When one thinks of the term
“propaganda”, what comes to mind? Would it bring a positive response? Would
it bring a negative response? When one thinks of “propaganda” in association
with the Holocaust, what comes to mind? A positive response or a negative
response? Most likely a negative response. Why is “propaganda” any different
from what any political party or regime does, namely to disseminate its views?
Is “propaganda” simply the name we give to views which we do not like or which
we think to be untrue? And finally, was the role of “propaganda” in the Nazis
assumption of power overstated? (Daniel Goldhagen, 1996)
As many people
who are learned in the field of the Holocaust will agree, propaganda played
an extremely vital part in the Nazis rise to power, as well as their brain-washing
of the German population into detesting all, of what they considered, “heretics”
to the degree of accepting their murders. Validity of the accusations upon
which they attempted to justify their action against the Jews was not an issue.
The issue in this case was its power of persuasion. Although to achieve this
goal the Nazi party deemed it necessary to monopolize the communications, media,
and entertainment industries, Germany already had a strong anti-Semitic background.
anti-Semitism is an outgrowth of Christianity. Since the time of the Roman
Empire, Christian leaders preached boundlessly against Jews. It escalated
from generation to generation, for as long a the Jews rejected Jesus as their
Messiah, the Jews “challenged” the whole belief system of Christianity. The
idea that it was the Jews that killed their savior also evolved from that time
period. Along those lines, the notion that all
Jews of forever were responsible
for Jesus death, for they approved of the crime, would have certainly done
it again (according to the anti-Semitics), and had always rejected his teachings.
the Medieval period came, the Christians hatred for Jews further articulated
and was brought to a new level. The Christians in the Medieval world saw Jews
in twofold opposition to Christianity: they rejected his revelation and were
his killers. In addition, church members had much detested the Jews on the
basis that they should have accepted Jesus as their Messiah. Consequently,
persecution and killing of the Jews became a part of everyday life, leaving
many regions of Western Europe without any Jews by the end of the sixteenth
Entering the nineteenth century, German anti-Semitism went through
an acute transformation. It was then that it made its change from a religious
issue, to a racial one. Germans naturally detested Jews, and with a passion.
Nineteenth century Germans now saw Jews as the symbol for everything awry
in their declining economy, even though they made up but a mere one percent
of the population. Soon the cultural taboos that had formerly shaped the moral
fabric of Germany at the time lost all influence. It was then that German
anti-Semitism reached a high point: false, cruel, yet indisputable accusations.
Prostitution, sexual degradation and depravity, and the sexual assaulting
of unsuspecting German virgins are examples. The Germans also imagined Jew
conducting ritual murders.
By the time the Nazi party instituted totalitarian
control, all that remained was to build on the framework provided by the nineteenth
century. A framework which included anti-Semitism being common knowledge,
Germans obsessive hatred toward Jews, the common belief of Jews being the
reason for their collapsing economy, the belief of Jews being evil and a source
of great harm. This new type of anti-Semitism was of a savage nature and a
logic that it was necessary to rid Germany, along with the rest of the world,
of Jews by whatever means necessary.
Already having a foundation for their
cause, all the Nazis had to do was execute their strategies. Even before gaining
full control in January of 1933, they used all possible methods, and even introduced
new forms of publicity, to get national attention and recognition. The Nazi
party sponsored mass meetings and pageants, distributed all sorts of visual
aids and propaganda, and assumed control of the radio and film industry.
the Nazis gained control they used all the above means and
more to strengthen
their totalitarian control on the German population. By means of blatant false
claims and accusations, the Nazis made untrue justifications for political
and military aggression, as well as enthusiasm toward Nazi goals.
knew how he had to manipulate propaganda to get “positive” results from the
population. In his book, Mein Kampf, he wrote:
To whom should propaganda
be addressed? To the scientifically trained intelligentsia or to the less
It must be addressed always and solely to the masses.
What the intelligentsianeed is not propaganda but scientific instruction.
The content of propaganda is as far from being science as the object depicted
in a poster is from being art. A posters art lies in the designers ability
to capture the attention of the masses by form and color.
of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but
rather in directing the attention of the masses toward certain factsIt must
be directed toward the emotions, and only to a very limited extent toward the
The receptive ability of the masses is very limited,
their intelligence is small, their forgetfulness enormous. Therefore, all
propaganda has to limit itself to a very few points and repeat them like slogans
until even the very last man is able to understand what you want him to understand.
And that is the basis upon which Hitler set up his whole campaign. He
wanted to aim his propaganda crusade exclusively toward the masses. In doing
so they would accept it as a decree. Furthermore, it was extremely important
that the material exposed to the masses appeal to the interests of the majorities,
and not address itself to just the intellect. Propaganda had to be popular
and be geared in order for even the most simple-minded individuals to understand.
Equally as important, was the necessity to give the people the “conceptual
truth,” but really only spreading the information the leader wanted to disseminate.
