Rolf Rienhardt

Rolf Rienhardt (* 2 July 1903 in Bucha; † 16 March 1975 in Badenweiler) was a German lawyer and important publicist in the Nazi era. As legal advisor to Max Amann, the first business manager of the Nazi Party, Rienhardt was jointly responsible for the economic and political success of the Franz Eher publishing house, overseen by Amann. Franz Eher was the publishing house of the Nazi Party and one of the largest book and periodical firms during the Third Reich.

Biography

Rienhardt was the son of a Lutheran superintendent and studied law in Berlin and Munich. His career within the NSDAP began after he became a party member in 1923, when he was introduced to the party leadership by his acquaintance Gregor Strasser. As a speaker for the NSDAP he was active in the State and Reichstag elections in Bavaria in 1924, where he partly appeared together with Wilhelm Frick.

In the mid-1920s, Rienhardt was a partner of the alchemist Franz Tausend, who tried to produce gold by transmutation. The alleged "research" was financed by "rich citizens crowding around the National Socialist Party."1 The "Society 164" (Gesellschaft 164) founded for this purpose by Rienhardt, Tausend and General Erich Ludendorff, however, actually served as a money laundering facility for illegal party donations, and the majority of the money was used by Ludendorff to finance the losses of the Nazi Party newspaper Völkischer Kurier.2

In 1928 Rienhardt became the legal adviser of the NSDAP publishing house Franz Eher (Franz Eher Nachfolger GmbH) led by Max Amann, and was co-responsible for its economical and political success.

The publishing house had a history that goes back to 1887, when it was registered by Johann Naderer under the name "Munich Observer" (Münchener Beobachter). Franz Xaver Josef Eher (1851-1918) bought the business from Naderer, and on December 2, 1901, registered the firm in his name. After Eher's death in 1918, Rudolf von Sebottendorf, the chairman of the völkisch Thule Society, took over the firm, and on September 30, 1919, transformed it into a limited liability company. Subsequently the "Munich Observer" became the organ of the Thule Society. At that time Sebottendorf's wealthy friend Käthe Bierbaumer was the main shareholder, with a capital contribution of 46,500 Reichsmark, who also later supported Hitler financially, followed by Franz Freiherr von Feilitzsch (20,000 Reichsmark). Sebottendorf's sister Dora Kunze, the anti-Semitic ideologue Gottfried Feder, and the Munich paper manufacturer Theodor Heuß also held shares.3 Max Amann took over the management on April 4, 1922, with the National Socialist German Workers' Association (NSDAV) being the sole shareholder of the publishing house for a time, the early support organization of the NSDAP. Later, the publishing house was transferred to the NSDAP.

In 1932, with Strasser's backing, Rienhardt was put on the NSDAP's list of candidates for the Reichstag election in July 1932, and was subsequently elected to the Reichstag. Strasser, at that time the party's Head of the Reich Organizations (Reichorganisationsleiter), also secured him a position as a department head in his office that year, but in December Rienhardt fell out of favor, as did other supporters of Strasser. Furthermore, his candidacy for the 1933 Reichstag elections was revoked.4 Rienhardt was a member of the "Academy of German Law" (Akademie für Deutsches Recht) and was involved in the "Union of National Socialist Jurists (Bund Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Juristen).5

Rienhardt's career, which had initially been halted, received a new boost when Max Amann, who had become president of the "Association of German Newspaper Publishers" (Vereins Deutscher Zeitungsverleger, VDZV) in April 1933, appointed him as his deputy director. Rienhardt also became Department Head (Stabsleiter) of the "Administrative Office of the Reich Leader of the NSDAP Press" (Verwaltungsamt des Reichsleiters für die Presse der NSDAP), a position he held until 1943. But it was rather Rienhardt than Amann, who was the man of action in the background. Rienhardt wrote essays, which appeared under Amann's name in the VDZV's magazine Zeitungs-Verlag, and wrote Amann's speeches. Although Amann had the last word and Rienhardt followed Amann's guidelines, all the important orders can be traced back to him.6

Rienhardt was the initiator of the newspaper Das Reich (1940), which was conceived as a model newspaper. Rienhardt also organized the establishment of the network of  newspapers that appeared in the occupied territories during World War II.7 According to Karl Schlögel et al., quoting Fritz Schmidt, Rienhardt, in his position as department head, had also established the "Europa publishing house" (Europa-Verlag Gmbh) as a "special financing and controlling vehicle";8 i.e. financing and controlling newspapers in Germany and the occupied territories for propaganda purposes.

