a media industry resource

Ullstein and Mosse


This page considers the Mosse, Scherl and Ullstein media groups, dominant in Germany before 1933

This page covers -

  • Introduction
  • Ullstein
  • Mosse
  • Scherl
  • Studies


An argument could be made that the modern newspaper was born and flowered in pre-1933 Germany (rather than in New York or London) under the auspices of the Ullstein and Mosse families. The fate of their media operations - and of competitors such as Scherl and Sonnemann's Frankfurter Zeitung - offers a vantage point for understanding the shape of newspaper and book publishing outside Germany and for insights into issues such as antisemitism and cooption of major banks or industrial groups.


Leopold Ullstein acquired the daily Berliner Zeitung and Stahl & Assmann printing house in Berlin in 1877. That provided the basis for publications such as Berliner Illustrierte and Berliner Morgenpost. His five sons extended the range of publications by launching B.Z. am Mittag, Die grüne Post, Tempo, Die Dame and Uhu. The group successfully expanded into book publishing, advertising and photo services. In contrast to some competitors it weathered the 1930s Depression with some success, with the national Grüne Post for example gaining a million plus readership in rural markets following launch in 1929.

The family was forced off the Ullstein board immediately after Hitler became German Chancellor and was forced to sell its media assets during the following year, with the Ullstein group being renamed Deutsche Verlag in 1937.

Axel Springer took a stake in the renamed Ullstein AG after the War, gaining control in 1959 and buying out the other shareholders in 1985


Rudolf Mosse (1843-1920) expanded from advertising - his Annoncebureau, founded in 1867 and with over 120 offices by 1900, was modelled on the Havas agency - into newspapers.

He'd initially block-booked all advertising space in periodicals such as Kladderadatsch und the Fliegenden Blätter. In 1872 he founded what became the Mosse publishing group, responsible for the Berliner Tageblatt (together with the Frankfurter Zeitung the major liberal newspaper in Germany), the Berliner Morgenzeitung, Volkszeitung and 8-Uhr Abendblatt. His brother Albert Mosse was a distinguished jurist who, as adviser to the government of Japan, helped draft that nation's constitution. Mosse was a pioneer in modern international advertising, owning several advertising companies in addition to extensive printing and book publishing interests. Like Ullstein, Mosse commissioned high profile buildings from leading modernist architects (eg illustration here).

Son in law Hans Lachmann-Mosse assumed control after the death of Rudolf Mosse in 1922. The Mosse family left Germany the day after Hitler was appointed Chancellor.

Rudolf's grandson George (1918-1999) was responsible for some of the most insightful writing about Nazism and its antecedents, such as the 1964 The Crisis of German Ideology: The Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich.


August Scherl (1849-1921) launched a printing and publishing house in Berlin in 1883, acquiring publisher Heribert Kurth before launching the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger in 1888, the Berliner Abendzeitung in 1889 and the Neueste Berliner Handels- und Börsennachrichten in 1894. In 1899 he launched the illustrated Die Woche, followed by Der Tag in 1900, the Gartenlaube in 1904 and the Praktischen Wegweiserund in 1905.

Scherl expanded aggressively into advertising (on the model of Havas), theatre management, film finance, travel agencies, lotteries and investment in fads such as monorails. Financial crisis in 1914 saw closure and spin-off of some operations, with Scherl losing control first of the newspapers and printing operations and then of the book publishing arm. Most media assets came under control of Alfred Hugenberg (1865-1951).

Hugenberg has gained notoriety as an example of German conservatives who thought that they could readily manipulate Hitler ("We'll box Hitler in .… In two months we'll have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he'll squeal"). He'd achieved a high profile within manufacturing and investment circles as a senior executive of the Krupp conglomerate and a representative of heavy industry. As the delegate for a range of investors he acquired control of Scherl in 1916 and later went on to gain control of UFA, along with substantial metals and mining interests. He served as leader of the Deutschnationale Volkspartei (DNVP) from 1928 and as Minister for Agriculture in the first Hitler ministry.

During the 1920s and early 1930s the 'Hugenberg Konzern' included

  • UFA (feature film and newsreel production, distribution and financing, cinema chain)
  • Scherl (over 300 daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, technical periodicals, film and radio journals, directories and tourist guides, book publishing)
  • A major news agency (Telegraph-Union)
  • Media finance and leasing operations

'Coordination' of the German media after 1933 saw nationalisation of UFA in 1937 and the publishing arm in 1944.


For an overview see Peter de Mendelssohn's Zeitungsstadt Berlin: Menschen und Mächte in der Geschichte der Deutschen Presse (Berlin: Ullstein 1959) and Kurt Koszyk's Deutsche Press 1914-1945 (Berlin: Colloquium Verlag 1972). Context is provided by Modris Eksteins' The Limits of Reason: The German Democratic Press and the Collapse of Weimar Democracy (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1975) and Peter Fritzsche's Reading Berlin 1900 (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1996).

For Ullstein see Hermann Ullstein's The Rise & Fall of the House of Ullstein (New York: Simon & Schuster 1943), Hundert Jahre Ullstein (Berlin: Ullstein 1977) edited by Joachim Freyburg & Hans Wallenberg, Lynda King's Best-sellers By Design: Vicki Baum and the house of Ullstein (Gary: Wayne State Uni Press 1988) and Oron Hale's The Captive Press in the Third Reich (Princeton: Princeton Uni Press 1964). Bella Fromm's Blood & Banquets, A Berlin Social Diary (New York: Carol 1990) offers a perspective from inside the Vossische Zeitung. Appropriation is discussed in Harold James' The Deutsche Bank and the Nazi Economic War Against the Jews (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 2001).

George Mosse's Confronting History: A Memoir (Madison: Uni of Wisconsin Press 2000) is of particular merit. German works include Elisabeth Kraus' Die Familie Mosse (Munich: Beck 1999) and Bernd Sösemann's Theodor Wolff: Ein Leben mit der Zeitung (Berlin: Econ-Ullstein-List Verlag 2000).

There has been no major English-language study of the Scherl group or its slippery founder - a precursor of Robert Maxwell - forcing reliance on works such as Hans Erman's August Scherl: Dämonie und Erfolg in wilhelminischer Zeit (Berlin: Universitas Verlag 1954). Scherl's loss of ownership is discussed in Sal Oppenheim Jr & Cie: A Family & a Bank (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1994) by Michael Stürmer, Gabriele Teichman and Wilhelm Treue.

For UFA's early history see The UFA Story: A History of Germany's Greatest Film Company 1918-1945 (New York: Hill & Wang 1996) by Klaus Kreimeier, Das Ufa-Buch (1992) edited by Hans-Michael Bock & Hans Toteberg.

For Hugenberg see in particular John Leopold's Alfred Hugenberg: The radical nationalist campaign against the Weimar Republic (New Haven: Yale Uni Press 1977) and Gerald Feldman's characteristically incisive 'Right-Wing Politics and the Film Industry: Emil Georg Stauss, Alfred Hugenberg, and the UFA, 1917-1933'. A perspective on the news agencies is provided by Matthias Lau's Pressepolitik als Chance: Staatliche Öffentlichkeitsarbeit in den Ländern der Weimarer Republik (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag 2003). Henry Ashby Turner's German Big Business & the Rise of Hitler (New York: Oxford Uni Press 1985) offers cautions regarding claims about Hugenberg's influence.