nazi typography

shivat's picture

Anyone knows what was the main typeface that was used during WWII and Nazi?

ralf h.'s picture

If you mean the typical German blackletter typefaces created at that time. Here are some of the most used:

Tannenberg (1933–1935), Erich Meyer
National (1934), Walter Höhnisch
Element (1934), Max Bittrof
Potsdam (1934), Robert Golpon
Gotenburg (1935), Friedrich Heinrichen

PabloImpallari's picture

They had a book specifying every detail:
http://uploading.com/files/get/82d26574/Organisationsbuch_der_NSDAP_3._A...

Looks like National

hrant's picture

The most "distilled" style was Schaftstiefelgrotesk (AKA "jackboot grotesk").
http://typophile.com/node/12130
http://luc.devroye.org/fonts-61629.html

I would consider Tannenberg the best representative.

BTW the style is now used by Neo-Nazis:
http://aryanwear.com/index.php/default/

However the Nazis later denounced blackletter and switched to Roman.

hhp

J Weltin's picture

And to Futura, much to the dislike of Paul Renner …

Nick Shinn's picture

After the war, Jan Tschichold did a volte-face against Modernism, considering it to be a totalitarian exercise in social engineering, and disliking his previous role as its führer.

And who are today’s exponents of totalitarian typography?
Microsoft of course, with a corporate rather than political agenda, distributing Arial, Comic Sans, Verdana and Georgia to the world as Core TrueType web faces.
But that situation has receded with the introduction of @font-face.

John Hudson's picture

Nick, what's your source for Tschichold considering Modernism as you describe? In The Form of the Book, as I recall, he explains his turn away from asymmetric typography in terms of how difficult it is to do well and hence how it is ill-suited to design specification of the kind he was working on for Penguin. [This is ironic considering the association of specification with modernism in other areas: in essence, Tschichold was claiming that Modernist typography was too craft-like, requiring a developed sensitivity and experienced 'feel' for the best results.]

hrant's picture

Accusing MS of fascism is really out there. To me MS is one of the best things to happen to typography in the past decade or two.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

You don’t think the TrueType core web fonts were totalitarian?
(And I made the point metaphorically, comparing a corporate monopoly to a political one: 10 years ago Internet Explorer had over 95% of the world market in browsers, hence the dominance of the Core TT fonts, bundled with IE.)
They were just about the only text fonts used on the Web until @fontface, and that as a result of Microsoft's market dominance, particularly with its web browser after Netscape had been put to bed.
Sure, Microsoft has done lots of good for typography, but as they say, Mussolini made the trains run on time.

hrant's picture

But the Core Fonts didn't replace anything, they created a new solution. It was like adding plumbing to a frontier town.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

A company town.

shivat's picture

Thanks everyone for your comments/information. My main theme for this paper I'm writing is the influence and development of typeface during WWII as a tool for propaganda and its influence. So basically I am going to consider the following points:
-improvement of type industry
-effect of typefaces in delivering propaganda
-Psychological effect of particular typefaces they are using and the reason they designed those specific typefaces
Basically I'm trying to create a timeline.
@Ralf h. : Thanks very much for the information and the dates. Definitely helps a lot.

Nick Shinn's picture

John, I can’t locate that quote right now, it was perhaps in the Ruari McLean biography.

Rob O. Font's picture

"You don’t think the TrueType core web fonts were totalitarian [Microsoft's market dominance-related squat]?"

Hu?

In 1986, Adobe published their first PS printer boards, which at Steve Jobs insistence, contained Linotype fonts, and one they made themselves.

Then in '88 or so, Apple relicensed the same designs on the same widths from Linotype, for TT development in Mac OS VII.

Then in '90, or so, MS licensed the same designs on the same widths from Monotype, in TT for Windows 3.0.

Then, the web was founded in '94 based on default fonts and them yoyos would have used anything.

Sounds like democracy to me.

