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Commercialised History: Popular History Magazines in Europe

Approaches to a Historico-Cultural Phenomenon as the Basis for History Teaching

Edited By Susanne Popp, Jutta Schumann and Miriam Hannig

This volume of essays is the result of the EU project «EHISTO», which dealt with the mediation of history in popular history magazines and explored how history in the commercialised mass media can be used in history teaching in order to develop the media literacy and the transcultural competences of young people. The volume offers articles which for the first time address the phenomenon of popular history magazines in Europe and their mediating strategies in a foundational way. The articles are intended as introductory material for teachers and student teachers. The topic also offers an innovative approach in terms of making possible a European cross-country comparison, in which results based on qualitative and quantitative methods are presented, related to the content focus areas profiled in the national magazines.
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Perpetrators, victims, heroes – the Second World War and National Socialism in Danish history magazines

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Katja Gorbahn

Perpetrators, victims, heroes – the Second World War and National Socialism in Danish history magazines

‘The growing interest in history has long been reflected in films, documentaries, literature, history societies and now also in the world of magazines: “The range of choices at magazine kiosks clearly shows that history magazines such as ours gain more and more ground, and all TV viewers know that historical documentaries – especially those about World War II – take up a lot of broadcasting time […]. History has firmly established itself in the use of media to the same extent as cooking or crime,” Sebastian Relster says. In particular, topics related to World War II are a sure bet. […]. “The Second World War is undeniably one of the most popular historical topics. Apparently, the war has captured us, even though only a few have experienced it themselves.”’1

In this excerpt from a press release authored by the publishing house ‘Bonnier’, in which the Danish history magazine HISTORIE – ILLUSTRERET VIDENSKAB2 introduces itself, editor-in-chief Relster attributes considerable relevance for the conception of the magazine to the Second World War.3 Indeed, when flicking through the magazine, the ← 319 | 320 → great importance of the Second World War and of topics connected to the war becomes apparent not only in HISTORIE, but also in the competing magazine ALT OM HISTORIE. Very often, the topic for the cover page is the military history of the Second World War. Adolf Hitler is mentioned in almost every issue, often in different contexts. The Holocaust, likewise, is continually touched upon. This article examines the presentation of National Socialism and the Second World War in both magazines. It is based on analysis of 172 issues from the years 2005 to 2011. The data is still being evaluated, but important results can already be summarised.4


The magazines HISTORIE and ALT OM HISTORIE are published in Danish and dominate the Danish market for history magazines.5 In every issue they offer a variety of articles on various historical epochs and topics. Both magazines have existed since 2005 and have been represented on the Danish market since their inception. Furthermore, they are distributed in different Northern European countries in translated and adapted versions. ALT OM HISTORIE and HISTORIE contain articles which are written for Denmark in particular. However, the majority of the articles are not designed with a national focus, and are translated into the target language. ← 320 | 321 →

HISTORIE emerged from the magazine ILLUSTRERET VIDENSKAB, and is published by the media company ‘Bonnier Publications’, which is situated in Denmark and belongs to the Swedish media concern ‘Bonnier’. According to the publisher, HISTORIE is published in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Baltic States and the Netherlands.6 The magazine is produced in Copenhagen; local editors translate the texts and add their own material. ALT OM HISTORIE belongs to the Swedish company ‘LRF Media’ situated in Stockholm and is published in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.7 In the information it supplies for advertising-customers, the magazine indicates that roughly 10 of the 68 total pages are especially designed for Danish readers and concern topics of Danish history. HISTORIE publishes 18 issues a year, ALT OM HISTORIE increased the number of issues from 12 to 14 in 2012. For HISTORIE, the larger magazine, controlled circulation figures exist, as well as studies on the readership.8 According to these figures the magazine is published in a run of ca. 30.000 copies9 and had ca. 184.000 readers in the year 201010, of whom 64% were male and 36% female. Readers are about equally distributed among the different age groups. Persons under 30 years are however somewhat better represented; the older age groups, especially those above 60 years, less so. Members of different income and professional groups as well as people from different educational backgrounds can be found among the readership.

In describing its own editorial profile HISTORIE presents itself as an ‘entertaining, competent and enthusiastic guide, who takes the reader on an exciting travel through time’ and carries him/her back ‘to the decisive turning points of world history’. Not least among the promises made for ← 321 | 322 → this journey, which leads to the ‘most dramatic battles on the battle field’, the ‘most daring discovery expeditions’, the ‘biggest achievements of engineers’ as well as the ‘world’s best masterpieces of art’, is the provision of a new perspective on the present.11 Indeed, the preference for superlatives and for dramatic situations, as well as the claim to combine entertainment and information, are central features of HISTORIE as well as of ALT OM HISTORIE.

