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Dr. Joseph Goebbels: Hitler's Minister of Propaganda

Updated on July 10, 2019
Larry Slawson profile image

Larry Slawson received his Masters Degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian History.

Joseph Goebbels delivering a speech.
Joseph Goebbels delivering a speech. | Source

Quick Facts About Joseph Goebbels

Birth Name: Paul Joseph Goebbels

Date of Birth: 29 October 1897

Place of Birth: Rheydt, Rhine Province; Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire

Date of Death: 1 May 1945 (Forty Seven Years of Age)

Place of Death: Berlin, Germany

Cause of Death: Death by Suicide (Cyanide Poisoning)

Spouse(s): Magda Ritschel (Married in 1931)

Children: Helga; Hildegard; Helmut; Holdine; Hedwig; Heidrun

Father: Fritze Goebbels

Mother: Katharina Goebbels

Sibling(s): Konrad Goebbels; Hans Goebbels; Maria Goebbels; Elisabeth Goebbels; Maria Goebbels

Education: University of Bonn; University of Wurzburg; University of Freiburg; University of Heidelberg

Political Affiliation(s): Nazi Party (NSDAP)

Occupation(s): Tutor; Journalist; Propagandist for the Nazi Party; Politician; German Chancellor (30 April 1945 – 1 May 1945)

Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels | Source

Goebbels' Life

Fact #1: Paul Joseph Goebbels was born to Fritze and Katharina Goebbels on 29 October 1897. Goebbels was born into a modest household, with his father working as a factory clerk, while his mother remained a stay-at-home mom. Goebbels was one of six children, and suffered from extremely poor health as a child. Of his known conditions, Joseph Goebbels was known to have suffered from an inflammation of the lungs, as well as a deformed right foot that caused him to walk with a severe limp. Later, during World War One, Goebbels was rejected for military service due to this condition. Ironically, Goebbels became one of the Nazi Party’s top leaders; a party known for its desire to wipe out all deformities in their quest for a perfect German race. Goebbels attempted on numerous occasions to correct his right foot through surgeries, the implementation of a metal brace, as well as a specially made shoe. Despite treatment, however, Goebbels continued to maintain a limp for the remainder of his life.

Fact #2: Goebbels was born into a devout Roman Catholic family. Before attending university, his parents even hoped that young Joseph would become a Catholic priest, due to his exceptional intellect. After a short time in college, however, Goebbels began to distance himself from the church and religion, altogether. After accepting a scholarship from the Alberts Magnus Society, Goebbels instead studied literature and history at a variety of universities. In 1922, Goebbels graduated from the University of Heidelberg with his doctorate in German philosophy, and pursued a career in writing. Shortly after finishing college, Goebbels completed an expressionist novel entitled: Michael: ein Deutsches Schicksal in Tagebuchblattern.

Fact #3: While pursuing his writing career, Goebbels became caught up in the nationalistic fervor that was swept throughout Germany in the Twenties. In 1924, Goebbels capitalized on this newfound interest by becoming a member of the Nazi Party. Shortly after his induction, Goebbels was promoted to “District Administrator” for the Nazis, and later became “District Leader” in 1927 after being appointed to the post by Adolf Hitler, himself. It was in this same year that Goebbels also developed the weekly newspaper, entitled: “The Attack.” Impressed with Goebbels record and ability and write effective articles, Hitler appointed Goebbels in 1928 to the post of “National Director of Propaganda” for the Nazi Party. From this newfound position of power, Goebbels went to work creating an atmosphere conducive to Hitler and his goals. Goebbels’ propaganda campaign included the development of posters, propaganda-based newspaper articles, as well as political agitation. Goebbels also made wide use of the media, including radio, movies/films, music, literature, and art.

Fact #4: In the early 1930s, Goebbels helped Hitler carry out a nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses across Germany. In the years that followed, Goebbels expanded this boycott to include Jewish books and writers; burning any book that was deemed un-German.

Fact #5: Goebbels played a key role in Hitler’s propaganda ministry throughout the 1930s and 1940s; particularly in the pre-war years as Goebbels used propaganda to garner German support for war in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and later against the Allied powers. Goebbels became a master at turning the truth into blatant lies, especially once the war began to turn bad for the Nazis in the early 1940s. In conjunction with his wide array of media outlets, Goebbels systematically portrayed Nazi losses as great victories for the Germans in his attempt to maintain morale on the home-front. As the war began to look more and more disastrous for the Nazis, however, Goebbels began to recognize that the war could not be won, and became a strong advocate for “total war” against the Allied armies. This concept revolved around the idea of mobilizing all aspects of the military and population toward the war effort, with the implication that Germany was ready to face annihilation before any form of surrender would occur. In 1944, the Nazis adopted Goebbels’ plans. In July, Hitler appointed him to the position of “General Plenipotentiary for Total War.”