Nick Shinn's picture

Posters were the primary medium of graphic propaganda.
And during WWII they used lettering rather than typefaces.
Germany wasn’t the only country with an official program of propaganda posters.

http://typophile.com/node/36966

Nick Shinn's picture

Sounds like democracy to me.

95+% of the browser market sounds like monopoly to me, which can happen in a democracy.
That is why Verdana and Georgia were everywhere.

John Hudson's picture

Verdana and Georgia were everywhere because Microsoft's license for them enabled them to be very widely distributed independently of the MS browser, including by third parties. If anything, the distribution model for Verdana and Georgia undermined MS's browser share, since they could be used to display text of the same quality in any browser.

shivat's picture

Can we say that their typeface reflected Nazi's official ideology?

Nick Shinn's picture

Nonetheless, they were distributed with IE, and 95% of browsers in use were IE.
Therefore web designers were sure that 95% of their target users had the fonts.

Nick Shinn's picture

Can we say that their typeface reflected Nazi's official ideology?

Perhaps, but you would have to do so in relation to the concept of Völkisch.
But note that the Blackletter style is not inherently fascist, only in conjunction with its traditional use in Germany. And as I suggested in the linked thread above, because the communists had adopted the modernist sans as their style.
Elsewhere in non-fascist countries, they had their own folksy culture, such as Little England with its Olde Shoppes with “Old English” blackletter.
In the Anglosphere, blackletter was popular for newspaper mastheads, e.g.

hrant's picture

Shiva, make sure to get a copy of Bain and Shaw's "Blackletter: Type and National Identity".

Blackletter style is not inherently fascist

On the other hand the rigidity of Schaftstiefelgrotesk does fit...
It's hard to imagine the Nazis going for something round and plump!

hhp

Werfer's picture

Blackletter typefaces have a rich and beautiful history. It always makes me very sad to see people associate them with WWII and WWII only. That is soooo unfair, and these typefaces do not deserve such ignorance.

shivat's picture

Thanks hrant, I will definitely use it for my paper, the other book I'm also using for the research is Paul Renner: the art of typography, have you heard of it?

hrant's picture

I've handled it (to observe Burke's execution of optical scaling) but not read it.

Pike, I agree. That's why I always mention that the Nazis were in fact disloyal to blackletter.

hhp

Joshua Langman's picture

You can see some excerpts here of Hitler's edict wherein he banned blackletter in favor of Roman type:

http://www.quora.com/Typefaces/Is-it-true-that-Hitlers-Third-Reich-favor...

The whole letter is reproduced in Bain and Shaw's book Hrant mentioned.

quadibloc's picture

@J Weltin:
And to Futura, much to the dislike of Paul Renner …

Indeed. The instructions inside the lid of the Enigma are in Futura.

John Hudson's picture

some excerpts here of Hitler's edict

Technically Martin Bormann's edict, although presumably at Hitler's direction.

Rob O. Font's picture

Nick... Depends on who made the decision. 95%? Hmmm.

J Weltin's picture

@ John Hudson
Nick, what's your source for Tschichold considering Modernism as you describe? In The Form of the Book, as I recall, he explains his turn away from asymmetric typography in terms of how difficult it is to do well and hence how it is ill-suited to design specification of the kind he was working on for Penguin.

I read this from Tschichold, too. It might have been part of the famous Bill ./. Tschichold dispute. I am not sure. Need to loaf through a lot of magazines to find this source.

Werfer's picture

I never really understood this edict anyway. After all, Hitler was a racist, and he wanted to promote everything German as being superior. Why, then, would he ban something so obviously viewed upon as German (although not true as such, as there was no Germany before 1871, and blackletter fonts were used in many countries all over Europe during the course of history), and go with something relating to Latin origin (the Romans, and therefore, from his perverted point of view, the wrong race).

I mean, Stalin, who was not only a communist, but also a nationalist, would never have replaced Cyrillic with Mongolian now, would he?

