MU School of Journalism Published Nazi Propaganda

By Cargas, Harry James | St. Louis Journalism Review, October 1997 | Go to article overview

MU School of Journalism Published Nazi Propaganda


Cargas, Harry James, St. Louis Journalism Review


As people with alleged pro-Nazi backgrounds grow older, it seems that some of them are attempting to polish their reputations so that history will not judge them harshly.

One such person is the filmmaker Leni Riefenstal, who at age 95, is working on a deep-sea video - she learned to dive when she was in her 70s. She made the film "Triumph of the Will," which has been termed "the most notorious documentary" ever made, and followed it up with "Olympia," about the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games with its stress on Aryan supremacy. Today Riefenstahl denies having been co-opted by Hitler and, over many protests asks, "What crime did I commit?"

In Aug., The American Psychological Association had planned on presenting its lifetime achievement award to Raymond B. Catrell, a 92-year-old psychologist but postponed the honor when Dr. Barry Mehler, an associate professor of humanities at Ferris State University, opposed the citation along with the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and Elie Wiesel. Mehler charged Dr. Catrell's eugenics theories as sharing in Hitler's values. Catrell is described as "an early supporter of German national socialism ..."

Another person who may belong in this category of reputation revisionist is Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann, a political pollster who once worked for the Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels and who studied at the University of Missouri in the 1930s. Now 80, Dr. Noelle-Neumann claims she newer meant to do "any harm to the Jews." Her story had been in the press recently (The New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education) and she finds herself - in spite of a worldwide reputation as a pollster - severely criticized for certain ideas, including those published in an article in the Columbia Missourian, the School of Journalism's newspaper, in Nov, 1937.

Christopher Shea, writing in the Chronicle, notes that "her ideas about the ways public opinion is shaped and changed are among the most influential in the field of communications." He adds, however, that she has been charged as a "journalistic shill for the Nazis during World War II." William Honan in The Times claims that Dr. Noelle-Neumann said that "she was sorry about her Nazi past" but according to Shea in a telephone interview she "affirms that she has no regrets about her past."

In the Missourian, her article ("A Nazi Version") lamented that "in Germany after the war (World War I) about 70 to 90 percent of the key positions in medicine, law, the press, the theatre and a large part of the government positions were in the hand [sic] of the Jews, although they constituted only one percent of the population. This situation endangered German cultural life and national unity."

Later in the piece she compared Hitler's rise to power as comparable to the situation in America where "even the poorest farm boy may have the opportunity of becoming President.

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