The rise of Nazi and fascist movements in the 1920s and 1930s happened within democratic systems with well developed media. This gives rise to the question whether press reporting aided the emergence of fascist movements. In these years, a journalism, which found itself in an area of tension between political function and commercial profit, was confronted with the uneasy task of reporting on growing conflict of interests among social groups and an increasingly alarming upheaval within the political system. The wide range of newspapers on offer in the late 1920s and beginning of the 1930s—during this period there were over 30 titles published in Berlin, while in Vienna there were over 20 newspaper titles; with a total circulation of on average 2.6 and 1.3 million copies respectively—illustrates the relevance of the press as the most important medium of political communication, thus pointing at the likely impact of newspaper reporting on politics and citizens. This assumed impact made Hamilton argueing that a “right wing” press climate aided and abetted the rise of National Socialism. In the case of Austria, which saw the establishment of an Austro-fascist regime for years before the “Anschluss” to national-socialist Germany in 1938, this assumption needs to be modified to find out the extent of press involvement in preparing the ground for an increasing shift towards the fascist dynamic of National Socialism. Based on comprehensive analyses of the daily press in Germany and Austria and using sociometric and attributional techniques, research results indicate a growing fragmented structure of the mass-mediated public sphere in both countries and a suitable, mass-mediated climate for the astounding growth of National Socialism and other fascist movements.


Anniversary Fund of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank: Project No. 9725: “Demokratiegefährdende Tendenzen in der Politikvermittlung [Jeopardizing democracy? Press Coverage of Austrian Elections, 1927-1932]”

Cultural Department of the City of Vienna: Project “Wahrnehmungs- und Bewertungsmuster der nationalsozialistischen Wahlerfolge 1930/32 [Perception and Evaluation of the NSDAP’s Electoral Success 1930-1932]”

Creditanstalt-Bankverein: “Die erste österreichische Nationalratswahl 1919 in den Wiener Medien [Election Coverage of the First Austrian National Election 1919]”

CMC Staff

Gabriele Melischek (Project Leader, Contact)

Josef Seethaler

Cooperation Partners

Conference “Wahlen und Politikvermittlung durch Massenmedien [Elections and Mass Mediated Politics]”:

Prof. Dr. Hans Bohrmann, Institute for Newspaper Research, Dortmund

Prof. Dr. Otfried Jarren, Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research

Congress Organization

ECREA Communication History Section Workshop “Jeopardizing Democracy throughout History: Media as Accomplice, Adversary or Amplifier of Populist and Radical Politics”, Vienna, September 11-13, 2019

“Wahlen und Politikvermittlung durch Massenmedien [Elections and Mass Mediated Politics]” (with the Institute for Newspaper Research, Dortmund, and the Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research), Vienna, Austriam Academy of Sciences, 17-18 April 1998

Publications and Lectures