An important thematic focus for both magazines is military history. To a considerable extent their narratives are shaped by war and violence, masculinity and power12 – i.e. by perspectives which can be particularly highlighted via the history of National Socialism and the Second World War. In general, great interest is taken in the achievement of – male – individuals, especially in the military or the technical domain. At the same time, the magazines regularly refer to other media of public history, especially to films, and claim to depict ‘actual’ historical events in a more adequate way.

2. Analysis

An analysis of the rich magazine content connected to the Second World War presents itself as valuable for various reasons. On the one hand, it allows access to a core area of the magazines. On the other hand, such analysis contributes to expanding and deepening our understanding of the presentation in popular history culture of National Socialism, the Second World War and the Holocaust.13 ← 322 | 323 →

The immensely rich research on the memory of the Second World War, National Socialism and the Holocaust cannot be discussed in detail here. Some fundamental aspects of the development since 1945 will, however, be outlined. In the Danish post-war consensus, both the cooperation policy of the Danish government towards the German occupying forces and actions of the resistance movement were interpreted as an expression of coherent national actions of benefit to the occupied country.14 Memory culture after 1945 was based on identification with a partially glorified and heroicised resistance, emphasizing the unity of the Danish nation, and on the distinctiveness of the Germans as a nation of villains. In the past decades this master narrative has been continually challenged. Since the 1990s in particular, many aspects of the period of occupation which question a simplified black and white picture have been advanced. However, simplified and affirmative national patterns of interpretation have not vanished from history culture.

Despite all national specificities, developments in Denmark have to be seen against the backdrop of inter- and transnational trends. In Europe and the world, the Second World War and the Holocaust have frequently played, and still play, a central part in the national tradition. After 1945, patriotic master narratives which followed a pattern similar to the Danish ← 323 | 324 → example were dominant in many countries.15 In the course of the post-war period, these national master narratives have been challenged in many states. Moreover, the general ‘transition from a “patriotic memory” to a “memory of genocide”’16 gave rise to an inter- and trans-nationalisation of the debate about the politics of memory. A striking example is the so-called ‘universalisation of Auschwitz’.17 At the same time, approaches that examine national memory from a transnational perspective and consider processes of entanglement have gained importance in memory research.18 Such transnational research perspectives on popular history are all the more relevant and important as popular history is produced and distributed in an increasingly transnational media system.

This article will contribute to this field of research by focusing on the following questions:

(1) ‘Perpetrators’, ‘heroes’ and ‘victims’ are important categories in the interpretation of the Second World War and National Socialism. How are these roles shaped in the magazines?

(2) Does the fact that the magazines are media which convey history in a popular way have an effect?

(3) What role do national categories play? How are ‘the Germans’ portrayed, i.e. the ‘others’ in the traditional Danish master narrative? How are processes of transnationalisation reflected? ← 324 | 325 →

2.1 Perpetrators

The magazines’ interest in perpetrators is undoubtedly huge and concentrates on the main representatives of National Socialism. Hitler, in particular, is one of the figures scarcely any issue fails to mention. Hitler is ever-present, on cover pages, in titles, detailed articles or short comments, as well as in adverts such as those for books or films, and not least in numerous pictures.19 Addressed demonstrably less often but equally regularly are known National Socialists such as Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring, along with Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele and Reinhard Heydrich – individuals closely linked to the SS and the atrocities in the concentration camps.20

In the 1970s Susan Sontag discussed the attraction of National Socialism and especially of the SS in popular culture in her essay ‘Fascinating Fascism’ and explained it as arising from, among others causes, fantasies of community, order, identity, and competence, as well as the legitimate exertion of violence and authority. HISTORIE and ALT OM HISTORIE revert to the tradition of presentation described by Sontag, as when for example members of the SS are depicted as both cruel and attractive.21 It ← 325 | 326 → is also striking that propaganda pictures of leading National Socialists are continually used in a purely illustrative way.22

