Winner of the Barclay Book Prize, German Studies Association
Winner of the Gomory Prize in Business History, American Historical Association and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Winner of the Fraenkel Prize, Wiener Library for the Study of Holocaust and Genocide
Honorable Mention, European Studies Book Award, Council for European Studies
To control information is to control the world. This innovative history reveals how, across two devastating wars, Germany attempted to build a powerful communication empire—and how the Nazis manipulated the news to rise to dominance in Europe and further their global agenda.
Information warfare may seem like a new feature of our contemporary digital world. But it was just as crucial a century ago, when the great powers competed to control and expand their empires. In News from Germany, Heidi Tworek uncovers how Germans fought to regulate information at home and used the innovation of wireless technology to magnify their power abroad.
Tworek reveals how for nearly fifty years, across three different political regimes, Germany tried to control world communications—and nearly succeeded. From the turn of the twentieth century, German political and business elites worried that their British and French rivals dominated global news networks. Many Germans even blamed foreign media for Germany’s defeat in World War I. The key to the British and French advantage was their news agencies—companies whose power over the content and distribution of news was arguably greater than that wielded by Google or Facebook today. Communications networks became a crucial battleground for interwar domestic democracy and international influence everywhere from Latin America to East Asia. Imperial leaders, and their Weimar and Nazi successors, nurtured wireless technology to make news from Germany a major source of information across the globe. The Nazi mastery of global propaganda by the 1930s was built on decades of Germany’s obsession with the news.
News from Germany is not a story about Germany alone. It reveals how news became a form of international power and how communications changed the course of history.
Tworek reveals how officials in the Weimar government, believing they were acting in the best interests of democracy, created structures to oversee and regulate news supply. This led to policies, such as restricting political advocacy from the radio, intended to forestall inflaming partisan passions. Ironically, it was the state’s tight control over the news supply that allowed the Nazis to swiftly take over the country’s communications channels and remake them to serve their interests.
A timely book: if we are concerned about governments manipulating the news across borders in the present, we need to understand how they did this in the past…News From Germany provides much-needed historical depth to the current debate about media power and the age of ‘surveillance capitalism.’ No one would suspect today’s media and internet giants of following anything like the Third Reich’s murderous, totalitarian strategies. Yet Tworek’s well-researched analysis has contemporary resonance. The Nazis’ priority, Goebbels explained, was not to indoctrinate, but to entertain the masses—and gain as much information about them as possible.
Riveting…From 1900 to 1945, reveals historian Heidi Tworek, Germany strove mightily to achieve world power through news agencies, spoken radio and wireless, urged on by figures from Weimar Republic foreign minister Gustav Stresemann to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. A chillingly timely cautionary tale, demonstrating that once elites destroy democratic institutions, a free press cannot prevent further disintegration.
A masterpiece of erudition, it represents a major contribution to both our understanding of the role of the media in history and to the history of Germany in the first half of the twentieth century.
A major contribution to our understanding of modern European—and indeed global—history. Tworek underscores the dangers that democratic regimes confront when elites lose faith in democratic institutions—a lesson for our own troubled times.
As Professor Tworek shows us in this brilliant new book, battles over ‘fake news’—or, as she rightly terms it, information warfare—have a long history. By illuminating earlier attempts to turn words into weapons, she helps us better understand the challenges that we face today.
To help us understand the media, Tworek employs some strikingly apt distinctions: between published and public opinion, between the news system and the news vehicle, between the production of news and the art and science of its control. At the end she points out something so simple and brilliant: ‘It’s surprisingly hard to make money from news.’ True! Those trying to understand our crisis in journalism today should start with this book.
A riveting and beautifully written account replete with fascinating vignettes of the key figures. Combining history of technology with media history and political narrative, this book reveals the largely unknown story of the centrality of communications in Germany’s grasp for world power in the first half of the twentieth century.
Information War, the weaponization of Information, Putin, Trolls, ISIS, Trump... the vast spread of today's malign influence campaigns can seem dizzying and confusingly new. However it's not the first time this has happened, and to understand the underlying issues one needs to see how the competition over the communications space has played out before. Tworek's book is an expert and readable guide to the wars of information hegemony in the early twentieth century, and one reads it not only to understand the past, but to grasp the present.
- 2020, Winner of the Ralph Gomory Prize
- 2019, Winner of the The Wiener Library Ernst Fraenkel Prize
- 2021, Winner of the David Barclay Book Prize
- 344 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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