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Research Question:

What were the Nazi’s major propaganda campaigns and what were their impacts on the German Population?

Propaganda is a technique that has been used by governments across the world since the beginning of time. Defined in technical terms, propaganda is “the publishing of words that are not completely true with a selfish intent”[1] In ancient Egypt, King Ramesses was known for his excessive use of art around his cities. They portrayed him winning fight and wars that did not even happen, but the public believed it all. They saw Ramesses as a powerful leader that could not be defeated. Even today propaganda is a powerful technique. Recently (October 2015) the United States launched a propaganda war in Syria against the Russian involvement with rebel groups.  The United States want Syrian people to take their side, so they are portraying Russia in a negative light.[2] But propaganda does not always have to be so blatant. Everyday, consumers see millions of images in advertising and the media that could be considered propaganda. The Nazi propaganda campaign launched against the Jews in Germany was one of the most successful campaigns in history. Hitler’s mass success during World War II was largely based off of his extensive use of propaganda during his campaign. His Anti-Semitic viewpoints as well as his obvious God complex not only gave the people something to be afraid of, but also provided them with a hero who could save them. By taking advantage of wide spread media, like radio, television, and newspapers, Hitler was able to gain and maintain power over the people of Germany. The marriage of new communication technologies with scientific racism and anxieties about the ills of global capitalism made for a very modern nationalistic propaganda campaign in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

The 1930’s were a hard time for all countries. The depression in America had a huge impact on not just the economy of the United States download (2)but all other economies whom were closely tied to it. This included many European countries especially Germany. In such grim economic times, the people of Germany needed someone new to step up and lead their country. These conditions provided the chance for the rise of a new leader, Adolf Hitler, and his party, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi party for short. The Nazi group had grown rapidly. Before the economic depression, they were practically unknown, receiving only three percent of the votes. Hitler was a powerful and charismatic speaker who attracted a large following of Germans citizens who were desperate for change. He promised those who were struggling a better life and a new and glorious Germany. The Nazis appealed especially to the unemployed, young people, and members of the lower middle class. In January 1933 Hitler was appointed chancellor- the head of the German government- and many Germans believed that they had found a savior for their nation. They relied heavily on them for the reconstruction of their country, as well as the expansion of their power during World War II. The people of Germany truly believed everything he said and did was justified, which was all due to the propaganda he put out. Propaganda was Hitler’s way of reaching the public. He designated an entire branch of the government to the creation and distribution of propaganda. The Nazi party trained specific members to act as speakers to address the public as well as trainers to address the fellow Nazis. They were also in charge of creating fliers and posters that cast Hitler in the best light possible in order to gain public support for his campaigns.[3] This branch of the government also began to put out their own newspapers, like the one shown above on the left, that mixed politics with neighborhood gossip in order to gain a bigger audience and reach more of the German population with their propagandistic messages.[4] Propaganda was a large part of the Nazi campaign even before they introduced the Anti- Semitic viewpoint.

Hitler’s 1939 speech at Reichstag was the first implementation of his campaign against the Jews. [5] He said he wanted to “once again be a prophet” and predicted that the Jews were going to plunge Germany and Europe as a whole back into war.[6] His speech was in front of the German parliament and it was the first time he publidownloadcally spoke of the Jews in such a negative manner. He truly believed that they would be the downfall of the human race. They had to “destroy the Jews before the Jews made the move to destroy Germany”. German politics were largely influenced by the study of Eugenics. Hitler’s regime believed that the Aryan race was its ideal when it came to eugenics and aimed at strengthening the “national body” by eliminating biologically threatening genes from the population. Many German physicians and scientists who had supported racial hygiene ideas before 1933 embraced the new regime’s emphasis on biology and heredity, which lead to new jobs for them as well as more money for the funding of eugenic studies. Hitler’s strong dictatorship, backed up by a fierce police power, silenced everyone who spoke out against the Nazi regime and Hitler’s belief in Eugenics. Jews were deemed biologically unfit and were removed from jobs in universities, hospitals, and all other high positions of power.  They, as well as other races that were deemed genetically unfit, were banned from marrying those who were “hereditarily fit”. Because of these restrictions birthrates began to fall, and Hitler put even more pressure on people who were genetically fit to have children in order to boost the population. Propaganda played a large role in the spreading of his anti-Jewish ideals. After the initial introduction of the campaign, he had to demonize the Jewish population in order to gain the support of the German people. In the picture shown above, a jew is depicted sitting atop a pile of skulls and bones. In his lap is a bag of money. Hitler is using this poster to suggest that the Jews were very greedy and would probably go to violent lengths to achieve wealth. It was a common theme of the posters and advertisements to feature pictures of skulls and monsters so even if people do not read the fliers, they began to associate the Jews with negative symbols. Race hygiene and eugenics had been of interest to German politics for many years but Hitler took it to a whole new level, and propadownload (1)ganda was key to gaining widespread support.[7]