I heard that somehow Hitler thought that especially the Schwabacher was created by a Jew, which later turned out not to be true - can anyone enlighten me on that point?

@hrant - thanks for pointing that out. I just LOVE Blackletter typefaces, as well as old German handwritings, and usually designs containing such fonts are being rejected because of "Nazi associations" :-/

Werfer's picture

By the way, I am thinking of making a Sütterlin handwriting font, simply because I cannot find a really nice one. Anyone have any suggestions - maybe I simply wasn't looking at the right types.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

> -Psychological effect of particular typefaces they are using and the reason they designed those specific typefaces

Our ancestors have been driven into madness by diabolical type.
That is one of the dark secrets about WW II.

And the horror is still amongst us

J Weltin's picture

@Werfer

The Nazis didn’t want to use blackletters anymore because the rest of Europe didn’t use them much and switched a while before to Roman letters. After all, the Nazis wanted to be the most modern people in the world, so blackletters did not mirror their superiority. That they originated from the Jews was just a pretense to get rid of the blackletters as soon as possible. The Jews were blamed for everything in Nazi Germany. There is no blackletter tradition in the Jewish script, as far as i know. It was only a cheap excuse – and a ridiculous one.

quadibloc's picture

@Werfer:
Why, then, would he ban something so obviously viewed upon as German

The usual answer was that using Fraktur made German propaganda unreadable to foreign-language audiences. So they made up a story about Fraktur really being a "Schwabacher-Jewish" design.

Of course, that begs a question: why on Earth not just continue using Fraktur for German, and Roman type for printing in other languages? But I think the answer is clear: Germany under the Nazis was such an absolute dictatorship that it was not enough to make a more sensible rule; everything had to be black and white, all-or-nothing, to fit with the desired mentality of obedience without thought.

Michel Boyer's picture

I never really understood this edict anyway. [Werfer]

You can find on Wikipedia a statement that Hitler would have made as early as 1934 in the Reichstag; here is the English translation from the article Antiqua Fraktur dispute

Your alleged gothic internalisation does not fit well in this age of steel and iron, glass and concrete, of womanly beauty and manly strength, of head raised high and intention defiant... In a hundred years, our language will be the European language. The nations of the east, the north and the west will, to communicate with us, learn our language. The prerequisite for this: The script called Gothic is replaced by the script we have called Latin so far...

For the German version, see Erlass zur alleinigen Unterrichtung der lateinischen Schreibschrift als neuer „deutscher Normalschrift“.

k.l.'s picture

@ Pablo Impallari
This "Organisationshandbuch" is exactly what its title says, an overview of the structure and subdivisions of this party. It shows emblems etc. by which these are identified. This does not make it a design manual though. (Even if e.g. Mr Heller thinks so.)

@ John Hudson
Hello John, Nick is right about Tschichold's remark about New Typography and totalitarianism. See the chapter "Exile" in Christopher Burke's "Active Literature": "Its [New Typography's] attitude conforms most particularly to the German bent for the absolute, and its military will to order and claim to sole domination reflect those fearful components of the German character that unleashed Hitler's rule and the Second World War. This became clear to me only much later, in democratic Switzerland." (P.293. From Tschichold's "Glaube und Wirklichkeit" which was part of the Tschichold/Bill dispute as Jürgen said.)

J Weltin's picture

Thanks Karsten for confirming that i remembered it right (no searching for magazines …).

Jens Kutilek's picture

Andreas Stötzner: «Our ancestors have been driven into madness by diabolical type. That is one of the dark secrets about WW II.»

I sure hope Guido Knopp and Christian Brückner will enlighten us on this matter in their current ZDF history soap opera «Geheimnisse des Zweiten Weltkriegs» :) Maybe Lovecraft was right in that certain shapes are intrinsically evil after all ...

John Hudson's picture

Thanks, Karsten.

