The Nazification of German Society
By Jake Cmarada
Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, who rose to power in the 1920’s and 30’s in post war Germany was considered one of the most horrific regimes in the history of the world. Their crimes against humanity and ruthless tactics shocked the world, and left many asking themselves questions such as “How was this possible?” But the fact of the matter is that this situation could have occurred anywhere and at any time in the world. The reason why it occurred in Germany at this time was due to the methods that Adolf Hitler used to gain the support of the German society. By controlling the minds of the German youth, persuading the people of the country to support his cause through the use of propaganda, as well as his use of anti-Semitism resulted in Hitler’s control of the German society. This so-called Nazification of German Society changed history forever
Children of the Reich
“Those who have youth on
their side control the future”
Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany during the years of the Weimar republic. Hitler and the Nazis were able to rise to power as a result of their control over the German society. One of the main aspects of society that Hitler and the Nazi Party focused its efforts towards was that of the youth. Hitler was able to gain control of the impressionable youth by making changes in the educational system and by the formation of the Hitler Youth. Edward Behrendt, once a member of the Hitler Youth stated “If you can capture the minds of young children and persuade them to become dedicated to your cause, your theory of the truth and your theory of what is right and wrong, then you can hold the whole country captive and you have complete control” (Behrendt 1). Hitler knew that as soon as he was able to control the youth, he would also control the country. The control of the youth played a huge role in the Nazification of German Society.
The youth movement in Germany started years before Hitler showed up on the scene. “It began in the 1890’s and was known as the Wandervogel, a male-only movement featuring a back-to-nature theme” (The History Place 1). The youth groups that emerged at this time include The Catholic Youth Organization, the Boy Scouts, and many others. These youth groups were soon to be greatly changed forever in Germany. As the years passed the Nazi party appeared on the scene, and started to form it’s own youth movement. The first Nazi youth group, known as the Jugendbund, was headed by a youth named Gustav Adolf Lenk. Lenk wanted the organization “to enjoy relative autonomy from both the NSDAP and SA” (Stachura 7). Hitler on the other hand felt that the “Jugendbund should provide in the final analysis a future reservoir of party and SA members” (Stachura 7). Unfortunately, due to his difference of opinion with Hitler, Lenk failed to make the organization a success, so in 1922 “Hitler himself took the initiative for a second attempt at setting up a youth organization” (Stachura 6-7). This began in 1922 with a proclamation in the Volkischer Beobachter, the official Nazi newspaper. The publication stated “We demand that the National Socialist Youth, and all other young Germans, irrespective of class or occupation, between fourteen and eighteen years of age, whose hearts are affected by the sufferings and hardships affliction the Fatherland, and who later desire to join the ranks of the fighters against the Jewish enemy, the sole originator of our present shame and suffering, enter the Youth League of the NSDAP…” (The History Place 2). The turnout of Young Germans for the Nazi Youth League was small at first due to competition from other organizations. But as the Nazi Party grew throughout the years, so did the Nazi Youth league
Under the leadership of Lenk, the Nazi Youth League was organized into small units in cities such as Nuremberg. “In May 1923, Lenk published the first Nazi youth magazine, nationale Jungstrum, which proved to be a money loser and was then reduced to a supplement of the Volkischer Beobachter” (The History Place 2). Lenk’s attempt at the Nazi Youth League came to an end in 1923 due to Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. This refers to the Nazi attempt to seize power in Bavaria. The march ended in “a police blockade… [where] Sixteen Nazis and three policeman were killed” (The History Place 2). After the march, Hitler was arrested and the Nazi Party as well as the Nazi Youth league was disbanded. After Hitler’s release from prison, “he announced he would re-found the Nazi Party” (The History Place 1), as well as the Youth League. Hitler and Lenk parted ways and Hitler placed the Youth organization in the hands of a man named Kurt Gruber. Under the organization of this young law student, “The first Hitler Youth style uniforms featuring a brown shirt and black shorts and a unique arm band with a Nazi swastika” (The History Place) were introduced. By 1926 the youth movement was renamed the Hitler Jugend, Bund der Deutschen Arbeiterjugend (HJ), and Gruber became the first official leader of the Youth movement. “All other independent National Socialist youth associations, including groups in Austria, were now absorbed into the Hitler Youth organization” (The History Place 1).
“Gruber’s immediate task was to construct the central organizational framework of the HJ, and in this he could at least attempt to emulate Hitler’s corresponding endeavors in the (Nazi party) NSDAP” (Stachura 23). Gruber created fourteen separate departments for the youth, which included things such as sports, propaganda, and education. As soon as members of the Hitler Youth reached the age of eighteen, they were forced to join the Nazi Party, and by 1927 the youths that were 18 were forced to become storm troopers. In 1927, the Hitler Youth made their first public appearance in Nuremberg. Three hundred of the Hitler Youth marched next to thirty thousand Nazi Storm Troopers. “On March 20, 1930, Hitler Youth gathered in Berlin for their first solo mass rally…(with) the theme From Resistance to Attack and featured inflammatory speeches by Berlin Gauleiter, Joseph Goebbels, and Hitler Youth Leader Gruber” (The History Place 4). The rally caught the attention of the police, but these rallies continued even though they were being opposed.
By this time, the youth movement was in full effect, and beginning to achieve the goals that Hitler had hoped. Hitler believed strongly that he must control the Youth in order to control Germany. Hitler stated, “Above all, we turn to the powerful host of our German youth. They grow up in an era of great change and… the inertia and indifference of their fathers… will force them to fight. German youth will one day be either the builder of a new, national state or it will, as the last witness, experience the complete collapse, the end of the bourgeois world” (Stachura 15-16).
