Hermann / Londoner Zeitung, 1859-1914

Hermann / Londoner Zeitung (1859 - 1914)
A publication of the German 1848 exiles in England

The London German weekly Hermann, which started publication on 8 January 1859, was not the first periodical to be launched by one of the revolutionary exiles of 1848-9. It did, however, prove to be the longest-lived by far and was almost the only German newspaper in Britain ever to survive beyond infancy. Renamed Londoner Zeitung: Hermann in 1870, its demise came only with the outbreak of the First World War. The last issue (no 2,903) was published on 22 August 1914.

Gottfried Kinkel
Founder-editor of Hermann was Gottfried Kinkel (1815-1882), a theologian, art historian and poet. Formerly a university professor at Bonn, he had been sentenced to life imprisonment for political offences after the revolution, but managed to escape from Spandau jail to London in 1850. The paper was started with money from the "revolution loan", a fund for propaganda purposes raised in 1852 mainly from German emigrants and refugees in the United States. Kinkel continued to be associated with Hermann after Ernst Juch (d. 1900) became editor in July 1859. Later, Juch also acquired the title rights, but shortage of capital subsequently forced him to take in partners of different political persuasion and eventually to abandon the paper altogether.

Throughout the 1860s Hermann was advertised in the British Newspaper Press Directory as "liberal" and as advocating "the principles which it considers necessary for a free and united Germany". At first this meant promoting a Greater German republic, but the paper soon shifted to support the Nationalverein which campaigned for a monarchical,Prussian-led Kleindeutschland, albeit on the basis of then abortive Frankfurt constitution of 1849 with its liberal freedoms and democratic suffrage. The force behind this shift was the chairman of the London branch of the Nationalverein, Alexis Heintzmann (1811-1865), an erstwhile state prosecutor from the Rhineland who had prospered in exile as a businessman and now invested heavily in Hermann. Notwithstanding its kleindeutsch position, however, the paper remained strictly opposed to Bismarck's domestic and foreign policies even when the Prussian-dominated unification from above began to take shape in 1867 to the enthusiastic cheers of the National Liberals.

Subscribers and circulation
The exact print-run of Hermann is difficult to establish. As early as May 1859 Karl Marx (1818-1883) noted resentfully that it had 1,700 subscribers, while Das Volk, a rival publication supported by him, was sinking. In 1867 Hermann was reported to be selling 2,000 copies in London alone. Even so, the paper only just managed to stay afloat, and more than once it was on the brink of bankruptcy. The dilemma every editor faced was that for commercial reasons Hermann had to recruit subscribers in Germany, and in order to be allowed to do this, political moderation was highly advisable. On the other hand, the paper was bound to prove more attractive to German readers if it took a principled stand and made full use of the unfettered press freedom in Britain. This necessitated a careful balancing act, which was further complicated by the political tensions between the radical emigré writers and the moderate persuasions of the German business community in London on whom they depended for advertising revenue.
The paper's initially cautious approach and the tolerant attitude adopted by Prussian officials during the "New Era" came to an end in the autumn of 1859 with a series of sensational articles exposing the dubious and illegal methods which Wilhelm Stieber (1818-1882), head of the Berlin criminal police, had used in his struggle against all forms of political dissent. When the confiscation of individual issues failed to produce the desired effect, Hermann was banned indefinitely in January 1860.

Bismarck's hands
However, satisfaction at having helped to bring about Stieber's downfall could not compensate for the financial losses Hermann incurred once it could no longer be sold in Germany. In the summer of 1861, after the accession of a new king and an amnesty for the forty-eighters, Juch therefore appealed to Berlin for the ban to be lifted. As a result, the sale of Hermann in Germany was once again permitted. However, with the escalation of the Prussian constitutional conflict under Bismarck and his repressive campaign against the Nationalverein, the paper was banned again in the autumn of 1863. This is how it remained until the spring of 1869 when Arnold Heinemann became editor. At the time, few people knew the details of how the Prussian ambassador to Britain had acquired the rights to Hermann by paying off Juch's debts to the printers, but no reader could be in any doubt that the paper, to quote Marx, had "passed into Bismarck's hands". In a programmatic leader Heinemann proclaimed his intention "to abandon the old course of aimless opposition and to serve instead with fresh strength the reawakened national identity of the German people." For a decade the Londoner Zeitung, as it now became, described its editorial line in the Newspaper Press Directory as "advocating the policy of the German Empire". However, this caused the paper's sales to fall, which in turn made Bismarck query the purpose of continuing to subsidise it. Eventually, another change of direction occurred in late 1879 with the appointment as editor of Ike Holthusen (1830-1898) who once again hoisted "the good old liberal flag".

Culturally oriented sections
Gradually, during the following decades, (international) political news was replaced with a variety of more culturally oriented sections and supplements. Though much of what occurred in England, Continental Europe and elsewhere was still reported in columns like “This Week's Chronicle” ( Chronik der Woche), this type of information became more concise and telegraphic in style. Aspects other than editorials and political reporting came to dominate the pages of the Londoner Zeitung: Hermann. Yet the significance of Londoner Zeitung: Hermann remains indisputable. Decreased attention for politics meant that the management of the paper sought to enlarge its audience through other means. Both in the pages of its many supplements, and in the “regular” pages, one obtains a direct picture of the cultural and economic milieu in which the paper's middle-class readership (still predominantly of German origins) existed – or to which they aspired. In one of the most intriguing developments, the paper started to diversify its offerings to target specific groups that might expand its readership: women, children, businessmen, civil servants and bank employees all got their section in or even a supplement to the paper. Despite these efforts, the mere fact that it was still published in German must have considerably limited the potential readership. But its persistence ensures that we can still apply this resource in studies of parts of the German community in England – one that reached its last edition at the outbreak of the Great War. Much of what originated in the 19th century suddenly belonged to an era with very different preoccupations and preferences.

A clear picture
The IDC microfilm edition of Hermann allows easy access to a unique and rare source documenting the political development of the revolutionary exiles in London during the pivotal years from 1859 to 1914 and providing at the same time a mirror image of the colourful social and cultural life of the German community in Victorian England.

Rudolf Muhs, Royal Holloway, University of London

This collection includes:
Part 1: 1859-1871
Part 2: 1872-1914

List price

EUR  €7,680.00USD  $10,910.00