Nazi propaganda

The Nazi party was a powerful machine at its height of power when Hitler was chancellor. Despite its hold over the German people the Nazi party did not have a very auspicious beginning. To become the political machine that it did was a calculated move. The success of the Nazi party stemmed from the knowledge of how people as a mass behave and how the media can successfully control those  masses. If the media were not such a strong force or Hitler’s knowledge on the behavior of masses less, history might have been very different.

The entire concept of Hitler was to unify his people as the German people. The citizens were not individuals but functioned as a group that included all Germans in the Nazi party. The masses were considered to have limited intelligence and were therefore the easiest to manipulate and control[1]. Hitler did this by creating an enemy to rally the people together. He based the enemy on groups that were already dissatisfied, disappointed or distrusted by many Germans. He chose the socialists and communists and the small Jewish population. The socialists were in power during WWI and many people blamed them for their nation’s defeat. But most importantly the Socialist party was the major political party in Germany and the Nazi party would need to overcome the Socialists numbers in order to politically thrive. Many Germans were dissatisfied with taking the blame for much of WWI and did not agree with much of the Treaty of Versailles. Many of the Germans who signed the Treaty of Versailles were Jewish and combined with old prejudices the Jewish population was a prime enemy for the Nazi party..[2]

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Hitler understood the role of the media and its impact on the masses long before he became chancellor. His plan for gaining public support was documented in his book[3] “Mien Kampf.” He wrote this manuscript when he was imprisoned briefly after a failed revolution long before his rise to power. Hitler expresses the idea that all propaganda must be addressed to the masses and never to the individual. Attention should be called to certain events and information that is new to the public. It is important that the public is exposed to the idea for the first time1.

 The idea of taken a way a person’s indivualism and addressing them as a group was taken from a French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon. He stated that people on mass do not need to be presented with information and facts. They will more readily respond to sentiment and emotion3. Using Le Bron’s idea coupled with media knowledge was a key factor to the Nazi parties success. Hitler and his “campaign manager”, Joseph Goebbel, had clear ideas on how propaganda was to be used to manipulate the masses.

Hitler realized that to create his “empire” he needed to gain power through elections. The best way to do this was by putting his message out to the German people. He made use of much of the new media available to spread his word by making it available to the genreal population. During specific time periods special newspaper editions would be published and dispersed free of charge so that those who could not afford a paper would be able to read his carefully chosen articles4. Many of Hitler’s speeches at rallies were broadcast through the radio so that all of the population could hear him, not just those who attended the rally. For those people that did not own a radio, loud speakers broadcast the speeches and  news from special chosen public places, like town squares.  Hitler made many tours of the country utilizing airplanes. He was able to personally reach many people in remote places5. Once there his charisma and sense of purpose was able to swing support to the Nazi party.

Hitler and Goebbel did not only use the radio, newspapers and public tours to hold the country under the Nazi parties fist. They used posters, public mass meetings, music, myths, pamphlets, and videos to address the entire German population; men, veterans, workers, mother and the German young. Attention was drawn to the Nazi parties fight to help the working class and how the opposition, the Communists, was trying to destroy the workers livelihood6. Posters were used to address mothers and how they could save the German family7. Songs were written and sung to bring the people together under one banner, the Nazi party8. Videos were used to broadcast speeches to those who could not attend rallies and meetings.

Despite Hitler’s understanding of how to use the media to gain power. His hold over the country would not have been complete or last as long if he did not understand the crowds reaction to fear. Propaganda was used to exploit many fears and sway the population’s frame of mind. Violence was used to intimidate voters as it has been all over the world even in today’s age2. He understood the real workings of terror. “Unless terrorism was opposed by an opposite terrorism it would always be successful1.” Hitler quickly subdued any opposition and was therefore able to use terror to control the population, a perfect example being a Nazi meeting held in a communist quarter of Berlin6.

Hitler’s campaign was very well conducted so that the Nazi parties symbols stood out from all other affiliations.  He created a symbol, the swastika, which was easily recognizable and had no other affiliations. When campaigning he made himself stand apart from the rest. His campaign posters were done in black in white with only a picture of his head and the word Hitler. The other candidates used color and the contrast between the two types of posters proved to be very effective on the public4. There was never any confusion over the symbols used and they presented one clear and focused concept. There was never any room for differing views. what was presented in the propaganda was considered to be the only view1. Therefore they did not spread any cause to make people challenge their ideas because they did not offer any opposing or different views.

The role of the SA was also symbolic as there were strict rules on behavior and appearance. Mainly the symbol was that here was a group of men unified and committed to fighting for their homeland. There was a type of manifesto that dictated behavior and responsibilities of SA officers9. This powerful  and fearful sight was to provide inspiration for the public.

All of this propaganda might not have been as effective if any other man had not delivered the speeches and addresses. Hitler had excellent speaking skills and was very charismatic. All that he said was most likely planned as carefully as his rise to power5. He portrayed himself as a leader that believed so strongly in his ideas that even god could not stop him. His faith was so strong to his mission that he would be kept safe from danger10. His poise and speaking abilities drew such support from crowds that observers at rallies were amazed at the spectacle. It did not matter what the underlying meanings were to Hitler’s speeches. He didn’t really need to say anything important. He simply needed to stand in front of the crowd and display his faith and belief in the Nazi party5.

Hitler’s legacy might not have been as dramatic if he did not take his views and opinions to such extremes. His terrorism, objectives and lust for power drove him  and his party to unspeakable acts. The worst being the holocaust and World War II.  The media played a huge role in spreading his beliefs and ideas to the population. If the media had not been so diverse and able to span such distances it is unlikely that the Nazi party would have been the success it was. But the main key to the success of the Nazi party was the combination of effectively using the media and understands how individuals reacted as a mass. Without the understanding of the masses and how to manipulate them, the propaganda would not have been very effective at all. It is due to the combination of these two facts that lead to Hitler’s ultimate success.

[1] Hitler, Adolf., Mein Kampf, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1943, pp 178-184
[2] Author, Title, Publisher, Year, pg 367
1 Hitler, Adolf., Mein Kampf, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1943, pp.178-184
3 Le Bon, Gustave, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, 1897
4 Noakes, Jeremy., and Pridham, Geoffrey., Documents on Nazism, 1919-1945, New York, Viking 1975 pp. 103-104
5 Goebbel, Joseph., My Part in Germany’s Fight, New York, Howard Fertig, 1979
6 Noakes, Jeremy., and Pridham, Geoffrey., Documents on Nazism, 1919-1945, New York, Viking 1975, pp 83-84, 106
7 Young, Katherine, 1932
8 Ruff, Julius (translator), Liederbuch der Naionalsozialistiscgen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei, Munich, Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1938
2 Author, Title, Publisher, year, pp. 372
1 Hitler, Adolf., Mein Kampf, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1943
6 Noakes, Jeremy., and Pridham, Geoffrey., Documents on Nazism, 1919-1945, New York, Viking 1975, pp 83-84
4 Noakes, Jeremy., and Pridham, Geoffrey., Documents on Nazism, 1919-1945, New York, Viking 1975 pp. 103-104
1 Hitler, Adolf., Mein Kampf, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1943
9 Noakes, Jeremy., and Pridham, Geoffrey., Documents on Nazism, 1919-1945, New York, Viking 1975 pp. 163-164
5 Goebbel, Joseph., My Part in Germany’s Fight, New York, Howard Fertig, 1979
10 Mosse, George., Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural, and Social Life in the Third Reich, New York, Grosset and Dunlap, 1966, pp. 291-293

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