Holtzbrinck & Bertelsmann: Agents of German Climate Imperialism
Written by William Walter Kay BA LL B
Climate Change dates to a 1970s Franco-German petroleum rationing initiative aimed at righting trade balances. In the 1980s it morphed into a petroleum and coal phase-out campaign ostensibly aimed at protecting Earth’s atmosphere from CO2 overload.
European climate campaigners seek to level the playing field between their resource-poor homelands and the Anglosphere’s natural energy superpowers. German-led states use Climate Change to enhance renewable energy and electro-mobility exports. Success hinges on controlling cultural assets within the Anglosphere.
In 1835 Carl Bertelsmann’s began printing hymnals, prayer-books and a faith-based Westphalian newspaper. Carl sowed and reaped Evangelical revivalism. His son Heinrich added romantic novels to their traditionalist oeuvre. Heinrich’s only child, Fredericka, married loyal employee, Johannes Mohn, who took over operations upon Heinrich’s passing.
Johannes’ son, Heinrich, was an early donor to the Nazis, as were his pastor and church. Heinrich joined the SS, as did his son Reinhard (1921-2009). Bertelsmann’s in-house theologian was pro-Nazi. Bertelsmann’s top-selling poet wrote the speech inaugurating the 1933 book-burnings.
With wares freighted with Volkish and anti-Semitic content, Bertelsmann became the Third Reich’s largest publisher. In 1943 they ‘sold’ 19 million books. They supplied special editions to the Wehrmacht and boosted profits by exploiting slave labor in Eastern Europe and Holland.
Post-WWII Bertelsmann stayed afloat partly by having hoarded paper but mainly by transferring control to Reinhard, whom Allied commanders found palatable. Reinhard spent much of WWII in a Kansas POW camp. Bertelsmann printed books commissioned by British intelligence.
Bertelsmann’s move into the Anglosphere began with the 1977-80 acquisition of Bantam Books. In 1986-7 they purchased Doubleday and opened a New York office. In 1998 they bought Random House. A 2013 merger hatched Penguin Random House; 75% owned by Bertelsmann, 25% by Pearson plc.
Penguin Random House, the world’s largest commercial book publisher, churns-out 15,000 titles a year for English and Spanish-language markets. Annual sales of print, audio and e-books exceed 600 million units. A 10,000-strong workforce harvests yearly yields of $3.8 billion.
The German market is supplied by Verlagsgruppe Random House, owner of 40 illustrious brands. Verlagsgruppe is Bertelsmann-owned, Penguin Random House-managed.
Bertelsmann operates behind 315 brands or “imprints.” These imprints are the putative “publishers” named on books’ information pages. Imprints tally the venerable houses captured by Bertelsmann (Viking, Knopf, Ebury, Hamish, Putnam, Ballantine, Puffin, DK and Vintage etc.).
Wholly-owned Bertelsmann subsidiary, Bertelsmann Printing Group, does all Bertelsmann’s printing; and prints catalogs and brochures for outside customers. In addition to German operations, Bertelsmann Printing owns one British, and five American, plants. Bertelsmann Printing has 8,200 employees and annual revenues of $1.8 billion.
Bertelsmann’s climate effort is multi-pronged. Regarding publishing, it has non-fiction and fiction fronts.
The total number of non-fiction global warming alarmist books issued by Bertelsmann probably tops a thousand. Recent months witnessed the roll-out of: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming (David Wallace-Wells); Climate Leviathan (Joel Wainwright); No Immediate Danger: Volume 1 of the Carbon Ideologies (William Vollmann); and the illustrated kids’ book: What is Climate Change? (Gail Herman). Releases come with book-tours and talk-show interviews; as were arranged for Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel.
Bertelsmann publishes alarmist supremo Bill McKibben’s works (End of Nature; Global Warming Reader etc.). They practically invented McKibben. They definitely invented Climate Central – a collective billed as: “the trusted source of information on all things climate-related” and generating collectibles like: Global Weirdness and Where is Climate Heading? Another Bertelsmann crew re-formatted US Global Change Research Program’s latest outpouring as: The Climate Report (2019).