The interest in NS villains fits in well with the interest in violence, and in perpetrators of violence, which can be observed in other areas of popular culture. The fact that serial killers often have the status of celebrities makes clear that the phenomenon of celebrity cannot be explained merely by the need for positive identification.23 Instead, attraction and rejection often seem to be rather closely linked. This applies also to the magazines’ presentation of Hitler. The authors leave no doubt about the fact that they strongly condemn the actions of the National Socialists. Nonetheless, the figure of Hitler appears to be highly attractive despite all the condemnation. How else explain the frequent references to Hitler? In many cases these references primarily serve to arouse interest. Besides, a whole range of articles merely seems to want to feed a certain craving for sensation as well as to meet the need to be able to ‘experience’ Hitler closely and in private.24 It can therefore be assumed that Hitler, who is one of the most famous, if not the most famous individual in world history, is treated as ← 326 | 327 → a ‘dark celebrity’ in the history magazines.25 The presentation of the perpetrators is partially shaped by popular cultural patterns that are by no means specific to history.

2.2 Heroes

The story about the hero who has to overcome obstacles and dangers in order to fulfil an important task represents one of the oldest and most widespread of narrative patterns. It is present in popular culture in numerous variants26 and can be mobilised to strengthen the cohesion of – for example – a nationally defined group, not least by reverting to the figure of the self-sacrificing tragic hero.27 The heroisation of resistance fighters and soldiers is therefore an important part of traditional national master narratives about the Second World War. The heroic narrative pattern also plays a very important part in the magazines. In their heroic narrations, authors try to make history ‘experienceable’ by illustrating dramatic situations in colourful ways or by narrating from the perspective of an individual person.

The magazines’ heroes of the Second World War are usually men who have to fulfil an important task and who often carry out a specific plan. The implementation of this task requires courage, and frequently also cunning and audacity. Additionally, it often demands sacrifice. The role of the hero is played for example by members of the resistance: Danish or Scandinavian28, but also the Jewish29 or German30. Military heroes appear ← 327 | 328 → very frequently – in line with the magazines’ focus on military history. Featured among them are not only famous personalities but also ordinary soldiers. Moreover, while allied troops can function as military heroes, so can Germans, whose efficiency is often emphasised. In some cases this even includes those who are unequivocal National Socialists. For instance, one article about the British destruction of the German-occupied dry docks in St Nazaire makes use of a narrative pattern which is almost identical to that of an article about the sinking by a German U-boat of a British battleship in Scapa Flow.31 The German U-boat commander, Günther Prien, is the hero of the latter article and the regret about the death of many hundreds of British soldiers expressed in the article does not in the least detract from the clear admiration for Prien’s competence and brazen courage. The fact that a product of NS propaganda is presented in an almost unfiltered and affirmative way can hardly be linked to any corresponding political sympathies on the part of the editors. Rather, the magazines seem to choose – quite haphazardly – stories which allow the deployment of a specific narrative pattern and ideal of masculinity.32

2.3 Victims

In connection with the Second World War, different groups of victims are addressed. The Holocaust for instance is regularly and at times extensively dealt with.33 However, in articles about the Holocaust the main interest ← 328 | 329 → does not necessarily lie with the victims themselves.34 Frequently articles concentrate on the perpetrators, e.g. on Mengele, Himmler or Heydrich, or on the deeds themselves. If many gruesome details are to be revealed then HISTORIE often alerts readers via an eye-catching warning stamp, which may be assumed to function among other things as a means of arousing curiosity. This kind of interest in gruesome crimes is well known from popular culture, for example from the true crime genre.35

The sufferings of the Soviet civilian population are addressed in, for example, articles about the occupation of Leningrad.36 Another central victim figure is the suffering soldier. The battle of Stalingrad, treatment of which is very prevalent in the magazines,37 can be staged as a tragedy of the simple soldier caught in an almost apocalyptic conflict between two dictators. The perspective of the German soldiers is often emphasised,38 since the battle at Stalingrad is predominantly projected as a German defeat. Accordingly, it is described as ‘catastrophe’, ‘hell’ and ‘nightmare’ and to some extent mythologized.39 Suffering, desperate, and grieving ← 329 | 330 → German soldiers appear in numerous photographs and are an important element of the visualization of the battles at the Eastern front.

Germans are likewise presented as victims in other contexts: there are articles about the bombing of Dresden, about the flight and expulsion of Germans or about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.40 Parallels to the German memory discourse since the 1990s, which has been described as a new discourse of victimization, are striking. In some cases the direct influence of German history culture is quite obvious.41 This is an interesting phenomenon, which raises questions. So far, German victim stories have been interpreted within a national framework. But in what ways do such narratives hold interest for Danish or Scandinavian readers? What shifts in meaning do they undergo when they are transferred into a different memory culture?

