How effective was propaganda in affecting the way people acted and thought?

The Nazis used various methods of propaganda before and throughout the Second World War in order to gain total control of the German people. Of course, it was a gradual process but surely enough, the country soon became a totalitarian state; with every aspect of society monitored and controlled by the government.

Manpower played a huge role in this, with Gestapo, SA (which became the SS after the Night of the Long Knives, regular police and Nazi party members ensuring discipline and communal support of the Nazi ideals.With Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebels, at the helm the propaganda machine had huge influence both on the way people acted and thought. Or so it seems; but how effective was it in reality? Propaganda was incorporated into everything; indoctrination of schools was common, as children were particularly vulnerable and grew up in a society that taught them no different. An example of this is in textbooks and exams.

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Jews were often mentioned and depicted negatively while so-called pure Germans were made to sound strong, hardworking and loyal to their country.Propaganda may have been effective both in the way children acted and thought, as it likely that they would have been persuaded and influenced by it. In this case, they probably would have not thought that what they were thinking about other races or people was wrong, as some were perhaps not old enough to make their own judgements and relied on what they were told. Culture was dominated and monitored by the Nazis and, as such, media was censored to suit them.

This was known as “Weltanschaung” (world view), the seven sub-cultures of which were: art, radio, music, theatre, literature, films and the press.Key themes were incorporated into them to depict the messages that the Nazis desperately wanted to establish: militarism, nationalism, anti-Semitism, supremacy of the Aryans, anti-modernism, cult of the Fi??hrer and traditional culture. Of course, it would be easy to say that this had huge impact on the German people and all agreed with the government. However, this was not the case! This is obviously true of some but for the rest, it was usually a fai??ade.

The Nazi police state made it difficult and dangerous for Germans to object out rightly without facing the threat or reality of death or imprisonment.In itself, this would mean an adjustment in action for the majority of society who would have to appear as though they were adhering to the Nazi “code of conduct”. Outwardly, many German people may appear to be “good Nazis” while their way of thinking lay unaffected. It could be said that aspects of propaganda were more effective than others due to the sheer mass of it in the country at the time.

For example, radio speeches and rallies may have increased support for the Fi??hrer as they were somewhat personalised from a leader to his people.However, this did not necessarily increase support of Nazi policies such as anti-Semitism in which case propaganda was less successful in this aspect. Some was arguably even counter-productive, such as anti-Church policies, which resulted in a loss of numbers in the Reich church to the Confessional Church before its leaders were imprisoned. Despite this, propaganda could be useful when it played upon certain aspects of society such as typical German prejudices (that possibly transpired due to the Treaty of Versailles and its effects.

This could be nationalism, the fear of Communism or a single party / leader of the state. If this was the case that such themes were appealing to some people, it is likely that they may find themselves thinking differently of the Nazis and even beginning to support more of their policies. Though, this would have been a progressive occurrence and doubts would probably remain in the minds of the people. In conclusion, I feel that it was more sectorally effective than nationally, as children were perhaps the most targeted sect of society with the biggest effect.

Also, it may be that certain aspects of the propaganda itself were better than others as the methods would have been highly efficient and successful if the policies weren’t so preposterous. In spite of this, I believe that it will definitely have created a feeling of nationalism which in turn will have affected the way in which people behaved and thought. It may not have been in the way that the Nazis expected as, ultimately, their goal was to gain supporters and almost brainwash society into following them blindly and without question.But the sheer bombardment of the same message will largely have impacted upon behaviour within society, breeding a sense of suspicion among friends and fear in communities.

Therefore, harassment and intimidation from the forces (such as the Gestapo, Staat-Polizei and SA members that still existed) played a role alongside the propaganda, which “encouraged” citizens to comply at least outwardly with the Nazis and its expectations.

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How effective was propaganda in affecting the way people acted and thought?. (2017, Nov 15). Retrieved from