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Christine Meisner

Venue: KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Christine Meisner

Born 1970 Nuremberg, DE – lives and works in Brussels, BE and Berlin, DE

In its articles and illustrations, the weekly newspaper Der Stürmer [The Stormer], founded in Nuremberg in 1923 and published until 1945, propagated the racist exclusion, expropriation, expulsion, and extermination of the Jewish population worldwide. As the private enterprise of Julius Streicher, NSDAP Gauleiter of Franconia, the publication was widely circulated and had loyal followers in the German Reich. Unsolicited, occasionally spurred on by calls in the newspaper, readers of Der Stürmer sent massive amounts of anti-Semitic material to the editorial office in Nuremberg. Sent from all over Germany, its occupied territories, and even non-European countries, these submissions were then incorporated into articles or even printed as their own columns.

Julius Streicher was sentenced to death at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, where major war criminals were tried for crimes against humanity, “for his twenty-five years of speaking, writing, and preaching hatred of the Jews… In his speeches and articles, week after week, month after month, he infected the German mind with the virus of anti-Semitism and incited the German people to active persecution.” However, a look at Der Stürmer documents now kept in the Nuremberg municipal archive also reveals the culpability of a portion of the German population. The letters, postcards, manuscripts, and photos were sent to Der Stürmer completely voluntarily. There were no sanctions or disadvantages of any kind if nothing was sent to the editorial office. On the contrary, with their contributions readers hoped to finally become part of the official anti-Semitic discourse. The Germans who took part in this agitation played into the hands of the government in order to participate in the process of “Aryanization” and the deportations of European Jews. On the basis of the available material, the contributors can no longer be considered as citizens who were “incited” to take action but as people who incited themselves.

In the project Unsharpness In A Possible. Episode 1: Submissions from Berlin (2020) the responsibility of this authorship is interrogated. Writing a letter, taking a photograph, and ultimately addressing Der Stürmer’s editorial staff does not so much represent a historical crime, but each of the actions is a crime unto itself. The first episode of the project in Berlin shows photographs of the submissions as “crime objects” in a spatial and acoustic arrangement. From more than 81,400 documents in the archive of Der Stürmer, those contributions were selected which had been sent to the editorial office from the city of Berlin and surrounding areas, mainly in the period between 1935 and 1939.

Der Stürmer seized upon longstanding anti-Semitic stereotypes and reinforced them to the point of monstrousness. Its readers inscribed themselves into this process. The archive of Der Stürmer unfolds as a historical illustration of conspiracy theories, presumption, exclusion, and dehumanization that are still effective today. Contemporary far-right movements and countless websites such as The Daily Stormer refer directly to this thinking and language, creating a continuum in which no post, no message simply fades away.

Christine Meisner


List of works

Unschärfe im Möglichen, Episode 1: Einsendungen aus Berlin [Unsharpness In A Possible, Episode 1: Submissions from Berlin], 2020
Spatial installation of photographs, texts, and sound

Concept, research, photographs, texts: Christine Meisner
Sound composition: Tiziano Manca
Reproduction photography: Timm Schamberger
Sound design: Lorenzo Ballerini, Alberto Gatti
Scientific consultation: Dr. Christoph Kreutzmüller; Gerhard Jochem, Stadtarchiv Nürnberg
Copy editing: Daniela Plügge
Digitization Stürmer editions: Nuremberg City Archives; Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg; Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin

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