“Spiegel” founder: Rudolf Augstein would have been 100 years old

Sometimes it is very easy to determine the importance of a personality for society: by a street name, for example.

“Spiegel” founder: Rudolf Augstein would have been 100 years old

Sometimes it is very easy to determine the importance of a personality for society: by a street name, for example. In the middle of Hamburg, a promenade around the striking “Spiegel” media building has now been renamed after Rudolf Augstein.

The founder of the news magazine “Der Spiegel” was a controversial spirit and one of the most important media men of the 20th century. The publisher, who died in 2002 at the age of 79, would have turned 100 on Sunday (November 5th). Augstein is still listed as editor on the magazine's imprint today.

After the Second World War

In 1947, the first issue of the left-liberal magazine appeared, which became one of the most important German media brands with a reputation around the world. You have to imagine the time in which Augstein established the magazine: Germany was morally broken after the Second World War, Nazi rule and the Holocaust. The country had to be rebuilt. The media had an important function at that time.

The current "Spiegel" editor-in-chief Dirk Kurbjuweit said in an interview with the German Press Agency when asked whether the magazine was still the "assault weapon of democracy" today, as Augstein understood it: "The "Spiegel" owes a lot to its founder . He implanted our DNA in us: the research, the close look, the phrase "say what is"". The 61-year-old added that Augstein was very lively for him. "However, I would no longer use the term 'assault gun' today. It was exactly right for the time. At that time there was still something to be conquered for democracy in Germany. Democracy still had to establish itself."

Daughter: "He was completely unsentimental."

A lot can be said about Augstein, who was born in Hanover in 1923, grew up in a middle-class and Catholic family and was later married five times.

His daughter Franziska Augstein described him as a realist at a ceremony in the “Spiegel” building on Friday. “He was completely unsentimental,” said the 59-year-old. The journalist and publicist also qualified: He always cried during the film “Casablanca”.

Today it's hard to imagine the police raiding an editorial office like "Spiegel", confiscating the typewriters and arresting the publisher. That's what happened in 1962, after "Spiegel" wrote about the state of the Bundeswehr with its cover story "Conditionally ready for defense" - all in a nervous time of the Cold War. The suspicion: betrayal of state secrets. Augstein was in prison for around 100 days. The scandal is considered an important example of press freedom. There was a government crisis. Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss (CSU) lost his office. The years-long feud between Augstein and Strauss was legendary.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in his speech at the "Spiegel" celebration that Augstein had not only become the midwife for a free press, but also an actor in the republic's power structure.

Employees turned into shareholders

Another peculiarity in the media landscape was that Augstein, who was sometimes known for very caustic comments, gave half of his publishing house to his own employees in order to make them shareholders. This gave the employees a powerful voice in the company and allows them to have their say on important issues - to this day.

The image of the "Spiegel" founder changed again and again over the decades. As now, the magazine itself took a critical look at Augstein's biography and person. The current series says: "Rudolf Augstein's life and work are full of contradictions." His treatment of women has been discussed recently. The series also describes how things in the parents' house were decidedly national.

Augstein's phrase "Say what is" hangs in large letters at the entrance to the "Spiegel" building. But editor-in-chief Kurbjuweit also says: "Of course we are also looking back critically today; our current large "Spiegel" series also shows the gray tones of this sparkling personality. But we are not distancing ourselves, Rudolf Augstein remains our journalistic founding father."