Case study 2: Speaking engagements

Like his writings and films, Ross’s lectures, radio talks, and various public appearances covered not only his travels (alone or with family), but were in equal measure shaped by his view of the world and the particular audience he addressed.

As Ross stated during a meeting with his publisher Brockhaus, in 1931, his appearances appealed to three different groups: newspaper readers, geopolitically interested audiences, and those who were keen to see his son Ralph (who was featured more prominently, particularly in his films). These target groups could be addressed separately as well as collectively. For instance, radio appearances or larger events, such as film screenings with accompanying lectures, could accommodate all three. Nevertheless, an overall tendency can be detected in the course of Ross’s career: from 1932, when he started lecturing on his own (rather than with the help of “proxy” speakers), his presentations increasingly dealt with geopolitical issues in a propagandistic manner, i.e. serving the official policy of Nazi Germany. It is the time when Ross’s old dream could more or less come true. Already during the Balkan wars he was anxious to be accepted as an expert on foreign policy. But it was only after Hitler’s rise to power that Ross found his way into higher government circles. In this, he capitalized not only on the support of officials and their institutions, but he continued to refer to his journalistic travel experience as a source of authenticity and expertise, too.

Still, in reconstructing Ross’s live performances one is faced with a scarcity of written and acoustic records; a cautious approach to the evidence that does exist is needed. Judging from the documents retrieved so far, Ross delivered more than 200 lectures personally (the actual number might be over 300), but he also was represented at diverse forums through proxy speakers who mostly relied on lecture typescripts and brochures that Ross had authorized. With regard to radio broadcasts, only a small number of typescripts and radio recordings, along with detailed press reports, held at various archives can be examined to get a sense of this intense and highly lucrative activity. The dearth of documents notwithstanding it is obvious that Ross’s popularity owed a lot to his live performances, as they provide us with vivid examples of how consciously he used different media formats, mobilized different ideological positions, and tried to serve the taste and interests of his audiences.

The annotations give an overview of Ross’s speaking engagements from his earliest performances during the Great War up to his last, explicitly propagandistic lectures in the 1940s.

Katalin Teller

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