Propaganda is the art of persuasion – persuading others that your ‘side of the story’ is correct. Propaganda might take the form of persuading others that your military might is too great to be challenged; that your political might within a nation is too great or popular to challenge etc. In Nazi Germany, Dr Joseph Goebbels was in charge of propaganda. Goebbels official title was Minister of Propaganda and National Enlightenment.
to ensure nobody in Germany could read or see anything that was hostile or damaging to the Nazi Party.
to ensure that the views of the Nazis were put across in the most persuasive manner possible.
To ensure success, Goebbels had to work with the SS and Gestapo and Albert Speer. The former hunted out those who might produce articles defamatory to the Nazis and Hitler while Speer helped Goebbels with public displays of propaganda.
To ensure that everybody thought in the correct manner, Goebbels set up the Reich Chamber of Commerce in 1933. This organisation dealt with literature, art, music, radio, film, newspapers etc. To produce anything that was in these groups, you had to be a member of the Reich Chamber. The Nazi Party decided if you had the right credentials to be a member. Any person who was not admitted was not allowed to have any work published or performed. Disobedience brought with it severe punishments. As a result of this policy, Nazi Germany introduced a system of censorship. You could only read, see and hear what the Nazis wanted you to read, see and hear. In this way, if you believed what you were told, the Nazi leaders logically assumed that opposition to their rule would be very small and practiced only by those on the very extreme who would be easy to catch.
The same approach was used in films. The Nazis controlled film production. Films released to the public concentrated on certain issues : the Jews; the greatness of Hitler; the way of life for a true Nazi especially children, and asWorld War Two approached, how badly Germans who lived in countries in Eastern Europe were treated. Leni Riefenstahl was given a free hand in producing Nazi propaganda films. A young film producer, she had impressed Hitler with her ability. It was Riefenstahl who made “Triumph of Will” – considered one of the greatest of propaganda films despite its contents.
The ensure that everybody could hear Hitler speak, Goebbels organised the sale of cheap radios. these were called the “People’s Receiver” and they cost only 76 marks. A smaller version cost just 35 marks. Goebbels believed that if Hitler was to give speeches, the people should be able to hear him. Loud speakers were put up in streets so that people could not avoid any speeches by the Fuhrer. Cafes and other such properties were ordered to play in public speeches by Hitler.
Goebbels and his skill at masterminding propaganda is best remembered for his night time displays at Nuremberg. Here, he and Speer, organised rallies that were designed to show to the world the might of the Nazi nation. In August of each year, huge rallies were held at Nuremberg. Arenas to hold 400,000 people were built. In the famous night time displays, 150 search lights surrounded the main arena and were lit up vertically into the night sky. Their light could be seen over 100 kilometres away in what a British politician, Sir Neville Henderson, called a “cathedral of light”.
Why was so much effort put into propaganda?
At no time up to 1933, did the Nazi Party win a majority of votes at elections. They may have been the largest political party in 1933, but they did not have a majority of support among the people. Therefore, those who had supported the Nazis needed to be informed on how correct their choice was with an emphasis on the strength of the party and the leadership. Those who opposed the Nazi Party had to be convinced that it was pointless continuing with their opposition. The fact that Goebbels had so much power is indicative of how important Hitler thought it was to ensure that the people were won over or intimidated into accepting Nazi rule.