of this, Streicher was fired as a teacher, yet he gained something possibly more valuable in the years to come, Hitler's lifelong support and protection. From this point on, Streicher was one of Hitler's few intimates, and Streicher would be one of two other Nazis that Hitler would mention in Mein Kampf[note 3]. When Hitler was released from jail, Streicher was one of the people waiting for him back at his apartment. Even when Streicher was hated by everyone else, Hitler would remember Streicher's loyalty in keeping him around as a close friend, and trust me when I say this, EVERYONE would hate Streicher by the end of the Nazi Party, even other Nazis.
Streicher's writing career (If you want to call it that)
“”With pleasure, I say that the Stürmer, more than any other daily or weekly newspaper, has made clear to the people in simple ways the danger of Jewry. Without Julius Streicher and his Stürmer, the importance of a solution to the Jewish question would not be seen to be as critical as it actually is by many citizens. It is therefore to be hoped that those who want to learn the unvarnished truth about the Jewish question will read the Stürmer.
|—Albert Forster, the Gauleiter of Danzig (now Gdańsk) in 1937|
“”A major challenge of political antisemitism involves overcoming the images of the 'Jew next door' – the living, breathing acquaintance or associate whose simple existence appears to deny the validity of that negative stereotype
|—Dennis Showalter, Little Man What Now? Der Stürmer in the Weimar Republic (1982)|
Streicher's most infamous contribution to the Nazi Party was through his newspaper, the infamous Der Stürmer[note 4]. Der Stürmer is often regarded as one of the Nazi Party's greatest propaganda papers and its most virulently antisemitic. It started publication in 1923, and would gain a significant following among young readers and the poor of Germany, going from 27,000 copies circulating per issue in 1927 to over 480,000 copies circulating per issue in 1935. Interesting to note, Der Stürmer was not an official Nazi paper. You will not find a swastika on any of Der Stürmer's articles. In the eyes of the law, Der Stürmer was a private publication that just so happened to be a favorite paper of the Fuhrer and was endorsed as such.
It is safe to say that Der Stürmer was one of the most influential antisemitic publications in human history up there alongside The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Through Der Stürmer, Streicher unleashed a torrent of attacks and accusations against the Jewish people. Streicher claimed the Jews had caused the worldwide Depression and were responsible for the crippling unemployment and inflation which afflicted Germany during the 1920s. He claimed that Jews were white slavers responsible for Germany's prostitution rings. Real unsolved killings in Germany, especially of children or women, were often confidently explained in the pages of Der Stürmer as cases of "Jewish ritual murder". The most infamous accusation Streicher levied against Jews was that they were all mass rapists and sexual deviants. Der Stürmer constantly contained explicit images and accounts of Jews sexually assaulting German women. They were pornographic in nature as they depicted stereotypical versions of Jews being in sexually charged encounters with German women. Historians argue that this constant portrayal of Jews as evil and subhuman helped spur the dehumanization and marginalization of Jewish people in the eyes of the German public and created the conditions necessary for the average German citizen to go along with or even help facilitate the Holocaust. To protect Der Stürmer's accountability, Hitler proclaimed Der Stürmer as his favorite newspaper and constantly had it on display across Germany for easy reading in public. Through this, and the immense readership of his paper, Streicher would become extremely rich from demonizing an entire group of people. I would call this a grift, but the fact that Streicher probably legit believed in the garbage he was publishing, I wouldn't be surprised if the fortune was just a benefit of encouraging genocide to Streicher.
So yea, I know what you are probably wondering, "I get this shitty paper circulating freely in the Third Reich, but why did Weimar tolerate its existence?" Well, to put it bluntly, Streicher made sure to only demonize the Jews in a way that was legal in the eyes of the Weimar government, and often cases against the paper backfired. Julius Fleischmann, a prominent Nuremberg politician and Jewish man who was a fierce opponent of Der Stürmer, sued the paper for libel in 1924. Fleischmann won the case, but the information exposed about his life in the court proceedings was less than moral, and he left the court with 900 marks and a ruined reputation. It is no surprise that one of Streicher's mottos for his tactics was "Something always sticks". Der Stürmer's official slogan, Die Juden sind unser Unglück ("the Jews are our misfortune"), was deemed non-actionable under German statutes since it was not a direct incitement to violence. Many opponents to the paper claimed it violated a statute against religious offenses, especially in regards to Streicher's constant promulgation of the "blood libel" – the medieval accusation that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood to make matzoh. Streicher argued that his accusations were based on race, not religion and that his communications were political speech and therefore protected by the German constitution, and it fucking worked. In general, Streicher pulled the smug-bastard approach of "You are mad at me, but guess what, everything I am doing is technically legal, so good luck stopping me!" Thank goodness we don't have people like this in our modern world!
Oh, and when the Nazis took charge in 1933, Streicher threw the mask onto the floor, lit it on fire, and pissed on the ashes by calling for the immediate murder of all Jews in Germany and would continue to call for such things all the way until the end of the Third Reich.
