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Role of Propaganda in Nazi Germany
The subject of propaganda by itself is very interesting, but studying how the Nazi’s perfected it is very illuminating. One can apply it to the 21st century and realize that propaganda is one of the pillars of modern governance. One of the pots worth reading is by David Welch who wrote “Nazi Propaganda and the Volksgemeinschaft: Constructing a Peoples Community”. This was published in the Journal of Contemporary History, 2004. A study of this paper gives a chance to decipher the Nazi mind and how they could control the German People. It will not be wrong to say that Nazi propaganda brainwashed the German people. The two key elements of a society are the youth and Industrial workers. Nazi propaganda was directed at these two pillars and was eminently successful.
The Nazi party headed by Hitler had very clear objectives. Dr. Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister was instrumental in fine-tuning German propaganda. His statement “A lie repeated a 100 times becomes a truth” formed one of the pillars of his propaganda machinery. As per David Welch, the Nazi regime had a very ambitious plan. The aim was to significantly motivate the German people with a revolutionary aim. The idea was to so motivate the people that they became willing subjects of the German state and identified with the aim and ideals of the Nazi party.
The Nazi part thus used all instruments of state policy like the radio, Gestapo, the party, local officials as well as the Judiciary in this grand scheme. But before convincing the people the Nazi party convinced the abovementioned instruments of state policy about the legitimacy of the ideals and aims of the state and party. These officials now fanned out and subverted the minds of the people. At the same time, the Nazi party through various agencies kept a watch on ‘dissidents’ who were neutral or anti to the ideals of the Party and state and weeded them out. This was done unobtrusively and without publicity.
The Task for Dr. Goebbels
Realizing the importance of propaganda the German’s set up an exclusive ministry for this purpose. It was effusively called “Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda” and was headed by Dr. Goebbels. Credit must go to this man in clearly defining the parameters in which the ministry functioned. Basically, he subdivided the aims and ideals of the ministry to 3 important sections. These were
The Three Tasks
a) Patriotism. In this, he incorporated the appeal to national unity or the Volksgemeinschaft or peoples community. This was an important constituent of his plan and made the people identify with the concept of a German nation and its role in world affairs.
b) Racial Purity. This was another key element and consisted in drumming into the minds of the masses the concept of a super race or a race destined to rule the world. The propaganda that defined the Slavs and Jews as an inferior race was part of this section.
c) Leadership. Goebbels realized that masses can only be made to do what the state wants is by having a leader who towered all and was almost a superman. Thus the cult of Hitler was built up as the Fuhrer. A slogan was coined which spread to the heart of the populace. The slogan “One people, One Reich, one Fuhrer” echoed throughout Germany.
Concept of State before the People
Dr. Goebbels was almost a psychologist who had the pulse of the German people in his grasp. He incorporated the concept of Kaiser Wilhelm “I recognize no parties, but only Germans” as a cornerstone of his propaganda machinery. In addition, he convinced the masses of their role as a super race in the world; a race destined to rule.
Nazi Ideology is Supreme: Phase II
Having launched their propaganda at the masses the Nazi’s went ahead to step II of their plan. They subverted the mass media and unsavory facts of the regime were never reported. They formed 3 tiers of support to further the Nazi aim. These were
a) The state machinery like civil service, police and armed forces
b) Use of terror as an instrument of state policy
c) Complete domination of every aspect of a citizen’s life.
Goodies for the German people.
The concept of Volksgemeinschaft could not have succeeded without material comfort and better wages for the German people. They also fed the concept of a better life with a wide range of sporting events and luxury pursuits. The Volkswagen car was part of this scheme. Overall the entire attempt was to indoctrinate the workforce. Better working conditions were created and an attempt was made for the workers to identify with the leadership. Hitler was presented as the “First worker of the nation”.
The German propaganda ministry worked overtime to create a race of docile followers who would never break away from the ideology of the German Nazi party. It was a great plan and effectively executed. The pity is that Hitler overreached himself by attacking Russia and thus brought about his own destruction. One wishes he had studied Napoleon. But one can conclude the Dr. Goebbels was eminently successful in motivating the German people for the war effort