Lecture: German Media During World War II

Dr. Elfriede Fürsich speaks to the group during a walking tour of Freie Universitat  (photo by Alexa Blanchard)

Dr. Elfriede Fürsich speaks to the group during a walking tour of Freie Universitat
(photo by Alexa Blanchard)

by Sara Tallerico

Dr. Elfriede Fürsich, a visiting professor at Freie Universitat in Berlin, specializes in issues of media globalization and journalism. Her lecture, “German Media During World War II” offered visiting Point Park students an insight on how German media structure originated.

Fürsich’s lecture featured various prominent figures in German media that allowed students to grasp how certain media operations developed

“A lot of media structure today is because of World War II,” Fürsich said, and no censorship edicts stand in direct opposition to what occurred back then.  The Nazis also contradicted what was a very liberal media policy during the Weimar era in the 1920s, which she said was “very liberal and advanced.”       She explained how the no censorship rules that now exist that came about because of the loathing to return to those days.

She offered a brief history of how media worked during World War II.  The main principle of German media was Gleichschaltung, meaning “making the same.”  This is a Nazi term for the process by which the Nazi regime successively established a system of totalitarian control over all aspects of society. Standard acts in Germany prior to World War II no longer applied.

Freie Universitat is home to an impressive library.

Freie Universitat is home to an impressive library.
(photo by Katie Pflug)

Germany’s main strategy for spreading ideas and information was propaganda. Fürsich spoke of two prominent figures who largely spread propaganda throughout Germany during World War II. She spoke about Joseph Goebbels first. Goebbels was a German politician and the minister of public enlightenment and propagranda. He was one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates and most devout followers. His main role was to centralize Nazi control of all aspects of German cultural and intellectual life, particularly the press and radio. A great speaker, Goebbels believed in the power of the radio as his propaganda machine. Radio broadcasts were heavily utilized to spread the ideas of the Nazi regime, which caught fire because of the dire economic situation Germans found themselves in at that time, a result of the war and the worldwide Great Depression.

The next prominent figure Fürsich discussed was filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl.  Riefenstahl was a huge fan of Hitler. She often was part of the retinue for Hitler’s mass speeches and created documentaries regarding them. Her documentaries were showed at movie halls in Germany, and students were required to watch them. The documentaries always featured the latest technology, a patriotic style and they never sounded emotional.

Despite the subject matter, she has been emulated. “She developed an aesthetic used to this day in film and advertising,” Fürsich said.

Fürsich explained that with Riefenstahl’s documentaries came propaganda films. Most of these films were produced at the Universum Film AG, better known as the UFA. During the Third Reich, many propaganda films were produced such as “Derewige Jude” and “Münchhausen.” She said they were terrible depictions of Jews and Hitler’s opponents, and the only other  films shown then were comedies, stories and musicals.

Post war, two media systems were created: one model for West Germany and another for East Berlin in keeping with the Allies control over the conquered country.

West Germany’s model was known as the Social Responsibility Model. This model consisted of a mixed system. The government did not control the media but checked on it in a responsible way.

In East Germany, Soviet officials relied on the Marxist-Leninist Model. This model utilized the media and journalists to educate the masses. The government completely controlled the media. With little to no freedom regarding media, journalists began a method referred to as “reading between the lines.” East Berlin housed many newspapers, and  journalists were constantly being told what to write about from the government. However, journalists would often change words around to let the public know what was really going on, and West Germans continually interfered with the other side’s television broadcasts. Along with newspapers and TV news programs, East Berlin also had various television shows. One popular television show that Fürsich discussed was “The Black Channel.”  This television show included recorded extracts from recent West German television programs re-edited to include a Communist commentary, but many areas – including Dresden and Neubrandenburg – couldn’t get it. She called them “The Valley of the Clueless.”

When the Berlin Wall fell and Germany underwent a reunification process, many East German journalists – those who covered art, music, sports, culture and more – “stayed great journalists,” she said. “But the political journalists had to go.”

Today, Germany has a legal framework that guarantees its media and journalists freedom of expression, and laws state there will be no censorship. The goal is more reporting for the people as opposed to reporting for government, though, and privacy is very important with libel laws not very different than what exists in the United States, she said.

In her first address, she explained Germany’s dual broadcast system – public and commercial – and noted that most papers in Germany are regional, although there are major national newspapers, two of which – Die Welt and Suddeutsche Zeitung – the Point Park group visited. The media have suffered a loss in advertising, but automatic subscription renewals for newspapers and some government funding for broadcast places them in a more solid position, she said. Tabloids like Bild have also become very popular and have taken the lead in political coverage.

While the advertising declines mirror the states, Fürsich said the media are turning to digitalization, but Germans haven’t taken to the Internet and social media as Americans and others have done. Germans are still readers; there are bookstores in all towns. She cited the fact that 72.4 Germans said they used the Internet in 2012, but while they will use Facebook, they don’t like Twitter.