Hitler’s next move was to help the Youth group grow and strengthen. With this in mind, Von Schirach a leading HJ personnel at this time stated, “There is no special Hitler youth for the poor or the rich, no Hitler youth for the grammar schoolboy or girl, or for the young worker. There is no special Catholic or Protestant Hitler Youth. Everyone who is of German blood belongs to our group. Before the flag of Youth, everyone is the same” (Stachura 50). The movement also spread Nazi ideology. “The HJ, like the NSDAP, believed that Germany and German youth would be economically enslaved to Jewish-controlled finance capitalism for decades” (Stachura 51). It was around this time (early 30’s) that “Hitler decided to increase the political education of the Hitler Youth. The first attempt came in the form of ”a HJ Reichsleitung report in 1931 which informed the organization that henceforth the Educational Division would issue so-called Schulungbriefe (educational letters) every month to each HJ Gau in order to better acquaint members with the objectives and content of HJ ideology” (Stachura 62).
This idea of education extended even further in 1931 when The Young Workers’ School was established in Berlin. This school, set up by the HJ, was followed by others such as the Hitler Youth Leadership School. These schools were established to teach the ideals of National Socialism. Yet another example of how “the HJ was used by the NSDAP on a long term basis for its political ends” (Stachura 66). By establishing these educational aspects of the HJ, Hitler and the Nazi party successfully gave the Youth a reason to join.
As the days passed, and the years grew, so did the Hitler Youth. “The Hitler Youth had grown from 80 branches with 700 members in 1926 to about 450 branches with 13000 members in 1929” (The History Place 3). These numbers continued to grow and when the Great Depression hit Germany in October in 1929 they underwent enormous growth. This success in an increase in members was not due to the organizations leader Kurt Gruber. Gruber was criticized for financial losses as well as being blamed for the slow growth of the Hitler Youth in comparison to the Nazi party. All these reasons led to Gruber’s replacement by a man named Baldur von Schirach in 1931. “Schirach had proven himself an able organizer and propagandist while he was a student leader… He was also an anti-Semite as well as being an opponent to Christianity (The History Place 4).
The organization underwent great change with Schirach in control. He combined the Hitler Youth with two other Nazi student organizations. “The Nazi student organizations were known for the virulent anti-Semitism of its young members who harassed and sometimes beat up Jewish teachers and administrators as well as anyone expressing anti-Nazi opinions” (The History Place 4). The Hitler Youth also played a role in helping Nazi officials run for political office. “Uniformed Hitler Youth… were a visible force in the streets campaigning for Hitler and conduction frequent propaganda marches” (The History Place 5). These campaign efforts resulted in quarrels between Hitler Youth and Communist youths. These street battles resulted in the death of twenty-three Hitler Youths between the years 1931 and 1933. This violence resulted in the government banning the organization. This however helped the Nazis due to “The lure of joining this now-forbidden youth organization” (The History Place 5) increasing the number of new members. Hitler was able to lift the ban on the youth organization not too long after it was placed in affect. After the election in 1932, the Nazi party was the largest in Germany and this can be partly credited to “the tireless propaganda activities of the Hitler Youth” (The History Place 6).
Now that the majority of people in Germany supported Hitler and the Nazi Party their power grew greatly. The Hitler Youth also went through a period of growth at this time. Two months after the election “Hitler acquired powers resulting from the Enabling Act passed by the Nazi controlled Reichstag. Hitler’s acquisition of power meant the Hitler Youth and all other Nazi organizations now had the official power of the state on their side” (The History Place 1). One of Schirach’s first actions after this acquisition of power was to place the Reich’s Committee of German Youth Associations under his control. Membership of the Hitler Youth continued to grow as a result of the disbanding of oppositional youth organizations such as communist and Jewish ones. By June of 1933, Schirach had been given a promotion making him Jugendfuhrer des Deutschen Reiches (Youth Leader of Germany), which gave him ultimate control. He got rid of the German Youth Associations so that the Hitler Youth was all that remained.
Changes in the organization continued in regards to organizational structure. He organized the youth into age categories. Boys between the ages of six and ten observed the boys who were ten to fourteen. These boys were referred to as the Jungvolk. Fourteen to eighteen year olds were actual members of the Hitler Youth. “Each boy was given a performance booklet recording his progress in athletics and Nazi indoctrination throughout all of his years in the HJ” (The History Place). Similar organizational methods were used to separate the girls that took part in the Hitler Youth. By the end of 1933 the Hitler Youth had grown to over 3.5 million members.
This huge increase in membership posed a problem to the Nazi Party. The problem that it caused was a lack of leadership within the organization. The training of speakers, leaders, and the establishment of schools corrected this problem. Courses were offered in areas such as Nazi Racial Principals and German History. Nazi officials also began training new leaders for the Hitler Youth. Erich Fehlberg stated in an issue of the Redner der Hitler-Jugend: “Today it is just as necessary to maintain constant and close contact between the leadership of the party and state with the people, which is still done most effectively through the spoken word” (Fehlberg 1). The purpose for training these new leaders was to represent the Hitler Youth to the public in the correct manner. As Fehlberg states, “The HJ speaker the expert speaker, has to understand National Socialism, and knows the thinking of the movement. He knows perfectly the positions of the HJ on cultural and political questions” (Fehlberg 1)
Once the movement had an ample amount of well-spoken leaders that could convey the message of the Party, Schirach moved on to his next project inside the Hitler Youth. He placed an emphasis on training and in a 1934 speech stated “Whoever marches in the Hitler Youth is not a number among millions but the solider of an idea. The individual member’s value to the whole is determined by the degree to which he is permeated by the idea. The best Hitler Youth, irrespective of rank and office, is he who completely surrenders himself to the National Socialist world view” (The History Place 2). What began as an organization for young boys to spend time together had become a driving force in Hitler’s political career. The Hitler Youth, that began as a Youth organization had transformed to something very different in a matter of years. The Hitler Youth “became more and more institutionalized, and finally became the instrument used by the National Socialist regime to run its ideological training of young people and the war work for certain age groups” (Noakes 422-423). It was remarkable easy for Hitler to achieve this due to how young and impressionable the youth were.
