The Poison Kitchen

The story of a group of brave German journalists who tried to take down Hitler.

Article written by Graham Fuller and Originally Published in on November 14, 2012

The story of the intrepid journalists of the Munich Post newspaper, who for nearly 13 years waged a tireless campaign against Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party (later the Nazi Party), is to be made into a film.

“The Poison Kitchen,” reports The Wrap, will be adapted by the British novelist Philip Kerr from the chapter of that name in Ron Rosenbaum’s 1998 book “Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil.”

The film is to be directed by Robert Schwentke (“Tattoo,” “The Time-Traveler’s Wife,” “Red”) for the Munich-based Constantin Film.

Kerr is best known as the author of the 1989-91 Berlin Noir trilogy featuring Bernie Gunther, the melancholy Weimar Republic detective who has appeared in five subsequent Kerr novels. The author has also written children’s fiction under the name P.B. Kerr.

The title “The Poison Kitchen” comes from Hitler’s name for the Post’s editors and writers – among them Martin Gruber, Edmund Goldschagg, Julius Zerfass, and Erhard Auer — who relentlessly “cooked up” what he considered “slanders and poison-pen journalism” against him.

Wrote Rosenbaum: “They were the first to tangle with him, the first to ridicule him, the first to investigate him, the first to expose the seamy underside of his party, the murderous criminal behavior masked by its pretensions to being a political movement. They were the first to attempt to alert the world to the nature of the rough beast slouching towards Berlin.”

The brownshirted paramilitaries of the SA attached the Post’s offices for the first time during the Beer Hall Putsch of November 8-9, 1923.  The SA’s Shock Troops used rifle butts to smash windows and beat the staff. The editorial offices and pressroom were ransacked and the brownshirts burned newspapers, files, and socialist brochures in the street.

The Post regrouped, however. Rosenbaum discovered, in the paper’s surviving archives, articles published in 1931 that “foretold with astonishing precision all the successive stages and persecutions the Nazi Party was to take against the Jews in the period between 1933 and 1939,” including “removal of the Jews from the courts, from the civil service, the professions; police surveillance and property; detention and expulsion of ‘unwanted’ Jews; Nuremberg-type laws against intermarriage and sexual and social intercourse.”

The Post was the first organ to alert the world to Hitler’s Final Solution, reporting “for the final solution of the Jewish question it is proposed to use the Jews in Germany for slave labor or for cultivation of the German swamps administered by a special SS division.”

In 1932, the Post implicated Hitler in the death of his half-niece, Geli Raubal, and in 1933 reported on killings by Nazi death squads. Once Hitler became Reich Chancellor in January 1933, the paper was doomed. That March, all opposition papers were banned. The Post’s offices were gutted by the brownshirts and its editors and writers sent to concentration camps.

“There was something about communing with the actual crumbling copies of the newspaper . . . issues in which Hitler was a living figure stalking the pages, that served to give me a painfully immediate intimation of the maddeningly unbearable Cassandra-like frustration the Munich Post journalists must have felt,” Rosenbaum wrote. “They were the first to sense the dimensions of Hitler’s potential for evil — and to see the way the world ignored the desperate warnings in their work.”

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