3. Discussion of the results

In conclusion it can be stated that the magazines are not limited to a simplified good – bad schema according to national categories. Germans are not reduced to the role of perpetrators, but function also as victims and ← 330 | 331 → heroes. I would like to suggest three explanatory approaches to this observation, which are closely interconnected:

(1) ‘Criticism of a specific, simplified interpretational pattern’. In popular culture, an interpretational pattern has been prevalent which contrasts evil Nazis with their heroic antagonists.42 By including stories about German victims or German heroes the magazines claim to offer a broader range of interpretation than a simple black and white confrontation of nationally defined ‘good’ and ‘evil’. This assumption is supported by the results of a study in Sweden.43 Participants in the study had a particularly strong interest in National Socialism and the Second World War. They often expressed a negative attitude towards an interpretational pattern that they characterized as ‘mainstream’ and linked to ‘Hollywood’. They especially criticised the way in which glorified allies and indisputably negatively-depicted Germans were simplistically juxtaposed. German Films, however, such as ‘Das Boot’ (Wolfgang Petersen, 1981), ‘Stalingrad’ (Joseph Vilsmaier, 1993) or ‘Downfall’ (German ‘Der Untergang’, Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004) were highly esteemed and viewed as more objective.44 The participants believed that their access to history was less biased than a simplified good vs. evil narrative, and they were proud of their stance. It can be assumed that ALT OM HISTORIE and HISTORIE also cater to this interest in their readers. These challenges to a specific, simplified interpretational pattern correlate with the claim of the magazines to convey history in a serious and informative way.

(2) ‘Masculinity’. Men are the focus of the magazines’ approach to history. They are presented in various roles – as perpetrators, victims and heroes.45 In particular, the magazines serve and promote an interest in a concept of militarized masculinity, which in the 19th and ← 331 | 332 → early 20th century functioned as a central feature of hegemonic notions of masculinity. This concept was radicalized by the National Socialists and lost its dominance after 1945.46 However, the fact that it is still attractive is demonstrated by phenomena such as the re-enactments of Second World War battles, where history may provide a possibility for acting out specific fantasies of masculinity. In such events, German soldiers not only function as Germans, but also as soldiers and men, and as such in the view of participants deserve respect.47 Similar mechanisms are not only effective in re-enactment, but in other popular adaptations of the Second World War and National Socialism. It seems that the militarized and radicalized conception of masculinity connected to National Socialism and the Second World War exerts a fascination and even offers a model for identification. After all, it is striking that a keen interest in World War II is, as far as we know, strongly gender specific.48 Therefore, a gender-oriented analytic perspective can contribute to a better understanding of the fascination exerted by Hitler and other leading National Socialists. They are staged as very masculine and embody, albeit in a perverted way, male power.

(3) ‘Popular cultural patterns’. The magazines’ editors and authors often claim to convey information in an objective way. However, the articles’ narrative strategy is by no means shaped by scholarliness, but rather functions as entertainment. It makes use of popular cultural patterns taken from the world of modern media and which are not specifically ← 332 | 333 → connected to history. History magazines have their – dark – celebrities, tell historical adventure stories or present true crime stories in all their gruesome details. In the press release from the magazine HISTORIE quoted above, this is expressed in the following way: ‘Many associated the word “history” with the school subject History, meaning an endless enumeration of dates, footnotes and lists of kings. But the genie is now out of the bottle. These days it is acceptable to make history lively and to convey drama, human destinies, everyday life – everything that history actually is: a true gold mine of exciting stories.’49

To some extent, history in the magazines becomes the material for entertaining, exciting and often violent stories, which frequently correspond to popular cultural patterns and continually invite identification with the protagonists. In order to find adequate material the authors use a broad range of stories with a certain eclecticism of approach. The national affiliation of the protagonists can retreat into the background. Their narrative function is often the more decisive factor.

