Dr. Franz Burda II

Self-made man and visionary

Often referred to as "the senator," Dr. Franz Burda II (1903 - 1986) was the last great patriarch of the German press industry and a driving force behind rebuilding postwar Germany. He grew his father's three-man print shop in Offenburg into one of the country's largest printing and publishing companies. He created the successful publications Bunte, Freizeit Revue and Mein Schöner Garten, staged the Bambi Awards and the lavish Bal paré galas in Munich, and dispatched the Burda Squadron to advertise his products over German and Austrian cities. Always a visionary, Franz Burda counted among the trailblazers in Germany's so-called economic miracle.

He was a child of the "short 20th century," as the historian Eric Hobsbawm has described it. While the first decade adhered to the traditions of the previous century, the turmoil of the First World War and – perhaps even more so – the subsequent revolutions in Russia, Germany and Austria spawned a new social and world order. The 21st century had already begun at the end of the Cold War. Franz Burda took advantage of this "interregnum."

"You achieve success with good ideas, the decision to translate them into reality, and the strength to steer the process to fruition."

Franz Burda, publisher (1903 – 1986)

Franz was born in Philippsburg on February 24, 1903, a Mardi Gras Tuesday. His mother Josefine died when he was six. His father, who was also called Franz, moved to Offenburg, established a small print shop and re-married. In 1911 he brought his son to join him there, where young Franz grew up in modest circumstances with a biological brother and six stepbrothers and -sisters. He attended the Schiller Upper School in Offenburg and then completed a commercial apprenticeship at the company Freihandel. Following his transfer to its Freiburg branch, he studied Economics part-time at the city's university.

After 1924, Franz continued his studies in Vienna, Munich and Erlangen, while occasionally working at his father's printing company. In 1927 he completed his degree in Economics – and the following year, he published his first magazine, a radio guide entitled Sürag. In 1928 he obtained his doctorate in Erlangen, having submitted a thesis on the development of commodity exchanges in Baden. In 1929, Burda took his journeyman’s examinations and concluded his apprenticeship in book printing in Freiburg.

"He was blessed with a never-ending supply of optimism."

Lothar Späth, Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg (1937 – 2016)

Franz's father passed away on November 22, 1929. The 26-year-old Dr. Franz Burda took over the print shop behind the Burg butcher shop in Offenburg. In April 1930 he qualified as a master craftsman in the book-printing trade. On Easter Sunday of that same year, he announced his engagement to Anna Magdalena Lemminger. The couple married on July 9, 1931, and their first son was born on May 24 the following year. Like his father and grandfather before him, he was given the name Franz. In 1935 Franz Burda earned his first million. Construction began on a new printing plant at the intersection of main street and Unionrampe, and Burda invested in his first gravure press. His second son Frieder was born on April 29, 1936.

In 1938 Burda acquired the "Aryanized" printing works in Mannheim from the Bauer brothers.The family moved to Heidelberg, where his third son Hubert was born on February 9, 1940. Franz Burda personally managed the operations of the large printing plant, sharing his office until the war with Berthold Reiss, one of the three previous owners. Reiss, who was Jewish, and his wife, the actress Maria Petri, both survived the Nazi era in Heidelberg. Their only son Hans emigrated to Ireland. After the war, Berthold Reiss testified on Franz Burda's behalf at the French military tribunal in Baden-Baden. Their families remained close friends for life. When the Mannheim works were destroyed in a 1943 bombing raid, Franz Burda relocated the company to Lahr-Dinglingen. In 1949, the company officially changed its name from Gebr. Bauer OHG to the Lahr-Dinglingen Works – with Franz Burda as proprietor.

"Franz Burda did not feel comfortable during the Third Reich. He despised and saw through its leader and his followers. But his cohorts were already in place and overwhelmingly powerful; you had to make things work somehow. Abandoning the business, walking out on his country – that was not his way, unless there was no alternative. I admire how he kept his company running, how he came to terms with the situation without capitulating; how he remained a free man."

Golo Mann, historian (1909 – 1994)

During World War II, Burda produced ordnance maps and gravure aerial maps in color. In April 1945, Offenburg became part of the French occupation zone, and Burda began printing schoolbooks and postage stamps for the authorities.

Starting in April 1948, Franz Burda published the magazine Das Ufer which he renamed Bunte in 1954. It was the first German magazine to illustrate entertaining articles with color photographs. In February 1949, the publication of Sürag (later Bild + Funk) resumed, and in September 1949 the first issue of the homeowner magazine Das Haus was released.

"Millions of people are indebted to him for the inspiration, enjoyment and practical help he provided."