As time passed, the Hitler Youth began to place an emphasis on physical fitness. They held sporting competitions where the youths could compete for medals. This emphasis on fitness was due to Hitler’s personal beliefs of what was important for the youth. In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler states that “a less-educated, but physically healthy individual with a sound, firm character, full of determination and will power, is more valuable to the Volkish community than an intellectual weakling” (The History Place 3). In addition to physical fitness, the youth also began to undergo military training. The youth were trained how to fire riffles as well as learning how to sail, ride motorcycles and even build and fly gliders. These practices escalated to the formation of “basic training camps… for boys over the age of sixteen and a half” (Keeley 84). When the Nazis needed more solders to fight their battles in 1943 they turned to the Hitler Youth. “Boys in the HJ who were over fifteen were called up mainly to man antiaircraft gunnery units” (Keeley 85). Gerhard Rempel goes into detail to describe some of the Youth that fought in the war. “The actual combat unit, or Troop, consisted of nine boys, two groups of three manning panzerfausts (bazookas) and the remaining three carrying machine guns for protection…On the company level, three quarters of the boys were to erect tank traps and one-quarter were to be engaged in destroying tanks with bazookas.” (Keeley 88).
The Hitler Youth continued to grow as an organization due to the power of the Nazi Party. By 1936 a law was passed that made it mandatory for all German Youths to be educated in National Socialism through the Hitler Youth, except for Jews. The Nazi’s even punished parents who would not allow their children to join the organization with jail time. The youth of the country were beginning to regard Hitler as a god. By taking his time and making small changes in the organization, Hitler was able to successfully convert the Youth of Germany into a Klan of National Socialists who were willing to die for his cause.
In addition to the establishment of the Hitler Youth, the Nazi Party also affected the youth of Germany by changing the educational system of the schools in the country. “Nazis used various methods to try and control the education system and use it for their purposes” (Noakes 430). The Nazis gained control of the educational system through reorganization and centralization. Under the Weimar Constitution “education remained a matter for the individual state governments. With the destruction of the federal system in January 1934, the Reich Government acquired the opportunity to establish central control over education” (Noakes 434). After assuming power, in addition to placing a portrait of himself in every classroom across Germany, Hitler held purges to rid the schools of professors and teachers who were enemies to the party. The Nazis also set up special camps for teachers that “were intended to break down status differences and create a sense of community among teachers” (Noakes 432). The goal of these actions was to assure that the Youth were only being taught the ideology that the Nazis believed and nothing else. “German youth must no longer as in Liberal era in the cause of so-called objectivity-be confronted with the choice of weather it wishes to grow up in a spirit of materialism or idealism, of racism or internationalism, of religion or godlessness, but it must be consciously shaped according to principles which are recognized as correct and which have shown themselves to be correct: according to the principles of the ideology of National Socialism” (Noakes 432). These new principles were very different from what was being taught in the schools before the Nazis took control of Germany.
The new curriculum for German schools was broken up into four main categories of study. The Nazi Party refers to them as the New Educational Principals of the New Germany. The Nazis viewed the youth as an opportunity to rebuild German society. These new educational principals were Race, Military Training, Leadership, and Religion. The lessons that the new educational system taught the Youth about Race were twisted and racist. They emphasized knowledge about German traditions. They also stated in an article about the new Iron Pillars of education that “Only a pure member of the German race can have such an understanding of his people, crowning it with the willingness to sacrifice all for the people.” (German Propaganda Archive 1). The majority of the Race lessons that were taught in German schools were racist and anti-Semitic. Teachers were also told to spend a great deal of time on the subject of History. This subject however “was rewritten to emphasize Nazi themes of racial struggle and German pride” (The History Place 4). In addition to the emphasis on history, there was an emphasis on anti-Semitic studies. “Racial indoctrination in the classroom included teaching young children how to spot a Jew by describing the physical traits which Nazis believed were associated with inferior people” (The History Place 4)
The military training that the youth underwent also served an important cause to the Nazi party and Hitler. “National Socialist youth policy (as well as education practices were) aimed to secure the younger generations total loyalty to the regime and their willingness to fight in the war that lay ahead” (Bessel 26). These youth were taught that they must be ready to defend their country. “The German youth must learn military virtues. Their bodies must be steeled, made hard and strong, so that the youth may become capable solders who are healthy, strong, trained, energetic, and able to bear hardships” (German Propaganda Archive 2). Teachings such as this placed the youth of the country in the same mindset of a solder.
Leadership training also took place in the schools after the Nazis were controlling them. Leadership was important to the Nazis due to the importance of respect and following orders in the Reich itself. In order to maintain these ideals of leadership for future generations, they had to be taught to the youth of Germany. “A youth being trained for such important national duties must accept the idea of following the Fuhrer absolutely and without question” (German Propaganda Archive 2). The idea of following orders went hand in hand with leadership in the eyes of the Nazis. “Only he who has learned to obey can lead… Thus the German youth belongs in organizations where they will learn the nature of leadership in its most noble form, where they can learn to obey and if they are called to it also learn to lead”. (German Propaganda Archive 2). The leadership training was also very helpful for the youth that joined the Nazi troops on the battlefields.