More insidious is Bertelsmann climate fiction. Christened “cli-fi” by academics circa 2007, this genre consists of fictitious literature set in apocalyptic futures wracked by human-induced global warming. Since 2007, some 400 cli-fi novels, countless cli-fi short-stories, and a dozen successful cli-fi screenplays have spilled forth. Notable Bertelsmann contributions: The Water Knife (Paola Bacigalupi); Year of the Flood (Margaret Atwood – image, right); Green Earth (Kim Stanley Robinson), The Gracekeepers (Kirsty Logan), Gold Fame Citrus (Clare Vaye Walkins), and Solar (Ian McEwan).
Cli-fi was co-engineered with Holtzbrinck in whose catalogs one finds: The Dry (Jane Harper), The City in the Middle of the Night (Charlie Jane Anders), Odds Against Tomorrow (Nathaniel Rich), and Green Like Dying (Rouxi Chen) etc.
Such pulp is bought in tonnage by librarians. Cli-fi potboilers are required reading in high school and university lit classes where they melt into millions of malleable minds.
Bertelsmann knows education. Bertelsmann Education Group’s 2,030 staff sell: online training courses, digital teaching aids; and, school marketing and student recruitment services.
Bertelsmann SE’s 8 divisions collectively employ 117,000 workers and generate $20 billion in yearly sales.
Wholly-owned, Arvato, provides e-commerce and IT services to banks and telecoms. As well, Arvato’s 36-language, 48,000-employee call-centre fields customer inquiries for hundreds of corporate clients.
Bertelsmann’s RTL owns 60 television and 30 radio stations across Europe. RTL owns Germany’s largest private television network. RTL’s Radio Deutschland owns 17 stations. RTL’s 15,975 employees produce most RTL content. Annual revenues exceed $7 billion.
Bertelsmann’s Gruner & Jahr showers 500 print and digital magazines across Europe but mainly upon Germany and France where half the population buys at least one G&J periodical. G&J wholly owns the weekly Stern (circulation: 750,000) and 25% of its rival, Der Spiegel (circulation: 840,000).
G&J’s flagship daily, Dresden-based Sachsische Zeitung (circulation: 230,000), is co-owned with the Social Democratic Party.
G&J and Holtzbrinck co-own Germany’s premier journalism college.
RTL and G&J moil the online video market with 1,500 channels on YouTube and YouTube-wannabe platforms. Bertelsmann measures monthly views in the billions.
Also mining the Internet is Bertelsmann’s music division, BMG, whose 840 employees work at 15 locations providing audiovisual, recording and steaming assistance to “indie” artists. They also offer marketing, licensing, royalty tracking and copyright administration services.
Bertelsmann began hoarding pop music copyrights in 1984. BMG now owns 3 million songs including most vintage hits appearing in movie soundtracks and radio playlists.
Bertelsmann Investments co-owns 185 Brazilian and Asian digital start-ups.
Bertelsmann SE’s “corporate responsibility” webpage parades an array of carbon-cutting, paper-saving, tree-planting and obligatory employee “be green” initiatives.
Bertelsmann SE is owned 19.1% by the Mohns, 80.9% by three foundations: BVG, Reinhard Mohn Stiftung (pictured) , and Bertelsmann Stiftung. BVG owns all voting shares.
Christoph Mohn chairs Bertelsmann SE and Reinhard Mohn Stiftung; and is a BVG shareholder. Liz Mohn is: BVG’s Chair, Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Vice Chair, and a Bertelsmann SE director. Brigitte Mohn is an Executive Director of Bertelsmann Stiftung, a Bertelsmann SE director, and a BVG shareholder.
Summoned by the Mohns to Bertelsmann SE’s board are four subsidiary managers and one rep each from: Daimler, Volkswagen, Nestle; German software giant, SAP; and French insurer, AXA (managers of a $1 trillion asset portfolio and a climate-obsessed website).
Liz followed her late husband Reinhard into the fanatically environmentalist Club of Rome. Bertelsmann Stiftung (BS) began collaborating with the Club in 1993.
BS issues no grants. It is a self-financed think tank with annual expenditures of $100 million and 384 employees. BS hosts 200 confabs yearly to advance 70 projects – typically co-ventures with universities. BS spawns hundreds of reports and books (including a six-volume Reinhard Mohn compendium).
BS’s annual 500-page Sustainable Development Report, co-written with UN Special Advisor Jeffrey Sachs, habitually bashes national governments for failing to combat climate change.