Another theme that was common in Nazi propaganda was nationalism. Hitler himself had a god complex, and he believed that he was the savior of the German race. In order to gain support for everything he did he played to the citizens sense of nationality. Germany has always been a very proud country so when Hitler played up that sense of pride, he gained e
ven more support. He used phrases like “The call of duty” and “The nobility of a soldier’s race”[8]. This made his cause seem like it was the best choice for Germany. This was incredibly important especially during World War II, because they needed as many people as possible to defend their country. The poster on the left depicts a German student who is proudly waving the Nazi flag. He looks happy and strong, and he is clearly of the “ideal” Aryan race. If anyone passed this flier, they would probably want to be like him, and believe he had gotten that way by taking Hitler’s side and joining the Nazi party.

Hitler had such an impact on his people and the country of Germany as a whole, he really created a lasting impression for himself. Hitler portrayed himself as a religious leader and god like figure who has descended to from heaven to save mankind. Even towards the end of his regime, when the truth was coming out about the true atrocities he had committed, he used propaganda so effectively that even at the end of his rule, people still saw his as” some sort of messiah concerned above all with their welfare and the welfare of the human race”[9]. The Nazi regime shows how powerful propaganda and symbolism can be if it is used in the right way.

 

[1] Nevins, Allen Propaganda: An Explosive Word Analyzed (New York, N.Y 1939) 1-3

[2] https://www.rt.com/op-edge/317150-huge-propaganda-syria-russia-usa/

[3] The German Scene Subtle Propaganda (The Times London, England 1931) 1-2

[4] The German Scene Subtle Propaganda (The Times London, England 1931) 1-2

[5] Bytwerk, Randall L. The Argument for Genocide in Nazi Propaganda (Quarterly Journal of Speech 2006) 37-62

[6] http://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1939-1941/hitler-speech-to-german-parliament

[7] Weingart, Peter German Eugenics between Science and Politics (University of Chicago Press, History of Science Society 1989) 260-282

[8] Rhodes, Anthony Propaganda: The Art of Persuasion World War II (Chelsea House Publishers, New York London 1976) 9-65

[9] Rhodes, Anthony Propaganda: The Art of Persuasion World War II (Chelsea House Publishers, New York London 1976) 9-65

Bliography:

Secondary:

Bytwerk, Randall L. The Argument for Genocide in Nazi Propaganda (Quarterly Journal of Speech 2006) 37-62

Herf, Jeffery the Jewish Enemy (Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England 2006) 138-230

Rhodes, Anthony Propaganda: The Art of Persuasion World War II (Chelsea House Publishers, New York London 1976) 9-65

Weingart, Peter German Eugenics between Science and Politics (University of Chicago Press, History of Science Society 1989) 260-282

Welch, David Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (London; New York Routledge 1993) 731-734

Primary:

The German Scene Subtle Propaganda (The Times London, England 1931) 1-2

Nevins, Allen Propaganda: An Explosive Word Analyzed (New York, N.Y 1939) 1-3

Images:

Figure 1. Nazi newspaper 1937 http://www.enemyinmirror.com/communication/press-third-reich/

Figure 2. Nazi WWII German-produced Russian Anti-Semetic propaganda poster. Poster reads: “Jews – A People of Contagion” with a Jewish stereotype-caricature counting money on a mound of skulls. http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/12799432_german-propaganda-poster-in-russian-anti-semitic

Figure 3. Nazi Propaganda Poster 1935, German School http://www.magnoliabox.com/art/188505/nazi-propaganda-poster-1935