Propaganda in Nazi Germany
In the period of time around the Second World War, the German peoples heads were
infiltered with Nazi Propaganda.. Little by little the German population was stripped away of
their judgement and morality by being brainwashed by Hitler and the Nazi party with
propaganda. Propaganda played a very big role in controlling and dictating the German
population during the Second World War. Hitler used it to control the press as well as all other
means of expression-radio, film, art, and literature(Rhodes 11). He also used propaganda to
hypnotize the German people into believing he and his party were what was best for Germanys
future. Hitlers use of propaganda was his most sinister weapon, for it aimed at, and succeeded
in persuading the Germans that the Nazi system would restore their countrys greatness(Rhodes
Propaganda was used so much to influence the German masses that in Nazi Germany it
was considered worthy of an entire government department(Rhodes 11). They made
propaganda its own section in the government to regulate and monitor what the German people
would be hearing for the next several years to come. On March 13, the Ministry for Popular
Enlightenment was founded under the direction of Dr.Josef Goebbels(Rhodes 11). Hitler met
Goebbels in 1926 and quickly appreciating his oratorical power of persuasion, made him head
the Party Propaganda department (Rhodes 13). Goebbels knew exactly how to influence a
crowd.He knew what made the masses tick. He also had a great sense for what the German
people were looking for in a leader, and so he showed them just that with Hitler through
Propaganda. He was to become one of historys greatest political propagandists(Rhodes 12).
Hitler and Goebbels knew that Propaganda would work best with those less educated.
Educated individuals question and interrogate what they hear. Most will not just follow the
crowd or follow some dictator, because they know better. It is for that reason that Hitler did not
like the intellectuals. He knew they might someday come in his way. Hitler worked around the
fact that propaganda consists in attracting the crowd, and not in educating those who are
already educated(Rhodes12). Early on in their quest to rule the world, Hitler and Goebbels
realized that propaganda must be addressed to the emotions and not to the intelligence(Rhodes
12). So the Nazi Party terrorized professors and known savants out of the country before they
began brainwashing the rest of the population. Most writers and dramatists of any merit had left
the country or were proscribed when the Nazis came to power: men like Thomas Mann,
Remarque, Zweig, Reinhardt, Toller, Brecht, Franz Werfel(Rhodes 29). Nazi writer Schunzel
wrote, In this land we do not read books. We swim, we wrestle, we lift weights(Rhodes 29).
The Nazis did not want people to think for themselves. They wanted everyone to use their
physical skills instead of their mental skills.
Aside from knowing that propaganda does not work with the intellectuals, Goebbels also
knew that the people want an all around good leader. The modern dictator must be at once a
superman and a man of the people, remote yet accessible, wise yet simple, lonely on his
olympian height, yet ready to mix with the crowd(Rhodes 13). He has to be everything at once
so that the people believe that their leader is some kind of a hero. Goebbels believed that the
masses love a commander(Rhodes 12). He did everything he could to make Hitler look fierce
Goebbels used propaganda to trick the people into believing whatever he wanted them to
believe, therefore he did not believe that the German population was too intelligent. It was his
assumption that the people were not very smart because they were able to be swayed so easily.
Although he said that in the future the man who controlled the masses would control the State,
he made no attempt to hide his contempt for the masses(Winkler 32). Goebbels knew that if the
same message was portrayed enough repeatedly to the people, then they would have no choice
but to believe it. He once said that nothing is easier than leading the people on a leash. I just
hold up a dazzling campaign poster and they jump through it(Rhodes 10). Goebbels had no
doubt in his mind that within no time, the German people would be eating out of the Nazi Partys
hand because they would have been fed so much propaganda.