The Nazis utilized propaganda to saturate Nazi ideology, philosophy,
and mentality into the German population, as well as to change the traditional
German moral standards (as far as behavior). Subsequently, as the Nazis hoped
would happen, the ideas acquired via propaganda would mature into a part of
everyday German life. It would become an issue in and out of the home.
to Hitler, the masses must not have two or more enemies. Rather, they should
concentrate on one primary enemy: the Jews. To support this idea, the Nazi
propaganda reinforced racist philosophy on the “normal” anti-Semitism by giving
the Jews the title of “enemy of the common people.” Two elements, hatred and
racism, were integrated in propaganda to urge the population to find the importance
of ridding Germany of the parasitic/blood-sucking Jew.
In Hitlers view, anti-Semitism
was a vital weapon in the propaganda enterprise. He insisted that wherever
it is used, it has a huge effect, and refused to it disregarded as a political
weapon. So began the obsessive anti-Semitic propaganda campaign of Nazi Germany.
To achieve their goal, they began using all means of media. Early on, the
Nazis began showing very anti-Semitic movies and shows, as did they air such
programs on the radio.
They were now getting closer and closer to their goal
of having the population detest to the Jews, to the point where the commonly
seen distasteful episodes in Polish ghettos lead the people to accept the beating,
killing, and liquidation of Jews. The Nazis even got international protests
to subside. They aired movies exemplifying the pleasant conditions in the
concentration camps. For example, the Nazis broadcasted scenes of a masquerade
presented at the Theresienstadt camp.
In recognition of the significant
role propaganda was playing in the Nazis battle, the Reich Ministry of Public
Enlightenment and Propaganda (Reichsministerium fr Volksaufklrung und Propaganda)
was created on March 5, 1933. Headed by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi expert in
propaganda and a notoriously persuasive speaker, a new generation of radio,
press, cinema, and arts manipulation was brought forth. Goebbles ran the department
from an old palace which oversaw thirty-two other field offices. He recruited
the brightest, most intelligent young men he could find to work in his department.
In the Nazis industrial takeover of Germany, the propaganda machine was
then set up into seven different sections, each in charge of the a department:
Administrative and Organization
7) Adult Education
Anyone who produced, distributed, broadcasted,
published, or sold any form of cinema, media, press, or literature had to first
join one of the departments and then follow all rules of the department head.
That person was usually Joseph Goebbles. Naturally, no Jews, non-Aryans,
or any of Hitlers adversaries were not allowed to join. Thus, without a license
to practice their businesses, all artists, writers, publishers, producers,
or directors could not work or do any business in their field. Also along
with those quotas, came the prohibition of all Jewish newspapers, radio, and
Part of Hitlers master plan was to have his nation to become the
most powerful country in the world; an Aryan nation, that is. Without a doubt,
that requires more Aryans. As a part of this theory, the fuhrer, with much
assistance form Goebbles, began a new campaign. This time, it was aimed at
Hitler wanted to encourage good health and child birth among women.
There were two things that constituted this: having women take on a nursing,
house-wife role and for them to make time for activity, such as sports. However,
it would not be easy to entice women to compromise on giving up what they considered
to be a trim figure.
Hitler needed to replace the traditional fit look for
women with a more substantial motherly looking image (Seymour Rossel, The Holocaust:
The World and the Jews, 1933-1945 84). Workers in the arts industry were urged
to use such women in their work. Hitler even granted an award to any German
woman who gave birth to six or more children. SS troops were given instructions
to marry blond-haired, blue-eyed women who had not yet received the Reich sports
The family life campaign soon branched off to another important issue,
education. For if Germany were to be flooded with Aryan children they had
to get the “right” education and to be taught by the “right” teachers: Nazi
teachers. Therefore, the German school systems discharged all Jewish and non-Nazi
teachers. At that point, 97% of the teachers in Germany belonged to the Nazi
Textbooks and childrens books, as well, had heavy
military and anti-Semitic overtones.
A modern bomber can carry 1,800 incendiaries.
How long is the path along which it can distribute these bombs if it drops
a bomb every second at a speed of 250 kilometers per hour? How far apart are
-The New Order, p. 103
Some childrens books
even intimidated Nazi members, because they
were so biased that they were
horrifying. Perhaps the author that best exemplifies this was the notoriously
relentless and obsessive anti-Semite, Julius Streicher.
Born in Fleinhausen,
Bavaria in 1885, Streicher was a German politician and journalist. He was
one of the earliest and most extremist members of the Nazi party. In fact,
he even participated in Hitlers 1923 rebellion. He is best known, though,
for his notoriously rabid anti-Semitism displayed in his books and newspapers.
Some of is works include The Poisonous Mushroom, a childrens book, and “Der
Strmer,” a Nazi newspaper. While his works appalled even some Nazis, Hitler
was intrigued by his “skillful and amusing campaign.”
