Signal. Sonderausgabe der
Berliner Illustrirten Zeitung.
Deutscher Verlag Berlin,
1940 – 1945.





Documents & Research




[ Documents & Research ] → Kustaa Vaasa article on Signal from 1943

Kustaa Vaasa was a Finnish nationalist periodical with a clearly pro-Nazi stance. It was published from 1936-1944. The magazine appeared monthly, though occasionally there were double issues instead, bringing the annual count to only 10 or 11 numbers. The magazine had a different cover for each year. Its publisher was a right-wing movement called Sini-Mustat, or the Blue Blacks.

This interview with a former editor of the Finnish edition of Signal is probably the only contemporary magazine feature that provides any background information on the production and distribution of Signal.

Special thanks go to Raimo Kotiranta, who provided the initial Finnish-English translation and the cover scan, and who also gave a lot of helpful advice to make this a smooth and accurate translation.

  Kustaa Vaasa cover

Cover of Kustaa Vaasa No 7/8, 1943

Kustaa Vaasa No 7/8, 1943




Every Finn has seen the German edition of SIGNAL in bookstores and on newsstands, and the magazine has now also been published in Finnish for quite some time.[1] When riding a train SIGNAL can often be seen in the hands of both civil servants and office girls, and more and more often the magazine is being read by the average man as well.

SIGNAL has rapidly evolved to become one of the most popular periodicals in Finland, and is set to eventually influence the entire population, which has made it a formidable counterbalance to Bonnier’s[2] publications.

We have interviewed Miss SALAMA SIMONEN, the former [supervising] editor of the Finnish edition of SIGNAL. She revealed to us some very interesting details about the editorial staff as well as the circulation of this most remarkable and impressive magazine.


The European battle against Bolshevism isn’t merely being fought with guns, airplanes, and tanks, but also with the weapons of our spirits. The European brotherhood of arms is evident not only on the battlefields and in political speeches, but also in the various facets of our cultural life, of which perhaps the best articulation may be found in the printed word.

Even before Germany was dragged into this war against the Soviet Union, and before it was subsequently supported by a growing number of allies from Finland to the Black Sea, the biggest publishing company of Germany, the Deutscher Verlag, had already begun to publish a "magazine for the New Europe", which was named SIGNAL. Right now this magazine probably has the widest circulation of all the periodicals in Europe and perhaps even of the entire world; it is not for sale or available for subscription in Germany, with the exception of Southern Styria[3] in Austria. SIGNAL is being edited and published in Germany, and in being a mental link between the Europeans through its contents and layout it is a political product of the highest quality.


It is being published in nineteen languages in over twenty countries. Inside Finland we have the Finnish and German edition (and also the Swedish one).[4]

The editorial staff for the Finnish edition of SIGNAL was established in 1942, and I have been the supervisor of this staff for six months. The editorial office is located on the fourth floor of the Deutscher Verlag’s building in the Kochstrasse in Berlin. For about a year and six months now the Finnish edition has been attached to the Fremdsprachenabteilung, the publisher’s foreign language section.[5]

The exact print run of SIGNAL is a business secret of the Deutscher Verlag, however it is probably somewhere in the millions considering the vast area of circulation, which comprises such countries as France, Bulgaria, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, etc. Other German periodicals are also being shipped to these countries in large quantities. SIGNAL’s foremost advantage is that it is of very high quality, which is evident from the color lithographs, but also from its news reports, photographs, drawings, and articles. The very best writers and photographers of Europe have been mobilized to gather material for SIGNAL all over the continent.

But there is another reason, apart from the splendid exterior, why SIGNAL has become a magazine for virtually everyone that can be seen in the hands of a general as well as a shoeshine boy: Germany’s government is funding SIGNAL and thus makes its low price in every country possible.[6]

In Finland it is already noteworthy that SIGNAL costs 4,50 FIM while other gravure printings cost a little more. The difference in price isn’t very big as the prices of our own magazines are rather low in general. But in Spain, for example, you can buy SIGNAL for the price of one and a half pesetas, whereas other Spanish periodicals cost about six pesetas. That’s why SIGNAL is a very dangerous business competitor for several other magazines in many countries.[7]

The contents of SIGNAL are, for the greater part, identical in every language. This year, however, there has been a reform


that one page or spread should be dedicated to the particular country where the edition is being distributed. Otherwise the magazine is being published in twenty different languages, and 19 editorial teams on the fourth floor of the Deutscher Verlag are fully occupied with translation duties.

The heart of SIGNAL is its German editorial staff. It collects all the different manuscripts and pictures arriving from all over the world. The material is carefully screened before it may be published. SIGNAL will only publish exclusive articles and pictures.[8]

Through the cooperation of editors and artists, the next issue of SIGNAL is being compiled in the German editorial office. After that the pictures are being sent to the stereotype [i.e. plate] department, and the articles are then forwarded to the composing room. All Captions are being copied and carefully numbered.

At that point the magazine is finally gaining some shape in the other languages as well. In the morning, the German manuscript pages arrive at the editorial offices of the various foreign language editions; the pages are each marked with deadlines by which they have to be ready. The finished manuscripts are then sent on to the departmental chief of foreign languages[9], who passes them on to the composing room.

