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Between the years 1933 and 1939 the Nazi regime in Germany grew incredibly fast. Hitler entered the National Socialists cabinet in January 1933, and two months after this, Hitler had strengthen his political power by supposedly, entirely legal means. The Nazis were trying to consolidate their power and in order to get this; they had to convince people of the value of their regime. In this paper will attempt to identify the effects that the Nazi Propaganda had in the outcome of the National Socialist regime. To achieve this I will analyze Germany’s situation in the period of 1933 to 1939, where the National Socialist regime achieved its main aim using all kinds of methods; for example various legislative and administrative changes made by Hitler, the achievement of economical recovery, create fear of the National Socialist regimes amongst society, and propaganda.
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Although there are other very important factors to attribute the consolidation of power of the National Socialists, propaganda was definitely one of the major causes of this. Even though it is extremely difficult to measure the exact extent in which propaganda affected the Nazi consolidation, the huge propaganda campaign in which Hitler was portrayed as the savoir of Germany, had an enormous impact and influence on the German people.
The master propagandist of the Nazi regime, Joseph Goebbels, was convinced that the Ministry had the mission of achieving “mobilization and mind of spirit on Germany”. As a consequence of this, and other National Socialist thoughts, Joseph Goebbels created a propaganda campaign in which Hitler was portrayed as a great man that helped the economical recovery of Germany; he was most likely portrayed as Germany’s saviour. Goebbels, in his attempt to consolidate Nazi power and convince German people to support them used the technique of total propaganda. In other words, the government had control over the media. Soon after that, Goebbels took control of the newspapers, and although their writing stile did not change, most the newspapers promoted fascism and Nazi German nationalism.
As Goebbels’ work was evidentially giving results, and he was mostly responsible for bringing Hitler to the centre of political stage, he was rewarded with the position of Reich Minister for Public Entertainment and Propaganda; This gave him total control of the communications media, meaning the radio, press, cinema, publishing and others. As a result of this a completely new generation of manipulation was created. Once they had taken over most Germany, the propaganda ministry was split into seven different departments; it consisted of administration and organization, propaganda, radio, press, films, theatre and adult education.
As Germany was trying to convince German society that the National Socialist regime was the best for them, they were also caring out World War II. It was extremely important to convince people that fighting was necessary in order for Germany to stay stable. Propaganda played a highly important role in the confining of German people that supported the war. Most of Nazi German propaganda consisted of material sustaining the wartime effort. Besides this Hitler and the higher Nazi leaders encouraged racism and wished to begin the extermination of races that they considered inferior. Although there were already some unhappiness’s between the German Jews and other Germans, it was still necessary to convince the German population that action against them was necessary.
“Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side. (…) The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all-effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. (…) Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion.”2 This quote proves that not everything said by the government was truth and that there were things that the Nazis kept secret from the propaganda. It also shows Hitler’s main intention by introducing Nazi propaganda, which was to convince everyone that the National Socialist regime was the best for Germany. Even there were lots of types of propaganda all of them ended in the same conclusion and had the same intention of persuading people to support the National Socialist regime.
Some historians think that the main reason why the Nazi Germany regime remained in place was due to the fear factor created by the Nazi propaganda. Organizations such as the SS would work to wipe out anyone who didn’t agree with what the Nazi propaganda said. Although the fear factor influenced and was seen in a large minority, it affected a small minority. Thanks to this fear people would stop speaking about issues related to the National Socialist regime. Although fear may have helped to consolidate the power, propaganda also plays a part here. It was through the propaganda that the Nazis justified their actions, such as the Night of the Long Knives on June 30th, 1934, this operation consisted in a series of political executions; most of those killed were members of the Sturmabteilung also known as the SA and members of the Brownshirts, this were organizations against the National Socialist regime. This caused more fear in society and decreased their rebellion intentions.
C. Evaluation of Sources.
Source 1: Randall L. Bytwerk ,” Bending Spines: The Propagandas of Nazi Germany and the German Democratic Republic”.
This source’s main purpose is to show why the Nazi propagandas had such a fast effect and how it impacted society from that time. It examines the range of techniques used by Nazis. It talks about how people were embraced by the propaganda; it describes how the propaganda was in control f basically every media of communication that is what made it a very good source for this paper. However the book also says that the effect of the propaganda did not last much and it explains that in a way, Nazi prpaganda failed since they expected more of their propaganda than what it actually was able to do. This is one of the weaknesses if the source since it is a contradiction to what I am trying to prove which is that the Nazi propaganda had a huge effect in the outcome of the Nazi regime.