Richard von Weizsäcker, President of the Federal Republic of Germany (1920 – 2015)

In 1955 the publisher first presented his Burda aerial advertising team. The Allies still controlled German airspace, so planes had to be chartered in Switzerland; initially, only Swiss pilots were permitted to fly them. Until 1974 the team was deployed to advertise in the skies above German and Austrian cities. Burda also organized major air shows featuring well-known pilots.

The year 1961 marked the groundbreaking ceremony for the Burda headquarters in Offenburg. With a steel structure weighing 160 metric tons and 25,000 cubic meters of interior space, the near 70-meter tower was inaugurated at the end of 1963 – and instantly became the town’s most famous landmark.

At the end of 1962, Burda acquired the women's magazine Freundin and the movie magazine Film Revue. The latter came complete with the Bambi Awards, which Burda has conferred annually since. From 1961 to 1970, Franz Burda staged the Bal paré gala event in Munich's Bayerischer Hof hotel, with guests attending from the worlds of politics, society, film, sports and show business. Famous faces like Sophia Loren, Rock Hudson, Kirk Douglas, Max Schmeling, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Diana Ross have been among the stars to grace the occasion with their presence. In November 1966, Franz Burda installed his 26-year-old son Hubert Burda as the director of the new publishing house in Munich's Arnulfstrasse.

"He was a truly wonderful man. Absolutely top-drawer."

Henri Nannen, publisher (1913 – 1996)

In 1967 Franz Burda acquired the entire Waldbaur press distribution company. Based in Anif outside Salzburg, the leading press wholesaler in Austria already distributed the Burda publications Bunte, Freundin, Bild + Funk and Aenne Burda's Burda Moden.

In 1969, Burda and the American publishing house Meredith established the joint venture Meredith/Burda Inc. And in 1971, its first gravure printing plant was officially opened in Lynchburg, Virginia. The 34,200 square meter facility sported two Cerutti rotogravure presses with eight printing units each, and a proof printing machine with four printing units. Further plants were subsequently built – in Newton, North Carolina (1981) and Casa Grande, Arizona, four years later.

"He taught me how to tell stories with pictures."

Axel Ganz, publisher (born 1937)

In July 1970, Franz Burda launched the first edition of Freizeit und Rätsel Revue, a puzzle magazine that he had conceived himself. And on his 69th birthday in 1972, he witnessed a dream come true: his magazine Mein Schöner Garten made its debut and is Europe's premier gardening magazine today. The following year, he handed over the reins to his three sons, appointing them managing partners in the company. On March 3, 1976, he also stood down from Bunte and nominated his son Hubert as editor-in-chief. For 28 years Franz Burda had charted the course of his company's flagship product, reporting on many of the singular events of the age: he dispatched reporters to accompany Pope Paul VI on his visit to the Holy Land in 1963-64, published photographs of the first-ever heart transplant (performed by the South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard in 1967) and printed the first pictures of Apollo 11's moon landing in 1969. He had negotiated the deal personally with its rocket's designer Wernher von Braun. This special issue of Bunte, entitled "The Flight to the Moon," sold half a million copies.

"For me, he is still with us today. He has become a part of me, somebody who has not perished, not been forgotten."

Reinhold Messner, mountaineer (born 1944)

In December 1985, Dr. Franz Burda Senior gave his shareholdings to his three sons, making them equal partners in each of the companies. Surrounded by his family, he passed away in Offenburg on September 30, 1986.

Franz Burda’s contributions to society

Franz's social initiatives included the creation of a company healthcare fund in 1952 which financed cancer screenings years before the statutory health insurance providers. In 1953, in honor of his father, he built the Franz Burda Community, an extensive residential development for Burda employees in the Albersbösch district of Offenburg. He also supported his workforce in their efforts to build their own homes. In 1955, he instituted continued payment of wages for employees who were off sick – 15 years before similar government legislation. In February 1963, on his 60th birthday, he donated a large open space in Offenburg where his employees could play sports. In 1978 he gifted the daycare center in the district of Stegermatt to the town.

Pioneering conservation

Dr. Franz Burda was one of the first German entrepreneurs and publicists to promote conservation. As early as November 1970, 10 years before Germany's Green Party was formed, the publisher invited leading experts from Germany and abroad to Offenburg for the first interdisciplinary symposium on the environment. Bunte reported on it in an eight-part series, highlighting issues such as air and noise pollution, overfishing, marine debris, and the hazards of nuclear power. A second congress was held the following year. Its themes included post-industrial society from the perspective of futurology, urban planning for the new millennium, toxins in natural foods, and the ecological status of modern humankind. The articles were published in two brochures entitled So rotten wir uns selber aus ("How We Are Wiping Ourselves Out") and Gefahren der Zukunft ("The Risks Of Tomorrow").

