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Zeit Magazin imagines its past

Zeit Magazin imagines its past

German weekly newspaper Die Zeit celebrates its 70th anniversary today with a special edition (their regular publishing day is Thursday). This posed an interesting problem for the accompanying ZeitMagazin, which only started publishing 45 years ago; how could they be part of the anniversary?

The answer is typically elegant, as editor Christoph Amend explains, ‘We came up with this crazy idea: what if ZeitMagazin had already existed in 1946, when the newspaper was first published? We entered a time tunnel. What would our cover story have been, our reports, what would have our columnists been writing about?’

The result is an one-off imaginary issue, with a collage (by Matthieu Bourel) of Marlene Dietrich on the cover , Germany’s biggest and most controversial movie star in 1946. ‘She had just come back to post-war Germany after having lived in the US,’ explains Christoph, ‘from where she had supported the US Army against Hitler's Germany.’ She stars on the magazine’s regular double-cover (above) alongside the headline ‘This ZeitMagazine never existed.’

The magazine also tracked down an archive of diaries to discover what teenagers of the time were dreaming about, and profiles Konrad Adenauer, who was to become Germany’s first post-war chancellor.

Weekly columns adapt to the retro theme too: Louis Armstrong, 45 at the time, is featured in the weekly ‘I have a dream’ series, and the regular ‘Deutschlandkarte’ map feature explains where German war refugees where moving to in the new West Germany, ‘A little hint,’ says Christoph, ‘for our current debate in 2016.’

Not every magazine could afford such an experiment; it’s a sign of ZeitMagazin’s measured self-confidence that it can play with its history and identity in such an enjoyable way. It’s also an effect that would have been far harder to achieve online, where timelines and histories are forever merging and changing.

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