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Introduction to the First Issue of Frankfurter Hefte (April 1946)

A year after the end of the war, sociologist and political scientist Eugen Kogon and journalist Walter Dirks founded the journal Frankfurter Hefte. In the late 1940s and 1950s, Frankfurter Hefte developed into one of the most influential socio-political journals in West Germany, with an average circulation of 60,000. Both publishers came from a left-leaning Christian milieu and were critical of Konrad Adenauer’s CDU. Kogon had been interned in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939, and in 1946 he published the book Der SS-Staat [The SS State], the first fundamental analysis of the National Socialist system.

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To our readers!

We write these words thoughtfully, “To our readers.” Who will not be among them? We stand within a circle that knows us; but from it we go to the people, into the world, into the unknown. It is an adventure, like everything that is starting new today.

Will the teacher who has a changed youth before him pick up our journal to feel the current of ideas meant to renew Germany? The returned soldier, who, on the street and in train stations, has looked for traces of sympathy and understanding with tired yet attentive eyes? The student with many unspoken demands, needs, expectations? The cleric who knows he is standing on a rock but feels the waters around his feet? The woman who was adrift in the “folk community” and is now seeking new ground? Or her sister, who offered resistance out of the inerrancy of feminine feeling and is now seeking the surety of understanding to go with the certainty of the heart? The politician with the great aspirations and the nagging doubt in his heart; the worker with the pronounced party thinking and the discerning eye for utopias and possibilities; the entrepreneur who is eager engage in his customary activity and who has pessimistic feelings in view of the rubble that surrounds him, in view of the declining rather than growing reserves? The intellectual who believes in the power of the mind, and the “practitioner” who only wants to see “what the theoreticians are writing about“? Or will those who are merely hungry for reading reach for our journals because books are in short supply and simply leaf through them with curiosity and skepticism?

We know nothing about our readers, who are, after all, to become our partners, our associates, our friends.

But maybe that’s a good thing. Already determined not to tell them what they want to hear, we will not show any false concern for them, but will say what we believe is right and necessary. Not infrequently this will sound harsh and uncomfortable. And it won’t always be easy, for some things and nexuses of this dark earth and this especially dark present are complicated and cannot be made clear like a primer for everyone who doesn’t understand. We will make every effort at clarity, but the reader will likewise have to make an effort. The common phrase, the nebulous word, which people took in so easily and quickly allowed to evaporate again from the brain, has clogged the atmosphere of thinking. We cannot breathe in it, we want good visibility and a precisely functioning mind – the living heart that beats in the rhythm of the times for eternal goals is self-explanatory.

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