Patron and collector of the arts

In addition to his family and company, Franz Burda's main passions were for art, sports and nature. He was a patron and collector of the arts, and for years provided the Great Munich Art Exhibition with large sums to purchase pictures. He donated numerous works of art to his home region of Baden, with his birthplace Philippsburg receiving The Cranes and Birds Taking Flight by Fritz Melis, and Giacomo Manzù’s Pax Aeterna. Manzù also created the monument to the author Grimmelshausen, which Dr. Franz Burda funded in the town of Renchen in 1977. A column was erected in Burda’s hometown of Offenburg to honor its patron saint St. Ursula, followed in 1984 by the two large bronze sculptures Bacchus and Dionysos by the artist Sandro Chia. Finally, Giacomo Manzù designed the publisher’s tomb in Offenburg’s Vineyard Cemetery.

Franz Burda II adored the mountains, relished hiking in his native Baden, went hunting and produced his own wine. He played competitive fistball and actively promoted the sport.

Franz Burda – Awards

Franz Burda received numerous prestigious accolades for his services to the general public. In 1950, the Technical University of Karlsruhe made him an honorary senator. That same year Italy's second highest honor was bestowed upon him, the Commendatore di Merito. In 1958 he was named a freeman of his hometown Philippsburg. In 1963, on his 60th birthday, the city of Offenburg appointed the "courageous creator and resolute leader of its largest company" as an honorary citizen. He received the Golden Grand Cross of Patriarch Athenagoras. In 1967, Dr. Hans Filbinger – the then Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg – presented him with the Commander's Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. On his 65th birthday, he was awarded the Order of Merit for Services Rendered to the Republic of Austria. Five years later he received the Grand Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. To mark his 75th birthday, Germany's Order of Merit with Sash and Star was conferred upon him, as was the Order of Merit of the State of Salzburg. The Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky appointed him an honorary professor at the University of Vienna. Numerous other honors followed, including the Bavarian Order of Merit.

