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Among the forms of popular protest that accompanied the 1848 revolution in Germany, satire was among the most widespread and flamboyant. Such satirical literature appeared in many forms, including pamphlets, posters, and broadsides. Among the most conspicuous and enduring expressions of this satirical spirit was a periodical entitled Kladeradatsch Albert Hofmann, who later became its publisher, and David Kalisch, a well known author of light comedies, founded the periodical in Berlin. According to legend, the inspiration for the title (German slang for "crash" or "kerboom") came to these founding fathers when a dog scam pered through a tavern, upsetting many bottles and glasses. The first issue, which appeared May 7, 1848, hailed the crashing downfall of the old system in apocalyptic language. "The time's turned upside down," screamed the first title page. "The wrath of Jehovah thunders through world history...Princes are overthrown...Thrones have fallen...priests have been murdered....barricades have been built...Kladderadatsch!"

Kladderadatsch was only one of the new journals founded in response to the lifting of censorship in March, 1848: one account estimated that more than one hundred journals appeared in the first year. Many were satirical, using humor to express hitherto repressed popular discontent and to mold political consciousness among people of all educational levels. Kladderadatsch soon became known for its trademark, the impertinently grinning face of a Berlin street urchin. Although Kalisch wrote the first issue almost single-handedly, the staff soon gained three important new members--writers Ernst Dohm and Rudolf Löwenstein, and cartoonist Wilhelm Scholz. The Hofmann Verlag continued to publish the journal, and Albert Hofmann, the owner of the press, also influenced editorial policy. Kladderadatsch appeared weekly. The first issue appeared in 4000 copies, which were sold out on the first day; the publishers soon printed more in response to popular demand. Exact circulation figures for this period are unavailable.

Three members of the editorial board--Kalisch, Löwenstein and Dohm--were of Jewish background, and allusions to Jewish culture and religion were conspicuous in the satirical imagery of the early numbers. The periodical's satirical style also showed the influence of traditional Berlin humor: dry, cynical, laconic, and irreverent. A favorite feature was the weekly conversation between two lower-middle-class Berliners, Müller and Schulze, on the events of the day in Berlin dialect. Another regular feature mocked the military establishment and the aristocracy through conversations between two reactionary Junkers, Prudelwitz and Strudelwitz.

The political message of the early issues affirmed the radicalism of popular, democratic movements. "We are traitors and king-haters! We are robbers, murderers and canaille!" asserted a headline. Thus the satirists were soon disenchanted with the Frankfurt assembly, in which moderates outnumbered radicals. The image of the timid "professorial parliament," still a cliche of historical scholarship, originated with Kladderadatsch and other satirical publications, which developed the figure of "Herr Piepmeyer" to mock the political caution and timidity of the German middle class. The editors, also ardent nationalists, deplored the divisive effect of local and class interests on the assembly. They opposed the Assembly's decision to offer the crown of a unified Germany to the Prussian monarch. When Prussian troops reoccupied Berlin in November 1848, the humorists protested by showing Prudelwitz and Strudelwitz, the reactionary aristocrats, sneering at the defeated and passive population. "Dammit, what a wonderful sight. We thought we'd find the canaille behind barricades, but the stupid oafs just stood around, as if turned to stone." General Wrangel, the military governor of Berlin, forbade the sale of the magazine; Albert Hofmann, the publisher, was forced to smuggle copies into the city under his overcoat. In 1851, some scathing comments on the Treaty of Olmütz brought Kalisch and Löwenstein short sentences in Spandau prison.

Despite these hardships, Kladderadatsch, alone among all of the satirical journals founded in Berlin in 1848, survived the defeat of the revolution and the reimposition of censorship. During the 1850s, it appealed to patriotic sentiment by aggressively attacking the French emperor, Napoleon III. Beginning in 1862, Bismarck became a frequent subject of satire and caricatur. Until the victory over Austria in 1866, the editors criticized him aggressively as a reactionary Junker and would-be dictator; after 1866, he was portrayed more positively, though not uncritically.

The editors, though opposing the feudal structure of the German Empire, enthusiastically supported Bismarck's "Kulturkampf" to suppress the Catholic Church. They responded to the rise of the Social Democratic Party with great hostility. Thus the editorial policy of Kladderadatsch reflected the general development of German liberalism from its revolutionary phase in 1848 to its more moderate and respectable phase under the empire. Löwenstein held the position of editor in chief until his retirement in 1886; long-time staff member Johannes Trojan held the position until 1909, when Paul Warnke replaced him. Kladderadatsch, which declined greatly in influence and circulation during the 1920s, ceased publication in 1944.

Ann T. Allen


Ann Taylor Allen Satire and Society in Wilhelmine Germany: Kladderadatsch and Simplicissimus, 1890-1914 (Lexington, Kentucky, 1984).

Liesel Hartenstein ed. Bismarck-Album des Kladderadatsch (Berlin, 1890).

Albert Hofmann, ed. Facsimile Querschnitt durch den Kladderadatsch (Munich, 1965).

Der Kladderadatsch und seine Leute (Berlin, 1898)

Eugen Kalkschmidt, Deutscher Freiheit und deutscher Witz: Ein Kapitel Revoluti ons-Satire aus der Zeit von 1830-1950 (Berlin, 1928).

Klaus Schulz, Kladderadatsch: Ein bürgerliches Witzblatt von der Märzrevolution bis zum Nationalsozialismus, 1848-1944 (Bochum, 1975).

Mary Lee Townsend, "Adolf Glasbrenner and the Rediscovery of the Prussian Vormärz (1815-48), Central European History 20 (March, 1987): 29-57.

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