Source 2: Kallis, Aristotle A. Nazi Propaganda and the Second World War.
This is a great source since it analyses every aspect of the effects of the Nazi propaganda, it explains how society was affected by it. It shows different kinds of perspectives, as the first source this one also says that the effect of the Nazi propaganda was not as big or as shocking as it is generally thought. It explains that the National Socialists were expecting propaganda to have a greater effect that what it had, however it had a part of the influence in the outcome of the Nazi regime.
Anyone who produced, distributed, broadcasted, published or sold any form of media or press had to first join one of the propaganda ministry departments and follow all the publishing rules they had. Hence, without the ministry license to practice their businesses, all artists, writers, publishers, producers and directors could not work in their field. Along with these guidelines, they brought up the prohibition of all Jewish newspaper and media. Due to the abolition of every anti-Nazi publications and media in general, public felt that the overall mood of all the media was pro-Nazi; As a result of this people knew that by disagreeing they would step out of the general mood and the terror of not conforming due to the total propaganda they were subjected to, contributed in an amazing way to the consolidation of power in Nazi Germany. This terror grew stronger by rebellion acts against the old order, such as the book burning of 1933, this was a campaign promoted by the National Socialist regime in which every single book in Germany that had opposing ideas to those of the Nazis, or any book that might cause the rebellion of German civilians against the Nazis were burned.
Undoubtedly Nazi propaganda films were increasingly popular and thus influential; the number of movie viewers in 1933 was 250 million meaning 249 million more than in 1942. Images of colossal gatherings and marches taking over a grand, powerful Germany were excellent for boosting moral and achieving confidence in the regime.
The significant number of movie viewers was thanks to Goebbels’ idea that movies should not be overly propagandists and must be entertaining. However as in every other media, the ultimate goal was to influence people and drag them into Nazism. The typical films that Goebbels considered appropriate for propaganda were the classic dramas that centred on the great Prussian leaders and other influential figures.
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There were also some very straightforward war films that contained clear pro-German and pro- nationalistic messages, other films that performed a slightly different propaganda function, such as 1936 Olympia, which showed that Germany could put on a magnificent show for the Olympics. The huge success of the films during this period conveyed to the public the sense that Nazi regime was a regime of modern progress, breaking barriers in technology, convincing public that remaining with the Nazi party would be the only solution in order to progress.
The Olympic Games of 1936 were handed to Berlin before the Nazis came to power, and Hitler thought of this as the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the world how efficient the Nazi Germany was. The Berlin Olympic Games were also the perfect scenario for the Nazis to prove the “power of the Master Race”. The Nazis gave an outstanding performance in the use of radio for the reporters. Twenty transmitting vans were put at the disposition of the foreign media along with 300 microphones. The radio broadcasts at the Olympics were given in 28 different languages. The director of NBC in America congratulated the Nazis for this service; this was a great triumph for the Public Entertainment and Propaganda Ministry Radio could also be considered as one of the greatest and most convincing propaganda. For example the ‘Volksempfanger’; in 1933, 4.5 million German houses had broadcast access and were listening to it. This was thanks to the availability of inexpensive radios. A factor of success of the radio was its personal nature, while the cinema was experienced with others, the radio had the ability for the Nazi party to talk to people in their own home, and also they could share it with the public thanks to the speakers in the streets.
The National Socialist regime held absolute control over Germany between the years 1933 and 1939. The Nazis dominated every aspect of the everyday life of ordinary people and made it almost impossible for people to escape the influence of Nazism in their family, their work, and even thinking. Even though the Nazis did bring some prosperity to Germany in economic ways at that time, the overall Nazi regime was based on terror and it was centred on the transformation of Germany which could only be completed by affecting the lives and thoughts of most, if not all of the German citizens. Most of the Nazi ideals were mainly promoted through films, radio, theatres and newspapers controlled by the National Socialist regime. There was no way of avoiding it; it was spread across every form of entertainment and media of communication. A significant percentage of Germans seem happy with Nazi control, however, those who were not, were harshly punished by either the Gestapo or the SS. The propaganda used in the wartime had a massive effect in people causing lots of German Citizens to join the National Socialist ideas and helping the Nazis to gain control over almost every German citizen.
F. Sources and Word Count
Word Count: 1994
Bytwerk, Randall L. Bending Spines: The Propagandas of Nazi Germany and the German Democratic Republic. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2004.
Kallis, Aristotle A. Nazi Propaganda and the Second World War. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Nazi and East German Propaganda, Guide Page, German Propaganda archive.
The Holocaust History Project , < http://www.holocaust-history.org/>
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