He was ultimately the one who ensured the Nazification of the German press and built up the enormous party trust. It was thanks to him that Amann's publishing house made high profits from 1938 onward.9 Oron J. Hale characterized Rienhardt as a highly intelligent and fervent Nazi who, with enormous dedication and a small staff of around 20 people, had achieved impressive results, all this with a will to power that was accompanied by an aversion to publicity.10 In Hale's opinion, Rienhardt was the most influential person in the German press during the Nazi era.11

In 1938, when the peak phase of the Eher publishing house began, Rienhardt's relationship with Amann began to deteriorate to such an extent that this finally led to his dismissal. According to Hale, the end of the Frankfurter Zeitung may have played a role in the final break, and according to an employee of Amann and Rienhardt, another reason was that Amann was "far inferior to Rienhardt in terms of intellectual talent and education."12 In addition, there were complaints from several "Gau leaders" (Gauleiter) who disagreed with Rienhardt's power over the Gau publishing houses (Gauverlage).

According to Fritz Schmidt, author of Presse in Fesseln, however, the decisive factor for the end of Rienhardt's career with the Eher publishing house was ultimately that in summer of 1943 he approached Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, with the aim of obtaining a free seat in the Reichstag. Amann then drew Adolf Hitler's attention to the fact that Rienhardt once belonged to Strasser's supporters. Hitler thereupon refused to give his consent to the appointment, which Amann used as an opportunity to get rid of his chief of staff.13 Rienhardt, whose employment had not made him particularly wealthy, was dismissed by Amann in November 1943 without notice and without severance payment, and had to forgo all pension claims.6 He then joined the SS unit Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler as an SS Panzergrenadier and served as a front-line soldier until the end of the war. His successor in the publishing house was Wilhelm Baur.

After the war Rienhardt was managing director of the "Heumann Advertising Company" (Heumann Werbegesellschaft),14 then at the Westfälische Zeitung in Bielefeld and later at the Burda publishing house.5

According to Beate Baldow, Rienhardt was in contact with Werner Naumann after the war, former state secretary in Joseph Goebbel's Propaganda Ministry.15 Following Germany's defeat, Naumann lived under an assumed name for five years and reemerged after a 1950 amnesty, when he resumed his contacts to former Nazi big wigs, including Hans-Ulrich Rudel, Ernst Achenbach, Arthur Axmann, Otto Skorzeny and many others,16 and  started major efforts to drum up those still loyal to the Nazi cause in order to plan a return to power. Baldow described Naumann’s approach as follows:17

Based on the assumption that the ideas of the “Third Reich” would be still an ideological basis among a large part of the population and only would have to be activated at an appropriate time, Naumann began to prepare a seizure of power in 1957. The Naumann sympathizers, who were placed … everywhere in business, politics and culture, were linked together through a clever system of a so called “inner circle” and “outer circle.” Together they counteracted the fragmentation of the extreme right.

Members of this "Naumann Circle" infiltrated the Free Democrats Party for a period of about two years. Naumann was arrested by the British Army on January 16, 1953, for being the leader of a Neo-Nazi group that attempted to infiltrate West German political parties.18

There are two pictures identifying Rienhardt, but they are copyrighted by Getty Images.19

[This article is based on the Wikipedia article on Rolf Rienhardt in German.]

Bibliography

  • "Rienhardt, Rolf," ZS-0122, Institut für Zeigeschichte, http://www.ifz-muenchen.de/archiv/zs/zs-0122.pdf.
  • Oron J. Hale, Presse in der Zwangsjacke 1933–45 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1965). German translation of The captive press in the Third Reich (Princeton University Press, 1964).
  • Ernst Klee, Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich: Wer war was vor und nach 1945 (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2007), 442.
  • Fritz Schmidt, Presse in Fesseln: Das Zeitungsmonopol im Dritten Reich. Eine Schilderung des NS-Pressetrusts. Gemeinschaftsarbeit des Verlages auf Grund authentischen Materials (Berlin: Verlag Archiv und Kartei, 1947).