Nazi Propaganda & Indoctrination

  • Why and how did they use Propagnada, Indoctrination & Censorship?
  • What is the difference between Propaganda and Indoctrination?
  • Did it work?
  • Why is it difficult to measure the impact of them?
  • What was the Hitler Myth?
  • Why was Goebbels the Master of Propaganda?
  • Nazi Ideology, Economic Miracle, Elimination of unemployment, Olympics.
  • Who were Schacht, Goering and Speer and what were their ideas?
  • Why did unemployment fall?
  • How did Propaganda change and what was it's purpose during the war?
  • What impact did Total war have on Propagnda?
  • What impact did the invasion of the USSR have on Propaganda?

Why did the Nazis use Propaganda & Indoctrination?

The Nazis aimed to strengthen their grip on power by using methods to convert the entire 'People's Community' to their way of thinking. Hitler aimed to tackle political power with the use of precise, simple and persuasive Propaganda. Hitler and Goebbels believed that the use of Propagada  and Indoctrination would play a vital role in establishing the Third Reich. Goebbels described Propaganda as the Nazis' 'sharpest weapon in conquering the state.' 

After Hitler came to power in January 1933, it remained one of their key focuses. As they were strongest politial party of their era, they had access to central and local government resources with they used fully to expand their Propaganda and Indoctrination. The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda had been introduced and Josef Goebbels was appointed Minister of it by Hitler in March 1933 and by 1937, it was employing 14,000 people.

Josef Goebbels 1887-1945: Was as effective public speaker who rose to the ranks to become Gauleiter (Nazi party leader in a certain region) for Berlin in 1926 and then went on to be Reich Propaganda director in 1929 before being elected to the Reichstage in 1933 when he became Reich minister of public enlightenment and propaganda. During the war, his power within the state grew. At the end of the war, he killed his wife and family before committing suicide. 

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Propaganda: Methods to try and influence public opinion.
To get a group to accept & believe beliefs or ideas uncritically.
To alter something or forbid its publication or showing.
Customs, ideas, values; or art, music, literature etc.

The Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment & Propaganda: Nazi Germany's ministry that enforced the Nazi party Ideology and regulated its culture and society. It was founded on March 13th, 1933 by Hitler's national socialist government. It was led by Goebells and was responsible for controlling the press and culture of Nazi Germany.

It oversaw the work of the press, radio, film, literature, theatre, music and fine arts, creating a vast empire which gave Goebbels massive power of the cultural life of the nation.

Methods of Propaganda: These included photos, posters, education, music, film, newspapers, parades & public spectacles, theatre, literature, architecture, paintings and sculptures. These were all used to raise the party's profile, yo intimidate opponents and to create the impression of a large, well-supported and disciplined organisation.

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Newspapers: Control over newspapers by Goebbels' propaganda ministry was tightened between 1933 and 1939. Socialist and Communist publishing houses were closed down whilst the Nazis directly increased their ownership of newspapers. As a result of this, the circulation figures of newspapers declined.

  • The Reich Press Chamber was established and all newspaper publishers had to become members of this body.
  • The state-controlled news agency held daily press conferences and issued detailed directives on what newspapers could and could not print. Occasionally the agency issued articles which had to be printed. By the late 1930's, half of all newspaper content was controlled by the agency.

Radio: Hitler and Goebbels regarded radio as one of the most powerful forms of propaganda as it allowed him to speak directly to the nation. Goebbels set about making radios more accessible and affordable for households. A remake of an old model was bought out at a cheaper price and 70% of all households had one by 1939, the highest proportion worldwide.

Themes of race, blood and the Volksgemeinschaft were dominating radio with over 50 of Hitler's speeches being broadcast over it.

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The totalitarian ideology of the Nazis didn't allow the expression of any alternative viewpoints or criticism of the regime, as it was seen as a threat to the unity and co- ordination in the people's community which the Nazis were attempting to build.

