Editors at Europe’s best-selling tabloid proudly boast of feeling the emotions of their readers and listening to their hearts.
When 1.1 million migrants arrived in Germany in 2015, Bild Zeitung launched a ‘welcome’ campaign, echoing the sentiments of then-Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had unilaterally opened the country’s borders to Syrians fleeing civil war in their homeland.
The German people answered the call. They hung bunting on lampposts, waved balloons, offered food parcels and put up campbeds for the newcomers in sports halls, churches — and even in their own homes.
Which makes the new campaign by Germany’s favourite paper, known to everyone simply as Bild, quite extraordinary.
Under the front-page headline ‘Germany, we have a problem!’, it has published a highly controversial 50-point manifesto telling migrants how to behave as the country experiences a national culture clash.
‘Our world is in chaos, and we are in the middle of it,’ says the paper.
‘Since the terrorist attack of Hamas on Israel on October 7, we are experiencing a new dimension of hatred, against our values, our democracy and against Germany.
‘In our country, there are many who oppose our way of life. People who celebrate the murder of innocent civilians.
‘Those who teach their children to hate others because they are ‘infidels’ (non-believers), those who forbid women from wearing trousers; those who listen to radical preachers because they want a different society. Germany must say no!’
Though Bild calls its manifesto a ‘sort of house rules’ for everyone living in Germany, it is clearly aimed at migrants. And its significance cannot be overstated.
With its racy pictures and eye-grabbing headlines, Bild — which sells one million print copies a day — has a massive impact on the German people’s mindset.
Twenty regional editions serve every corner of the country and each month its website attracts 25 million visitors, almost a third of the nation’s adult population.
‘It is the chosen literary fodder of politicians,’ I was told by a seasoned commentator in Germany this week.
Mrs Merkel’s predecessor, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, once said in a memorable testimonial: ‘To govern, I need Bild daily, the Bild Sunday edition, and the TV.’
And, as a senior minister in Mrs Merkel’s cabinet during the 2015 migration crisis, the now European Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen even turned up at Bild’s Berlin headquarters for its editors’ influential dinner parties.
And so, when the paper’s manifesto appeared on newsstands a few weeks ago, everyone sat up and took notice.