subject = history:Holocausttitle = The use of propaganda in the Nazi Regimeand in their Totalitarian Controlpapers = The Role of Propaganda in the NaziTakeover and in Their Totalitarian ControlWhen one thinks of the term”propaganda”, what comes to mind? Would it bring a positive response? Wouldit bring a negative response? When one thinks of “propaganda” in associationwith the Holocaust, what comes to mind? A positive response or a negativeresponse? Most likely a negative response.
Why is “propaganda” any differentfrom 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 whichwe think to be untrue? And finally, was the role of “propaganda” in the Nazis’assumption of power overstated? (Daniel Goldhagen, 1996)As many peoplewho are learned in the field of the Holocaust will agree, propaganda playedan extremely vital part in the Nazis’ rise to power, as well as their brain-washingof the German population into detesting all, of what they considered, “heretics”to the degree of accepting their murders. Validity of the accusations uponwhich 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 thisgoal the Nazi party deemed it necessary to monopolize the communications, media,and entertainment industries, Germany already had a strong anti-Semitic background.Order now
Europeananti-Semitism is an outgrowth of Christianity. Since the time of the RomanEmpire, Christian leaders preached boundlessly against Jews. It escalatedfrom generation to generation, for as long a the Jews rejected Jesus as theirMessiah, the Jews “challenged” the whole belief system of Christianity. Theidea that it was the Jews that killed their savior also evolved from that timeperiod.
Along those lines, the notion that all Jews of forever were responsiblefor Jesus’ death, for they approved of the crime, would have certainly doneit again (according to the anti-Semitics), and had always rejected his teachings. Asthe Medieval period came, the Christians’ hatred for Jews further articulatedand was brought to a new level. The Christians in the Medieval world saw Jewsin twofold opposition to Christianity: they rejected his revelation and werehis killers. In addition, church members had much detested the Jews on thebasis that they should have accepted Jesus as their Messiah.
Consequently,persecution and killing of the Jews became a part of everyday life, leavingmany regions of Western Europe without any Jews by the end of the sixteenthcentury. Entering the nineteenth century, German anti-Semitism went throughan acute transformation. It was then that it made its change from a religiousissue, to a racial one. Germans naturally detested Jews, and with a passion. Nineteenth century Germans now saw Jews as the symbol for everything awryin their declining economy, even though they made up but a mere one percentof the population. Soon the cultural taboos that had formerly shaped the moralfabric of Germany at the time lost all influence.
It was then that Germananti-Semitism reached a high point: false, cruel, yet indisputable accusations. Prostitution, sexual degradation and depravity, and the sexual assaultingof unsuspecting German virgins are examples. The Germans also imagined Jewconducting ritual murders. By the time the Nazi party instituted totalitariancontrol, all that remained was to build on the framework provided by the nineteenthcentury. A framework which included anti-Semitism being common knowledge,Germans’ obsessive hatred toward Jews, the common belief of Jews being thereason for their collapsing economy, the belief of Jews being evil and a sourceof great harm. This new type of anti-Semitism was of a savage nature and alogic 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 theircause, all the Nazis had to do was execute their strategies. Even before gainingfull control in January of 1933, they used all possible methods, and even introducednew forms of publicity, to get national attention and recognition. The Naziparty sponsored mass meetings and pageants, distributed all sorts of visualaids and propaganda, and assumed control of the radio and film industry. Oncethe Nazis gained control they used all the above means and more to strengthentheir totalitarian control on the German population.
By means of blatant falseclaims and accusations, the Nazis made untrue justifications for politicaland military aggression, as well as enthusiasm toward Nazi goals. Hitlerknew how he had to manipulate propaganda to get “positive” results from thepopulation. In his book, Mein Kampf, he wrote:To whom should propagandabe addressed? To the scientifically trained intelligentsia or to the lesseducated masses? It must be addressed always and solely to the masses. What the intelligentsia?need is not propaganda but scientific instruction. The content of propaganda is as far from being science as the object depictedin a poster is from being art. A poster’s art lies in the designer’s abilityto capture the attention of the masses by form and color.
The functionof propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, butrather in directing the attention of the masses toward certain facts?It mustbe directed toward the emotions, and only to a very limited extent toward theso-called intellect. The receptive ability of the masses is very limited,their intelligence is small, their forgetfulness enormous. Therefore, allpropaganda has to limit itself to a very few points and repeat them like slogansuntil 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.
