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Spiegel affair

spiegel affair october 1962, spiegel affair
The Spiegel affair of 1962 German: Spiegel-Affäre was a political scandal in West Germany It stemmed from the publication of an article in Der Spiegel, West Germany's weekly political magazine, about the nation's defense forces

The scandal involved a conflict between Franz Josef Strauss, federal minister of defense, and Rudolf Augstein, owner and editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel The affair cost Strauss his office and, according to some commentators, put the postwar West German democracy to its first successful test of press freedom


  • 1 Cause
  • 2 Conclusion
  • 3 Aftermath
  • 4 Movie adaption
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links


Rudolf Augstein right in 1970 with chancellor Willy Brandt Strauss in 1966

Strauss and Augstein had clashed in 1961, when Spiegel raised accusations of bribery in favor of the FIBAG construction company, which had received a contract for building military facilities A parliamentary enquiry, however, found no evidence against Strauss

The quarrel escalated when the 8 October 1962 issue of Der Spiegel presented an article by Conrad Ahlers, "Bedingt abwehrbereit" "Partially Ready to Defend", about a NATO exercise called "Fallex 62" The piece "included details about the performance of West Germany’s defense forces" and "a NATO commander’s assessment that found the West German forces to be only partially ready to defend the country"

The magazine was accused of treason Landesverrat "by publishing details that a hastily compiled Defense Ministry document claimed were state secrets" At 9 pm on 26 October, its offices in Hamburg, as well as the homes of several journalists, were raided and searched by 36 policemen, who confiscated thousands of documents Augstein and editors-in-chief Claus Jacobi and Johannes Engel were arrested The author of the article, Ahlers, who was vacationing in Spain, was arrested in his hotel during the night Augstein was in custody for 103 days The offices remained shut for weeks

Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was informed of Strauss's actions However, Wolfgang Stammberger, the Minister of Justice, belonging to the smaller coalition party FDP, was deliberately left out of all decisions News of the arrests caused riots and protest throughout West Germany Strauss initially denied all involvement, even before the Bundestag: Adenauer, in another speech, complained about an "abyss of treason" "Abgrund von Landesverrat"

Strauss was finally forced to admit that he had phoned the West German military attaché in Madrid and urged him to have Ahlers arrested This was clearly illegal – as Minister of the Interior Hermann Höcherl paraphrased, "etwas außerhalb der Legalität" "somewhat outside of legality" Since Strauss had lied to the parliament, on 19 November, the five FDP ministers of the cabinet resigned, demanding that Strauss be fired This put Adenauer himself at risk He found himself publicly accused of backing the suppression of a critical press with the resources of the state


On 26 November, the police ended its occupation of the Spiegel offices, while Augstein, Ahlers and three others remained under arrest – Augstein until 7 February 1963 In December 1962, Adenauer formed a new coalition with the Social Democratic Party Left out of power was the Free Democratic Party as well as Strauss and Stammberger

On 13 May 1965, the Bundesgerichtshof highest German court of appeals refused to open trial against Augstein and Ahlers, ruling that during the affair Strauss had exceeded his competencies and committed Freiheitsberaubung deprivation of personal freedom; however, because of his belief of acting lawfully "Verbotsirrtum", he was exempt from punishment The case also came before the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, which issued a groundbreaking ruling in August 1966 that laid down the basics of the freedom of the press for decades to come


The scandal temporarily halted Strauss's political career and was remembered by many when Strauss ran for Bundeskanzler in 1980, clearly losing against his SPD opponent and incumbent Helmut Schmidt However, it is mostly remembered for altering the political culture of post-war West Germany and – with the first mass demonstrations and public protests – being a turning point from the old Obrigkeitsstaat authoritarian state to a modern democracy The British historian Frederick Taylor argued that the Federal Republic under Adenauer retained many of the characteristics of the authoritarian "deep state" that existed under the Weimar Republic, and that the Der Spiegel affair marked an important turning point in German values as ordinary people rejected the old authoritarian values in favour of the more democratic values that are today seen as the bedrock of the Federal Republic