The fourth and final category of study of The New Educational Principals of the New Germany was religion. The religious studies were included because the Nazis wanted the youth to know that “All life and all races follow God’s ordinance” (German Propaganda Archive 3). The Nazis wanted to let the nation know that their National Socialist state promotes religion in the schools of Germany. The Nazis were intending to display to the Youth a “consciousness of the relationship between God and each individual, and between God and the live of the people and the fatherland” (The History Place 3).
- Dilated Peoples
The term Propaganda refers to, “The attempt to influence behavior… by affecting, through the use of mass media of communications, the manner in which a mass audience perceives and ascribes meaning to the material world (Barghoorn 8). It is a tool that has been used by many different cultures throughout history. Propaganda played a huge role in Nazi Germany. It was used by Hitler to rise to power during the 1920’s and 30’s. The Third Reich itself would not have achieved the successes it had with out the use of propaganda. It was an essential part of the Nazi way of life. The atrocities that Hitler and the Nazi’s unleashed on the population of the world was made possible through the use of propaganda. Nazi propaganda infected all aspects of life; it was in the newspapers, on the radio, in the theaters, and even in the schools. It helped Hitler gain the support of the masses so that he could unleash his rein of terror. As Hitler states in Mein Kampf, “The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses” (Welch 8). Hitler was able to perfect this method, and gain the support of the masses. Once he achieved this, there was no stopping him.
The Nazis used propaganda from the start of their political career. Hitler first used propaganda in 1925 in the Nazi newspaper, the Volkischer Beobachter. “Unlike the long, detailed articles and academic discussion of economic and social problems which characterized the political presses of the Weimar Republic, the Volkischer Beobachter went in for short hyperboles on typical National Socialist themes; the evil of Jewry and Bolshevism, the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty, the weakness of Weimar parliamentarianism, all of which were contrasted with Nazi patriotic slogans…” (Welch 12). Hitler, who felt propaganda was an essential tool for his rise to power, “appointed Joseph Goebbels head of party propaganda in November 1928” (Welch 12). Goebbles huge role, which is discussed in greater detail later on, “showed an increasing opportunism in regards to learning and adapting new propaganda techniques” (Welch 12).
The Nazi rise to power was very sudden and surprised many Germans at the time and even historians who study it in the present day. Their rise was so sudden that the Nazis virtually came out of nowhere. “In the 1928 Reichstag race, the Nazis received only 2.6 percent of the vote. In July, 1932, they won 37.3 percent and in November, 1932, 33.1 percent” (Rhodes 171). This rise to power can be attributed partly to the party’s use of propaganda.
Hitler, being the master of propaganda that he was, organized propaganda into seven different principals. The first principal stated that that “Propaganda is a means to an end, not an end in itself” (Rhodes 172). Secondly, it must function to grasp the attention of the masses and not that of the intelligentsia. The third principal stated that it “should be directed toward the emotions rather than the so called intellect” (Rhodes 172). The next principal deals with the power of the spoken word in the environment of mass assemblies. The fifth principal stated, “Propaganda should be subjective and one-sided rather than objective and many-sided” (Rhodes 173). The sixth explains how to make propaganda effective. It stated “Propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan” (Rhodes 173). The final principal stated, “Propaganda must be psychologically sound…(and) make the enemy ridiculous” (Rhodes 173). These seven principals were the guidelines that Hitler created for all Nazi propaganda.
As the Nazi struggle for power continued during the late 1920’s and early 30’s propaganda began to play a dominant role. “Nazi Propaganda…(began depicting) Hitler as both (a) charismatic superman and (a) man of the people” (Welch 13). The Nazi’s began to make newsreels to reach the German public with Nazi ideals. After the arrest of Hitler at the Beer Hall Putsch, a ban was placed on the Nazi party as well as the official Nazi newspaper. The Nazi’s used the ban to their advantage by stating “It was typical of the corrupt federal government and of the contemptible Reichstag” (Zeman 13). Finally the ban was lifted and once again Hitler was free to give speeches and meet with members of his party.
The Nazis began having large rallies to spread the message of the party. “The mass of the followers were never consulted by the leaders; they were always confronted with one voice, one will, one opinion; they were never given an opportunity to ask questions” (Zeman 13). These mass rallies took place at a time when Germany was in a depression. The people were out of work, hungry, and very unhappy with the current state of affairs. Hitler and the Nazis were able to reach these saddened souls by creating scapegoats for the problems they were enduring. These scapegoats included the Jewish population, the Versailles treaty, and Communists. Hitler promised to solve the nations problems, and by providing a one-sided analysis of the countries situation, he was able to gain the support of the masses. Hitler and the Nazis were sure to address all members of German society. This included the German workers, businessmen, middle class citizens, artisans, the salesmen and shopkeepers, the Catholics, and the Bavarians. “Hitler explained to each of these constituencies that their problems had been caused by the Jews and by the system and that they had two choices: resistance or death” (Rhodes). On January 30, 1933, Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany, which gave him complete control of the country.
Hitler’s rise to power can be attributed to his successes in propaganda, and the successes of Nazi propaganda were greatly due to Hitler’s National Propaganda Leader of the Nazi party, Joseph Goebbles. Goebbles arrived on the scene in Berlin in the year 1926 with the orders from Hitler to reorganize the party. When the Nazis succeeded in winning 12 seats in the 1928 election, “Dr. Goebbles was one of the twelve” (Bytwerk 2). Goebbles succeeded in “master-minding the Party’s election victories in 1933”, and felt that propaganda was to play a huge role in the years to come (Welch 18). Due to this success in political power, Goebbles would be given authority to do what ever he needed to capture the minds of the German nation. In the eyes of Dr. Goebbles, propagandas function was to fill “the void that had hitherto existed between government and (the German) people” (Welch 19). The months following the Nazi’s victory in the 1933 election were very busy for Goebbles. Once Hitler was in control, it became Goebbles job to rid the political arena of Germany of all other political competitors (Zeman 41). “According to Hitler’s decree, published in June, the Minister was responsible for ‘all tasks of spiritual direction of the nation’. This vague directive gave Goebbles’s Ministry a wide scope” (Zeman 42). It was Goebbles job to supervise the radio, films, press, theatre, as well as the arts and the regulation of holidays. In order to centralize the propaganda activities of Germany, he eliminated all other sources of information so that the people of Germany were only experiencing life through Nazi ideals.