Hewanted to aim his propaganda crusade exclusively toward the masses. In doingso they would accept it as a decree. Furthermore, it was extremely importantthat 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 popularand be geared in order for even the most simple-minded individuals to understand.
Equally as important, was the necessity to give the people the “conceptualtruth,” 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 traditionalGerman moral standards (as far as behavior). Subsequently, as the Nazis hopedwould happen, the ideas acquired via propaganda would mature into a part ofeveryday German life. It would become an issue in and out of the home.
Accordingto Hitler, the masses must not have two or more enemies. Rather, they shouldconcentrate on one primary enemy: the Jews. To support this idea, the Nazipropaganda reinforced racist philosophy on the “normal” anti-Semitism by givingthe Jews the title of “enemy of the common people. ” Two elements, hatred andracism, were integrated in propaganda to urge the population to find the importanceof ridding Germany of the parasitic/blood-sucking Jew.
In Hitler’s view, anti-Semitismwas a vital weapon in the propaganda enterprise. He insisted that whereverit is used, it has a huge effect, and refused to it disregarded as a politicalweapon. So began the obsessive anti-Semitic propaganda campaign of Nazi Germany. To achieve their goal, they began using all means of media.
Early on, theNazis began showing very anti-Semitic movies and shows, as did they air suchprograms on the radio. They were now getting closer and closer to their goalof having the population detest to the Jews, to the point where the commonlyseen distasteful episodes in Polish ghettos lead the people to accept the beating,killing, and liquidation of Jews. The Nazis even got international proteststo subside. They aired movies exemplifying the pleasant conditions in theconcentration camps. For example, the Nazis broadcasted scenes of a masqueradepresented at the Theresienstadt camp.
In recognition of the significantrole propaganda was playing in the Nazi’s battle, the Reich Ministry of PublicEnlightenment and Propaganda (Reichsministerium f?r Volksaufklrung und Propaganda)was created on March 5, 1933. Headed by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi expert inpropaganda and a notoriously persuasive speaker, a new generation of radio,press, cinema, and arts manipulation was brought forth. Goebbles ran the departmentfrom an old palace which oversaw thirty-two other field offices. He recruitedthe brightest, most intelligent young men he could find to work in his department. In the Nazi’s industrial takeover of Germany, the propaganda machine wasthen set up into seven different sections, each in charge of the a department:1)Administrative and Organization2) Propaganda3) Radio4) Press5) Films6)Theatre7) Adult EducationAnyone who produced, distributed, broadcasted,published, or sold any form of cinema, media, press, or literature had to firstjoin 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 Hitler’s adversaries were not allowed to join. Thus, without a licenseto practice their businesses, all artists, writers, publishers, producers,or directors could not work or do any business in their field. Also alongwith those quotas, came the prohibition of all Jewish newspapers, radio, andcinema. Part of Hitler’s master plan was to have his nation to become themost 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 muchassistance form Goebbles, began a new campaign.
This time, it was aimed atwomen. 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 consideredto be a trim figure. Hitler needed to replace the traditional fit look forwomen 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 urgedto use such women in their work.
Hitler even granted an award to any Germanwoman who gave birth to six or more children. SS troops were given instructionsto marry blond-haired, blue-eyed women who had not yet received the Reich sportsaward. The family life campaign soon branched off to another important issue,education. For if Germany were to be flooded with Aryan children they hadto get the “right” education and to be taught by the “right” teachers: Naziteachers. Therefore, the German school systems discharged all Jewish and non-Naziteachers. At that point, 97% of the teachers in Germany belonged to the NaziTeachers Association.
Textbooks and children’s books, as well, had heavymilitary 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 dropsa bomb every second at a speed of 250 kilometers per hour? How far apart arethe craters?-The New Order, p. 103 Some children’s bookseven intimidated Nazi members, because they were so biased that they werehorrifying.