The other Nazis' opinions of Der Stürmer
The Nazi inner circle's thoughts on the paper are among some of the greatest examples of stopped clock in human history. Reminder, these guys were responsible for one of the greatest atrocities in human history against the Jewish people...
Hermann Göring loathed the paper, forbade anyone in all of his departments from reading it, and had a personal grudge against the paper when it published an article falsely claiming his daughter Edda was conceived through artificial insemination (the paper explained that there was no way Herman was able to procreate naturally since he got shot in the balls during the Beer Hall Putsch, an event that Streicher probably personally saw, which makes this a lie that is hilarious in a dark-comedy kind of way).
Joseph Goebbels got the paper restricted in its publication during the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and (unsuccessfully) tried to get the paper banned in 1938.
Baldur von Schirach, the leader of the Hitler Youth, banned its reading among the Hitler Youth and forbade it to be available at Hitler Youth hostels.
Heinrich Himmler was one of the few high-ranking Nazis besides Hitler who actually liked the paper. In fact, Himmler was often quoted in articles of Der Stürmer. Figures one of the chief architects of the death camps was a big fan of a super antisemitic paper.
German Labor Front leader Robert Ley and Central Press proprietor Max Amann also endorsed the publication.
Yet, regardless of hatred or support for the paper, Hitler's unwavering support of Streicher and his paper prevented anyone from doing anything to the paper.
End of publication
World War II and ironically (and extremely sickening) the Holocaust was probably the greatest dent in Der Stürmer's readership. As the Allies bombed the factories making the paper for Streicher to write his antisemitic rants on, the number of copies sent in circulation decreased. At the same time, the Holocaust was answering Streicher's call to murder the Jews in droves leading many to disappear suddenly. Without Jews around, many Germans didn't see the need to read about how awful they were, and thus the paper's readership levels dropped. Yet, even with all of this, Hitler continued to demand support and provisions for Der Stürmer to continue publication, all the way until February of 1945.
The anti-Eric Carle
Streicher also helped publish three anti-Semitic children's books to indoctrinated hatred of Jewish people into the minds of young Germans. These books basically read like children's books straight out of a nightmare in terms of content.
The most infamous children's book Streicher published was a book named Der Giftpilz, or "The Poisonous Toadstool" in English, in 1938. Written by Streicher's close author friend Ernst Hiemer with illustrations by Der Stürmer illustrator Philipp Rupprecht (or Fips as he was called)[note 5], the book is basically "Explain Like I am Five: Antisemitism". The title itself alludes to the idea that it is hard to tell poisonous mushrooms from non-poisonous mushrooms, much like how it's difficult to tell Jews from Gentiles. Through this book, German children were taught about the dangers allegedly posed by Jews to them personally and to German society in general.
The book makes many of the same claims Streicher had been making in Der Stürmer, such as regards to the blood-libel, but applied to children. One page has a German boy calling the police on a Jewish person who offered his sister sweets (the implication being the Jewish person wanted to molest the girl). Another has a German girl running for her life from a Jewish doctor who also is implied to have wanted to molest her. Communism is portrayed as Jewish people wanting to sell Germany out to the Soviets (even though Stalin hated the Jews almost as much as the Nazis). Jewish people are seen as abusive towards their German servants. Jewish people in various occupations are shown to be vile, greedy, or cruel[note 6]. The book claims that the Talmud discourages Jews from performing manual labor, and that Jews should engage in trade instead, and that non-Jews are meant to be slaves, that Talmudic law allows Jews to cheat non-Jews, and asks Jews to enslave the non-Jewish population. The final cherry on top of his vomit-inducing excuse for children's literature is the final page which blames Jews for the death of Jesus Christ, "the greatest enemy of the Jews of all time".
Der Stürmer may have been a crazy newspaper, but books like Der Giftpilz can be argued as the most insidious of Streicher's contributions to the Third Reich. Kids who grew up under Nazism were exposed to this kind of stuff in the formative years of their lives. It is these thoughts, the fears of a "Jewish takeover of Germany and the enslavement of the Aryan" that led many children to fight and die (sometimes by their own hand as the war grew closer to ending) for the Third Reich as it came crashing down, and would prove to be a major obstacle for the Allies to tackle during de-Nazification.
Despite the horrors this book helped unleash, modern neo-nazis have sort of re-grafted onto the book. American neo-Nazi Gary Lauck translated the book in English and sold it for $10 on his website. He even sold an Estonian translation, which was allowed to happen because Estonia wasn't able to prosecute Lauck for his work (First Amendment and shit). Amazon removed the book from its stores in 2020.
