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Welcome to the e-staff profile of Dr Christian Haase, Department of History, University of Notitngham

Current Research Project:

The Press and the Nobility in West Germany: The papers of Marion Countess Dönhoff, 1946-2002

Marion Dönhoff Foundation, ZEIT Foundation Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius, ZEIT Publishing House


£115,00 (Total External Research Income, 2008-2011)
£50,000 (Joint Dönhoff Foundation / School Scholarship for 1 PhD-Student, 2010-2013)

Dr. Christian Haase (Project Leader), collaborators at the School of History (in alphabetical order): Prof. E. Harvey, Christian Kraiker (PhD-Student), Prof. J. Young


The collaborative research project aims to archive and analyze the privately held papers of Countess Marion Dönhoff, the former editor-in-chief of West Germany’s prestigious weekly DIE ZEIT. Countess Dönhoff is best known for her publications on East Prussia and the resistance against Hitler, her support for Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik and East European dissidents as well as for her contributions to German-American relations. Henry Kissinger, Lev Kopelev, Ralf Dahrendorf and Helmut Schmidt ranked among her closest friends.

Countess Dönhoff was born in 1909 into one of East Prussia’s leading nobility families and had ties to the resistance against Hitler. In 1945, she fled from the family’s estate to West Germany and subsequently embarked on a journalistic career at DIE ZEIT. After a brief stint at David Astor’s Observer , she was promoted to head of the political department of DIE ZEIT. In 1968, she became West Germany’s first female editor-in-chief of a prestigious national paper. In 1973, the publisher ( Verleger ) Gerd Bucerius made her editor ( Herausgeber ) of the paper. Helmut Schmidt, the former chancellor of West Germany, joined her as co-editor of DIE ZEIT in 1982. She retained this position until her death in 2002. During her very distinguished and exceptionally long career at DIE ZEIT, she exchanged more than 50.000 letters with politicians, intellectuals, journalists and readers of DIE ZEIT.

1. Research Projects

The research projects focus on three aspects of West German history on which the papers promise to shed new light.

1.1. The Travelling Countess: The Counts Dönhoff and the Travel Culture of the East Prussian Nobility

Investigator: Dr. Haase

Marion Dönhoff’s publications on Germany’s past, in particular on the role of the Prussian nobility in the fight against Hitler, continue to provoke controversy.  However, the bulk of her work, reports about foreign countries, has been largely overlooked. The project aims to uncover her role as one of West Germany’s most prolific noble ‘global reporters’. The project aims to shed new light on the contributions of Countess Dönhoff, her family and other nobles to modern travel culture.  The project will also make use of Marion Dönhoff’s extensive travel photographs and diaries.

1.2. The Media and the Transatlantic Crisis of the 1970s: Marion Dönhoff, DIE ZEIT and West German – US relations during Helmut Schmidt’s Chancellorship, 1974-1982

PhD-Student: Christian Kraiker, M.A.

Supervisors: Dr. Haase / Prof. Young

During the years of Helmut Schmidt’s chancellorship West German – US relations came under strain. The privileged partnership that had been reaffirmed during the presidency of Gerald Ford (1974-77) was undermined by a crisis during the Carter years (1977-81) that finally brought down the Schmidt government in 1982. The PhD wants to show that the underlying causes were more complex than has been assumed so far and that a multilayered transformation of West German – US relations took place between 1977 and 1981 in which the media played a central role. The Schmidt government was caught between global economic turmoil, domestic challenges (rise of the peace movement, the Green Party and new anti-American papers such as taz ) and international tensions (NATO double-track decision etc.). In the light of hitherto unused evidence of the Dönhoff papers, it will be argued that the policy responses of Germany’s elites contributed to a fundamental reshaping of the transatlantic partnership on the eve of the ‘second cold war’.

1.3. REF-Impact: The Dönhoff-Platz in Berlin (2011 Finished)

Leader: Dr. Haase
Collaborator: Jörn Kreuzer, M.A.

The Marion-Countess-Doenhoff-Platz is located in the heart of historical Berlin. The Platz was established in 1734 and was called the Doenhoffplatz between the early 18th Century and 1975. It acquired outstanding political significance in the 19th Century when the first Prussian-German Parliament, the Preußische Landtag, was established opposite the Platz. During the division of Germany, the East German GDR destroyed all remaining memories to the parliamentary history of Germany at the Platz. The monuments of the civil Prussian reformers Freiherr vom Stein and Fürst Hardenberg were removed. The Platz lost its name in 1975. The history of Prussia’s first parliament was largely forgotten. Based on the research of  of the University of Nottingham, the District Mitte of the City of Berlin decided to put a memorial plate with references to the early parliamentary history at the Platz. The Platz was renamed the Marion-Countess-Dönhoff-Platz.  Marion Countess Dönhoff was the editor-in-chief of the prestigious West German weekly Die Zeit. The research project of the University of Nottingham received support from various organisations and politicians, including a congratulating letter from the former President of the Federal Republic Richard von Weizsäcker.

3. Preceding Project, 2005-2008


ZEIT Foundation Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius, British Academy
GBP 30,000

The project builds on prior research on the history of DIE ZEIT conducted in collaboration with the University of Hamburg. (See: Christian Haase/Axel Schildt (Eds.) 2008: DIE ZEIT und die Bonner Republik: eine meinungsbildende Wochenzeitung zwischen Wiederbewaffung und Wiedervereinigung , Göttingen: Wallstein)

Recent Project Publications:

Christian Haase and Axel Schildt (eds.): DIE ZEIT und die Bonner Republik: Eine Wochenzeitung zwischen Wiederbewaffnung und Wiedervereinigung (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2008).

Review of the Book: Click Here

For further information, see Publications


For further information, see Research

Note: This e-staff profile is hosted outside the University of Nottingham on the private homepage of Dr Christian Haase. It is designed to provide further and more detailed information in addition to the my official e-staff profile.