Fact #6: Less than a year after his implementation of “total war,” Germany faced imminent defeat at the end of April 1945. As Hitler’s right-hand man, the Fuhrer dictated his last will to Goebbels, and appointed him Chancellor of the Third Reich, following his death. However, instead of accepting this position, Goebbels had each of his children poisoned (only a day later), and committed suicide alongside his wife, Magda. The embarrassment of defeat in conjunction with the humiliating prospect of being captured by the Allies was too much to bear for Goebbels, as he found death to be more honorable than defeat.

Hitler alongside Goebbels and his family.
Hitler alongside Goebbels and his family. | Source

Additional Facts About Goebbels

Quick Fact #1: Goebbels ran an extremely efficient political department within the Nazi Party, and divided the Propaganda Ministry into seven separate units (as a means to promote efficiency). Workers within the department, however, were less than pleased with having Goebbels as their boss. According to memoirs, Goebbels was an extremely difficult boss to work under due to his strictness and lack of respect for others.

Quick Fact #2: Early in his career, Goebbels recognized the power of radios in his propaganda endeavors. As a result, he maintained strict government control over radio stations across Germany, and actively sought ways to make radios available to all Germans (including the installation of radio loudspeakers across public sectors of Germany).

Quick Fact #3: To this day, it remains uncertain how Goebbels died in May of 1945. Some accounts proclaim that Goebbels and his wife shot themselves, while other theories proclaim that Goebbels took cyanide. Such theories are difficult to prove with certainty, however, as the bodies were found partially burned; erasing much of the evidence about their deaths.

“It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.”

— Joseph Goebbels

Quotes by Goebbels

Quote #1: “It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.”

Quote #2: “If we are attacked we can only defend ourselves with guns, not with butter.”

Quote #3: “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”

Quote #4: “It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”

Quote #5: “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”

Quote #6: “If the day should ever come when we must go, if some day we are compelled to leave the scene of history, we will slam the door so hard that the universe will shake and mankind will stand back in stupefaction.”

Quote #7: “Success is the important thing. Propaganda is not a matter for average minds, but rather a matter for practitioners. It is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches or speak so that women cry. The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right. I speak differently in the provinces than I do in Berlin, and when I speak in Bayreuth, I say different things than I say in the Pharus Hall. That is a matter of practice, not of theory. We do not want a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, but intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths.”

Quote #8: "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself."

Quote #9: "Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will."

Were you surprised by any of these facts about Goebbels?

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Joseph Goebbels, to this day, continues to be a person of interest for historians and scholars, alike. His influence on both the Nazi Party and its political operations proved to be highly successful for Hitler and his efforts to rally German support. For this reason, Goebbels must never be forgotten for the evil crimes he took part in, and helped promulgate during his time in power. As documents continue to surface in the years to come, it will be interesting to see what new information can be learned about Goebbels and his inner-dealings within the Propaganda Ministry.

29 October 1897
Joseph Goebbels is born in Rheydt, Germany.
28 November 1922
Goebbels joins the Nazi Party.
1 January 1926
Goebbels is made party leader over Berlin.
1 November 1926
Goebbels publishes his novel: "Michael: Ein Deutsches Schisksal in Tagebuchblattern."
1 January 1928
Goebbels is named "Nazi Propaganda Director"
13 March 1933
Goebbels is appointed by Hitler to "Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda"
1 May 1945
Goebbels commits suicide alongside his family.

Suggestions for Further Reading:

Riess, Curt. Joseph Goebbels. London, England: Fonthill Media, 2015.

Longerich, Peter. Goebbels: A Biography. New York, New York: Random House, 2015.

Slawson, Larry. "Adolf Hitler: Quick Facts." 2018. HubPages.

Slawson, Larry. "Heinrich Himmler: Quick Facts." 2018. HubPages.

Works Cited:

Wikipedia contributors, "Joseph Goebbels," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 13, 2019).

© 2019 Larry Slawson


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    • Larry Slawson profile imageAUTHOR

      Larry Slawson 

      6 months ago from North Carolina

      @Liz So sorry!! Just now saw your comment on this article. But yes! He was Chancellor for just one day before him and his wife committed suicide. He was just as crazy as Hitler, in some ways.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      8 months ago from UK

      I had not realised that Goebbels was Chancellor for a day towards the end of the war. This is another very good historical fact file. A tale of extremism taken to the extreme.

    • Larry Slawson profile imageAUTHOR

      Larry Slawson 

      8 months ago from North Carolina

      @Eric Yes, indeed! Kind of crazy that the Nazis were all about rooting out the supposed "weak" and disabled, yet he was disabled to a large degree himself.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      8 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Excellent, thank you. Really ironic about his deformity.

    • Larry Slawson profile imageAUTHOR

      Larry Slawson 

      8 months ago from North Carolina

      @Pamela I'm glad you enjoyed the article! Yes, he was a very evil man.

    • profile image

      John Ward 

      8 months ago

      I was not surprised about Goebbels. I would like to know a little more about Hess.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Joseph Goebbels was an interesting and obviously smart man. So many of the top Nazis committed suicide. It is sad that he would poison his children also. He didn't mind lying as it was anylye to motivate the soldiers and to make the German people better than all others.

      You wrote an excellent article on this horrible man.


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