Over the last week, I’ve seen no end of stories about American newspapers printing extra copies for the Obama inauguration. The subtext is rather sad: It takes an unparalleled historic event to put papers in demand again.
Then today, as I walked to the U-Bahn in Munich, I saw and bought a rather remarkable publication: Zeitungszeugen (Newspaper Witness). I figured it was a media review and, as an official wonk, I picked it up. To my surprise, the publication is instead filled with replicas of German papers from February 27, 1933, all about the burning of the Reichstag, including a large Völkischer Beobachter, the Nazi party paper. It’s a fascinating and disturbing historical collection. But hours later, it turns out that the Bavarian government is suing the British publisher, claiming copyright on Nazi documents and fearing that though educational, the publication could attract neonazis. It banned the publication and ordered it seized. (Can they see the irony in that? Meanwhile, as I write this, I’m watching German TV comic Harald Schmidt — the bizarro David Letterman — and, in honor of the opening of Valkyrie — which I saw last night — his sidekick is dressed as Tom Cruise as Graf von Stauffenberg. Irony around every corner here.)
Well, anyway, Nazi history aside, there’s a good idea here for American papers to use their presses before they disappear. We’ve long been able to order individual reprints for various dates (the desperate birthday present). But if papers are seen more and more with nostalgic affection and interest, why not print them as new publications. I’d start with a collection on the Great Depression.