Therefore an important task for future research on popular presentations of history may lie in identifying relevant narrative patterns, describing them in detail, defining their functions and examining their effects on the formation of historical meaning. As a starting point for the analysis of history magazines work by James Wertsch and James Cawelti are particularly suitable. Inspired by the folklorist Vladimir Propp, who analysed the narrative structure of fairy tales, Wertsch demonstrated how narrative templates impact collective memory.50 Cawelti distinguished the concept of ‘formula’ for the study of popular literature. Already in 1976, Cawelti suspected ‘that there are also formulas in the nonfictional literary forms of popular culture such as news, documentaries, and popular history and philosophy’51. ← 333 | 334 →

That national categories can retreat behind specific narrative patterns, the category of masculinity, or the wish for a certain degree of multi-perspectivity, does not mean, however, that they entirely lose their meaning. Rather, we face a complex interaction of national and transnational factors. On the one hand, the magazines act within a transnationally oriented media culture, as do other media, e.g. films, to which the magazines often refer. They are produced for transnational markets, and use patterns of popular culture which have spread globally. They become bearers of a certain dynamic in memory culture by transporting narrations into other national discourses. On the other hand, the national component remains present, not least because many of the articles are structured around a nationally-connoted ‘us’ – ‘them’ opposition. Moreover, the magazines have to compete on national markets and relate to national memory discourses. It can be assumed that identical narrations do not unfold the same meaning in the context of different basic narratives: a picture of a suffering German soldier in Stalingrad could in the context of the German memory discourse be understood as an exculpatory self-victimisation. In the Danish context, however, it may be perceived as a universal symbol for the suffering of humankind. It is therefore a complex question whether the phenomenon and products of transnationalization contribute to harmonization in memory culture or pave the way for misunderstanding.52 In order to answer this question further research – not least of an empirical kind – will be necessary.

1 Press release Bonnier Publications A/S, URL: (1.8.2014); Quotes, also in the following, translated from Danish by the author.

2 In the following in short HISTORIE, URL: (1.8.2014).

3 The Second World War is in general of immense significance to popular history culture. This is not only apparent in films and computer games. The Second World War has become a hobby for many people to which they devote themselves through model making, collecting devotional objects or in extreme cases in reconstructing historical battles. Cf. on this e.g. Eva Kingsepp: Hitler as our devil? Nazi Germany in mainstream media. In: Sara Buttsworth/Maartje M. Abbenhuis (eds.): Monsters in the mirror. Representations of nazism in post-war popular culture. Santa Barbara, Calif. 2010, p. 29–52; Jenny Thompson: War games. Inside the world of 20th-century war reenactors. Washington, DC 2010. On a study according to which the Second World War was classified as the most important event of world history by respondents in 12 states (6 Asian and 6 Western) cf. James H. Liu et al.: Social representations of events and people in world history across 12 cultures. In: Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 36 (2005), p. 171–191.

4 All issues from 2005 to 2011 were analysed (with the exception of two issues of ALT OM HISTORIE, which were not accessible), altogether 100 issues of HISTORIE (in the following abbreviated with H when indicating specific issues) and 72 issues of ALT OM HISTORIE (translates as ‘Everything about history’, AOH in the following). Methodologically, the study employs both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The material is coded with the help of the QDA software ‘atlas.ti’. The codes are developed via both inductive and deductive processes, on the one hand starting from the material itself, on the other hand based on the categories ‘perpetrators’, ‘heroes’, ‘victims’.

5 The history magazine NOSTALGI & HISTORIE especially tailored to women was published in 2010 as a one-time only issue and so far has not been continued. The magazine MILITÆRHISTORIE, the sister magazine of ALT OM HISTORIE and still on the market in Sweden, was discontinued in Denmark in 2011.

6 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

7 Cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

8 There is no comparative data for ALT OM HISTORIE, but the run may be significantly smaller.

9 The current numbers can be viewed on the website of ‘Dansk Oplagskontrol’ (The Danish Audit Bureau of Circulation), URL: (1.8.2014). 

10 This would be the equivalent of ca. 3.3% of the entire Danish population. The information about the readership here and in the following originates from: Danske Dagblades Forening et al.: Index Danmark/Gallup 2010, Copenhagen n.y. It is based on a telephone survey of 24.752 people older than 12 years.

11 Quotes from ‘Historie Mediekit 2013’, URL: (8.2.2013). For a similar profile description of ALT OM HISTORIE cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

12 This is clearly reflected in the cover pages. Marianne Sjöland (Marianne Sjöland: Historia i magasin. En studie av tidskriften Populär Historias historieskrivning och av kommersiellt historiebruk. Lund/Malmö 2011) and Bodil Axelsson (Bodil Axelsson: History in popular magazines: Negotiating masculinities, the low of the popular and the high of history. In: Culture Unbound. Journal of Current Cultural Research 4 (2012), p. 275–295) reach similar results for the Swedish magazine POPULÄR HISTORIA. Axelsson refers to the central role of the ‘nexus of masculinity, power and war’ (p. 276).