Hitlers Party started their propaganda schemes several years before World War Two
even started because they needed that much time to slowly control the population. Half a decade
before the War, the Nazis were already skillfully using all the new 20th-century media- press,
radio, film, and posters- to control, direct, and coordinate the masses(Rhodes 11). The Nazi
Party filtered their ideals into the peoples brains in every form possible. By the outbreak of the
Second World War, Goebbels Propaganda Ministry had complete control of the press, radio,
theater, cinema, the creative arts, music, writing, and art exhibitions(Rhodes 18). They
controlled pretty much everything that reached the public in any way. Goebbels and the
Propaganda Ministry realized that when everything the people heard or saw portrayed the same
message, then the people would not think on their own, they would just automatically believe
whatever was being portrayed to them. When every contemporary book people read, every
newspaper, every film they see, every broadcast they hear for years on end is permeated with the
same spirit, the same propaganda, they are no longer to relate what they see and hear to
alternative reports; they lose their judgement(Winkler 18). Every where looked there was a
Nazi message being shown somehow. The very streets of the cities were transformed into
Propaganda was used in many media covering methods. One of the ways the Nazis used
propaganda was through newspapers and the press. Goebbels and the Propaganda Ministry
almost completely took over the press. At the height of its power during the Second World
War, the Propaganda Ministry was issuing daily directives to the editors of newspapers all over
Germany about what to print, in such detail that the papers were virtually written for the
editors(Rhodes 11). No journalist could write freely about daily events. Everything was
monetered and supervised in detail by the Propaganda Ministry. Goebbels wanted everything in
the newspapers to be for the Nazi Partys benefit. When the Nazis came to power, there were
four thousand five hundred newspapers reflecting a variety of political persuasion. By 1939, the
number had been reduced to one thousand, all of which were following the Party Line(Rhodes
29). They shut down every newspaper that would not let the Nazi Party review their work.
Hitler wanted Goebbels to control everything that would eventually reach the people.
In addition to the newspapers, the film industry was also very closely supervised.
Because the Nazis considered the cinema such a powerful medium, its personnel- actors,
directors, electricians, cameramen, etc.- were immediately forced to take the oath of loyalty to the
Fuhrer(Rhodes 19). All scripts were reviewed by the Propaganda Ministry before being
produced and made into a movie. Most of the movies not only had to be approved by the
Propaganda Ministry, but they also had to have a Nazi theme to them. Most movies were war
stories depicting a heroic soldier fighting the bad guys and either wining the war or losing
honorably in combat. They used movies to show the people how war is used for good and how it
is okay to die in combat. The film industry was a great means to depict the Nazi belief to the
public by encoding it into a pretty story that the people would surely enjoy.
Another way in which the Propaganda Ministry interfered was in the censorship of
foreign films(Rhodes 20). The movie Jud Suss(Rhodes 20) was used to personify how
crooked jews were. It was an anti-Semitic film set in the Middle Ages about a crooked-nosed
Jew who forces a German woman to sleep with him or hell hurt her husband. At the end of the
movie, the woman kills herself like a good German and the Jew is hanged (Rhodes 20).
The hanging of the Jew at the end of the movie was described by a German critic as a joyous
crescendo(Rhodes 20). By showing movies with such a message, the Nazi Party makes people
believe that Jews are bad people and that it is okay to hurt them. They slowly demoralized the
Jewish population by trashing their name and dignity in every way possible.
Another way the Propaganda Ministry used the Cinema industry was by targetting their
movies towards the youth of Germany. Goebbels propagandists found the youth an easy
prey(Baird 22). They believed that the younger generation of Germans would be the easiest to
take over mentally. One of the most important uses of the cinema was for the indoctrination of
the young(Rhodes 21). They brought the children by the masses to the movie theaters to watch
propaganda filled films about war. Karl Ritter, a fanatical Nazi, film director, glorified death in
battle in his films (Rhodes 21). They tried to teach the kids that the individual does not matter.
