BILD Your Own Nation

Axel Springer and the Jews

Axel Springer, Blick auf den Ölberg, Jerusalem 1967 - Foto: Sven Simon, Fotoagentur Sven Simon

Whenever a new editor was hired by the Axel Springer Verlag in the 1950s, he or she had to pledge to “promote the reconciliation between Jews and Germans” and “support the Israeli people’s right to exist.” Ten years after the Holocaust, Axel Springer (1912-1985), the editor-in-chief of the BILD newspaper, made this pro-Israeli stance an official tenet of his tabloid. For Springer, the hope for political unity among the Jewish people paralleled his hope for political unity in a divided Germany and Berlin. Promoting this ideology, BILD became one of the most widely circulated newspapers in Europe and a sort of flagship of pro-Israeli politics.
This exhibition examined the German-Israeli relationship as it was depicted from the perspective of Germany’s largest tabloid. It makes the argument that BILD was responsible for accelerating a process which continues to be one of the most remarkable in German post-war history. Between 1933 and 1945 Germans exercised the most radical anti-Semitic politics in their history, culminating in the systematic extermination of the Jewish people. Immediately following the war, their collective attitude toward Jews seemed to completely reverse itself.
Axel Springer polarized the nation. For the 68ers, he epitomized the “fascist” power of the media. The truth is that he was both personally and professionally committed to seeing through a radical “project of reconciliation” with the Jews and the young state of Israel at a time when this type of engagement was highly unpopular in conservative circles. This exhibition made these fascinating contradictions more understandable as aspects of “philosemitism”.

Artistic director: Dmitrij Belkin (UA/D)

Venue and schedule:
Jewish Museum Frankfurt am Main, 15 Mar. 2012 – 29 Jul. 2012, opens 14 Mar. 2012
Stiftung Stadtmuseum, Berlin, 4 Sep. 2013 – 19 Jan. 2014


Fritz Bauer Institut

Grüneburgplatz 1

60323 Frankfurt am Main (external link, opens in a new window)