Wiesenthal Center asks the German government to investigate a military magazine, and iTunes and Amazon not to sell it (Updated with video from HuffPost Live chat with Marvin Hier)
Six months after a Wrap investigation exposed pro-Nazi publications by Bauer Media Group, one of the biggest publishing companies in the world, calls are growing to restrict the company's media activities in the United States and Europe.
This week, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called on Germany's interior and justice ministers to investigate the Bauer-owned Der Landser Magazine and called on Amazon and Apple's iTunes to stop selling it. Bauer also publishes celebrity magazines In Touch and Life & Style.
Meanwhile a prominent media analyst has asked the United Kingdom's telcom authority to block Bauer's acquisition of Absolute Radio — formerly Virgin Radio — from the group that owns the Times of India.
Read TheWrap Investigation: In Touch Tabloid Publisher – Mired in Tom Cruise Lawsuit – Trades in Nazis, Porn and Sometimes Both (Exclusive)
Bauer is a privately held global publisher with 600 print publications worldwide, 300 websites and billions of dollars in annual revenue, mainly focused on health, beauty and celebrity gossip. The Nazi-themed publications are published by wholly-owned subsidiaries.
As TheWrap's Andrew Gumbel first wrote in February, Der Landser is a military adventure magazine that specializes in World War II stories sympathetic to Hitler's armies and enjoys brisk sales among skinheads and neo-Nazis.
In letters to the Interior and Justice Ministry, Rabbi Marvin Hier wrote that the magazines violates a German law prohibiting the glorification of Nazism.
“Der Landser is desecrating the memory of the Holocaust and glorifying Nazism. We urge your ministry to begin an investigation on Der Landser magazine immediately and to take the appropriate action,” he wrote.
Der Landser was previously an under-the-radar publication published by Pabel-Moeig, a subsidiary of Bauer Media, the largest publisher in the United Kingdom and one of the largest in the United States. TheWrap also revealed that Bauer subsidiaries publish Nazi-themed porn, with titles like “Inglorious Bitches.”
When TheWrap asked the Wiesenthal Center to comment on Der Landser in February, the non-profit said it did not have the resources to follow up on the matter.
But in the interim, the center commissioned a study, published this week, which confirmed TheWrap's report.
Historian Stefan Klemp writes in the study:
”Der Landser claims that its ‘experience reports’ on the life of German soldiers during the War are authentic. But, in fact, the stories in the Der Landser magazine sanitize the Third Reich by presenting stories of conventional warfare out of context. They methodically reduce the war to stories of German heroes, purposely ignoring the crimes committed by their units as if they are irrelevant. The war they present appears to be an adventure, albeit with some casualties. Most of the stories told in that manner deal with the Wehrmacht, but others tell stories of the SS and police in the same benign style.”
British media analyst Bruce Fireman, meanwhile, sent a letter this week to the British broadcasting regulator, known as Ofcom, to urge its rejection of Bauer's acquisition of Absolute Radio for $30 million from the group that owns the Times of India.
“My complaint is they are complying with German law by studiously ignoring certain aspects of what the Waffen SS did,” said Fireman in an interview with TheWrap. “If you want to be a broadcaster you have to get a license and be considered ‘fit and proper.’ The question arises whether the state should grant a license to a party which studiously, defiantly ignores the spirit of the law by complying with the letter.”
“I say that's not correct,” he added. “They are glorifying these people without telling the whole truth about them.”
Bauer Media has previously chosen not to comment to TheWrap despite multiple requests. In a brief interview with the New York Times, Der Landser editor Guntram Schulze-Wegener denied that Der Landser plays to contemporary extreme rightist sentiments, calling the content nonpolitical.
Update: Bauer has told the Wiesenthal Center that Der Landser the magazine does not glorify National Socialism, nor does it downplay Nazi crimes. It says it is lawful to publish the magazine in Germany.
Fireman disagreed with the principle. “Can you grant something which requires a high standard of integrity (to Bauer)? They broadcast news, not just celebrity gossip. Do you grant licenses to people who studiously avoid the application of the law?”
The February investigation by TheWrap found that beyond the publication of at least one magazine appealing to neo-Nazis the company had significant involvement in the distribution of pornography — including Nazi-themed porn movies.
These latest complaints lend perspective to Bauer's legal woes in the United States, which include a $50 million defamation lawsuit by Tom Cruise, filed last October after two U.S.-based publications alleged he'd abandoned his daughter Suri.
As TheWrap previously reported, Bauer generates dozens of legal complaints worldwide each year about invasion of privacy or libel, according to a lawyer who has frequently opposed them.
Update: Here is a video of a HuffPost Live chat about the issue from Friday August 9.