How successful were Nazi methods to indoctrinate and control the German people? (30 marks)
From the moment the Enabling Act has been passed, the Nazi regime has effectively been turned into a dictatorial one. Indeed, at the beginning of Hitler’s rise to power a vast population of Germany was engaged with nationalist politics believing it would reshape and revolutionarise the country. However, Hitler knew that in order to reach his ultimate goal in creating the “Thousand Year Reich”; he could not depend on the sudden yet temporary surge of excitement of the German public; but rather, he had to convince the Germans of the Fuehrer leadership and make the Nazi ideology an unquestionable existence.
The organisation of such a program of indoctrination and control was simple: as a German under the regime you had the choice of buying in or pretending to buy in to Goebbels’s propaganda, and if you failed to do so you would be “convinced” or dealt with by means of violent and intimidation by Goering and Heydrich’s organisations. It can be argued that the Nazis did indoctrinate and control the German people effectively; a proof of that would be the fact that there has been no successful uprising against the regime during the period of Nazi ruling. However, flaws did exist in the Nazi program and dissent groups such as the white rose youth movement did exist.
Indoctrination is the milder and physiological means of controlling the minds of the German people; it involves the building of permanent loyalty to the regime and Nazi values. It is achieved through the use of the combination of both propaganda and censorship. Joseph Goebbels was appointed the Minister of Propaganda and Entertainment in the Nazi government and played a crucial role in producing convincing propaganda. Goebbels believed that propaganda “must be limited to very few points” and that “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”. This had lead to the content of Nazi propaganda being very focused and direct.
The messages would be very simple and straight forward such as the need for more living space and the destruction of the Jews. The means of spreading such propaganda was important too, for Goebbels successfully made use of new technologies including loudspeakers and the radio to spread messages. Traditional methods such as posters and newspapers were also used and large rallies such as the Nuremburg Rally were also hosted. The usage of censorship is mutually inclusive with the success of propaganda as the removal of opposition ideas lead the German public to believing or treating Nazi propaganda as facts. Also, they did not have other sources of information thus had to trust the Nazis for it.
However, as much as Goebbels believed that “The Reich was created out of propaganda” it in many cause failed to indoctrinate sections of the society. Indeed, the grass root remained the firmest based of support for the Nazi regime and brought the propaganda offered by the Nazi’s. However, the intellects and the older generation were not convinced by Nazism and the over simplified messages of their propaganda. A significant example of such would be the fact that the Nazi’s could not ban newspapers, but were just able to censor them. This was because the Nazi’s knew the politically educated class read the newspaper and could easily distinguish propaganda from the truth.
Goebbels was also placed in charge of making Weimar culture in line with Nazi goals. The Nazis in general were extremely sceptical of Western culture thus Hitler ordered the purification of the German culture by purging Jewish political artists as well as burning the works of leading writers such as Brecht in the Book Burning Ceremony in May 1933 in Berlin. Foreign films also became legally restricted in 1936. Instead, cultural products which involved the glorification of the Master race and heroism in the war were encouraged. For example, films such as the “Triumph of the Will” or “Olympia” were promoted by the Reich Culture Chamber. The film industry was later nationalized in 1937 and played an important role in spreading propaganda during the war period. “Strength through Joy” campaigns were also organised for workers.
Some of the Nazi propaganda through went too far; an example would be “The Eternal Jews” which was an extremely exaggerated piece attempting to bastardise the image of the Jews. Moreover, the Nazi’s might be able to control what the German culture physically is but they cannot control the desire of a more open and liberal culture from the minds of the German people. During the 1920s, Weimar culture did flourish and many of the population enjoyed such a feature of democracy which severely lacked in the Nazi regime.
In order for Hitler to create a “Thousand Year Reich”, the youth needed to be educated to the spirit of National Socialism. The youth would be the future one day and the Nazi’s understood that; they stated that “whoever has the youth has the future”. This showed that Hitler understood the importance of manipulating education in indoctrinating the youth from the beginning as well as equipping them for the future. Boys were trained to be soldiers whilst girls would be trained to be housewives; this was achieved through compulsory state run organisations organised by Baldur bon Schirach.