Perhaps the author that best exemplifies this was the notoriouslyrelentless and obsessive anti-Semite, Julius Streicher. Born in Fleinhausen,Bavaria in 1885, Streicher was a German politician and journalist. He wasone of the earliest and most extremist members of the Nazi party. In fact,he even participated in Hitler’s 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 children’s book, and “DerSt?rmer,” a Nazi newspaper. While his works appalled even some Nazis, Hitlerwas intrigued by his “skillful and amusing campaign. ” With the campaignaimed at children, the Nazis integrated both anti-Semitic ideology and encouragedchildren 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 childrenjoining the two youth organizations were not all going for their hatred towardJews.
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, theequivalent of our Boy/Girl Scouts of America Organization. Billboards, poster,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 Hitler’scrusade, for there was a job and a place for everybody. The Nazi’s offeredmen jobs in Hitler’s army.
If they were inexperienced, they offered trainingcamps, seminars, and classes, in which they were taught everything from militarymaneuvers to how to identify a Jew. As effective of the other forms ofNazi 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 people’sminds. Joseph Goebbles took the first step to assuming full control of thenews-wire services.
He then merged the different wire-services into the GermanNews 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, theybegan making laws pertaining to it. For example, in 1933, Goebbles institutedthe Editor’s Law. This stated that all newspapers had to go through his ministry.
Accordingly, the editors were responsible for every picture and word in theirpublication, and if Goebbles did not like what was being printed, the editorswould be punished. Although, they would most commonly lose their jobs, Goebbles,on occasion, would have the person sent to a concentration camp. His regulationson new circulation so limited the liberty of the reporter, that daily pressconferences were often held. There, Goebbles would dictate what should bewritten in the article and how it should look.
Unfortunately for the Nazis,much of the population of Germany stopped reading newspapers, altogether,for they already knew what would be written. Since Goebbles realizedhe could not brainwash the people just through the newspaper, he then tookover radio communication. By making sure stores kept a plentiful stock ofinexpensive radios, a record seventy percent of German families owned at leastone radio. If in the event that a family did not own one, the Nazis encouragedgathering in groups at home, at work, and at eating places to listen to thebroadcasts. With over a quarter of a typical day’s broadcasting time beingreserved solely for Nazi propaganda, the people became very vulnerable to whatthey heard.
To be sure not one person was without the privilege of listeningto daily broadcastings, the Nazis had loud speakers installed all over thecountry. Goebbles also seized control of the cinemas. Still a fairly newconcept, motion pictures were very popular among the Germans. The Nazis beganmaking both movies and documentaries with extremely anti-Semitic messages.
There were documentaries that were merely intended for the glorification ofthe Nazis, while other were tasteless, explicit movies based on mere blatantlies and biases produced by the Nazis and other anti-Semitic organizations. Some were so anti-Semitic that the actors requested that a telegraph be sentout publicizing that they themselves were not really Jewish. Despite the horrifyingmotion-picture campaigning, countless numbers attended these films. By now,the German population was predominantly anti-Semitic. Stage one of the Nazis’plan was done. However, Nazi missionaries began coming over to the UnitedStates.
Although quickly deported, they left behind their ideas. Organizationssuch as the Christian Front and the German-American Bund were formed and stronglysupported the Nazis. Newsletters and leaflets were being mass produced throughoutthe country. Luckily the majority of Americans retained their morals and acceptanceof Jews. In their quest for both world and racial domination, the Naziscovered all possible territory/subject-matter, and all possible means of accomplishingtheir goal. They monopolized and strictly monitored all branches of the communicationsand media industry.
By doing this, the Nazis only allowed the people to hearwhat they wanted them to hear, and nothing more. In the midst of a major economicdepression, the German people were both vulnerable and desperate, and the unemploymentrate was very high. Thus, many people had nothing else to do beside listento the radio and read the newspaper. Naturally, there was no commercial orindustrial market, almost everything fitting into those two categories wasfailing, so it was not difficult to take over. Hitler’s plan was working verywell. Reflecting on the manner in which the term “propaganda” is used inthis paper, it could be understandable why one could see the word as a negativeterm.
Even though the dictionary defines “propaganda” as publicity to eitherfurther or damage one’s cause, I am unable to picture myself defining Hitler’spublicity scheme as merely marketing, promotion, or advertising. Rather, Isee it as a disgusting form of “disinformation” (See, p. 1). In conclusion,even though the word, “propaganda,” can be used in reference to either positiveor negative campaigning, it is how we have come to, most often, identify ideologywhich we do not approve of or think not to be true. WorksCitedAusubel, Nathan.
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