They also wanted to impose 'cultural autarky' in which the German people would be sheltered from outside influences and only the Nazis version of reality could be shared. Censorship of the media included:

  • Socialist/Communist parties banned: No newspapers,posters,books, leaflets.
  • The Propaganda ministry issued regulations on what can & can't be printed.
  • Newspaper editors were personally responsible for content, self-censorship.
  • The Propaganda Ministry made a list of 'damaging and undesirable content'.
  • The Propaganda Ministry had rights to view film scripts before film made.
  • The SD & the Gestapo had the power to search bookshops & libraries.
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The effectiveness of Propaganda & Indoctrination

  • Hitler & Goebbels were skilled propagandists.
  • Attitudes towards Germans depended on; age, class, occupation, religion etc.
  • From the Gestapo reports, there was at the very least scepticism among some sections of the population towards Nazi policies
  • It seems to have been most successful towards the young who had not yet formed strong opinions.
  • Methods were also effective when the messages overlapped with the traditional attitudes and values of particular groups.
  • Germany's middle class shared the Nazi hostility towards Communism and Socialism and believed that the Nazis were the only alternative to a Left-Wing takeover in Germany.
  • Anti-Semitism and Nationalist resentment of the Treaty of Versailles ran through all classes and the Nazis could reinforce these views through Propaganda.
  • Within the Third Reich, Propaganda and Indoctrination was most successful when it built upon existing beliefs and values. However, it was less successful when Nazis challenged deeply held beliefs (Religion). 

Measuring success: It is difficult to gauge exactly hos successful Nazi methods were as the occasional plebiscites (a vote to approve a regime's policies) carried out by the Nazis were not free elections so they cannot be used as genuine evidence to support this. Attitudes could have also changed over time with a fear of repression.

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The Hitler Myth

A personality cult surrounding Adolf Hitler which Goebbels claims to have been his greatest achievement. In 1933, the majority of the German population remained unconvinced by or hostile towards Hitler.

By the end of 1934, a powerful Hitler cult came into existence and he was being hailed as the 'symbol of the nation' and 'the leader for whom the nation had been waiting'. This image was carefully constructed through propaganda to mask reality and to portray him as a superhero figure towards the nation. It became so powerful that in time, Hitler himself began to believe it. He was presented as a man who;

  • Was tough, uncompromising and ruthless in defeating the nation's enemies.
  • Was incredibly hard-working.
  • Was a political genius who had mastered Germany's problems and was responsible for Germany's 'national awakening' where order had been restored, the economy revived and the Treaty of Versailles weakened.
  • Was dynamic, energetic and forceful, opposite to other Weimar politicians.
  • Lived a simple life and sacrificed personal happiness to devote himself to his people. 
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The Economic Miracle: Goebbels portrayed an image of Nazi economic policy success through speeches and radio broadcasts by Hitler, stating that the 'battle for work' had been won by 1836. It was no longer mentioned after this to give the impression that unemployment was no longer a problem along with the advertising of the 'People's receiver', cruise ship holidays and the 'People's car' showed an increase in living standards. Parades showing off the latest German made equipment persuaded people to buy only German goods to show that Germany was ready for Autarky and war.

However, when the Nazis came into power, the economy had naturally already began to improve and unemployment schemes were previously introduced by Bruning in the early 1930s.

Nazi Ideology:  

  • National Socialist Program
  • Racism (Anti-Semitism).
  • The master 'Aryan race'.
  • Euthanasia and Eugenics: "Racial Hygiene"
  • Anti-Marxism and Anti-Communism.
  • Dictatorship and Führerprinzip.
  • Social Darwinism: The survival of the fittest.
  • "Lebensraum im Osten" (The creation of more living space for Germans).
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The elimination of unemployment: Part of this was achieved by persuading married women to give up their jobs through granting them marriage loans, releasing more jobs for unemployed male workers.

The Autobahns were a great propaganda success but were of little practical value. The lack of vehicles on this new Autobahn reflects the fact that the volume of traffic did not justify the money spent on them.

Autarky: Hitler established a four-year plan, declaring that Germany will have achieved self-sufficiency within the next four years (1936-1940) in food production and vital raw materials so they could prepare for war. It fitted well with the Nazi ideology already portrayed as it would 'free Germany from the chains of international capital'. The people's community had to participate, shown by propaganda campaigns to persuade the country only to buy German goods, only eat German food and only use German raw materials in their work.