With the campaign
aimed at children, the Nazis integrated both anti-Semitic ideology and encouraged
children to join the Hitler Youth, for boys, and the League of German Girls,
for girls. Indeed, the enrollment rate was very high, but the storm of children
joining the two youth organizations were not all going for their hatred toward
Jews. Rather, many saw it as a good opportunity to go camping, make friends
(activities which the to organizations did, in fact, often do); in a way, the
equivalent of our Boy/Girl Scouts of America Organization.
leaflets, and flyers were everywhere. Some were aimed at the adult population,
some at children. Most commonly, they were to urge the public to join Hitlers
crusade, for there was a job and a place for everybody. The Nazis offered
men jobs in Hitlers army. If they were inexperienced, they offered training
camps, seminars, and classes, in which they were taught everything from military
maneuvers to how to identify a Jew.
As effective of the other forms of
Nazi propaganda were, the best results came from the media: newspapers, radio,
and film. Control of the media was the key to gaining control of the peoples
Joseph Goebbles took the first step to assuming full control of the
news-wire services. He then merged the different wire-services into the German
News Bureau. This allowed him to control the distribution of news at its source.
Now that the Nazis had full control of the news circulation in Germany, they
began making laws pertaining to it. For example, in 1933, Goebbles instituted
the Editors Law. This stated that all newspapers had to go through his ministry.
Accordingly, the editors were responsible for every picture and word in their
publication, and if Goebbles did not like what was being printed, the editors
would be punished. Although, they would most commonly lose their jobs, Goebbles,
on occasion, would have the person sent to a concentration camp. His regulations
on new circulation so limited the liberty of the reporter, that daily press
conferences were often held. There, Goebbles would dictate what should be
written in the article and how it should look. Unfortunately for the Nazis,
ch of the population of Germany stopped reading newspapers, altogether,
for they already knew what would be written.
Since Goebbles realized
he could not brainwash the people just through the newspaper, he then took
over radio communication. By making sure stores kept a plentiful stock of
inexpensive radios, a record seventy percent of German families owned at least
one radio. If in the event that a family did not own one, the Nazis encouraged
gathering in groups at home, at work, and at eating places to listen to the
broadcasts. With over a quarter of a typical days broadcasting time being
reserved solely for Nazi propaganda, the people became very vulnerable to what
they heard. To be sure not one person was without the privilege of listening
to daily broadcastings, the Nazis had loud speakers installed all over the
Goebbles also seized control of the cinemas. Still a fairly new
concept, motion pictures were very popular among the Germans. The Nazis began
making both movies and documentaries with extremely anti-Semitic messages.
There were documentaries that were merely intended for the glorification of
the Nazis, while other were tasteless, explicit movies based on mere blatant
lies and biases produced by the Nazis and other anti-Semitic organizations.
Some were so anti-Semitic that the actors requested that a telegraph be sent
out publicizing that they themselves were not really Jewish. Despite the horrifying
motion-picture campaigning, countless numbers attended these films.
the German population was predominantly anti-Semitic. Stage one of the Nazis
plan was done. However, Nazi missionaries began coming over to the United
States. Although quickly deported, they left behind their ideas. Organizations
such as the Christian Front and the German-American Bund were formed and strongly
supported the Nazis. Newsletters and leaflets were being mass produced throughout
the country. Luckily the majority of Americans retained their morals and acceptance
In their quest for both world and racial domination, the Nazis
covered all possible territory/subject-matter, and all possible means of accomplishing
their goal. They monopolized and strictly monitored all branches of the communications
and media industry. By doing this, the Nazis only allowed the people to hear
what they wanted them to hear, and nothing more. In the midst of a major economic
depression, the German people were both vulnerable and desperate, and the unemployment
rate was very high. Thus, many people had nothing else to do beside listen
to the radio and read the newspaper. Naturally, there was no commercial or
industrial market, almost everything fitting into those two categories was
failing, so it was not difficult to take over. Hitlers plan was working very
Reflecting on the manner in which the term “propaganda” is used in
this paper, it could be understandable why one could see the word as a negative
term. Even though the dictionary defines “propaganda” as publicity to either
further or damage ones cause, I am unable to picture myself defining Hitlers
publicity scheme as merely marketing, promotion, or advertising. Rather, I
see it as a disgusting form of “disinformation” (See, p. 1). In conclusion,
even though the word, “propaganda,” can be used in reference to either positive
or negative campaigning, it is how we have come to, most often, identify ideology
which we do not approve of or think not to be true.
Ausubel, Nathan. Pictorial History of the Jewish People. New
York: Crown Publishers,
Goldhagen, Daniel. Hitlers Willing
Executioners. New York: Random House, 1996.
Goldhagen, Daniel. Personal
Interview. 25 December 1996.
“Holocaust.” World Book Encyclopedia.
Internet. AT&T Worldnet Service,
Vrs. 3.0. Windows 95, disk.
Nora. The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry. New York: Schocken
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. Computer software.
Microsoft Corporation, 1996.
Windows 95, 6.39 MB, CD-ROM.
Seymour. The Holocaust: The World and the Jews, 1933-1945. West Orange:
Behrman House, 1992.