The chief of foreign languages has access to original prints of the photographs, which aids him in processing the translations. Sometimes, when there were no technical or military experts available to assist you, it was difficult to produce an accurate translation. The military attaché of the Finnish embassy provided very valuable information in cases where the text contained many military and technical details. The interpreters certainly didn’t laugh when they had to do translations of such articles as the history of color photography with its chemical terms, or a story on European economic policy. For even the German language itself has adopted many new terms and concepts during the past years.

In case everything failed we received help from our next-door offices, mostly from the Swedish and Norwegian editors. We had a good cooperation going with the Swedish editors because all the workers in both offices were female.


Once the translations are ready they are being sent back to the editors. There was a certain regulation that only three impressions could be made because of paper shortages. There was, however, an enormous waste of paper as every transcription included a covering letter in German, which we always threw into the waste-paper basket without so much as giving it a glance. We calculated this waste of paper would amount to many kilos every week, which corresponded to many copies of the proofing sheets.

There was one thing that we never could stop wondering about. It was the miraculous skill with which the German compositors managed to handle the Finnish text. A frequent mistake had been the improper grouping of Finnish words, but within a very short period they learned to do this properly, and mistakes decreased. Since a magazine such as SIGNAL requires an absolutely faultless composition, we occasionally had to request an extra impression.

The last chance to apply any corrections to the picture legends was during gravure printing, which took place at Tempelhof.[10] During this step the proper positioning of the captions was checked, with the pages already composed. After this final step it was too late for any further corrections, and SIGNAL was sent, in an unstapled version, to the [Finnish] editor’s table.

The editors of SIGNAL represent the "European national movement", which is even embodied by members of the English and Arabic world. Besides the Finns there were young Arabic students, an old scientist and teacher from an Ukrainian university, middle-aged journalists from Bulgaria, Swedish female journalists, and a Norwegian filmmaker who earned some extra money by translating SIGNAL into his native language. Nearly every day a tall, dark-haired Turkish man would visit the Finnish office, together with his assistant in uniform, who spoke German and even a little Finnish, too. We weren’t too surprised either when our attendant on our floor turned out to speak Finnish as well. He had been a Finnlandkämpfer[11] in the Finnish liberation war, and after that had worked in the city of Vyborg for many years. When he was leaving to the Northern front he said farewell to us, stood at attention and said: "We’ll meet again in Finland!"


It is quite remarkable that the German edition had already been circulated in Finland prior to the launching of the Finnish edition. At the time, German was the most popular foreign language in Finland. Signal thus already exerted influence on the country long before the OKW and Deutscher Verlag had acquired the workforce needed to produce a fully translated Finnish edition.


Bonnier was a Swedish publishing company distributing periodicals inside Finland. The company was rather geared toward the Allied than the Axis side throughout the war, and therefore as soon as Signal hit the market had to cope with a fierce competitor threatening its share of sales in Finland.


The Südsteiermark formerly belonged to Austria, bud had to be ceded to Yugoslavia after World War One. Like the Banat and Siebenbürgen (Transylvania), it had a significant German minority, the so-called Volksdeutsche, or members of the German ethnic group. Unlike Bohemia, for example, the Südsteiermark was never annexed by the Reich and thus remained foreign territory throughout the war. This explains why Signal could be distributed in the area, being a proper target for German foreign propaganda. Miss Simonen erred when calling it a part of Germany; it officially belonged to Yugoslavia. The Südsteiermark was supplied with the German language edition of Signal to accommodate the local German-speaking population.


Finland wasn’t the only country in which several editions of Signal were circulated. In Switzerland, the German as well as the French and Italian edition were distributed. But as this article evinces the practice of shipping multiple editions to a single country may actually have gone much further: it appears at least in major cities one could also purchase Signal in the language of neighboring countries, such as the Swedish edition in Finland.


The interpreter division of the Deutscher Verlag comprised about 120 interpreters, the majority of them persons with previous journalistic experience. Initially located inside the building of the Deutscher Verlag in Berlin (as was still the case at the time this interview was conducted), it was later – in the autumn of 1943 – evacuated to a rural area close to Berlin, to escape the increasingly devastating bombing raids on Berlin. Cf. Dollinger/Boelcke, Faksimile Querschnitt Signal, Scherz 1969, p. 13.


This practice of deliberately selling the magazine well under the cost of production in many countries was a significant factor contributing to the horrendous annual costs of Signal, which have been estimated at ten million Reichsmark a year. Cf. Querschnitt, p. 12.


Despite notable inflation in wartime Europe, Signal was even reduced in price in a number of countries. The Swiss Federal Council called its price "totally disproportionate to the format of certain [other] illustrated magazines." Cf. Querschnitt, p. 9.


An interesting way to eclipse the ever-present mechanisms of censorship.


A certain Herr Buschmann. Cf. Querschnitt, p. 13.


In 1923, when the Ullstein publishing house expanded following the rise in economy, printing was relocated to a new building at Tempelhof, a district in the south of Berlin. The building was completed in 1926, becoming Germany’s first ‘skyscraper’ built using reinforced concrete, standing 85,5 meters tall. The massive type of construction was chosen because of the heavy vibrations caused by the giant rotary presses operating day and night. For details see Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt Berlin. Menschen und Mächte in der Geschichte der deutschen Presse, Ullstein 1959, pp. 353-364.


Literally "Finland fighter" of the Finnish Civil War of 1918. Imperial Germany sent auxiliary troops to fight along with the "Whites" against the "Reds". For an overview see

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