“It is a scandal that it took the research from the Simon Wiesenthal Center to make the case and finally force the issue."
— Rabbi Marvin Hier
September 17, 2013
By JACK EWING
FRANKFURT — The German publisher of InTouch and numerous other magazines said Friday that it would stop publishing a pulp magazine criticized by an American Jewish group for heroic portrayals of German war criminals in World War II.
Bauer Media Group, based in Hamburg, said it would stop publishing Der Landser, which said it was simply offering tales of ordinary soldiers in World War II but was the subject of complaints by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which said the magazine promoted flattering stories about officers and units associated with the Holocaust.
The decision by Bauer was a major victory for the Wiesenthal Center. The magazine had survived numerous challenges since being founded in the 1950s by a veteran of the Luftwaffe, the German air force before and during World War II. Der Landser had long been at the fulcrum of a debate about how to balance free speech with efforts to eradicate the neo-Nazi movement and persistent anti-Semitism.
Nazi propaganda is illegal in Germany, as is denial of the Holocaust. The Wiesenthal Center said Der Landser glorified the actions of units that were associated with war crimes, while ignoring atrocities.
One recent issue was devoted to the exploits in Greece of an S.S. unit that was part of Hitler’s personal bodyguard corps. As Der Landser portrayed it, Greek villagers were grateful to have been conquered.
Bauer “had no alternative given the overwhelming evidence,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Wiesenthal Center, said Friday by telephone from Los Angeles. In a study, the center had documented how officers and units portrayed by the magazine were involved in mass murder of Jews or partisans and other atrocities.
Rabbi Hier said he thought Bauer Media had taken the complaint seriously. “They did the right thing,” he said. “They got out in front of the matter.”
In a statement, Bauer Media said a review by an outside lawyer that it hired found that the magazine did not violate German law. But the company decided to close the publication anyway in line with its “portfolio strategy.”
Der Landser originally drew its readership from unrepentant German war veterans, but as that readership died off the magazine became popular with right-wing extremists, law enforcement authorities said.