Fritz Gerlich was a publisher against Hitler. In his newspaper Gerlich fought against the political heresies of his time: communism, national socialism and anti-Semitism. With the Nazis seizing power, the editorial staff of “Der Gerade Weg” was attacked by SA troops, Gerlich was taken into protective detention after severe torturing and on the occasion of the so called “Röhmputsch” deported to the KZ Dachau and immediately shot.
Fritz Gerlich was born on the 15th of February, 1883 in Stettin, Germany and died on the 30th of June, 1934 in the Dachau concentration camp just north of Munich, Germany.
Fritz was the oldest of four sons to merchant and fish-trader, Paul Gerlich, and his wife Therese. The boys grew up in a strict, Calvinist home where they enjoyed relative financial stability. After the untimely and suspicious death of their father, however, the Gerlichs were left with little to sustain their social status.
Therese Gerlich applied all her energy and talent towards providing her sons with a good education. After the boys completed their schooling at Stettin’s traditional, liberal arts high school, “Marienstift”, Fritz Gerlich began studying first of all Natural Sciences at the University of Munich. After a year, Fritz followed the wishes of his mother and transferred to the University of Leipzig. After one month he returned to Munich and switched to History with a minor in Anthropology. To finance his studies, Fritz worked part-time as an advertising designer for the Kathreiner Malt Coffee Company. After finishing his studies with a PhD (1907), Gerlich gained work at the Bavarian National Archives.
In 1914 Gerlich’s health prevented him from having to join the German army during the first World War, but the events of the conflict acted to reinforce his already well-developed patriotism. Soon, Gerlich - who had once been close to Friedrich Naumann’s liberal „Nationalsoziale Partei", and who had also functioned as Secretary for the Liberal Union of German Workers ("Liberaler Arbeiterverein") in Munich - changed his political affiliation to the imperialist "Alldeutsche Partei", whose annexiation policy he actively supported. Together with Count Karl Bothmer, he founded the magazine „Die Wirklichkeit, Deutsche Zeitschrift für Ordnung und Recht“ (The Reality, German paper for law and order) in Spring 1917. Already in the following autumn this radical, nationalist weekly magazine was prohibited.
In 1920, at the age of 37, Gerlich was offered a job as editor-in-chief of the “Münchner Neueste Nachrichten” (MNN). His task was to “lead the newspaper toward its conversion into a bastion for national renewal and anti-socialist, republican politics”. The “Münchner Neueste Nachrichten” developed into the most important daily newspaper of Bavaria. Gerlich wrote conservative nationalist articles in close cooperation with Paul Nikolaus Cossmann, the representative of the industrialists, that owned the newspaper. Gerlich hated communists and socialists by conviction.
In 1923 Gerlich met three times with Hitler in private. However after the failed coup of Hitler in 1923 (“Hitler-Putsch”), Gerlich became one of the most vehement and outspoken opponents of the National Socialist Movement.
Step by step the “Münchner Neuesten Nachrichten” took a politically more moderate line by for example supporting the balanced European policies of foreign secretary and chancellor Gustav Stresemann.
In 1928 Gerlich left the newspaper and in 1929 returned to his job at the Bavarian National Archives. After meetings from 1927 onwards with Therese Neumann of Konnersreuth, a famous mystically gifted farmers daughter, he converted in September 1931 to catholicism. A circle of friends that had developed around Therese Neumann gave rise to the idea of founding a political weekly newspaper in order to dispute extremism both to the left and to the right. Supported by Erich Prince of Waldburg-Zeil, Gerlich was able to take over the weekly newspaper “Der Illustrierte Sonntag” (Illustrated Sunday), which was renamed to “Der Gerade Weg” (the straight path) in 1932.
In his newspaper Gerlich fought against the political heresies of his time: communism, national socialism and anti-Semitism. The dispute with the rising Nazism became more and more the central focus of Gerlich and his writing. The emphatic, sometimes shrill intonation of his journalistic battle earned the newspaper a growing spectrum of readers, but could not cover the publishing costs.
Shot in KZ Dachau
With the Nazis seizing power on January 30, 1933 the fate of Fritz Gerlich was sealed. On March 9th the editorial staff of “Der Gerade Weg” was attacked by SA troops and Gerlich was taken into “Schutzhaft” (protective detention) after severe tortue. On the occasion of the so called “Röhmputsch” (June 30th, 1934) he was deported to the KZ Dachau and immediately shot.