Hans Abich was a formative figure in public broadcasting in the young Federal Republic. His merits in building a democratically anchored broadcasting system are undisputed. Abich, who died in 2003, was director of Radio Bremen and program director of ARD. But now the broadcasting network is obscuring the memory of the founding father.
He was “part of a pillar of the Nazi regime”, according to a report commissioned by the directors and the historical commission of the ARD from the historian Thomas Birkner from the Paris Lodron University in Salzburg. Abich gave false information about his biography during the National Socialist period.
“Contrary to his own account, Hans Abich worked for the Ministry of Propaganda and for student magazines, which transported the ideology of the time,” reports the expert Birkner. The later ARD program director was “in his mid-twenties not yet advanced far in the functional chains of the regime, but still part of a pillar of the Nazi regime that promoted fascist ideology. In doing so, he contributed to the spread and legitimacy of racism and anti-Semitism, of the leader cult and enthusiasm for war.”
Hardly talked about when he was alive
The ARD states that Abich said little about his work during the Nazi era during his lifetime. In interviews he stated that he had never been a member of the NSDAP and that after the pogroms of 1938 he had inwardly turned his back on the regime. An article in “Die Zeit” at the end of 2021 raised doubts about this. The ARD program management and Radio Bremen then approached the directors of the ARD to have the matter checked by the Historical Commission.
According to the expert Birkner, it was “particularly problematic” how Hans Abich dealt with his past: “He mostly kept quiet about his role as a Nazi publicist, sometimes he lied about his NSDAP membership. There was no self-critical reflection.” After 1945, of course, Abich had distanced himself from the Nazi regime. The ARD report also states that he was not involved in “right-wing networks in the young Federal Republic”. In his later positions at ARD, he made a valuable contribution to democracy and public service broadcasting, the ARD Historical Commission found.
After the Second World War, Hans Abich initially worked as a film producer. He was program director at Radio Bremen and then director from 1968 to 1973. From 1973 to 1978 he was program director of the ARD for the first program of the network of stations. Among other things, the “Daily Topics” were created under his aegis.
“Hans Abich is no longer a good role model”
“However, Hans Abich’s involvement in the Nazi propaganda system and his subsequent repression cast a shadow over his services to the democratic media system after 1945. Hans Abich is no longer suitable as a figurehead or role model,” says the chairman of the Historical Commission of ARD, Christoph Singelnstein.
“Not to forget the horrors of the Nazi past and to work through them consistently” is “a task for society as a whole”. “Public broadcasting is also facing you,” says the director of Radio Bremen, Yvette Gerner. For her broadcaster, this means “to say clearly: Our former director Hans Abich is incriminated as part of the Nazi regime’s propaganda machine.”
The German Academy of Performing Arts will now probably also think about it. It awarded the renowned Hans Abich Prize until 2021. The award still exists, it is still awarded at the television film festival in Baden-Baden, which Abich once co-founded, but no longer under his name, but as an “honorary award for outstanding achievements”. The academy had announced that the new findings on Abich would be “examined and processed”.
ARD’s account of Hans Abich can be found at radiobremen.de
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