Magazine accused of portraying Nazis in positive light is to close

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A magazine accused of portraying Nazis as heroes is set to close, its publisher has announced.

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Bauer Media Group, based in Hamburg, said it would cease publication of Der Landser following accusations it depicted Nazi units in a favorable light.

The accusations were levelled by global Jewish human rights organisation the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The Center said Der Landser “crossed the line by portraying members of the infamous SS and Totenkopf units as heroes”.

Der Landser was founded in the 1950s by a veteran of the Luftwaffe, the German air force before and during World War II.

In a statement Bauer Media, which claims to reach more than 19 million UK adults each week through brands including heat, GRAZIA, Closer, Kiss 100 and Kerrang, said the magazine offered tales of ordinary soldiers in World War II.

It said a review by an outside lawyer found that the magazine did not violate German law. But its board decided “to evaluate the publication in the context of the group’s portfolio strategy and has decided to cease publishing the series.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said: “This is a major victory. We believe that Bauer made the right decision to cease publication immediately.”

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Roger Moorhouse, a historian specialising in modern German and central European history, told historyextra: “It’s about striking a balance between free speech and censorship, and although the publication did not violate German law, it certainly violated good taste. So it’s probably right that it should be pulled.

“Initially, Der Landser appealed primarily to ex-servicemen, who doubtless appreciated what one might generously describe as its ‘moral neutrality’ – telling the German story of World War Two as one merely of adventure and heroism on the battlefield, even including members of the Waffen-SS, and avoiding all mention of German war crimes.

“Yet, as that veterans’ generation has died off in the intervening years, the publication has increasingly been taken up by the neo-Nazi fringe. 

“Given this new readership and the political implications that could arise from it, the magazine’s dubious moral neutrality – which might previously have just about been tolerated or overlooked – can be ignored no longer.                              

“In addition, in historiographical terms the magazine grew out of a wider popular post-war perception of the innocence of the ordinary German soldier – the Landser – in that the Wehrmacht was not considered to have actively participated in the crimes of the Nazis. 

“This is no longer considered to be the case. Though individual Wehrmacht soldiers may well have had nothing to do with Nazi crimes, there is ample documentary proof that their superiors – and by extension the Wehrmacht as a whole – was most certainly not ‘innocent’. 

“This shift has left the Landser’s editorial line looking increasingly anachronistic and politically unacceptable.”

Moorhouse continued: “Germany acknowledges that the Third Reich must be discussed and studied – as the country’s many ‘documentation centres’, essentially museums of the Nazi period – attest. 

“But, given the highly sensitive nature of the subject, it is vitally important that a fully-rounded account is given.  Ignoring or minimising the Holocaust, or the Nazis’ persecution of their political or racial opponents, cannot go unchallenged.”

Professor Sir Richard J Evans, Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge, told historyextra: “Der Landser belongs to an era when there was a widespread tendency in Germany to ignore the crimes of the German armed forces in the Second World War.

“These crimes, up to and including participation in the Holocaust, and the mass murder of Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, Jews, villagers in areas of Serbia, Greece and other countries where the resistance was active, and more besides, have long since been established beyond doubt.

“In the meantime the old soldiers for whom the magazine was founded have departed the scene, and the readership has gravitated towards neo-Nazism.

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“The celebration of the heroic deeds of German soldiers in World War Two, which was the magazine’s staple now has disturbing political connotations, and the Bauer group’s decision to stop publishing it is long overdue.”