Climate isn’t something BS bangs on about. Rather, it’s a bedrock assumption. “Enhancing international cooperation” translates into “promoting the Paris Accord.”
BS scrutinises public opinion, especially voting behaviour. They decry populism’s threat to EU integration. BS’s Twelve Stars Initiative invites philosophers to dream about reversing Brexit and establishing a fully-operational EU Armed Forces.
A former Bertelsmann SE government relations specialist runs BS’s American branch. She enlivens Washington DC with forums, exchanges and multi-media shows.
Georg von Holtzbrinck (picture, above) was born unto Westphalian landed nobility in 1909. His father sold their distressed estate after WWI then suffered hyperinflation. Unable to rely on the family fortune, Georg took up magazine distribution while a student.
Georg joined the Nazi University Section in 1931; during the group’s proscription for assaulting Jewish students and professors. Uncle Erich was an SS Commander. Georg joined the Nazi Party in 1933.
Georg parlayed personal commendations from Hitler’s lawyer, and aid from the Nazi Party newspaper, into acquiring distribution rights for German Labor Front magazines (annual circulation: 28 million). Georg personally designed a special edition celebrating Poland’s invasion.
Georg was among a clique of businessmen who plundered Jewish-owned publishing. He became a prominent publisher; producing books for the Wehrmacht, specifically for Stormtroopers.
Post-war prosecutors described Georg as a devoted Nazi who benefitted immensely from Party contacts. Georg got off with a fine and carried on. He also benefited immensely from hording paper at war’s end.
In the late-1940s Georg took-over the German Book Association. Over the next 20 years he capitalised on his role as book middleman, and on close relationships with a clique of German publishers, to acquire minority stakes in newspaper and book publishing firms. In 1971 he pooled these holdings into Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. His son Georg-Dieter (b. 1941) assumed command in 1980. Georg died in 1983.
Under Georg-Dieter (1980-2001) Holtzbrinck acquired German newspapers and English-language publishers; the latter specialising in science and education.
Georg-Dieter transferred Holtzbrinck Publishing to his sister (Monika) and half-brother (Stefan) who now each own 50%. Georg-Dieter retained ownership of certain newspapers, and co-owns Die Zeit with his two siblings. All three are billionaires.
Stuttgart-headquartered Holtzbrinck Publishing Group is a multinational. Half its sales are in English-language markets.
Springer Nature, is 57% owned by Holtzbrinck; 43% owned by BC Partners.
The journal Nature was owned by the House of Macmillan from 1869 until its 1995 purchase by Holtzbrinck. Post-acquisition, several sister Nature publications emerged. The 2000s witnessed a proliferation of Nature-branded journals.
Berlin-based Springer-Verlag dates to 1842. BC Partners bought Springer Science+Business Media in 2013 for $4 billion; merging it with Holtzbrinck’s Nature Group 18 months later.
Springer Nature owns many of the world’s most-cited scientific journals. Key assets:
Scientific American. Founded in 1845 and bought by Holtzbrinck in 1986, Scientific American comes out monthly in 14 languages. The magazine boasts 9.5 million print and tablet subscribers. Its website attracts over 10 million unique monthly visitors. Its social media reaches 7 million.
Nature. The journal has 53,000 weekly subscribers and an 8.0 pass along rate (424,000 regular readers). Nature is the world’s second most influential science journal (behind AAAS’s Science).
Scientific Reports. The world’s largest open access, scientific mega-journal, Scientific Reports’ extensive Earth Science and Enviro-science collections contain innumerable climate papers.
Nature Communications publishes several dozen journals. Regarding climate, the most germane are: Nature Earth and Environmental Sciences, Nature Ecology and Evolution, Nature Sustainability, Nature Energy and Nature Climate Change. The latter might be the world’s highest impact climate publication.
Nature Partner Journals are co-ventures between Springer Nature and various institutes. NPJ Climate and Atmospheric Sciences is co-published with King Abdullaziz University’s Center for Excellence in Climate Change Research (home to the world’s most powerful climate modelling computer).
Holtzbrinck also owns Macmillan Learning, Macmillan Publishing and Palgrave Macmillan.
Macmillan Learning sells educational materials, classroom kits, and interactive teaching tools. They: “maintain deep partnerships with the world’s best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers.”