Recent Point Park graduate Richelle Szypulski stated, “Dr. Fürsich’s lecture provided a wonderful understanding on the different media systems after World War II.  She explained them in a simple, straightforward way that made it really easy for us to grasp.”  And the lecture prepared the students for the media visits in both Berlin and Munich.

Eating in Berlin – Guten Appetit!

Germans frequently add beer and pretzels to meals  (photo by Katie Pflug)

Germans frequently add beer and pretzels to meals
(photo by Katie Pflug)

by Sara Tallerico

Germany is renowned for its heavy, substantial regional food. Local cuisine is strongly influenced by past immigration, but the dishes are much more simplified. Berliners prefer their foods to be filling rather than over-fussy.  Cooking in Berlin is simple and down-to-earth, and the meals are hearty and satisfying.

Berliners begin their day with a typical breakfast of cold meats, cheeses, fresh fruit and an array of rolls and bread.  Some accompany their meal with orange juice, apple juice, coffee or hot tea, others with beer.  Time with friends and family is valued much more.  Breakfast is a time for relaxation, and they want to maximize every minute they have together.

Traditionally, Germans eat their main meal during the day between 12and 2 p.m. This meal is usually a warm, hearty dish.  At Maximilians, a restaurant with a cozy brewery atmosphere, the waiter suggested some of the Point Park students experience a typical Berlin lunch, meatballs.  He said they were a “very traditional and popular dish in Berlin.”  The meatballs were exactly what diners would expect when thinking of a German dish.  They were hearty, satisfying, warm and delicious. The dish consisted of two large meatballs served with mashed potatoes and carrots. Berlin meatballs are a perfect example of the three major staple foods in Germany: meat, potatoes and vegetables.

Germans enjoy their evening meal later on in the day, usually between 7 and 8 p.m. This meal is similar to a typical German lunch, hearty and warm. However, the portion size is usually smaller.

A protein-packed meal in Munich with a variety of sausage, potatoes, pretzels, and sauerkraut. (photo by Richelle Szypulski)

A protein-packed meal in Munich with a variety of meat, potatoes, pretzels, and sauerkraut.
(photo by Richelle Szypulski)

A favorite dinner in Berlin members of the Point Park group tried was Käsespätzle, otherwise known as cheese spaetzle.  Spaetzle is an egg noodle that is extremely popular in all parts of Germany. Germans prepare this traditional pasta in a plethora of ways. However, cheese spaetzle seems to be the most desired in this country. The dish is typically served with a generous portion of spaetzle with melted cheese and topped with fried onions. Recent Point Park University graduate Richelle Szypulski described the dish as “similar to gnocchi pasta, but delicious in a melt-in-your-mouth way.”

Point Park students and faculty had a variety of group dinners during their time in Germany, reflective of the different food in the cities and Salzburg. Main courses for the dinners were Turkey with creamed mushrooms and herb rice, fresh pork wiener schnitzel with potato-radish salad in Berlin; Munich white sausage, rostbratwurst, meat loaf, sauerkraut, potatoes and pretzel, and jagerschnitzel (grilled pork loin with mushrooms, vegetables and pasta in Munich; and pan-fried breaded chicken with potato-cucumber salad in Salzburg. And the group experienced the traditional German breakfast at hotels in Berlin and Munich during the trip, complete with scrambled eggs and sausage, of course, as well as bacon. And it was included in the room charges, which was wonderfuland helped students’ expenses.


Favorite German desserts consist of fruit and Quark cheesecake.
(photo by Johnie Freiwald)

Now time for the best part: dessert in Berlin.  After a filling dinner, Germans usually make sure they save room for a delicate treat.  A very favored dessert is cheesecake, although some of the group dinners included apple strudel, chocolate mousse and raspberry yogurt cream cake.  German cheesecake is typically made with Quark cheese.  For variety, berries such as raspberries or blueberries can be added.  It truly is the perfect ending to a delicious meal.

Day Eleven

Our last day in Munich has been a really long one.  We started the day off with a visit to Ketchum-Pleon Munich, a PR agency.  We had the opportunity to speak to a few brilliant people.  They showed us some of their work, which was quite witty and hilarious.

We wrapped up our visit and headed back to the hotel for a quick lunch.  We decided to try a place right next to our hotel.  I really wish we would have discovered it prior to our last day in Munich because they had some really delicious falafel (a burger made out of chickpeas).  After my mouth watering lunch, I did some quick packing.  Before we knew it, it was time for our final media visit.

We began our adventure to Suddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper.  They gave us a brief lecture about the history of their company and where they stand today.  They also gave us a look at some of the innovative advertising they have done in the past.  As an advertising major, this was really awesome to see.  They had textured ads that felt like real leather.  They also had UV coated ads.  This was all really impressive and probably my favorite part of the visit.