13 Research efforts on the popular presentation of the Second World War, National Socialism and the Holocaust have especially focused on the medium of film as well as on – mostly fictional – literature, whereas history magazines have, as far as I can see, not attracted attention.

14 The history of the German occupation of Denmark and of how it is remembered cannot be discussed in detail. Neither can the other Scandinavian or Northern countries be addressed. Cf. e.g. Arnd Bauerkämper: Das umstrittene Gedächtnis. Die Erinnerung an Nationalsozialismus, Faschismus und Krieg in Europa seit 1945. Paderborn 2012; Monika Flacke (ed.): Mythen der Nationen. 1945 – Arena der Erinnerungen. Eine Ausstellung des Deutschen Historischen Museums. Begleitbände zur Ausstellung 2. Oktober 2004 bis 27. Februar 2005. Berlin 2004; Mirja Österberg/Johan Östling/Henrik Stenius (eds.): Nordic narratives of the Second World War. National historiographies revisited. Lund 2011; Claus Bryld: ‘The five accursed years’. Danish perception and usage of the period of the German occupation, with a wider view to Norway and Sweden. In: Scandinavian Journal of History 32 (2007), p. 86–115; Helle Bjerg/Claudia Lenz/Erik Thorstensen (eds.): Historicizing the uses of the past. Scandinavian perspectives on history culture, historical consciousness and didactics of history related to World War II. Bielefeld 2011.

15 Etienne François: Meistererzählungen und Dammbrüche: Die Erinnerung an den Zweiten Weltkrieg zwischen Nationalisierung und Universalisierung. In: Flacke (note 14), p. 13–28.

16 François (note 15), p. 19.

17 Ibid. In the Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, the Holocaust is understood as a warning to all nations to prevent genocides in advance, URL: (1.8.2014). On the Stockholm process, to which Denmark was also committed, as well as the concept of the cosmopolitan memory, Daniel Levy/Natan Sznaider: Memory unbound. In: European Journal of Social Theory 5 (2002), p. 87–106. See also Idem: Erinnerung im globalen Zeitalter: Der Holocaust. Frankfurt/Main 2001.

18 Cf. e.g. Aleida Assmann/Sebastian Conrad: Memory in a global age. Discourses, practices and trajectories. Basingstoke 2010; Sebastian Conrad: Entangled memories: Versions of the past in Germany and Japan, 1945–2001. In: Journal of Contemporary History 38 (2003), p. 85–99.

19 The counting of the word ‘Hitler’ showed that only in 3 of the 172 issues Hitler was not mentioned. A letter to the editor printed in HISTORIE (H 12 (2009), p. 4) expresses great amazement at the enormous presence of Hitler in the magazine. In HISTORIE Hitler’s name is on average mentioned ca. 22 times per issue, in the somewhat less comprehensive ALT OM HISTORIE ca. 18 times. Numbers are based on the results of automatic text recognition, which is not completely free of mistakes. The automatized counting furthermore does not distinguish between editorial texts and advertising texts, e.g. for books or travels. However, the counting provides informative starting points.

20 Himmler (61 issues, overall 295 mentions) and Goebbels (54 issues, 211 mentions) are named most often and most regularly. The name Göring was recorded in 43 issues (oval 188 times). Heydrich (17 issues, 147 mentions), Mengele (19 issues, 202 mentions) and Eichmann (26 issues, 172 mentions) are less regularly, but still repetitively, dealt with. Only in one of the 172 issues are none of the above names recorded.

21 Cf. Susan Sontag: Fascinating fascism. In: The New York Review of Books (6.2.1975), URL: (1.8.2014). The beginning of an article about Mengele quite clearly corresponds with the presentation pattern described by Sontag: ‘The man in the SS uniform is standing there with shining, polished riding boots, the legs somewhat apart. One hand is resting on the belt; the other is holding a riding crop. Every time he is presented with one of the prisoners, who are paralyzed with terror, he casually points his crop: the strong ones fit for work to the right, the weak ones to the left.’(H 2 (2009), p. 43).