The radio became Goebbles first project in his efforts to persuade and control the masses. “Goebbles clearly saw in radio an instrument not only to create uniformity but also to guide public opinion towards the Nazi concept of ‘national community’ as the ideological observe to the class conflict that had been such a feature if Weimar politics” (Welch 30). Before he could achieve his goal to control the radio, he needed to have Hitler issue a decree that would state his control over the radio. Hitler’s decree stated “The Reich Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda is responsible for all influences on the intellectual life of the nation; public relations for the state, culture, and the economy, for instructing the domestic and foreign public about them and for the administration of all the institutions serving there purposes” (Welch 31).
Goebbles next move was to make all the radio stations that existed at the time branches of the Reich radio. “The radio, once a collection of private broadcasts in which the influence of the Reich, the states, political parties and private concerns battled, was united, cleansed and clearly organized” (Fritzsche 5). Goebbles began to have propaganda broadcasts as well as distributing inexpensive radio sets so all classes had an opportunity to hear the Nazi message in their homes. “The content of these broadcasts was based on highly charged emotional appeals to past German grievances” (Welch 32). The new inexpensive radio sets, the VE 3031 that were produced was referred to as the ‘Peoples Radio’. Goebbles intended to install a radio in every German household. These radios were also “designed with a limited range, which meant that Germans who purchased them were unable to receive foreign broadcasts” (Welch 33). Goebbles genius ideas in use of the radio transformed it into “the Nazi regime’s principal propaganda medium for the dissemination of National Socialist ideas and in the creation of a single public opinion” (Welch 33).
Goebbles and the Nazis had a much more difficult task facing them when they turned to the press for a source to spread their propaganda. The official newspaper of the Nazi party, which had been in print years before Hitler assumed power was the Volkischer Beobachter The Nazi paper was a good start, but the real task in regards to controlling the press was centralizing all of its papers. The press was much harder to centralize and control then the radio due to the fact that it was “associated with a whole plethora of political parties, pressure groups, religious bodies and private companies” (Welch 34). Even though the press was not as effective as the spoken word, Goebbles referred to it “as a piano on which the government could plan to influence the public in whatever direction it desired” (Welch 35). To gain the support of individuals in the press industry, Goebbles claimed to be a journalist who was familiar with experiencing opposition from the government. This was his way of portraying himself as a victim, which allowed him to relate with the individuals that were being oppressed by the Nazi control of the press. To defend his position Goebbles stated “If opposition papers claim today that their issues have been forbidden, they can talk to me as a fellow-sufferer. There is, I think, no representative of any newspaper banned fifteen times, as mine was!” (Welch 35).
In order for propaganda to succeed in the press, Goebbles had to rid the country of all other sources of information. The first step that Goebbles took to achieve this goal was the emergency decree that was issued as a result of the Reichstag fire of 1933. The decree “allowed the regime to suspend publication and include the spreading of rumors and false news as treasonable offences” (Welch 36). The Nazis began by taking over all communist and Social Democratic presses. They slowly banned, prohibited, or over took all papers that were not controlled by the Nazis. After he controlled who was allowed to print papers, Goebbles addressed the problem of what papers were allowed to print. This censorship had not existed in the years before Nazi control. “The content of the newspapers was rigidly controlled through the very detailed directives… which even covered the length of articles in particular topics and where they should be placed in the paper” (Welch 37). The newspapers became infected with the main themes of Nazi propaganda including “charismatic leadership, appeals to national unity, (and) anti-Semitism” (Welch 38). Goebbles gained even more power when he was appointed president of the press association. This gave him “the power to veto any journalist entering the profession” (Welch 37). There are no records of how many journalists the Nazis dismissed, but “the President of the ‘Reichsverband der deutschen Presse,’ Wilhelm Weiss, who was also editor-in-chief of the Volkischer Beobachter, remarked at a Press Congress in Cologne on 30 November, 1935 that by then 1300 Jewish and Marxist journalists had been dismissed” (Bramsted 97). Goebbles power gave him the opportunity to turn the press of Germany into a Nazi propaganda machine.
The propaganda of the Third Reich used film to spread their National Socialist ideals. “Film propaganda was Goebbles’ special interest, for he believed in the power of the cinema to influence people’s thoughts and beliefs, if not their actions” (Welch 39). Goebbles also felt that filmmakers should view their job as a service and not as an opportunity to make money. The most well-known film propagandist to come from Nazi Germany was Leni Riefenstahl. Her best known work was Triumph of the Will, which was one of the best portrayals of life under National Socialism, and the Berlin Olympics project Olympia. She later broke away from making films for the Nazis due to creative differences. “Her open break with Goebbles and the National Socialist ideology came in the form of her obsession with Jesse Owens…” an African American athlete. (Dassanowsky 3).
