The Role Of Propaganda In The Nazi Takeover

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The Role of Propaganda in the Nazi Takeover



The Role of Propaganda in the Nazi Takeover
When one thinks of the term "propaganda", what comes to mind? Would it bring a positive response? Would it bring a negative response? When one thinks of "propaganda" in association with the Holocaust, what comes to mind? A positive response or a negative response? Most likely a negative response. Why is "propaganda" any different from what any political party or regime does, namely to disseminate its views? Is "propaganda" simply the name we give to views which we do not like or which we think to be untrue? And finally, was the role of "propaganda" in the Nazis' assumption of power overstated? (Daniel Goldhagen, 1996) As many people who are learned in the field of the Holocaust will agree, propaganda played an extremely vital part in the Nazis' rise to power, as well as their brain-washing of the German population into detesting all, of what they considered, "heretics" to the degree of accepting their murders. Validity of the accusations upon which they attempted to justify their action against the Jews was not an issue. The issue in this case was its power of persuasion. Although to achieve this goal the Nazi party deemed it necessary to monopolize the communications, media, and entertainment industries, Germany already had a strong anti-Semitic background.

European anti-Semitism is an outgrowth of Christianity. Since the time of the Roman Empire, Christian leaders preached boundlessly against Jews. It escalated from generation to generation, for as long a the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, the Jews "challenged" the whole belief system of Christianity. The idea that it was the Jews that killed their savior also evolved from that time period. Along those lines, the notion that all Jews of forever were responsible for Jesus' death, for they approved of the crime, would have certainly done it again (according to the anti-Semitics), and had always rejected his teachings.

As the Medieval period came, the Christians' hatred for Jews further articulated and was brought to a new level. The Christians in the Medieval world saw Jews in twofold opposition to Christianity: they rejected his revelation and were his killers. In addition, church members had much detested the Jews on the basis that they should have accepted Jesus as their Messiah. Consequently, persecution and killing of the Jews became a part of everyday life, leaving many regions of Western Europe without any Jews by the end of the sixteenth century.

Entering the nineteenth century, German anti-Semitism went through an acute transformation. It was then that it made its change from a religious issue, to a racial one. Germans naturally detested Jews, and with a passion. Nineteenth century Germans now saw Jews as the symbol for everything awry in their declining economy, even though they made up but a mere one percent of the population. Soon the cultural taboos that had formerly shaped the moral fabric of Germany at the time lost all influence. It was then that German anti-Semitism reached a high point: false, cruel, yet indisputable accusations. Prostitution, sexual degradation and depravity, and the sexual assaulting of unsuspecting German virgins are examples. The Germans also imagined Jew conducting ritual murders.

By the time the Nazi party instituted totalitarian control, all that remained was to build on the framework provided by the nineteenth century. A framework which included anti-Semitism being common knowledge, Germans' obsessive hatred toward Jews, the common belief of Jews being the reason for their collapsing economy, the belief of Jews being evil and a source of great harm. This new type of anti-Semitism was of a savage nature and a logic that it was necessary to rid Germany, along with the rest of the world, of Jews by whatever means necessary.

Already having a foundation for their cause, all the Nazis had to do was execute their strategies. Even before gaining full control in January of 1933, they used all possible methods, and even introduced new forms of publicity, to get national attention and recognition. The Nazi party sponsored mass meetings and pageants, distributed all sorts of visual aids and propaganda, and assumed control of the radio and film industry.

Once the Nazis gained control they used all the above means and more to strengthen their totalitarian control on the German population. By means of blatant false claims and accusations, the Nazis made untrue justifications for political and military aggression, as well as enthusiasm toward Nazi goals.

Hitler knew how he had to manipulate propaganda to get "positive" results from the population. In his book, Mein Kampf, he wrote:

"To whom should propaganda be addressed? To the scientifically trained intelligentsia or to the less educated masses? It must be addressed always and solely to the masses.

What the intelligentsia...need is not propaganda but scientific instruction. The content of propaganda is as far from being science as the object depicted in a poster is from being art. A poster's art lies in the designer's ability to capture the attention of the masses by form and color.

The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but rather in directing the attention of the masses toward certain facts...It must be directed toward the emotions, and only to a very limited extent toward the so-called intellect.

The receptive ability of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, their forgetfulness enormous. Therefore, all propaganda has to limit itself to a very few points and repeat them like slogans until even the very last man is able to understand what you want him to understand."

And that is the basis upon which Hitler set up his whole campaign. He wanted to aim his propaganda crusade exclusively toward the masses. In doing so they would accept it as a decree. Furthermore, it was extremely important that the material exposed to the masses appeal to the interests of the majorities, and not address itself to just the intellect. Propaganda had to be popular and be geared in order for even the most simple-minded individuals to understand. Equally as important, was the necessity to give the people the "conceptual truth," but really only spreading the information the leader wanted to disseminate.

The Nazis utilized propaganda to saturate Nazi ideology, philosophy, and mentality into the German population, as well as to change the traditional German moral standards (as far as behavior). Subsequently, as the Nazis hoped would happen, the ideas acquired via propaganda would mature into a part of everyday German life. It would become an issue in and out of the home. According to Hitler, the masses must not have two or more enemies. Rather, they should concentrate on one primary enemy: the Jews. To support this idea, the Nazi propaganda reinforced racist philosophy on the "normal" anti-Semitism by giving the Jews the title of "enemy of the common people." Two elements, hatred and racism, were integrated in propaganda to urge the population to find the importance of ridding Germany of the parasitic/blood-sucking Jew. In Hitler's view, anti-Semitism was a vital weapon in the propaganda enterprise. He insisted that wherever it is used, it has a huge effect, and refused to it disregarded as a political weapon. So began the obsessive anti-Semitic propaganda campaign of Nazi Germany. To achieve their goal, they began using all means of media. Early on, the Nazis began showing very anti-Semitic movies and shows, as did they air such programs on the radio.

They were now getting closer and closer to their goal of having the population detest to the Jews, to the point where the commonly seen distasteful episodes in Polish ghettos lead the people to accept the beating, killing, and liquidation of Jews. The Nazis even got international protests to subside. They aired movies exemplifying the pleasant conditions in the concentration camps. For example, the Nazis broadcasted scenes of a masquerade presented at the Theresienstadt camp.

In recognition of the significant role propaganda was playing in the Nazi's battle, the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (Reichsministerium fr Volksaufklrung und Propaganda) was created on March 5, 1933. Headed by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi expert in propaganda and a notoriously persuasive speaker, a new generation of radio, press, cinema, and arts manipulation was brought forth. Goebbles ran the department from an old palace which oversaw thirty-two other field offices. He recruited the brightest, most intelligent young men he could find to work in his department.

In the Nazi's industrial takeover of Germany, the propaganda machine was then set up into seven different sections, each in charge of the a department:

1. Administrative and Organization
2. Propaganda
3. Radio

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