Augstein became one of International Press Institute's 50 Hero of World Press Freedom laureates in 2000 for his role in the Spiegel scandal The scandal was the closure of a reactionary period and the parochial culture in West Germany

Movie adaption

The Spiegel Affair was adapted into a German television movie, Die Spiegelaffäre: Das Duell, which was broadcast in May 2014 on Arte and ARD The film was criticized by his daughter Franziska Augstein for containing many historical inaccuracies, in particular for inappropriately focusing on personal conflicts between Strauss and Augstein over covering the actual political and judicial conflict in the society

See also

  • Freedom of speech portal
  • Fibag scandal


  1. ^ a b c Marek, Michael; Görtz, Birgit 10 October 2012 "A scandal rocks the young federal republic" Deutsche Welle Retrieved 26 August 2013 
  2. ^ a b c Krewel, Mona March 23, 2014, "Spiegel Affair", Encyclopædia Britannica 
  3. ^ Kipp, Almut; Haller, Benjamin 2012-09-23, "Schmidt: 'Demokratische Instinkte heute tiefer'", Hamburger Abendblatt in German, DE 
  4. ^ Turner, Henry Ashby 1987, The Two Germanies Since 1945 Google Books excerpt, Yale University Press, pp 84–86, ISBN 978-0-30003865-1 
  5. ^ a b Gunkel, Christoph 21 September 2012 "50th Anniversary of the 'Spiegel Affair': A Watershed Moment for West German Democracy" Der Spiegel Retrieved 26 August 2013 
  6. ^ Oswald, Bernd; Dau, Daniela 2010-05-17, "Von Gier und Größenwahn", Süddeutsche Zeitung in German 
  7. ^ Pöttker, Horst 2012-07-10, "Meilenstein der Pressefreiheit – 50 Jahre 'Spiegel'-Affäre", Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte in German, BPB, 2012 29–31 
  8. ^ Taylor, Frederick 2011, Exorcising Hitler, London: Bloomsbury Press, p 371 
  9. ^ "Rudolf Augstein", Laudatory submission for Hero of World Press Freedom Award, AT: Free Media 
  10. ^ Esser, Frank; Hartung, Uwe 2004 "Nazis, Pollution, and no Sex: Political Scandals as a Reflection of Political Culture in Germany" American Behavioral Scientist 47 1040: 1040–1071 doi:101177/0002764203262277 Retrieved 4 October 2013 
  11. ^ Augstein, Franziska 2014-04-26, "Verfilmung der "Spiegel"-Affäre – Das Duell", Süddeutsche Zeitung in German 
  12. ^ IMDb, retrieved 2015-01-12 

Further reading

  • Bunn, Ronald F Spring 1966, "The Spiegel Affair and the West German Press: The Initial Phase", The Public Opinion Quarterly, 30 1: 54–68, doi:101086/267381, JSTOR 2747370 
  • ——— 1968, German Politics and the Spiegel Affair: A Case Study of the Bonn System, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press  reviews at JSTOR: The American Historical Review, The Western Political Quarterly
  • Davidson, Amy 2013-10-11, "When Journalists are called Traitors", The New Yorker 
  • Doerry, Martin; Janssen, Hauke, eds 2013, Die SPIEGEL-Affäre: Ein Skandal und seine Folgen in German, DVA, ISBN 978-3-64110224-1 
  • Gimbel, John August 1965, "The 'Spiegel Affair' in Perspective", Midwest Journal of Political Science, 9 3: 282–97, doi:102307/2109134, JSTOR 2109134 
  • Schoenbaum, David 1968, The Spiegel Affair, New York: Doubleday  reviews at JSTOR: International Journal
  • Seifert, Jürgen, ed 1966, Die Spiegelaffäre 2 volumes|format= requires |url= help in German, Walter 

External links

  • BVerfGE 20, 162 1 BvR 586/62, 610/63 and 512/64 Spiegel-decision, Institute for Transnational Law, Austin: U Texas  Translation of the West German supreme court's Bundesverfassungsgericht legal decision

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