After the lectures, they gave us a tour of their printing press.  I have never seen a printing press, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  We walked into the room and I didn’t even know where to look.  It was massive!  It was moving at what seemed to be a million miles an hour.  Thousands of papers were being printed out before my eyes.  I could not believe how compelling this place was.

Our media visit had ended and we were off to our final group dinner at the Ratskeller.  We were treated to a beautiful dinner and an even more beautiful dessert.  This was a perfect evening to our final day in Germany.  Now it’s time for packing and “quick sleeping,” as Jan likes to say. Goodnight, Munich!


Day Ten

Today we ventured off to BMW for our first media visit in quite a few days.  BMW is such a huge company, so I was really excited to see how they ran.  We arrived at BMW and my jaw dropped at how huge and modern their buildings were.   I couldn’t wait to get inside.

We listened to a lecture about their upcoming cars: BMWi.  These cars are solely electric and are filled with a ton of innovative apps.  These apps help you find parking spots, give you step-by-step directions, find public transportations, book a table at local restaurants, etc.  BMW certainly is thinking ahead with the production of their new models.  I was very impressed.

After the lecture and a free lunch, we took a tour of the museum.  Here we saw BMW’s history pan out before our eyes.  We saw all the way from their very first model to their latest model.  It was very cool to see how much they have grown throughout the years.

We wrapped up our tour and had the rest of the evening to ourselves.  A few of us went to the Hofbrauhaus to celebrate Johnie’s birthday.  I have been to the Hofbrauhaus in Pittsburgh multiple times, so I was excited to visit the one in Munich.  They were both extremely similar, only a few differences between the two.  After a great evening with great friends, I fell fast asleep.


Day Nine

Today was the day I have been looking forward to the most: Neuschwanstein Castle.  We took yet another two hour train ride through the beautiful country side of Germany.  I swear I could stare at that landscape all day long and it could still take my breath away.

We arrived at the castle and with our luck, it was drizzling.  However, I refused to let this put a damper on my fairy tale of a day.  We had an hour or two before our tour of the castle was to start, so we ate lunch at a small cafe.  After lunch, we visited a few souvenir shops.  Finally, it was time to hike up the mountain!

The walk was about 30 minutes, up hill.  Within the first 2 minutes, I decided I am completely out of shape and it would be in my best interest to join a gym the second I get back to the United States.  However, the walk was extremely worth it as made our first glance at the amazing castle that stood before us.

Amazing barely even describes the castle.  It was simple yet intricate.  It was so massive and I could not wait to explore the inside.  Only a few of the rooms were finished before Ludwig II passed away.  The ones that were completed were so ornate.  High ceilings, breathtaking paintings, spiral stairs…you name it, the castle had it.  It was everything I had imaged it would be.  After our brief tour, a few of us hiked further up the mountain to a small bridge.  This bridge held an even better view of the castle.  Although it was raining at this point, I did not even care.  The beauty of the castle erases any sign of discomfort.

Soon enough, it was time for our hike back down the mountain.  We gathered onto the train once again and headed back home to our warm and dry hotel rooms.


Day Eight

Today we took a trip to Salzburg, Austria.  The train ride was two hours long.  While most of us slept, I couldn’t help but keep my eyes glued to the windows.  The scenery was absolutely gorgeous.  We got our first glimpse at the alps.  The landscape was breathtaking.  It was so picturesque, it barely seemed real.  Before we knew it, we had arrived at our destination.

We met up with our new tour guide for the day.  She took us to the gardens where parts of The Sound of Music were filmed.  I was never crazy about this movie when I was younger, but I was familiar with it so it was interesting to see the actual places where it was filmed.  The gardens were gorgeous.  Although the sky was gloomy and there was a storm raging overhead, it didn’t take away from the natural beauty of Salzburg.

Our tour guide took us to this gorgeous cobblestoned street that housed many shops.  It is Sunday, so many of the shops were closed.  However, it was such an adorable environment I could not even be mad about nothing being opened.  We had a few hours of free time where we roamed the streets and took various pictures.  We eventually met up for a group dinner at a very old, yet homey, restaurant.

We gathered onto the train for our two hour adventure back to the hotel.  After arrival it did not take long for me to fall fast asleep.


Day Seven

Today we visited the Dachau concentration camp.  I knew that this visit was going to be a day of mixed emotions and I was definitely right.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous.  The sky was bright blue, the birds were chirping and the sun was warm on my back.  It almost made you forget where exactly you were.

You enter the iron clad gates that held in so many innocent prisoners and the emotions hit you like a brick.  Right before your eyes is the ground that so many individuals lost their lives on.  It was surreal to think that this was the last place that so many people ever got to see.  This was their final destination.