Goebbles wanted to have control over the film industry as well as input in the films that were made. In order to achieve this he revised the Reich Cinema Law. “The new Cinema Law saw three ways of achieving…positive censorship: a compulsory script censorship, an increase in the number of provisions under which the Censorship Office might ban a film, and a greatly enlarged system of distinction marks” (Welch 159). All types of films had to be given to the Censorship Office so that they could be viewed and made sure the material was suitable for the German public. Goebbles was given the power to intervene or ban a film whenever he felt it was necessary. Films were also given awards, or distinction marks, such as political distinction, which greatly benefited the success and viewing population of a film. This system was referred to as Pradikate. “These distinction marks were naturally a key political and propaganda content in the description of films” (Welch 45). This film propaganda was also used as an educational device for the Hitler Youth. In a speech delivered in 1941 to an audience of Hitler Youth, Goebbles stated, “Our State has given the film a very important assignment; it is therefore one of the most valuable factors in the National Education… Its success so far has led to a real breakthrough for German art and can be seen as an example for the peoples of Europe” (Welch (second book) 66).
After Goebbles succeeded in having the ability to censor the films that were being made in Germany, he began his struggle to nationalize the film industry. Goebbles did not want to nationalize immediately due to the impact it would have on Germany’s foreign distributors. With this in mind the Nazis secretly bought out “the major shares in the film companies and… (referred) to them as staatsmittelbar (indirectly State-controlled), rather than State-owned” (Welch 46). They then set unreasonable quotas for the film industry such as producing 100 films a year. When the quota was not reached, the state decided that it was in the film industry’s best interest to be taken over by the State. The Nazis produced 1,097 feature films between the years of 1933 and 1945. Goebbles successfully took over the film industry and used it to create propaganda that would help the Nazis gain support and control the masses.
The Nazi’s also used propaganda to ensure that the masses supported the Nazi war effort during World War II. Of course it was not the propaganda that won the battles for the Nazi forces, but “The propagandist can support military campaigns by whipping up an aggressive and self-confident spirit and by heaping deliberate abuse on the enemy nation, or its leaders…” (Bramsted 233). The war propaganda that the Nazis used first appeared in the years before the war. Hitler knew that he had to promote the idea of war to the Germany citizens, especially due to the negative image most citizens had as a result of the impact of the First World War on Germany. “The war ministry, to improve its own image and promote the education of the whole nation in a military sense, began in November 1936 to publish an illustrated fortnightly journal, Die Wehrmacht, to exert authoritative influence on the formation of public opinion in all defence matters” (Deist 107-108). The propaganda offices also set up military units to create wartime propaganda. Solders were told that they were fulfilling a legacy by following the solders that fell in World War I. Wartime propaganda also facilitated the press to spread its message. When German troops violated the Versailles Treaty by recouping the Rhineland, stated that it was “a reply to the alleged violation of Locarno by the Franco-Soviet pact of May 1935” (Deist 111). When German troops moved into Austria, it was referred to as just a friendly visit. They also claimed that they were only trying to protect Denmark and Norway, when the Germans moved into Scandinavia. The propaganda that Germany was producing during the years leading up to World War II constantly displayed Germany as a peaceful mediator with no intention of starting a war.
This wartime propaganda eventually transformed into a new type. In 1938 Hitler made an announcement at a meeting that was attended by numerous journalists, publishers, and propagandists of the Third Reich. “At this secret meeting Hitler not only announced that propaganda was to be switched to preparation for war, but declared in all frankness that his peaceful protestations of past years were purely deceptive maneuvers, intended to mislead opinion at home and abroad and to provide a cover for German rearmament” (Deist 115). The propaganda during the war would make Germany’s enemies appear as evil aggressors. Great Britain was referred to as a Warmonger that was threatening Germany, and as a result Germany was forced to defend itself. This propaganda also stated “Germany was engaged in a righteous war that was not of her seeking” (Deist 118).
Propaganda played an essential role in the successes of the Third Reich. As Adolf Hitler once said, “Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda. All that matters is propaganda” (Welch (second book) 1). With this in mind, Hitler incorporated his principles of propaganda into all aspects of life. This was accomplished by gaining control of all the information that the German people were exposed to. Thanks to the mastermind of Joseph Goebbles, propaganda reached new heights. The Nazis managed to control the radio, press, and cinema. Once they were under control they spread the ideals of National Socialism. Nazi propaganda also succeeded during the Second World War by influencing the population to support the efforts of the Nazi troops. Propaganda was essential in Hitler’s control of German society.
“Whoever believes in God in
human form believes also in the
devil in human form…God and
devil, German and Jew”
-Ernst von Aster
The term anti-Semitism refers to Hatred or prejudice towards the Jewish race; It “is a modern word for an ancient malignancy” (Botwinick 10). This hatred can be traced centuries and centuries into the past, but the most memorable examples are the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. The anti-Semitism that took place in Nazi Germany went as far as an attempt at Genocide to rid the world from Jewry. Hitler and the Nazis used the Jews as a scapegoat for all the problems that Germany was undergoing during the years that followed the First World War. “Anti-Semitism was not only the core of Nazi ideology, but the Jewish stereotype that developed from it provided the focal point for the feeling of aggression inherent in the ideology” (Welch 74). “It expressed a vision of a cosmic racial struggle in which Jews, representing the forces of darkness, were pitted against the Aryan forces of light, of whom the German people were the standard bearers” (Noakes 521). The Nazi Party was an organization that thrived on hatred and racism. “In the hierarchy of Nazi racial values, the Jews were bottom most” (Dawidowicz 118), and as a result of this, they were persecuted the worst. The spread of anti-Semitism throughout Germany greatly impacted the society. Hitler blamed the Jews for all the problems that Germany was going through at this time in history. This included things such as their military losses in World War I, economic depression after the war, and many other things. Hitler used anti-Semitism to turn the people of Germany against its Jewish population.