Franz Burda – Timeline

1903   Born on February 24 in Philippsburg, the son of printshop owner Franz Burda I and his wife Josefine, the widow of Otto Pröttel
1908 His father returns to his home town of Offenburg where he opens a printing plant
1909 Young Franz goes to school in Philippsburg and lives with relatives. His mother dies of breast cancer
1910 Franz Burda I marries Karoline Schmidt
1911 Franz Burda's father takes him to live in Offenburg
1912 Attends the local senior high school
1917 The print shop moves into premises behind the Burg butcher shop
1921 Shortly before his 18th birthday, Franz Burda graduates from a college-preparatory high school. He then begins a commercial apprenticeship at the trading company Freihandel (grain, animal feed, fertilizers, building materials). After the apprenticeship, he relocates to Freiburg where he works for the company as a bookkeeper and freelance sales agent
1923 1925                  Studies Law and Political Science in Freiburg, Munich and Erlangen
  Works part-time at his father's printing company
1926 Obtains the equivalent of a Master’s Degree in Economics at the University of Erlangen
  Begins working permanently in his father's printing operations
1927 The company's first publishing product, the radio guide Sürag, is launched; 3,000 copies are printed and distributed
1928 Burda obtains a doctorate in Political Science from the University of Erlangen
1929 Franz Burda I passes away at the age of 56
  Franz Burda II takes over the company and its three employees
  Completes his apprenticeship as a book printer
1930 Becomes a master craftsman in printing
1931 Marriage to Anna Magdalena Lemminger on July 9
1932 Franz Burda III is born on May 24
1933 The company hires its 100th employee
  Sürag circulation reaches 60,000
1935 The company transitions to gravure printing
  Move to new premises at Hauptstrasse 13 in Offenburg
  Production of catalogs
  130 employees
1936 His son Frieder is born on April 29
  The Burda Company Orchestra is launched
1937 Sürag now boasts a circulation of 113,000
  A book publishing business is established
  Construction of a vacation home for employees in the Black Forest
1938 Franz Burda joins the National Socialist Party
  Takeover of the Bauer brothers' "Aryanized" printing plant in Mannheim with its 350 employees
  The Burda family moves to Heidelberg
1939 Circulation of Sürag reaches 179,000
  Printing work for the companies Wenz in Pforzheim and Schöpflin in Haagen
1940 His son Hubert is born on February 9
  Birth of his illegitimate daughter Renate in November
1941 Broadcasting becomes subject to censorship and publication of Sürag is halted
1942 Printing of ordnance maps of northern Africa and France
1943 Aerial plans for the Air Force High Command ("Luftwaffe") appear in multicolored gravure
1945 Printing of postage stamps and textbooks for the French occupation zone and the French military newspaper Revue d'Information
1948 Publication of the first issue of the magazine Das Ufer, which is subsequently renamed Bunte Illustrierte
  First Bambi Awards
1949 Permission to resume publication of the radio guide Sürag
  The magazine Das Haus is launched
  First issue of Guter Rat
  Burda publishes illustrated books on contemporary history
1950 Franz Burda appointed an honorary senator of Karlsruhe University of Technology
  Production is now distributed across 13 different sites
1952 Establishment of a company health insurance program
  Launch of the company magazine Die Burda-Familie
  Sürag is rebranded as Bild + Funk
1953 Completion of a new printing plant and administration building
  Construction of housing for employees
1954 Das Ufer is renamed Bunte Illustrierte
  The Burda Squadron "takes off" and continues its aerial advertising of the company's publications for a total of 18 years
1955 Franz Burda introduces the continued payment of wages for employees off sick (15 years before it becomes a statutory requirement in Germany)
1957 Bunte is published in a weekly print run of 500,000 copies
  The circulation of Bild + Funk rises to 445,000 copies
  570,000 copies of Das Haus are printed for each issue
  The workforce is now 1,400 strong
  100 tons of printing paper are used daily
  Annual turnover reaches 50 million deutschmarks
1958 Franz Burda Junior becomes technical operations manager in Offenburg
  Franz Burda II is awarded the freedom of the town of Philippsburg
  Construction of a housing development for employees
1959 Purchase of the periodical Deutsche Illustrierte
1960 Burda acquires the Darmstadt-based G.C. Klebe (Ullstein) print works from Axel Springer. Frieder Burda takes over at the helm
  Purchase of the magazine Münchner Illustrierte
  The circulation of Bunte exceeds one million
1962 Takeover of the Neue Verlagsgesellschaft publishing house with its periodicals Freundin and "Film Revue"
1963 Purchase of the magazine Frankfurter Illustrierte
  The company has 2,700 employees – 2,200 in Offenburg and 500 in Darmstadt
  Freundin und Film Revue are merged
  On his 60th birthday, Franz Burda donates a large sports field to his employees
  Franz Burda is made an honorary citizen of Offenburg
  Purchase of the magazine Österreich Illustrierte
  First issue of the Austrian edition of Bunte, Bunte Österreich Illustrierte
1964 Completion of the administration complex in Offenburg
  Publishing operations expand with a new branch in Munich
1965 Burda Farben KG manufactures its own printing ink
1966 With the introduction of a punch-card system for data processing, the company takes the first step toward its digital future
  Franz Burda entrusts his son Hubert with the management of the new publishing house on Arnulfstrasse in Munich
1968 New printing works in Offenburg
1969 The company welcomes its 5,000th member of staff
  Burda and the American publisher Meredith establish the joint venture Meredith/Burda Inc.
1970 A total of 1,796,933 copies in first-quarter sales make Bunte Germany's best-selling magazine
  The first issue of Freizeit Revue is published
  Groundbreaking ceremony for a printing plant in Lynchburg, Virginia
1971 Meredith/Burda Inc. officially opens its first gravure printing plant in Lynchburg
1972 Acquisition of the magazine Meine Familie und Ich
  First issue of the garden magazine Mein Schöner Garten
  The circulation of Freizeit Revue tops one million
1973 Franz (Junior), Frieder and Hubert Burda become managing partners of the company
  Hubert Burda assumes responsibility for the publishing division
1975 First issue of Cinema
1976 Franz Burda steps down as editor-in-chief of Bunte and appoints his son Hubert as his successor
1978 Debut of the computer magazine Chip
  Burda acquires the press logistics company Einbecker Transport Gesellschaft (ETG)
1980 The magazine Pan is established
  First issue of Ambiente
  Purchase of the gravure printing company Braun in Alsace
1981 Franz Burda transfers 25% of Burda GmbH to each of his three sons and appoints them as managing partners. Franz Burda Junior is responsible for printing operations, Frieder Burda for finance and Hubert Burda for the publishing house
1982 Establishment of the subsidiary Pan TV  
1983 New publishing house opens at Munich's Arabellapark
  The Bunte editorial team relocates from Offenburg to Munich
  Burda secures a 24.9% stake in Axel Springer Gesellschaft für Publizistik, the company which fully owns Springer Verlag AG
1985 Burda acquires a 13% interest in the new television station Sat.1
1986 Franz Burda divides his shares equally between his sons
  The puzzle magazine Glücks Revue is launched
  Franz Burda Senior dies on September 30

Franz Burda – Literature

  • Franz Burda: Kreativität. Tatkraft. Vespertisch. Emil Langenbacher, 2020, ISBN 978-3982147505
  • Senator Dr. Franz Burda – Geschichten eines Lebens. Ute Dahmen, Petrarca, 2011, ISBN 978-3871150135
  • Dr. Franz Burda. Mensch und Werk. Oswald Scharfenberg. Burda, 1968