Walking through the grounds where the barracks once were gave me the chills.  To think that thousands of individuals were crammed into tiny living spaces, with no heat and no air conditioning, was heart breaking.  They had absolutely no privacy.  They shared beds, they shared restrooms and to some, they shared the remainder of their lives together.

The crematorium had to of been the most daunting place I have ever visited.  We walked through the disinfecting rooms, the waiting rooms, the gas chamber and ultimately, the crematorium. To think that so many people had their lives brutally taken away from them there was chilling.

We ended the visit with a brief movie.  The movie showed photos and videos of prisoners in Dachau.  It was surreal to see pictures of numerous dead bodies stacked upon one another in rooms that we had just visited less than an hour ago.  It is still hard for my mind to grasp it.

We have learned about the Holocaust in school since we were young.  Learning about it in text books and seeing photos online are one thing.  However, walking through the camp and seeing the conditions in person is a completely different thing.  It made the entire experience so much more real.

Our visit to Dachau was daunting to say the least but it is something I will never forget.  There will always be a special place in my heart for all of those innocent victims who lost their lives to hatred.


Day Six

We awoke bright and early at 4am to prepare for our flight to Munich.  We had a quick breakfast and were soon on our way to the airport.  We boarded the plane and off we went.

Thankfully, we landed safely and all of our luggage was accounted for.  We hurriedly met with our new tour guide and hopped on a bus.  He pointed out some of the things that Munich has to offer on our way to the hotel.  After storing our luggage in our rooms, we went on a brief walking tour of the city.  We went to Marienplatz, visited a church and ate lunch at a German restaurant.  We finished our small adventure and went off to our first Munich media visit.

We visited the Munich Tourism Office and spoke with the Public Relations Representative Isabella Schopp.  Isabella told us about the different festivals and projects that the tourism office organizes.  She also told us many facts about the city of Munich.  She was such a sweet woman and seemed as if she really loved Munich and everything it had to offer.  After her presentation, I had the opportunity to speak to her on a more personal level.  I find it amazing that she is only 23 years old, she seemed so mature and well represented for her age.

We ended the night with dinner at Cafe am Marienplatz.  Here we tried various sausages and meats, which are a really big thing in Germany.  After a long, eventful day, we headed to the hotel and went to sleep.

Day Five

Sadly, today was our last day in Berlin.  We began the day with our media visit to Axel Springer.  Axel Springer is one of the most aggressive journalism schools in Germany.  We had the opportunity to speak with Rudolf Porsch.  He gave us an in depth explanation on the academy and the responsibilities of the students.

After he gave us a brief history lesson, a few of the students came in to talk to us.  They were really down to earth and had a lot to say.  They explained their current project to us and told us a little bit about themselves.  What struck me the most was the age difference between the students.  One student was 18 while another was 31.  They were vastly different in age but they all seemed like they meshed really well together.

Following lunch with the students, we met with Leeor Englaender.  Mr. Englaender is the assistant to the editor in chief for Die Welt.  Die Welt is one of the most prominent newspapers in Germany.  Mr. Englaender explored the history of Die Welt and how far they have come.  They are an extremely innovative team and are constantly thinking about the future.  What surprised me the most was that Die Welt is on the top ten most paid for applications for an iPad.  Germans really seem to trust Die Welt, which is very important in the success of their company.  Overall, this media visit was by far my favorite.

We had a farewell dinner at a very nice place in Berlin.  It is the oldest standing restaurant that the city has to offer.  We bid our goodbyes to our beloved tour guide and headed home for a long night of packing and sleeping.

Day Three

We had some free time this morning to explore Berlin.  We decided to venture to the East Side Gallery.  It was on my bucket list to see the Berlin Wall, so I was really looking forward to it.

It was really surreal to stand at the wall and think of what it once represented.  To us, it looks like a simple concrete wall with mural paintings.  However, to Germany it represents a division.  That wall kept people away from their loved ones.  It kept them away from living a free life.  It was a really emotional thing to see.

The East Side Gallery is a portion of the wall that various artists decorated with murals.  They helped morph something that was once a hideous, horrible thing, into a beautiful masterpiece.  The murals were amazing.  There was a wide range of different kinds of paintings.  Some were thought provoking, some were tear-jerking and others were colorful and gave words of hope.  I wish we would have more time to explore the entire length of the East Side Gallery, but what we were able to see was really breath taking.

Afterwards, we visited Deutsche Welle.  Deutsche Welle is a public broadcasting station whose mission is to give German visions of life to the rest of the world.  What was astonishing to me was that they broadcasted in four different languages: German, English, Spanish and Arabic.  This company was extremely impressive and have accomplished a great deal of achievements.

We ate dinner at a small Italian place close to our hotel.  After a delicious meal we snuggled up in our beds and went to sleep.