Tschichold's comment seems to me to be really about the spirit under which the New Typography was undertaken: the radical, ideological absolutism that not only puts forward something new but feels it necessary to denigrate that which came before. I don't think this is a particularly German characteristic or necessarily linked to totalitarianism, but I can understand how the experience of the Nazi years would have made it seem so to Tschichold.

It raises the question, of course, whether something like the New Typography could develop, as a set of design principles resulting in a graphic style, without this absolutism?

William Berkson's picture

I think the amusing thing about Tschichold is that he was equally dogmatic in his modernist and anti-modernist phases, at least in theory. In practice, he was a real master in whatever style he worked in. I think others did adopt the modernist style and adapt it. Didn't this evolve into the 'international style' of the '60s? It seems like every style has its fanatics, who use it badly or where it doesn't work, and eventually drive it out of fashion...

quadibloc's picture

@Andreas Stötzner:
Our ancestors have been driven into madness by diabolical type.

I assume this is levity, even if devotion to Fraktur may be held by some to be a symptom of the madness of exaggerated nationalism.

But I know that it is claimed that many of the German people in the past were driven into madness by overly strict child-rearing practices; the book Soul Murder, for example, discussed this.

EDIT: The one by Morton Schatzman, not the one by Leonard Sheingold.

k.l.'s picture

Tschichold was a black/white kind of person throughout his life, and a pretty self-confident one.*
With this in mind, it indeed helps to not take every single word or argument too seriously (designers and arguments aren't necessarily best friends anyway) and read his comments as saying something about a certain spirit, as John said. I think there is something to it, at a more abstract level, in that New Typography and Nazism are 'movements' and as such share some common features.

* Bill, appalled by what he considered as a reactionary move of Tschichold, started his attack on Tschichold by referring to him as "one of the known typography theorists". Tschichold, in his reply, was not shy to point out that he is not "one of" but "by my best knowledge the only one".
(Today I found a copy of Bosshard's Bill kontra Tschichold. Bosshard's essay and Hochuli's shorter afterword provide some information about the context, including some funny quotes from a letter of Bill to Paul Rand about the matter. Recommended.)

danielsabino's picture

How is the acceptance of them in Germany? These kind of typeface is prohibited? How far the connection with Nazis is a problem? I feel that outside Germany there's no problem using them.

hrant's picture

From what I've observed in the past few years even inside Germany things have been -thankfully- easing up.

hhp

ralf h.'s picture

Of course no typefaces are forbidden in Germany! :-)

Still, the association of blackletter and Nazi regime remains and that’s what makes them hard to use.
Seeing an old rural tavern sign set in blackletter is no problem, as well as a fancy and colorful parfum ad or CD cover.
But if you set a regular black headline in a blackletter typeface, it's hard for a German not to make the association with radical right politics.
I am currently setting a German typography magazine with blackletter headlines. Still feels strange. Even though I and my readers know that the connection of blackletter and Nazi regime is purely artificial. I gave the headlines a blue gradient to relieve my discomfort. ;-) This way it looks less like 1930s propaganda.

danielsabino's picture

Yeah, I understand. But that's really sad once Blackletters are (to my taste) more beautiful when in black color. I hope this feeling disappear in future German generations. The more we use it in different contexts, the faster it will disappear. Let's free those beautiful letterforms ;)

danielsabino's picture

Note: in my first post I was referring specifically to those "jackboot grotesk", not Blackletters in general.

John Hudson's picture

I gave the headlines a blue gradient to relieve my discomfort. ;-) This way it looks less like 1930s propaganda.

The design of the book Fraktur mon amour also cleverly subverted the National Socialist associations of blackletter.

danielsabino's picture

Well remembered, but this is also sad once this book is in German language only and they have no plans to translate it to english. Even so I am willing to buy it. An Oscar for anyone to translate it.

Richard Fink's picture

All the frantic fascist font-captains, united in common hatred of the common people and horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to typefaces to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way!

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