Education was also brought under state control: the NSLB was set up for teachers and 97% of them joined. All Jewish or politically suspicious teachers were dismissed. The school curriculum was also revised and Sports, History, Biology and German Studies were made priority. Religious Studies was dropped from the curriculum. History was promoted so the students could learn about the bitter past and how the Jewish liberal politicians “stabbed them in the back” whilst biology would teach racial superiority using science to “prove” that German were the “master race”.
Policy towards the young weren’t however as successful as Nazi propaganda lead us to believe. Indeed, an immense amount of forcing and pressure was exerted on both the parents and students to make them join state run programs. For example, German boys between 10 to 14 years old had to join German Young People whilst those who were older than 14 had to join Hitler youth. Initially, pressure was placed on parents to make their children join these organisations however it was made compulsory to join after March 25 1939. This showed that the youth weren’t indoctrinated to join and engage with Nazism but were otherwise forced and intimidated to. Furthermore, the fact that dissent groups such as the white rose movement exists reinforces the point.
In many cases, if the more mild and subtle physiological approach of using propaganda as a means of controlling the public failed, the Nazis had to result to the use of tactics of violence and intimidation. This was executed through the SS and Gestapo organisations. The SS played a significant role in spreading Nazism and was a supplement to the army. The power of this organisation was phenomenal, leading to it often being described as “the state within a state”. The SS radicalised Nazi race policies especially in the genocide program in 1941 under Eichmann and the running of extermination camps, it also terrorised the enemies of the state. Furthermore, it weakened Christianity as Himmler believed the Fuehrer should be more important than the church. The ambiance of fear provoked by this organisation was important; its efficiency was equally crucial.
Internal disputes did weaken the running of the SS; this was mainly prompt by the tension between Himmler and Heydrich. Himmler was an idealist and believed in executing the principles of Nazism whilst Heydrich was more interested in taking opportunities and making decisions to his best political interest. Such power clashes did not weaken the SS to much of a degree at first; however towards 1942 it led to the SS being weakened and more vulnerable to opposition.
The role of the Gestapo which was the German secrete police was “to discover enemies of the state, watch them and render them harmless”. Their role was much more of a locally based one if compared to the SS as they dealt with the likes of minor threats from Communist organisations as well as youth rebel groups. The organisation penetrated every area of the society and was ruthlessly efficient successfully preventing opposition to the State up to 1942. It was believed that the Gestapo was efficient and served well as a totalitarian police force disciplining the public in a dictatorial society.
On the other hand, deep problems lay under the operation of the Gestapo. First of all, they were heavily short staffed with the situation getting worse as experienced Gestapo officers were moved to the SS. Secondly, they relied heavily on information provided by the public; this might have lead to inaccuracy in the information received therefore decreasing efficiency. Indeed the Gestapo provided no more than a faï¿½ade appearance of fear. Although one might therefore argue that it wasn’t what the Gestapo was that was important but what people thought of it. However, as the war progressed the exposure of the weakness of the organisation was clearly present with events challenging the Gestapo such as the July Bomb plot in 1945.
Indeed, the initial years of the regime did receive the support a vast population across the German society; propaganda itself was enough to mobilise and even control the masts. However, as the years went on supplemented by the continuously lack of democracy, the people of Germany began to be disengaged with the dictatorial government. More importantly, they were no longer interested or convinced by the layers and layers of propaganda paint masking the very truth and core ideologies of the Nazi Party. This was the point when Hitler’s attempt to indoctrinate the German through the means of propaganda, censorship and education has failed.
The SS and the Gestapo’s importance grew and the increasing use of militancy was ironically a testimony of failure for the Weimar government to control the emotions and thoughts of the German people. The Nazi’s methods of physiological indoctrinated has been deemed ineffective. However, the tactics of penetrating fear using institutions such as the SS and Gestapo throughout the German society was a success. This means of physical control was effective in the sense that Germans, even though reluctantly, would follow the rules in this dictatorial regime. By all means this gave Hitler the power to control Germany; however what he severely lacked was the authority and respect to govern.