22 A propaganda picture of Hitler is illustratively used e.g. in an article about the Danish resistance (AOH 1 (2011), p. 24). The picture is based on a painting of Heinrich Knirr (presumably in a photographic version by Heinrich Hoffmann, cf. URL: (1.8.2014) or URL: (1.8.2014)), which was also used for propaganda posters. Likewise, a photograph by Heinrich Hoffmann is often reproduced which shows Adolf Eichmann as a comparatively young man in uniform, cf. URL: (1.8.2014), printed in H 6 (2006), H 10 (2006), H 16 (2011), AOH 6 (2011), AOH 10 (2011), AOH 11 (2011).

23 On this phenomenon cf. e.g. Ruth Penfold-Mounce: Celebrity culture and crime. The joy of transgression. Basingstoke 2009 or David Schmid: Natural born celebrities: Serial killers in American culture. Chicago 2005. The discussion about possible reasons for this fascination cannot be addressed in detail here.

24 E.g. if the readers are invited in the title of a travel-guide-style article about Obersalzberg and the Kehlsteinhaus to have dinner in Hitler’s ‘Eagle’s Nest’ (H 1 (2007), p. 74).

25 On the perception of Hitler as the most influential individual of world history cf. Liu et al. (note 3). Staging Hitler as celebrity is satirised by the magazine Titanic in one of its many Hitler cover pages, cf. URL: (1.8.2014).

26 Cf. John G. Cawelti: Adventure, mystery, and romance: Formula stories as art and popular culture. Chicago 1976, p. 39 ff.

27 Cf. e.g. René Schilling: „Kriegshelden“: Deutungsmuster heroischer Männlichkeit in Deutschland 1813–1945. Paderborn 2002.

28 E.g. AOH 1 (2001). It needs to be pointed out, however, that the period of the German occupation is not generally presented within a heroic narrative. The magazines also publish contributions which take up the discourse from recent years and reflect critical perspectives.

29 E.g. in connection with the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (H 7 (2010)).

30 E.g. in an article about Stauffenberg (AOH 2 (2009)).

31 Article on the so-called St Nazaire Raid or Operation Chariot in 1942: H 7 (2007). Article on the German attack on the Royal Navy’s primary base, Scapa Flow, under the command of Günther Prien in 1939: H 8 (2008).

32 In the magazine article Prien’s memoirs, which were published in Danish translation in 1942, are mentioned as reference. The topic of the article might have been provided by an English private history website, which is mentioned as reference, URL: (1.8.2014). On Prien cf. Hans Wagener: Günther Prien, der „Stier von Scapa Flow“. Selbststilisierung, Heldenkult und Legendenbildung um einen U-Boot-Kommandanten. In: Thomas F. Schneider (ed.): Kriegserlebnis und Legendenbildung. Vol. 2: Der Zweite Weltkrieg, westliche Perspektiven, östliche Perspektiven, Mythen, Nachkrieg. Osnabrück 1999, p. 651–672.

33 The terms ‘Auschwitz’ or ‘Holocaust’ were recorded in 78 of the 172 issues. The Holocaust is the title topic in H 2 (2011).

34 The perspective of the victim is most visible in articles about Anne Frank: she is the ‘best-known victim of the Holocaust’ (AOH 1 (2008), p. 5).

35 The true crime genre addresses actual crimes, and in particular gruesome murders. Perpetrators generate special interest. Truman Capote’s ‘In cold blood’ (1966) was very influential. Cf. Jean Murley: The rise of true crime. Twentieth century murder and American popular culture. Westport, Conn. 2008.

36 H 13 (2008), AOH 5 (2007).

37 The battle of Stalingrad is a cover topic twice (AOH 1 (2009), H 1 (2005)) and is dealt with moreover in a long article in H 17 (2010). The term ‘Stalingrad’ was recorded in 67 of 172 issues (on the counting of words cf. note 19).

38 In AOH 1 (2009), p. 25 ff. for example, where the letters of a German soldier (who was later killed) to his fiancée play a decisive role in the narrative strategy of the article. On Stalingrad and the Soviet and German memory culture cf. Bernd Wegner: Der Mythos „Stalingrad“ (19. November 1942 - 2. Februar 1943). In: Gerd Krumeich/Susanne Brandt (eds.): Schlachtenmythen. Köln/Weimar/Wien 2003, p. 183–197.

