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Stern magazine to probe historical links to Nazi-era

August 1, 2022

Henri Nannen was a prominent figure in German journalism after 1945, but now his personal, political and journalistic connections to the Nazi era are under investigation.

Longtime editor in chief and founder of Stern, Henri Nannen
A report by NDR has raised questions about Henri Nannen's role during WWII Image: Sven Simon/United Archives/picture alliance

Historians will investigate Stern magazine's historical links to the Nazi era, the magazine's publisher said on Monday.

The move by the weekly current affairs magazine comes after a report by public broadcaster NDR raised questions about Stern's founder and longtime editor-in-chief, Henri Nannen.

What does the investigation entail?

Stern's publishing house Bertelsmann has tasked historians at Germany's Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History with taking a closer look at Nannen's role during Germany's Nazi era and its aftermath.

Nannen was the founder, longtime publisher and editor-in-chief of Stern.

The research assignment was initiated by Bertelsmann's Executive Board in close cooperation with all subsidiaries, the company announced on Monday in Gütersloh. These included the editors-in-chief of Stern and the Henri Nannen School of Journalism.

A spokeswoman for Bertelsmann said, "The research period will cover the years from the founding of Stern by Henri Nannen in 1948 until his departure in 1983."

The focus is on the question of "political, personal and journalistic intertwinings and connections to the National Socialist era," she said. 

The project is slated to last several years. Existing research is to be supplemented with a factual basis for public debate about Nannen's potential Nazi involvement, aiming to shed some light on the history of German journalism after 1945. 

Who was Henri Nannen?

Nannen was a prominent figure in German journalism and was especially known for championing center-left politics. It was already known, however, that he had written pro-Nazi articles for an art journal and broadcast pro-government propaganda during World War II. 

New details about his involvement in Nazi ideology were revealed earlier this year, following the release of a documentary by the YouTube channel "Strg_F," a format by public broadcaster NDR.

The documentary provided new information that said Nannen was involved in the distribution of antisemitic flyers.

The renaming of the Henri Nannen Journalism School as well as the erasure of Nannen's name from the magazine's masthead are under consideration.

A prestigious journalism award, the Nannen Prize, was renamed as Stern Prize this year. 

los/rs (dpa, epd)