The results of the Four-Year plan did not match the claims. German industry did not meet the targets set by the regime even though they had massive investment. In 1939, Germany were still importing a third of its raw materials.

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The Olympic games, Berlin 1936: In August 1936, Adolf Hitler's Nazi dictatorship scored a huge propaganda success as host of the Summer Olympics in Berlin. The games were a 2 week interlude in Germany's escalating campaign against Jewish population and country's march towards war.

They were seen as a huge opportunity to present a positive image of Third Reich to rest of world. The state of the art stadium that seated 100,000 people became a symbol of revival and confidence of the German people under Hitler. 

Goebbels used the propaganda potential of the games and all the modern technology to full advantage in order to project an image of the Third Reich as orderly, efficient and successful. 

Participation in sports would harden German Youth and reinforce notions of struggle. Drilling for mass gymnastics displays would help to install the idea that the individual could only achieve their full potential as part of a larger community, promoting Nazi belief of the 'People's Community'.

The games were a chance for Germany to show the world the success of Nazi racial policies with no Jewish participants. Germany topped the medal leaderboard, living upto expectations.

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Hjalmer Schacht (1877-1970): Became head of the Reichsbank in 1923 as he supported Hitler's appointment as Chancellor in 1933, but was originally a Nationalist. He was involved in the negotiations of both the Dawes and Young Plans. He became economics minister in 1934 and was the mastermind behind the Nazi strategy for financing rearmament. After the Four-Year Plan and Goering taking charge, his influence declined and was eventually removed from the Economics Ministry in 1937 and lost position of Head of Reichsbank in 1939.

Hermann Goering (1893-1946): Took part in Munich Putsch, 1923. Elected to Reichstag, 1928 and became President speaker in 1932. Appointed Prime Minister and interior minister of Prussia a year later. Also responsible for rebuilding of the Luftwaffe when became Reich Aviation Minister, 1933. He established the Gestapo and first concentration camps. He was placed in charge of the Four-Year Plan in 1936 but his influence declined after the failure of the Luftwaffe and eventually became expelled from the party in 1945. Captured by the Allies and put on trial but committed suicide in prison.

Albert Speer (1905-1981): Joined Nazi party in 1931, an Architect who was responsible for the stage management of the Nuremberg rallies and designing key public buildings in Third Reich. Appointed armaments minister in 1942. He was tried at Nuremberg after the war and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.

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Why did unemployment fall?

  • Economic recovery began before the Nazis came to power in January 1933, as Bruning, the previous Chancellor created job creation schemes to reduce unemployment in the early 1930s and the Nazis used his ideas as a base for theirs.
  • Part of the decrease in unemployment figures was achieved by the Nazis persuading women to give up their jobs once they were married. They did this with the offering of marriage loans which released jobs for males.
  • The official figures of employment were bumped up by the including of people who worked part-time but were counted as full-time workers and unpaid agricultural workers who were also counted as full-time workers.

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How did propaganda change during the war?

The early years of the war (1939-41) saw the aims of propaganda to maintain public morale and mobilise the energies and commitment of German people to war effort, instead of instilling 'military spirit' as previously. Goebbels wanted to show that Germany was fighting a defensive war which they couldn't avoid.

As the war went on through the brutal Russian winter and became long, bitter and costly, Goebbels ordered a more sober and realistic tone to propaganda as heavy air raids and food rationing had damaged public morale. 

The war became disastrous for propagandists; the early prediction of victory for Germany was now a devastating defeat. Goebbels recognised there was a need to prepare German civilians for a long and drawn out struggle for survival. He used propaganda to justify increasing sacrifices being demanded from civilians to enlist support for total war. The new propaganda included:

  • Anti Bolshevism: Anti-Communism (a structured society with hierarchies). 
  • Anti-Semitism: Anti-Jews.
  • Strengthening resolve: Continuation of hope through the slow defeat.
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