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Curriculum vitae of Fritz Michael Gerlich

Fritz Michael Gerlich (1926)
Fritz Michael Gerlich (1926)
Fritz Gerlich was born on the 15th of February, 1883 in Stettin, Germany and died on the 30th of June, 1934 in the Dachau concentration camp just north of Munich, Germany.

Fritz was the oldest of three sons to merchant and fish-trader, Paul Gerlich, and his wife Therese. The boys grew up in a strict, Calvinist home where they enjoyed relative financial stability. After the untimely and suspicious death of their father, however, the Gerlichs were left with little to sustain their social stature.

Therese Gerlich applied all of her energy and talents toward saving the honor of her sons by providing them with a good education. After the boys completed their schooling at Stettin’s traditional, liberal arts High School, “Marienstift”, Fritz Gerlich began studying Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Munich. In his third semester, Fritz followed the wishes of his mother and transferred to the University of Leipzig. After 6 month he returned to Munich, abandoned Natural Sciences and continued his collegiate education majoring in History with a minor in Anthropology. To finance his studies, Fritz worked part-time as an advertisement designer for the Kathreiner Malt Coffee Company. After finishing his studies with the graduation to PhD, Gerlich started a public servant career at the Bavarian National Archives.

Gerlich’s health prevented him from having to join the German army during the first World War, but the events of the conflict acted to reinforce his already well-developed German patriotism. Soon, Gerlich - who had once been close to Friedrich Naumann’s liberal „Nationalsoziale Partei", and who had also functioned as Secretary for the Liberal Union of German Workers ("Liberaler Arbeiterverein") in Munich - changed his political affiliation to the imperialistic "Alldeutsche Partei". Together with Karl Earl and Count of Bothmer, he founded the magazine Die Wirklichkeit („ Deutsche Zeitschrift für Ordnung und Recht“) in Spring 1917. After a few months this radical, nationalistic weekly magazine was prohibited.

At the age of 37, Gerlich was offered a job as Editor-in-Chief of the “Münchner Neueste Nachrichten”. His task was to “lead the newspaper toward its conversion into a bastion for national restructuring and anti-socialist, republican politics”. Under his leadership, the “Münchner Neueste Nachrichten” developed into the most important newspaper of Bavaria. In close cooperation with Paul Nikolaus Cossmann, the representative of the industry captains, that owned the newspaper, Gerlich wrote articles in a conservative and nationalistic manner.

Gerlich in 1923 met three times privately with Hitler. However, and after a failed coup of Hitler in 1923 to overthrow the government, the journalist Gerlich developed to one of the most vehement and outspoken opponents of the National Socialist Movements.

Step by step the “Münchner Neuesten Nachrichten” took a politically more moderate line by for example supporting the balancing European politics of foreign secretary and chancellor Gustav Stresemann.

In 1927 Gerlich left the newspaper and returned to his job at the Bavarian National Archives. After meeting Therese Neumann of Konnersreuth, a famous mystically gifted farmers daughter at this time, he converted to catholizism. A circle of friends that had developed around Therese Neumann gave rise to the idea of founding a political weekly newspaper in order to dispute the left and right political extremism in Germany. Supported by a wealthy patron, Gerlich was able to overtake the weekly newspaper “Der Illustrierte Sonntag”, which was renamed to “Der Gerade Weg” (the straight way) in 1932.

In his newspaper Gerlich fought against the political heresies of his time: communism, national socialism and anti-Semitism. The dispute with the rising Nacism became more and more the central focus of Gerlich and his writing. The emphatic, sometimes shrill intonation of his journalistic battle earned the newspaper a growing spectrum of readers. At the end of 1932 the circulation crossed the line of 100.000.

With the Nazis seizing power in the beginning of 1933 the fate of Fritz Gerlich was sealed. On March 9th the editorial staff of “Der Gerade Weg” was attacked by SA and Gerlich was taken into “Schutzhaft” (protective detention) after severe torturing. On the occasion of the so called “Röhmputsch” (June 30th, 1934) he was deported to the KZ Dachau and immediately assassinated.