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Robert Schmelzer

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Robert Schmelzer (* 7 March 1914 in Herne; † 3 March 1996 in Kirchhundem) was a German journalist and editor of the daily newspaper Westfalenpost.

Origin

Robert Schmelzer’s parents both came from Maumke, now Lennestadt. As a train driver, the father was employed in the Ruhr area. However, the parents intended to move back to the Sauerland, and the father therefore applied for his transfer to Altenhundem, now Lennestadt. Since this transfer did not take place immediately, Robert Schmelzer was already quartered in advance in the Sauerland, namely in 1919 with his maternal grandmother in Maumke. There Robert Schmelzer attended elementary school. In 1924 he moved to the Rektoratschule in Altenhundem, in the same year the family moved there into one of the newly built railway workers’ houses. In the years 1928/29 Robert Schmelzer had to suspend school attendance due to illness. Afterwards he attended the grammar school in Attendorn as a boarding student. He finished his school career in 1934 with the Abitur.[1]

Professional career

Robert Schmelzer took up a volunteer position at a small Catholic newspaper in Alzey after graduating from high school.[2] This was followed by studies in Munich, Cologne and Berlin with the newspaper scholar Emil Dovifat. Afterwards he helped him to get a job at the Foreign Office, because an editor’s position at Catholic newspapers was not available. On 1 May 1937 he joined the NSDAP.[2]

In 1940 he moved as editor to the Brüsseler Zeitung, the German-language occupation newspaper in occupied Belgium that served as a mouthpiece for the military administration under Alexander von Falkenhausen. The editor-in-chief of the newspaper was Heinrich Tötter, who came from Altenhundem and whose newspaper science seminar in Cologne Robert Schmelzer had attended as a student. Schmelzer built up the Berlin office of the Brussels paper and worked his way up to deputy chief editor until the paper was discontinued on September 2, 1944.[3]

In 1949 Robert Schmelzer became editor-in-chief of the Ruhr-Nachrichten in Dortmund[4]. This formed from 1961 on an editorial community with the Westfalenpost, so that Schmelzer was from this time also its editor-in-chief. In 1967 he went to the Frankfurter Neue Presse as editor-in-chief and worked there until 1979.[5]

In 1969, Robert Schmelzer, in his capacity as editor-in-chief of the Frankfurter Neue Presse, brokered high-profile appointments between KGB operatives and German politicians, notably Egon Bahr, then Secretary of State in the Federal Chancellery[6][7] and the then CDU chairman Rainer Barzel.[8]

From 1980 to 1987 Robert Schmelzer was editor of the Westfalenpost. During this time he published his diary under the abbreviation “OC”, daily short columns that met with widespread reader interest.

Honors

Robert Schmelzer received the Federal Cross of Merit First Class in 1975 and the Grand Federal Cross of Merit in 1979. He was also awarded the Catholic Journalism Prize.[9]

Criticism

In his later years, Robert Schmelzer came under criticism for his work at the Brussels newspaper. In autobiographical publications he portrayed this publication and its activities as being directed against the Nazi regime. He himself had gotten into trouble for writing in an editorial, “Hitler is the most defeated general of all time.” In fact, he was rather uncritical of the regime in his reporting and he used the anti-Semitic vocabulary of those in power. Schmelzer was resented for not accurately portraying his role as a journalist during the Nazi era in his memoirs.

Works

  • My review – Dance with Mrs. Minister, Josef Grobbel Verlag, Fredeburg, 1984, ISBN 3922659276

Literature

  • Andreas Gabriel: Political Culture and Nazi Past. The conflict about the journalist Robert Schmelzer – a sociological investigation. Written term paper for the Magister Artium. Finnentrop 1994
  • Theo Hundt: Robert Schmelzer 70 years old. In: Heimatstimmen aus dem Kreis Olpe. 136. Folge, No. 3, 1984, p. 145f.
  • Robert Schmelzer: My homelands. In: Heimatstimmen aus dem Kreis Olpe. 150. Folge, No. 1, 1988, p. 3ff.
  • Biographisches Handbuch des deutschen Auswärtigen Dienstes 1871-1945. vol. 4: S. Published by the Federal Foreign Office, Historical Service, editors: Bernd Isphording, Gerhard Keiper, Martin Kröger. Schöningh, Paderborn et al. 2012, ISBN 978-3-506-71843-3, p. 99

Individual references

  1. Robert Schmelzer: My homelands. In: Heimatstimmen aus dem Kreis Olpe. 150. Folge, No. 1, 1988, p. 3ff
  2. a b Biographical Handbook of the German Foreign Service 1871-1945. vol. 4, p. 99
  3. Andreas Gabriel: Political Culture and Nazi Past. The conflict about the journalist Robert Schmelzer – a sociological investigation. Written term paper for the Magister Artium. Finnentrop 1994
  4. DER SPIEGEL 16/1964, Robert Schmelzer
  5. Friedrich-W. Cordt: Home chronicle from January 1 to March 31, 1996. in: Heimatstimmen aus dem Kreis Olpe. 183. Folge, No. 2 1996. p. 182
  6. FOCUS No. 6 (1995), Bahr’s Secret Pact with the KGB
  7. DER SPIEGEL 7/1995 Covenant with the Devil
  8. DER SPIEGEL 8/1995 Thinking of the Unthinkable
  9. Robert Schmelzer: Dance with Mrs. Minister sometime. My review. S. 94