Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment, was an able student of psychology at the famous University of Heidelberg. Later he became the gifted teacher of his comrades. Around the beerhalls of Munich, Hitler found discontented war veterans who agreed with him. He, Hermann Goering, Joseph Goebbels, Rudolf Hess, and others - later to become notorious - joined the National Socialist Workers' party, or Nazi party, a party dedicated to the overthrow of the new German Republic.
Goebbels was the most distrusted man in the Third Reich. Therefore, he was one of their most respected. Like Himmler, Goebbels began his political career as secretary and assistant to Gregor Strasser, one of Hitler's early followers and henchmen, and turned against him when he saw that advancement would come more quickly by other means.
Goebbels was an outstanding organizer, disputer and mob orator. He knew what to say to a mob and how to say it. He had a fine voice, a remarkable command of the German language, and a perfect pronunciation. It was nearly impossible not to be stirred by Goebbels' speeches even if you thoroughly dislike and mistrust everything he said. He was a man of tremendous energy and real courage.
On 13 March 1933, Hitler established the Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda under Dr. Josef Goebbels. Goebbels, by decree of Adolf Hitler, "was responsible for all factors influencing the mental life of the nation." According to Goebbels, "Propaganda has only one object: to conquer the masses. Every means that furthers this aim is good; every means that hinders it is bad." With one hand he carried on an anti-Christian propaganda in order to eliminate Christianity and establish in its place the old German paganism, and with the other he wrote poetic verse in the Christian spirit and sells them at five pfennig a copy, thus bringing in a small fortune.
Since the Nazi party came into power, Goebbels had three jobs. First, he was national propaganda chief of the party and the government. In other words, he operated the German wind machine, and did it shrewdly and to great effect in Germany. Secondly, Goebbels controlled the Reich Chamber of Culture, which regulated all so-called cultural activities in Germany. These two functions often overlap, as Goebbels once pointed out. Thirdly, Goebbels was the party district leader for Berlin.
Hitler himself supervised propaganda and cultural affairs even more closely than he did other affairs. And the talents that enabled Goebbels to win power and favor continued to stand him in good stead. He had always been quick to sense Hitler's moods and wishes. He had seen the way the cat would jump and was usually with the cat. When the blood purge of June 30, 1934, broke out, Goebbels hurried to Hitler's side and never left him until the danger had passed. From the end of 1932, Goebbels shared with Hess and Goering the distinction of being closer to Hitler than any other of the party chiefs. At this time he was second only to Goering in authority. However, Goebbels was never popular with the men of the party.
Slight in build, with a deformed foot, he was nevertheless a man of genuine charm and one who has always succeeded in making himself attractive to women. His affairs were many and gave him a bad reputation. An affair with an actress which involved him in an open scandal in the winter of 1937, irritated Hitler and sent Goebbels into a temporary decline. He might have rubbed out this bit of awkward publicity had he not made three successive professional blunders in judgment, which made his position worse. Early in the war he planned a broadcast on personal sacrifices. In view of the wide publicity given his private excesses, that was squashed. He wished to revile the American correspondents then in Berlin. That, too, was sat upon. Finally, he decided to turn the Graf Spec incident into a German victory. Needless to say, that scarcely made a hit when the truth leaked out. These mistakes forced him into a political decline from which he recovered only because of the serious war need for his abilities.
Kingsley Martin, after studying Hitler's masterfui use of propaganda in Mein Kampf, observed that "Lies, as long as they are believed, are often more effective than truth." As far as Dr. Goebbels was concerned, propaganda had "nothing at all to do with truth."
As the Nazi movement gained momentum, the Germans developed world-wide pre-belligerent propaganda to a fine art. "They tried to rouse Catholics against Communists, Communists against democrats, Gentiles against Jews, whites against negroes, the poor against the rich, the rich against the poor, British against Americans, Americans against British - anyone against anyone, as long as it delayed action against Gernmany and weakened the potential Dr. Goebbeis recognized that, during the thirties, the United States did not represent a unified threat to Germany. The thrust of his efforts on this front was a more subtle method of directing and financing the innumerable organizations whose object was to increase isolationist sentiment by urging that Americans should not again fight for British Imperialism, that they could safely remain within their own frontiers when the British were defeated, which would inevitably happen; that the war would ruin America and that it would be futile as well as wicked to intervene."
The Nazi rules were "never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."
Thanks to Goebbels's teachings, the Nazis learned how to use the mysterious key to mob psychology. The Nazi agitators employed the same method whenever they appeared before the masses! They, the demagogues, would first infuriate their listeners, arouse antagonism, hatred, and contempt for people whom they described as dangerous enemies of the German people. Their purpose was to make the people lose their mental equilibrium, after that they were a useful tool in the hands of the Nazi leaders.
Goebbels, as minister of propaganda, set about controlling and molding the German mind along the lines of the "master-race" philosophy. Unceasing warfare was conducted against the Christian religion.
One of the formidable weapons employed by Hitler is the lie, the stupendous lie. According to Hitler's contention, the bigger the lie, the sooner people will believe and accept it; that it is easier to confuse the minds of the people, impress them with fabricated stories and convince them that these are unquestionable truths, than to give them the truth itself.
The Nazi propaganda system was developed to perfection; it was unparalleled. Men and material that can be utilized were subordinated to the propaganda machine, which worked with fiendish intensity and productiveness. There was the printed word: newspapers, books, pamphlets, and posters by the million. The spoken word: radio, lectures, thousands of mass meetings, elaborate picnics with band and orchestra concerts, and stage shows - all for the sake of propaganda, for which the Nazis issued no ration cards but gorged the Germans with generous portions. They held mass meetings in every city, town, and village, and in the most obscure corners of the country - always with the same splashing array of flags, marching, singing, drumming, only to attract the eye and the ear of the public. And it had its effect: the audience would emerge from the phantasmagoria of such meetings in wild enthusiasm.
The Nazis were skilled in staging mob scenes. They knew very well that the people want bread and love spectacular exhibitions. Since they could not give them bread, they supplied them with plenty of circus exhibitions. And every mass meeting had indeed the appearance of a circus show, Hitler and Goebbels being the greatest attraction. Whenever they spoke at the Berlin Sportpalast it was jammed. These speakers would work themselves into a frenzy of hysteria and then go into a trance, transmitting their mood to the audience. Both Hitler and Goebbels possessed the power to cast a spell over their audience and then make every effort to keep it spellbound as long as possible. Goebbels, in his book Der Nazi-Sozi, voiced the strong anti-Semitic sentiment of the German Nationalists: "Of course the Jew is a human being; never has anyone of us doubted that. And so is a flea an animal - but not a pleasant one. So just as we feel it not our duty to guard and protect the flea that it can bite and sting and torment us, but rather to annihilate it, thus also it is with the Jew."
During the early years of the climb to power by the Nazis, Dr. Goebbels made extensive use of black (covert) propaganda within the United States by using "renegade Americans" to "persuade the American people that Germany had neither the strength nor the intention to hurt anyone." After 1 September 1939, and the invasion of Poland, although renegade Americans continued to be used, the lack of strengrh or intention approach was used less frequently. Dr. Geobbels and his renegade Americans aimed Nazi radio broadcasts at the United States audience every day from 6:00 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. during the period 1 April 1933 until 9:29 p.m. on 24 April 1945.
Goebbels had unquestionable ability and it is ability which neither Hitler nor Goering could afford to do without. He remained in power to the end. Hitler, Goebbels, and Himmler committed suicide, and Bormann, one of Hitler's closest associates, was never found.
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