39 See for example AOH 1 (2009), p. 25 ff.: ‘It was a desperate battle, a nightmare, which has given the name Stalingrad an almost mythological status in the history of war – like Waterloo, Cannae or Verdun. Stalingrad is the symbol for the turning point, for intransigence and barbarity, for tremendous destruction and at the same time also for a kind of epic greatness. The soldiers and commanders of both sides were fully aware of this back then.’ In H 12 (2009), p. 4, in the editors’ answer to a letter regarding the strong presence of Hitler, the battle of Stalingrad is put on one level with the Holocaust: ‘Even today names such as Stalingrad or Auschwitz seem strong and laden with destiny’.

40 Bombing of Dresden: H 14 (2001); Flight and expulsion: H 12 (2007); Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff: H 16 (2010).

41 On the German discourse cf. e.g. Elke Heckner: Televising tainted history: Recent TV docudrama (Dresden, March of Millions, Die Gustloff) and the charge of revisionism. In: New German Critique 38 (2011), p. 65–84 or Christoph Kleßmann: 1945 – welthistorische Zäsur und „Stunde Null“. Version: 1.0. In: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 15.10.2010, URL: (1.8.2014). The influence of the German discourse is e.g. apparent if German books or websites are indicated as further reading suggestions (Flight and expulsion, H 12 (2007); Gustloff, H 16 (2010)). Guido Knopp (some of whose books have been translated into Danish) is mentioned several times. The broadcast of the TV two-part film ‘Die Gustloff’ on one of the main German channels, ZDF, is announced on one full page (H 2 (2008), ZDF can be received in many Danish households; many films have Danish subtitles). Film suggestions on the Second World War and National Socialism include films such as ‘Das Boot’, ‘Downfall’ (‘Der Untergang’) or Vilsmaiers ‘Stalingrad’ (AOH 4 (2008); AOH 2 (2001)).

42 Cf. Maartje Abbenhuis/Sara Buttsworth: Introduction: The mundanity of evil: Everyday nazism in post-war popular culture. In: Idem (note 3), p. XIII–XL, p. XIX ff.

43 Cf. Kingsepp (note 3), p. 40 ff.

44 These films are also part of film suggestions in ALT OM HISTORIE (cf. note 41).

45 On these categories in the context of masculinity research cf. Anthony Synnott: Re-thinking men: Heroes, villains and victims. Burlington 2009.

46 Cf. Wolfgang Schmale: Geschichte der Männlichkeit in Europa (1450–2000). Köln 2003. On the concept of hegemonic masculinity cf. Raewyn W. Connell: Masculinities. Cambridge 1995. On the concept of masculinity of soldiers in national socialism cf. Frank Werner: „Hart müssen wir hier draußen sein“. Soldatische Männlichkeit im Vernichtungskrieg 1941–1944. In: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 34 (2008), p. 5–40.

47 Cf. Thompson (note 3). Many of the (American) participants described in Thompson’s study stage themselves as members of the Wehrmacht or SS. They do so at significant financial cost and in time-consuming ways.

48 That men are overrepresented amongst Second World War enthusiasts is e.g. suggested by the results of the studies by Thompson (note 3) and Kingsepp (note 3). This does not exclude the possibility that women may also find such concepts of masculinity fascinating.

49 Press release Bonnier Publications A/S (note 1).

50 E.g. James V. Wertsch: Collective memory and narrative templates. In: Social Research: An International Quarterly 75 (2008), p. 133–156.

51 Cawelti (note 26), p. 297. The term ‘formula’ is defined by Cawelti in the following way: ‘As we have seen, the world of formula can be described as an archetypal story pattern embodied in the images, symbols, themes, and myths of a particular culture. As shaped by the imperatives of the experience of escape, these formulaic worlds are constructions that can be described as moral fantasies constituting an imaginary world in which the audience can encounter a maximum of excitement without being confronted with an overpowering sense of the insecurity and danger that accompany such forms of excitement in reality […]. Three of the literary devices most often used by formulaic writers of all kinds can serve as an illustration of this sort of artistic skill: suspense, identification, and the creating of a slightly removed, imaginary world.’ (p. 16 ff.) Archetypical patterns which are realised in formula include, according to Cawelti, e.g. ‘adventure’, ‘mystery’ and ‘melodrama’.

52 Phenomena of ‘cosmopolitization’ (Ulrich Beck) have so far been discussed particularly in connection with Holocaust memory, cf. above note 17. On the relation between the concepts of transnationalism and cosmopolitanism cf. Victor Roudometof: Transnationalism, cosmopolitanism and glocalization. In: Current Sociology 53 (2005), p. 113–135.