Prejudice is at the root of anti-Semitism. “Prejudice may be defined as a stereotyped negative attitude toward a person or group, an attitude that is unrelated to any factual information…it is also (believed to be) a learned reaction, not an instinct” (Botwinick 5). With this in mind it is important to address how individuals react to prejudice. “The act of prejudging another person on the basis of misinformation demands the suspension of independent thought and much freedom of action” (Botwinick 8). There is also a genetic pre-disposition to prejudice, which is the need to conform to values that are controversial (Botwinick). While this is essential to the Bigots that feed into prejudice, the victims have a very different response. “The victims of prejudice… lose their sense of wholeness, the self-respect that is so vital to human well being…(and eventually) the need to fit in, to be identified with the majority, seems an almost universal human trait” (Botwinick 9). They also tend to reject acculturation by disconnecting themselves from the majority and even exaggerating their differences such as speaking in a particular dialect. These reactions to prejudice are the reason why Hitler made sure anti-Semitism played a role in the Third Reich. Prejudice and anti-Semitism were used by Hitler to help the Nazis rise to power and control Germany Society.
The military defeat that Germany went through in 1918 at the end of World War I was a humiliating experience that left the society in a state of depression. “These in turn helped to produce anti-Semitism of greater violence than any experienced since the middle ages, as men sought to assign blame for disasters on specific groups of citizens” (Niewyk 29). The first examples of anti-Semitism in the Weimar republic in Germany were the blaming of Jews for the depression and defeat. “Jews in general and Jewish capitalists in particular…(had become) scapegoats for the sins of all capitalists” (Niewyk 30). The Jewish scapegoat played a very significant role in Weimar Germany. It is believed that the anti-Semitism was “part of a great plan to lead the Republic to collapse and clear the way for an armed dictatorship” (Niewyk 33-31). Racism against the Jews proved to be “the most effective means of political agitation since it can appeal most quickly to the masses of unenlightened people” (Niewyk 31). Hitler was aware of this and used anti-Semitism as a tool to control the nation of Germany. The anti-Semitism in Germany following WWI was a political method for agitation. “The Aryan struggle against Jewry is nothing other than a veiled struggle for the empire and the monarchy” (Niewyk 32).
Hitler had a definite hatred towards Jews, which he spread like a virus through the heart of Germany. Hitler’s view of Jews is clearly stated in his Book Mein Kampf. Hitler defines Jews as “a parasite in the body of other peoples” (Hitler 304). Hitler also discusses his belief that the Jew is attempting to take over and enslave the human race. In regards to the language of the Jew Hitler states, “As long as the Jew has not become the master of the other peoples, he must speak their languages whether he likes it or not, but as soon as they become his slaves, they would all have to learn a universal language, so that by this additional means the Jews could more easily dominate them!” (Hitler 307). Hitler also feels that the statement “Jews are not a race but a religion” is a complete lie (Hitler 307). Hitler also believes that the Jews of the world have monopolized Finance and commerce, and that “the Jewish influence on economic affairs grows with terrifying speed through the stock exchange ” (Hitler 314). Hitler goes on to talk about the Jews of Germany trying to dominate the working class. This is done through a number of actions. First “he (the Jew) approaches the worker, stimulates pity with his fate, or even indignation at his lot of misery and poverty, thus gaining his confidence…With infinite shrewdness he fans the need for social justice, somehow slumbering in every Aryan man, into hatred against those who have been better favored by fortune, and thus gives the struggle for the elimination of social evils a very definite philosophical stamp” (Hitler 319). Not only does Hitler describe the Jew as a menace and a parasite in the world, he also feels that their race is trying to take over and dominate the earth. These racist ideals are the messages he forced into the minds of the unhappy, hungry masses of Germany.
All of Hitler’s beliefs were centered on his racial doctrine. Goebbles and his propaganda machine “reveal the Jew to be an enigma: powerful enough to threaten every civilization but also cowardly and servile; racially pure, yet lusting after Nordic women. He was the capitalist with an insatiable appetite for money” (Botwinick 63). This broad definition displays the Jewish scapegoat, as enemies that will serve whatever purpose the Nazis need them to. This racial doctrine also defined the Aryan race as superior to all men on earth. “These ideal men and women were blond, blue-eyed, tall, straight backed, with high foreheads and straight noses” (Botwinick 63). The Nazis also believed that these physical traits were associated with the “spiritual qualities: courage, honesty, intellect, inventiveness, and artistic excellence” (Botwinick 63). These racial ideas defended the actions of the Nazis and eventually resulted in the holocaust.
Hitler and the Nazis implemented this racial doctrine into German society. This refers to the laws that were passed to take away the freedoms of German Jews. “There were many racial laws that prevented Jews from participating in the German community” (Nazi life 1). In 1935 Hitler placed a number of laws into effect with the intent “to further cleanse the German population from unwanted elements” (Proctor 131). These laws were referred to as the Nuremberg Laws. The first of these laws, The Reich Citizenship Law, gave new requirements for citizenship According to this law, in order to be a citizen one must be of “German or related blood who through their behavior make it evident that they are willing and able faithfully to serve the German people and nation” (Proctor 131). The Jews of Germany were considered residents, and were unable to have the same privileges as the citizens. The next of these Nuremberg Laws was called the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor. This law made it illegal for Jews and non-Jews to marry or have sexual relations. The third and final Nuremberg law was the Law for the protection of the Genetic Health of the German People. The purpose of this law was to ensure that the men and women getting married in the country did not have racial damage. This law required “couples to submit to medical examination before marriage to see if racial damage might be involved” (Proctor 132). The overriding purpose of these laws were to separate Jews from non-Jews, take freedoms away from Jews, and to ensure no more Germans would be infected with Jewish blood. “When the Nuremberg Laws were announced in the fall of 1935, German medical journals applauded the measures” (Proctor 133).
