Propaganda is also known as the art ofpersuasion. Hitler successfully used propaganda to become the absolute dictatorof Germany. As Hitler once said,”Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people… Propaganda works onthe general public from standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for thevictory of this idea”1. In order to pave his way to power, Hitlerused propaganda to broadcast the principles of National Socialism, along withanti-Semitism. The first part of creating propagandathat would convince Germans to agree with Nazi Germany was to construct a simple and agreeable message. This messagewould tell people what they wanted to hear, even if it wasn’t the truth.
Next,another very significant component of Nazi propaganda was repetition. Theyrealized that their messages were more likely to become a reality if they wererepeated enough so that people would talk about it. Joseph Goebbels explainsthis by saying, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, peoplewill eventually come to believe it.”2 Finally, the absolute most importantpart of propaganda was the ability to create asubconscious action to move people to take action. The purpose of the Nazipropaganda was to encourage people to join the Nazis and agree with theirideas. TheNazis did not invent the method of using propaganda to influence people’sopinions in war.
Propaganda has been used throughout history to persuade large quantitiesof people. For example, in World War 1, both sides of the war used propagandato persuade men to enlist in the army by selling the idea of how great andglorious the war would be. But propaganda goes even further back, way beforeWorld War 1.
In ancient civilizations, propaganda was used to mold religiousand political opinions. Instead of using the radio and television like today,the ancient Greeks used theatre, games, handwritten books, and religiousfestivals as chances to propagandize their beliefs. One ofAdolf Hitler’s first acts after he was elected chancellor in 1933 was to createthe Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.
By doing this, Hitler demonstrated his belief that controlling information was just asimportant as controlling the military and economy. He was aware of the effectthat good propaganda would have on the public’s views and opinions.Hitlerput Dr. Joseph Goebbels in charge of propaganda as the “Minister ofEnlightenment”. He had very stronganti-Semitic views and was one of Hitler’s close associates. His two main obligationswere to guarantee that no one in Germany could read or see anything that was damagingto the Nazi Party in any way and to broadcast the views of the Nazis in themost convincing way he possibly could. His control of propaganda extended overall media of the time—newspapers, radio, movies, literature, music and art.
Goebbelsstudied how advertisement companies in the United States worked. 3He was known to keep his messages short and simple so that there could be nomisinterpretation of it’s meaning. He would punctuate his sentences withcapital letters to stress certain words or parts. For example, “What we demandis NEW, CLEAR-CUT and RADICAL, therefore in the long run REVOLUTIONARY.
Theupheaval we want is to be achieved first of all IN THE SPIRIT OF THE PEOPLE. Weknow no IFS OR BUTS, we know only EITHER…OR.”4 Anotherexample of Hitler’s use of propaganda is the movie, Triumph of the Will. It isa movie directed and co-written by Leni Riefenstahl. Hitler commissioned Lenipersonally to document the 8th Nazi Party Congress that happened in 1934.
Hitlerhad his mind set on having Leni as the director for this movie. She agreed, butshe had only one condition, which was that no one could interfere or even watchthe film before it was finished. To be able to capture a multitude of images,Leni used 30 operational cameras to film the movie. Those scenes were lateredited with German music, which was strategically used to play with theemotions of the German people by making them feel patriotic and nationalistic.Triumph of the Will is the movie that is the most associated with Nazis. It hasbeen recognized as more of a masterpiece of propaganda than a cinematicmasterpiece. 5 It is different than other films of the timebecause of Leni Riefenstahl’s use of physical gaps and division between leaderand followers.
It shows events such as mass assemblies, parades, speeches –that are happening as if the camera was not even recording. Nazis dedicatedplenty of time between the film’s release in 1935 and the war to encourage theidea that Triumph of the Will was a huge advancement in filmmaking. This was a deliberatemessage to promote Nazi art as superior, and to even suggest that the Nazimechanism could produce better art than artists that weren’t a part of the Naziparty. Triumph of the Will turned out to be one of the best-known examples ofpropaganda in all of history.
TheNuremberg Rallies were an additional key factor of Nazi propaganda. They wereannual rallies hosted by the Nazis in southern Germany. The Nuremberg ralliesbegan in 1927 and were held annually until 1938. The largest rallies began in1933, when Hitler became the chancellor of Germany.
An architect named AlbertSpeer was hired to design the rallies in order to promote Nazi beliefs. Speeraccomplished this by using large swastikas, huge banners, and searchlights. Theevents were planned carefully to be able to accommodate enormous crowds and to guaranteethat Nazi policies were being promoted. Each day fixated on different speeches,all encouraging Nazi ideas. TheNuremberg Rallies always succeeded in sponsoring Nazi beliefs and it was at the1935 Rally that the Nuremberg Laws were passed against the Jews.
The Nuremberglaws were new rules, which recognized many of the racial theories dominant inNazi ideology. The Nuremberg Laws did not define a “Jew” as someone withparticular religious beliefs. Instead, anyone who had three or four Jewishgrandparents was defined as a Jew, no matter if that person identifiedthemselves as a Jew or belonged to the Jewish religion. Even people who wereChristian but had Jewish grandparents were defined as Jews. Propagandaalso helped lay the foundation for the announcement of major anti-Jewishstatutes at Nuremberg on September 15, 1935.
The decrees followed a wave ofanti-Jewish violence committed by impatient Nazi Party radicals.Censorshipwas large throughout Nazi Germany. It ensured that the population of Germany wouldonly see what the Nazis wanted them to see, hear, or read. In other words, theNazis were able to control what the population of Germany would be exposed tothrough censorship. Nazi student organizations, professors, and librarians cametogether and made a list of books they thought should not be read by Germans.
OnMay 10, 1933, Nazis attacked libraries and bookstores throughout Germany. Theymarched by torchlight in parades at night, sang, and burnt the books in hugebonfires. On that night over 25,000 books were burned.
The purpose of this was to “purify” Germanlanguage and literature. Jewish writers, including scientist Albert Einsteinand Sigmund Freud, wrote some of the books that were burned. However, themajority of the books were by non-Jewish writers. The Nazis also destroyedHelen Keller’s books.
She had overcome her deafness and blindness to write. Herresponse was, “Tyranny cannot defeat the power of ideas”5. She alsopublished an open letter to German students where she wrote, “you may burn mybooks and the books of the best minds in Europe, but the ideas those bookscontain have passed through millions of channels and will go on.
“6. Hundredsof thousands of people living in the United States at the time protested the bookburnings taking place in Germany in public rallies all around the United Statesbecause they were clearly a violation of freedom of speech.In conclusion,the Nazis used propaganda effectively to assemble the German population tosupport its wars of conquest until the very end of the regime. Nazi propagandawas absolutely essential to motivating those who implemented the mass murder ofthe Jews and other victims of the Nazi regime. It also served to secure theagreement of millions of others—as bystanders—toracially targeted persecution and mass murder.