What matters is the country as a unit. As Ritter himself said, my films all deal with the
unimportance of the individual… all that is personal is as nothing compared with the
Cause(Rhodes 21). The Cause meaning the unity of Germany, and its goal to control the
world. The effect of these films was inordinate. Many of the Hitler Youth who had been herded
by the thousands into the cinemas to see them were taken prisoner during the war. Under Allied
interrogation, they revealed the influence these films had had on them(Rhodes 21). These
children had been so brainwashed that when war time came no one asked any questions, they just
followed their leader blindly. Had Germany won the Second World War, these young people
could have spent their entire lives under the spell of a system invented and perfected by
Goebbels(Rhodes 30). They would never have realized that these thoughts they were having
had been planted into their heads many years ago by some movie producer.
Concurrently with the cinema as a means of visual propaganda appeared the poster.
This apparently simple form of advertisement played a greater part in the Nazis rise to power
than is generally realized(Rhodes 22). They used the poster to give a swift quick message to the
people. Everywhere around the cities of Germany were plenty of full size posters of Hitler
looking strong and powerful. There were posters of young German boys in Nazi uniform helping
Hitler build up newer better Germany. Goebbels propagandists knew that visual impressions
are extremely strong, that people may forget a newspaper article, but not a picture- if they see it
often and its message is obvious(Rhodes 22). Thats why they made their posters as simple as
possible. The point was for everyone to understand the message the poster was portraying right
away. A pamphlet or a newspaper could be thrown away, unread; the radio turned off; political
meetings not attended; likewise the cinema. But everyone at some time or other walked in the
streets. The poster could not be avoided(Rhodes 22). Goebbels wanted the people to be so
exposed to the Nazi way of life that they would forget about their own thoughts and morals.
Another form of propaganda used by Goebbels in Germany was the radio. The radio
soon came to be regarded as the principle propaganda medium(Rhodes 28).It was a way of
speaking to the people directly and making them believe they were apart of something big.
Broadcasts on Nazi rallies were aired live on the radio so that if you were not at the rally then you
could still be apart of it at home. Goebbels once said that radio would do for the 20th Century
what newspapers had done for the 19th (Rhodes 26). Every night they would air Nazi filled
propaganda in the homes of hundreds of Germans. Hitler made over fifty major broadcasts in his
first year. They were speeches at meetings and rallies rather than studio broadcasts (Rhodes 26).
That way the people listening at home felt like they too were at the rallies.
The Propaganda Ministry took the radio very seriously as a means of propaganda. They
even issued a radio warden for each block of houses or apartment buildings. This Party member
would encourage his neighbors who did not own a radio to buy one (sometimes he would lend
them the money to do so); otherwise, to listen to important speeches in his or a friends
house(Rhodes 27). The warden would also send in regular reports on the peoples reactions to
the broadcasts (Rhodes 27). That way Hitler and the Nazis got imediate feedback on their
rallies. Goebbels would be able to find out what the people at home cheered and what they did
not approve of. The radio warden became of special importance during the war when he
reported those listening to foreign broadcasts(Rhodes 27). Since all radio broadcasts were
monitered by Goebbels and the Propaganda Ministry, they did not want the people listening to
foreign radio programs because they might hear what was really going on in the world. Hitler
had completley secluded Germanys people from the rest of the world.The news they heard was
very different than the news other countries heard. Their version of the war was almost one
hundred percent changed by propaganda.
Other forms of propaganda were less similar then the ones listed above. Propaganda
through literature, for example, was not very popular. Literature is a form of expression that is
more for the intellects of the country. Literature is addressed primarily to the intellect and has
little mass appeal (Rhodes 29). So Goebbels did not really need to focus on changing German
literature so much. Literature did not reach as many people as a radio broadcast, a newspaper
article, a movie, or a poster on the street would have.
Goebbels and the Propaganda Ministry used propaganda very wisely to brainwash the
German people. They made sure that Propaganda would somehow reach everyone in someway
shape or form. Wether it be through newspapers, radio broadcasts, movies , or posters, Goebbels
made sure that everyone saw and heard his messages. They did everything in their power to
make sure that they were reaching people through their propaganda.