Joseph Goebbles was another Nazi official that is responsible for the spread of Anti-Semitism in Germany at this time. As a young man, Goebbles was indifferent to Jews and did not have any concerns with the racial doctrine. As he grew older and attempted to rise to power in the Nazi party, Goebbles realized that hatred towards Jews would serve to be essential and required. After realizing this he was sure to spread anti-Semitic ideals throughout Germany by the use of his propaganda ministry. “His portrait of the Jew was a dehumanized caricature that certainly was effective in persuading millions of Germans that there must be something to do” in regards to the Jewish question (Botwinick 85-86). Goebbles first opportunity to run a massive anti Jewish propaganda campaign arrived with the assignation of a German official in Paris. Due to the fact that the assassin was a Jew, Goebbles “turned the shooting into the provocation for a nationwide pogrom from which Germany Jewry never recovered” (Botwinick 86). Goebbles, who controlled all forms of media, did not stop there. Instead he attacked the “Jews who controlled the economic world from New York to Moscow” (Botwinick 86). This program that he initiated was known as Kristallnacht. This was the worst example of Nazi destruction of Jewish life, before the war.
Kristallnacht took place on November ninth 1938 when “the Nazis unleashed a wave of pogroms against Germany’s Jews”(U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) 1). It led to the destruction of many Jewish buildings and the death and incarceration of many Jews. Not only were Jews and their places of business and homes attacked, but also their religious institutes. Synagogues, the Jewish place of worship, were one of the many things destroyed on that horrific day. Not only are synagogues essential for Jewish worship, but they were also a reminder to the Nazis of the Jewish presence in Germany. “When the violence ended on the night of November tenth, hundreds of synagogues had been destroyed. German city officials, anxious to remove traces of these buildings, often ordered their immediate demolition and forced the Jewish community to pay for the costs” (USHMM 2). Not only did the Jews loose their synagogues, but all the religious paraphernalia that resided inside the synagogues.
As Hitler’s power grew and grew, he decided to force the Jewish population of Germany out of their homes and into ghettoes. “In 1940 the Nazis established ghettoes in cities with the largest Jewish populations including Warsaw and Lodz, which took in the surrounding Jewish populations” (Panayi 230). These ghettoes were characterized with humiliation, starvation, and a constant fear of death. Entire families were crammed into small one-room apartments. As if the ghettoes were not bad enough the Nazis began building concentration camps for the Jews. These labor and death camps, also referred to as the final solution, were much worse then the Ghettoes and where chance at survival was very slim. The actions that the Nazis took against the Jews due to their ideals of anti-Semitism were atrocious and greatly impacted the Society of the country. By slowly turning the German society against the Jews Hitler was able to achieve his goals, and as leader of the country he had the power to do what ever he pleased with the massive Jewish population of Germany.
Barghoorn, Frederick. Soviet Foreign Propaganda. Princeton University Press,
Behrendt, Edward. Hitler Youth: Personal Accounts: Austrian Boy. Internet. Available
Bessel, Richard. Life In The Third Reich. Oxford University Press. Oxford, 1987.
Botwinick, Rita Steinhardt. A history of the Holocaust: From ideology to Annihilation.
Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, 1996.
Bramsted, Ernest K. Goebbles and National Socialist Propaganda 1925-1945. Michigan
State University Press, 1965.
Dassanowsky, Robert von. “Wherever you may run, you cannot escape him”: Leni
Riefenstahl’s Self-Reflection and Romantic Transcendence of Nazism in Tiefland. Internet. Available @: http://www.powernet.net/~hflippo/ cinema/ tiefland.html.
Dawidowicz, Lucy S. The War Against The Jews: 1933-1945. Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, New York, 1975
Deist, Wilhelm. Germany and the Second World War. Vol. 1. The Build-up of German
Aggression. Clarendon Press. Oxford, 1990.
Fehlberg, Erich. Hitler Youth Speakers. Internet. German Propaganda Archive.
Available @: http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/hjredner.htm.
Fritzsche, Hans. Dr. Goebbles and his Ministry. Internet. German Propaganda Archive.
Available @: http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/goeb62.htm.
German Propaganda Archive. The educational Principles of the New Germany: What
Schools and Parents Need to Know About the Goals of National Socialist Education. Internet. Available @: http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/frau01.htm.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, 1971.
Keeley, Jennifer. Life in the Hitler Youth. Lucent Books Inc. San Diego, 2000.
Nazi Life. Internet. Available @ http://www.acs.appstate.edu/orgs/srp/life-in-reich.html.
Niewyk, Donald L. Socialist, Anti-Semite, and Jew: German Social Democracy
Confronts the Problem of Anti-Semitism 1918-1933. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1971.
Noakes, J. Nazism 1919-1945 Vol. 2 State, Economy and Society 1933-39. Department
of History and Archaeology University of Exeter. Great Britain, 1984.
Panayi, Panikos. Weimar and Nazi Germany: Continuities and Discontinuities. Person
Education, Harlow, 2001.
Proctor, Robert N. Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under The Nazis. Harvard University
Press, Cambridge, 1988.
Rhodes, James M. The Hitler Movement: A modern Millenarian Revolution. Hoover
Institution Press. Stanford, 1980.
Stachura, Peter D. Nazi Youth in the Weimar Republic. Clio Books. Santa Barbara,
The History Place. Hitler Youth. Internet. Available @
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Kristallanacht: The November 1938
Programs. Internet. Available @ http://www.ushmm.org/kristallnacht/learn.htm.
Welch, David. The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda. Routledge. London, 1993.
Welch, David. Nazi Propaganda: The Power and the Limitations. Croom Helm.
Zeman, Z.A.B. Nazi Propaganda. Oxford University Press. London, 1964.