Did Hitler sue papers for calling him an “anti-semite”?

Dara Horn writes in The Atlantic that Hitler “brought libel lawsuits against newspapers that accused him of anti-Semitism, and won them”, listing historian David Nirenberg as a source who had said in a Cornell University lecture:

So during his rise to power, Hitler brought libel lawsuits against newspapers that accused him of antisemitism. And he won.

I found this very surprising, not only because this was the first time ever I had came across this claim.

The only report of any libel lawsuit against a newspaper won by Hitler that I could locate were English language reports in September 1923 that are referenced in a Wikipedia article.

It would be totally out of character for Hitler to defend against a charge of anti-semitism as libel because that was his brand. Hatred of Jews was at the very core of his ideology, as was clearly stated in the party program of the NSDAP and in Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, which he wrote in prison in 1923/24 after a failed coup that he staged in Bavaria in November 1923. Hitler suing someone for calling him anti-semitic is like the pope suing someone for calling him a Catholic.

So what’s the evidence?

According to a brief note published in the New York Times of September 5, 1923, Hitler won an award of 6 million mark against “Vorwärts”, the German Social-democratic daily, for having claimed that he had been financed by “American Semitic and Bolshevistic funds.”

Furthermore, the Canadian Jewish Review, September 14, 1923 stated the libelous claim had been that he received money from “American Jews and Henry Ford”. Neither of those reports explicitly mentions “anti-semitism”.

While Henry Ford was indeed infamous for spreading anti-semitism, he certainly was no communist, so these two media reports clearly don’t align. It also makes no sense to claim that Hitler was supported both by Jews and by anti-semites like Ford, whose views were diametrically opposed.

I find it interesting that while these reports are referenced in the English Wikipedia article on Vorwärts, the other language versions (including the German one) make no mention of this. I have also never heard any German historian bring up this rather interesting anecdote. Searching the German language web for any references to libel suits against German publishers won by Hitler, I came up empty handed. There does not appear to be any record of any such thing ever having happened. Also, while 6 million mark sounds like a large amount of money, this was during Germany’s infamous period of hyper-inflation. Who would sue a paper for the equivalent of three loaves of bread (the reported equivalent at the time)?

My guess is, the brief media reports that made it over the Atlantic were based on a single and less than credible source and that this “Vorwärts” libel suit (or any other libel suits by Hitler against the charge of anti-semitism) never happened. If you come across any evidence to the contrary, please let me know!

Russia’s Gas Blackmail

Under Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s dependence on Russia for gas supplies rose as high as 55% in 2020.

The first gas pipeline connecting Germany to the Soviet Union crossed the then Czechoslovak border at Waidhaus. The Transgas pipeline crossed the former Soviet (now Ukraine) border at Uzhhorod (Russian: Ushgorod). Via Ukraine it connects to Belarus and Russia. Even during the cold war it reliably supplied Germany with cheap Soviet gas.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, its largest successor state Russia has had disputes with several of its ex-Soviet neigbours, including Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. These countries were earning transit fees from gas exported through their territory while also buying some Russian gas for their own use. As long as large consumers in the west were relying on the same pipelines as Russia’s immediate neighbours it wasn’t possible for Russia to halt gas supplies for example to Ukraine as a method of blackmail without jeopardizing long-term lucrative contracts with Western European customers.

That is why Russia came up with the plan to essentially duplicate the existing pipelines through these countries with a more costly set of new pipelines at the bottom of the Baltic sea that went directly from Russia to Germany, without crossing other countries.

The primary purpose of Nord Stream 1 (NS1) and Nord Stream 2 (NS2) was to destabilize the European countries hosting the existing transit pipelines and to expose to Russian energy blackmail. When Germany signed up for NS1 and later NS2, it clearly understood this motivation on Russia’s side but, with active lobbying by ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, it chose to turn a blind eye to the implications. To Germany it was somebody else’s problem.

Well, the chickens have come home to roost: Now it is Germany that is being blackmailed and extorted by Russia while the Baltic states and Poland are already independent from Russian supplies as they have sought out supplies of LNG instead. Germany is still working on making that switch.

On June 13, Russia cut the flow of gas through NS1 by 60%. It blamed this on a turbine at the Russian compressor station in Vyborg (between Finland and St Petersburg) that needed to be refurbished in Canada. The Canadian government was reluctant to return it to Russia because of sanctions.

Eventually a deal was reached between Canada and Germany to return the turbine to Germany, which could then send it to Russia. However, that is not the real story: Germany’s economy minister Robert Habeck made clear that this is just Russia’s excuse and not the actual reason for cutting supplies. Germany can also receive gas from Russia via pipelines that terminate in Mallnow (Yamal-Europe pipeline) and Waidhaus (Transgas). Right now, no gas enters Germany through Mallnow and all the gas that enters via Waidhaus is fed via NS1 in the north, not Transgas in the east. As separate pipelines, Yamal and Transgas do not depend on the NS1 compressor station and turbine. On top of that there are also multiple turbines at Vyborg, which is why any single one being out of service is no cause for major disruption.

What Russia is doing is to intentionally throttle gas supplies to Germany to prevent it from refilling its gas storage sites. Germany is aiming to fill its storage sites to 90% or more of capacity by November 1 so that it can get through the winter without being subject to Russian blackmail. The less gas it receives now when demand is relatively low the more difficult that goal becomes.

In 2015, a year after Russia seized Crimea in Ukraine, a subsidiary of Russian gas monopoly Gazprom bought Germany’s biggest gas storage site in Rehden near the northern city of Bremen. Rather than fill the site before winter as is usual to insure against supply disruptions, Gazprom has kept this site nearly empty for the past year or so. Normally companies use cheap gas in Summer to fill storage sites to have sufficient gas available when demand is high. Without storage, if gas flow through the pipelines is stopped there will be no immediate alternative to keep homes warm and the economy running. Germany has now taken control of the storage site and had been steadily refilling it until the recent supply cuts.

Right now gas flow through NS1 is completely suspended for annual servicing but the big question is if supplies will resume after 10 days or if Russia will come up with a different excuse. It is playing mind games with Germany. If Germany can not fill its storage and Russia chooses to cut supplies during the winter then this will create political pressure on Germany to do whatever Putin wants it to do. It’s an effort designed to split the Western alliance and to end Germany’s support for Ukraine, which already is somewhat half-hearted compared to eastern NATO members or the United States.

Unlike the former Soviet Union, Russia’s highest priority with gas supplies is not to make money but to project imperial power. Gazprom is part of an empire, not a business. Russia has already sacrificed its position as a reliable energy supplier for political purposes, i.e. an attempt to restore Imperial Russia. There is no going back now. Even if Putin were to lose power, Europe will never again make itself dependent on Russian supplies. It will transition to alternative gas supplies and non-fossil energy as quickly as possible. Russia’s biggest cash cow will soon become worthless, long before gas wells would normally have run dry.

The transition to a non-fossil future may be difficult and expensive, but it is necessary because of climate change and Putin’s blackmail of several countries may end up greatly accelerating it. To get through the transition, Europe needs to work together to maximize alternatives to Russian oil and gas. It must not give in to blackmail.