Macmillan Publishing targets English and German retail book markets. Among its dozen imprints are: St. Martin’s Press, Henry Holt and S. Fischer.
Palgrave Macmillan targets academics and businesses with books and periodicals focussed on economics, history and political science.
(Altogether Holtzbrinck owns hundreds of academic journals; scores of which run climate-related papers.)
Holtzbrinck Digital and Holtzbrinck Science oversee 31 companies engaged in software development and marketing. These companies dovetail with 165 tech start-ups bankrolled by Holtzbrinck Ventures.
Family-owned newspapers include:
Handelsblatt – a Dusseldorf-based business daily, circulation: 127,000.
Tagesspiegel – a Berlin-based current affairs daily, circulation: 148,000.
Die Zeit – a high-brow Hamburg-based weekly with 500,000 buyers and 2 million readers. For decades Die Zeit was co-published with former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt – a pioneering climate crusader.
Die Zeit internet portals attract 12 million unique monthly visitors. (Europe’s German-speaking population: 97 million.)
CEO Stefan von Holtzbrinck directs several philanthropies and Chairs the Max Planck Foundation.
Holtzbrinck’s board consists of: Klaus-Dieter Lehmann (Chair), Bernd Scheifele (Deputy Chair), Jurgen Mlynek, Monika Schoeller (and her daughter Christiane).
Bernd Scheifele is Chair of Heidelberg Cement and Supervisory Chair of Phoenix Pharmaceuticals.
Monika (b. 1939) was given reign over book publisher S. Fischer in 1974. She twice launched genres: one dealing with Germans’ processing of their Third Reich experiences; and one dealing with German women’s changing roles. Monika married literary scholar Bernd Schoeller.
Monika manages multiple foundations, most importantly the S. Fischer Foundation which cooperates closely with Germany’s Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut.
Klaus-Dieter Lehmann ran West Germany’s national library before unification and the German National Library thereafter. A former Bertelsmann Stiftung Trustee, Lehmann now oversees 17 cultural foundations; and is a Deutsche Bank director. Since 2008 he has presided over the Goethe-Institut.
(Pre-1945 the “German Academy” was a ‘worldview weapon’ and espionage center commanded by Rudolf Hess and later Joseph Goebbels (pictured below). Renamed “Goethe-Institut,” it now deploys 1,000 staff and a $415 million stipend from Germany’s Foreign Office to: spread the German language; instill positive images of Germany; and facilitate cooperation with German institutions.)
Theoretical physicist, Jurgen Mlynek, put 16 years in at the German Research Foundation (GSF); the last 4 as Vice President.
(Despite its notorious past, GRF annually channels $4 billion in government funds to 100 university departments.)
From 2005-15 Mlynek ran the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres.
(With a $5 billion budget the Helmholtz Association employs 40,000 science workers across 19 centres. Climate-oriented funding categories include: Polar and Marine, Environmental Health, Environmental Research, Geoscience, Coasts, and Oceans.)
Holtzbrinck subsidiaries and officials oversee some forty foundations most of which participate in the 22,000-member Association of German Foundations.
Holtzbrinck communiques abound with references to: corporate responsibility, organic growth and sustainability. Subsidiaries agonise over their carbon footprints. Holtzbrinck donates to: Earth Day Network, Ocean Conservation, Goddard, Euroscience Open Forum, and Science Media Centres.
Not alone does Germany bear Climate’s cross. Germany is, however, uniquely burdened by an ecological industrial complex compelling kaiser-sized commitment to this crusade. German agriculture and industry require a climate-rationalised “energy transition.” Germany’s foreign policy establishment, Holtzbrinck and Bertelsmann included, press this request.
Abandon all notions of impartial climate science. In publish-or-perish academia, publishers reign. In Holtzbrinck’s alarmist legions march a thousand journal editors.
Shoppers at Barnes & Noble or Waterstones shouldn’t mistake hundreds of imprints for hundreds of publishers. Most books on display, nearly all climate ones, merit the imprint: “German Foreign Office.”
Bertelsmann SE & Co
Holtzbrinck Publishing Group
Landler, Mark. Bertelsmann offers regret for its Nazi-era conduct; New York Times, October 2, 2002.
O’ Toole, Flintan. Empire of Publishing built on barbarism, Irish Times, June 19, 1998.
Cicero article on Holtzbrinck:
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