Fall, arrest, and execution
Even with Hitler's backing, the rise of critique and complaints from Hitler's inner circle regarding Streicher soon grew too much for Hitler to just ignore. On top of lying about Edda Göring's conception, Streicher also was accused of hoarding Jewish wealth after Kristalnacht and was confronted about his excessive personal behavior[note 7]. Eventually, Streicher would be tried in front of the Supreme Party Court and would be declared unsuitable for leadership. In February of 1940, Streicher was stripped of his party offices and withdrew from public life. He still published for Der Stürmer and still had Hitler's full support in this effort.
When the Third Reich surrendered to the Allies in May of 1945, Streicher proclaimed he would commit suicide rather than face justice, and by "commit suicide", I mean "marry his former secretary". On May 23, 1945, Streicher was captured by American soldiers in Austria.
Streicher in Nuremberg
“”For his 25 years of speaking, writing and preaching hatred of the Jews, Streicher was widely known as 'Jew-Baiter Number One.' In his speeches and articles, week after week, month after month, he infected the German mind with the virus of anti-Semitism, and incited the German people to active persecution. ... Streicher's incitement to murder and extermination at the time when Jews in the East were being killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitutes persecution on political and racial grounds in connection with war crimes, as defined by the Charter, and constitutes a crime against humanity.
|—The Nuremberg Court reading out Streicher's judgement, 1946|
The Allied powers did not capture Joseph Goebbels; he had committed suicide when Berlin fell to the Russians. They needed a proxy for Goebbels to be charged at Nuremberg. They got two: Julius Streicher and Hans Fritzsche. Fritzsche would be acquitted on all charges and be released from Allied custody (even though the Soviets tortured him for half a year prior to the trial). Streicher though, when it was his turn to go on the stand, would shoot himself in the foot with a bazooka. Streicher was charged with "Incitement to Genocide", one of the first times such a charge was levied against someone. The prosecution argued that even though Streicher was not a direct contributor to the Holocaust, his writings were basically a call to murder Jewish people en-masse (which they 100% were). Streicher responded to these charges by answering his defense attorney with diatribes about the Jews, the Allies, and the court. He was frequently silenced by court officials as a result. He also inserted quotes from the Jewish Talmud and Torah into his defense, quotes he similar mined for his paper to demonize Jewish people. To no one's surprise, he was hated by all the other Nuremberg defendants who actively shunned him. He was the only defendant not to show remorse or use the Nuremberg defense during his trial.
As a result, the court found him guilty on his charge and sentenced him to be hanged. When Streicher's turn came up to be executed, he shouted "Heil Hitler" at the bottom of the scaffold. At the top, he shouted "Purimfest!", a reference to the Jewish holiday celebrating when the Jews were saved from mass murder in Persia as told in the Book of Esther. When the hood went over his head, he shouted "The Bolsheviks [read: Jews] will hang you one day!".
The big man upstairs must have finally had enough of Streicher though at that point, for when Streicher fell, he thrashed about, leading to the fall not snapping his neck. According to eyewitnesses, Streicher could be heard thrashing about behind the curtain where he hung out of public view, until the hangman went behind it. Streicher soon fell silent, and the hangman emerged declaring him dead. Many speculate that the hangman, who wanted the executions to be his moment to shine, was pissed that Streicher produced a grand spectacle (Streicher's execution was the most melodramatic of the bunch), and purposefully botched the execution just to kill Streicher personally. Regardless, all we can say about Streicher's death is "good riddance".
Oh, he also reported being abused in his cell. Makes sense when you consider the fact that he, an immense and vocal racist, was being guarded by Black GIs. RationalWiki does not endorse or condone torture, but it's really hard to garner sympathy for a man as vile as Streicher.
Streicher was one of the few notable atheists among top Nazis.
Ironically, he had a thing for violent pornography.
- ↑ The book sold millions of copies and got to 49 editions by 1944 (which sold 330,000 copies)
- ↑ To give you context as to how early this was, Hitler was just made the leader of the Nazis that year, and the party had membership numbers only in the quad-digits
- ↑ The other was Rudolf Hess
- ↑ "The Storm", in English. Streicher started the trend of adding "Storm" to communication tools for antisemites and white supremacists
- ↑ All those caricatures of Jewish people in Der Stürmer, the super stereotypical ones especially, where created by Fips as well
- ↑ One page actually depicts Kosher-butchers partaking in animal cruelty
- ↑ Such complaints were about unconcealed adultery, verbal attacks on other party leaders, and (I shit you not) cracking a bullwhip in the streets of Nuremberg
- ↑  Gunther, John (1940). Inside Europe. New York: Harper & Brothers.
- ↑ In a 1946 interview, Streicher said, "Christ was a Jew and God, he is supposed to have made the universe. That's a little far-fetched because if God made the world, who made God?" Leon Goldensohn, The Nuremberg Interviews: An American Psychiatrist's Conversations with the Defendants and Witnesses, p. 256
- ↑ https://www.hcplive.com/view/were-the-nazis-certifiably-insane-psychiatrists-look-back