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In 1933 when the Nazi party rose to power, all regular press in Germany came under complete control of the Nazi party. Nazi officials looked at propaganda in a very positive light and felt that it was necessary to create solidarity between the people of Germany. They wanted the nation to follow and stand by them enthusiastically. In order for the propaganda to work successfully they needed to have no opposition or criticism to it, and to be able to eliminate any opposing views and ideas to their own.
For my final project, I wanted to look at how propaganda came about in Nazi Germany and the effects that it had on the public.
In Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf which he wrote in 1925, he discusses a lot about propaganda, he says that “All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be.
” Hitler understood the complexity and importance of propaganda before he even took power over Germany, so once he became Chancellor in 1933 he appointed Joseph Goebbels to be the director of propaganda for the Nazi Party. Goebbels’s job was to show Hitler to the public in a positive light, to help get Germany excited about the Nazi party, and to promote anti-semitism throughout Germany. Since propaganda couldn’t be too intellectual, Goebbels felt that it would be easier if it were basically invisible and the only way to do this was though the media.
Since it was everywhere it would be easily descisable. When Hitler first took power, the Nazi party barely had control over any of the German newspapers. Now that they no longer had a multi-party political system in place, many newspapers and media run by other parties were able to be shut down, and eventually the Nazi party was able to gain control over the media and press in the first couple months. They took complete control over all types of media such as newspapers, books, movies, music, etc. Having this much control made it easy to brainwash the masses. In Goebbels’s speech to the press on the establishment of a reich ministry for popular enlightenment and propaganda on March 15th 1933 he said, “I see in the setting up of the new Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda by the Government a revolutionary act in so far as the new Government no longer intends to leave the people to their own devices. This government is in the truest sense of the word a people’s government. It arose out of the people and will always execute the will of the people.” He wanted to make the people think that propaganda was intended for the good of the nation and that it was for the people.
In the spring of 1933 when the German Reich first came to power, there became long lists of books that shouldn’t be read by Germans. A few months after that Nazis burned over 25,000 books from libraries and bookstores that were either written by Jewish authors or that had ideas that went against their own. Later the same year in September 1933, Goebbels became the head of the newly formed Reich Chamber of Culture. This was created to make sure all Jewish artists were shutdown. First, all Jewish creative artists were forced to be unemployed, and then later when the Reich Press Law passed all Jewish editors and anti-Nazi editors were removed from all magazines and Newspapers in Germany. This was just another way to make sure that the the Third Reich was in charge of all media being shown to Germany. Schools also played a major part in German propaganda. There were textbooks and books that could no longer be read in the classroom. These were replaced by new ones that displayed Hitler in a positive light and taught children to worship him. The books also taught children about the Nazi Party. The children would even celebrate things at school such as Hitler’s birthday and the day he became Chancellor.
The next major task that Goebbels encountered was getting the rest of Germany on board with the war. By 1939, radio had become such a large part of propaganda. Almost every household owned one. When the war started many of the foreign broadcasts were coming up on people’s radios. In order to fix this issue Goebbels drafted a law that made listening to these broadcasts or spreading anything said in them a radio crime. In his Decree on Extraordinary Radio Measures he stated, “Every word which the opponent broadcasts is of course a lie and intended to damage the German people. The Reich Government knows that the German people are aware of this danger and, therefore, expects that every German will have the sense of responsibility to consider it a matter of decency to refrain from listening to foreign broadcasts”. When the war started, Goebbels also created many films to help keep Germany on their side. An example of one is “The Eternal Jew”. This film was created to display the Jews in a negative light, trying to make it look as though they disrupted our world and that they are a parasite to society.
Another form of German propaganda was used through the German Labor Force. Hitler knew that German labor unions had more power over the workers than he did. He wanted to have control over the workers so he did this by banning any trade unions in Nazi Germany and creating the German Labor Force. Now he was able to have control over the working class. He told people that the German Labor Force was there to look after the workers. They also picked the name carefully to make people want to join it. A German Labor Force sounded powerful. It was a workers union led by Robert Ley that was created and controlled by Nazis. The Nazi party were able to control the workers wages, and they made it illegal to partake in any protests or strikes. Hitler enticed people to join by offering things such as subsidised holidays, so he basically was offering them things to improve their leisure lives while taking away some of their rights. Hitler wanted to lower the unemployment rate so he started sending the unemployed to prison in order to force all people into working. It was important for the Nazi party to have control over the workers and to have a low unemployment rate. This way they had control over all production and products being manufactured. This would especially be important during World War 2 because they would need the working class to help make goods and products during the war. Many workers became upset because they had to sacrifice many things during the war and they were told that their bonuses and subsidized holidays would be taken away. This upset workers, so Robert Ley had to help diffuse the situation by reminding the workers that their sacrifices were necessary, “We should almost be ashamed of our small part in the nation’s war sacrifices, particularly when we think of the sacrifice in blood made by the soldiers. All the more reason, then, workers, plant leaders and retinue, why we must vow to do everything which the Führer demands of us”. He wanted to guilt the labor force into making these sacrifices whether they were unfair or not by making them think about the sacrifices being made by the soldiers during this time.
The Nazi party had to make sure to cover up their mass murder. Prisoners at these camps were urged to send postcards to those back home saying they were in good conditions and being treated well. They also created a film of the theresienstadt camp-ghetto that showed the Jewish people as being treated well and showing them looking happy. They used this film to show to the International Red Cross team in order to not raise any more suspicion about what was actually going on.
Propaganda had a lot of success in getting the nations excitement up about the Nazi party. Most people were on the same page as the Nazi party and looked towards them to be a solution to all their problems. Most of the common people looked up to the Hitler and felt that he was going to save Germany from all their problems. As the war went on though, people started to lose their morale and excitement. Goebbels often used speeches to help rile people up. Once he noticed that the people were starting to lose hope and morale he gave a speech at the Sportpalast in Berlin on February 18, 1943. In his speech he uses propaganda and rhetoric devices to get his audience riled up. He asks the audience questions about the war and their efforts while it is going on, the crowd yells their answers getting them pumped up and excited to take on the war. Later that year on June 5th, Goebbels gives another speech to try to increase morale since declaring total war. In this speech he tells the audience that they are strong and won’t be knocked down. He also places blame on the Jews, getting the audience upset something and getting them to want to continue the fight.
The Nazi party was extremely successful in their attempts to take over Germany. They would not have been able to lead for so long without the use of propaganda. They were able to use it in so many different forms, that it basically dominated the lives of everyone in Germany. Everything from what they watched on TV to what they learned in school was propaganda. Propaganda was even used in the workforce. Without even realizing it, they were subconsciously being taught to worship the Third Reich and Hitler as their leader and to harbor negative feelings towards Jews. Propaganda was also very successful in getting Germany to support the idea of them going to war. Propaganda made an impact even after the war. “Researchers found that, even after controlling for personal characteristics such as education, Germans born in the 1930s “are approximately twice as likely to hold extreme anti-Semitic beliefs” than those who entered the world in the decades before or after”. This just goes to show the long lasting effects that propaganda can have on a population.
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