How effective was Nazi propaganda?
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How effective was Nazi propaganda?
Weltanschauung – world view, philosophy of life
German cultural life during the Third Reich was seen as yet another means of achieving indoctrination “What we are aiming for is more than a revolt. Our historic mission is to transform the very spirit itself to the extent that people and things are brought into a new relationship with one another"
Culture was co-ordinated through the Reich Chamber of Culture Seven sub-chambers: fine arts, music, theatre, the press, the radio, literature and films Everyone involved in cultural activity had to be accountable for their creativity “Whenever I hear the word ‘culture’, I reach for my gun” (Hans Johnst, playwright, 1934)
Goebbels and the Nazis sought to project key themes Anti-Semitism Militarism Nationalism Supremacy of the Aryan race Cult of the Fuhrer Anti-modernism Traditional German ‘Volks’ culture
1933 there were 4,700 daily newspapers, 3% controlled by NSDP 1944 997 daily newspapers, 82% controlled by NSDP
Eventually, directly or indirectly, the Press was controlled by Eher Verlag (Nazi publishing house) RMVP (Ministry for Enlightenment and Propaganda) told editors where to place articles Nazi Press Agency supplied estimated 50% of content From 1933 all editors and journalists had to be accredited by Goebbels
October 1933 new law made editors responsible for infringements of government directives Clause 14 obliged editors to exclude anything ‘calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich’ Treason to spread false news or rumours
Radio wardens appointed to report on people’s reactions to specific broadcasts Provisions made for cheap radios called Volksempfänger (people’s receiver) Volksempfänger could not pick up foreign broadcasts Between 1932-9 the number of families with radios rose from 25% to 70%
Goebbels described radio as “the spiritual weapon of the totalitarian state” Radio was controlled from 1925 by the Reich Radio Company In 1934 Goebbels dismissed 13% of RRC on political or racial grounds All news broadcasts came through the Nazi Office of Propaganda
Nazi government bought up shares in 4 major film companies By 1942 film companies completely state controlled Unified under the UFI
Film going quadrupled between 1933 and 1942 Over 1000 films produced during the Third Reich Nazis often used newsreels shown before the start of feature films
Germany had a rich classical tradition which suited the Nazi’s cultural propaganda objectives Jewish composers, e.g. Mahler and Mendelssohn banned New wave, modernist composers e.g. Stravinsky, Schoenberg were disparaged New genres, e.g. jazz labelled ‘Negroid’ and ‘degenerate’
Poster production controlled by the Office for Active Propaganda Copies of all political material had to be submitted in advance to the office Unapproved materials were confiscated
In 1933 there were book burnings at the universities of Berlin and Nuremberg 10 May 1933 central square in Berlin the largest book burning event took place Raids on public and private libraries Goebbels wanted eradicate ‘overstated Jewish intellectualism’ Books burned which were Jewish, socialist or pacifist by nature
2,500 writers left Germany between 1933-45, including Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht Writers who sympathised with the regime or accepted its philosophy flourished
Rallies were a regular feature of Nazi propaganda, with the first official rally in Nuremberg, 1927 As well as attending rallies, Hitler would parade through streets in open-top processions Many streets were renamed Adolf Hitler Staβe following a visit from the Fuhrer
Speer specialised in designing and choreographing rallies Used the ‘architecture of light’ to maximise the effect of gatherings and speakers Combined effects of uniforms, flags and banners, icons like the eagle and swastika and held meetings at night
Sporting bodies co-ordinated under a Reichssportsführer Hitler Youth and DAF (German Labour Front, Nazi trade union movement) organised sporting events Aim was to encourage fitness and health (useful qualities for increasing Germany’s military strength) Gym displays were also seen as another way of presenting an ordered, regimental society
Nazis made great efforts to ensure 1936 Berlin Olympics were a propaganda success New stadium in modernist style Hitler saw Olympics as an opportunity to show the racial superiority of German people Ant-semitic propaganda was minimised and the emphasis in posters and speeches was on internationalism Germany headed gold medals table, despite Black American, Jesse Owens winning 100m FA ordered footballers to give the Nazi salute before their match against Germany in 1938 (England won 6-3!)
Hitler also said, ‘It’s not the function of art to wallow in dirt for dirt’s sake, never its task to paint the state of decomposition, to draw cretins as the symbol of motherhood, to picture hunchbacked idiots as representatives of any strength.’
Hitler had very strong views on art and they formed the basis of cultural policy Art critics were answerable to the state, and from 1936 could only provide ‘descriptive reviews’ Certain styles of art were given political labels, e.g. expressionism was described by Alfred Rosenberg, the Culture Minister, as ‘Bolshevik filth’
1937 two parallel art exhibitions held in Munich, one representing what the Nazi regime viewed as the best of German art (Grosse Deutch Kunstausstellung), the other what it deemed ‘degenerate art’ (Entartete Kunst)
18 July 1934, Exhibition of Great German Art was held in a newly built museum of art, Munich 16,000 works submitted but only 6,000 selected for display Art was rooted in the traditions of the Volksgemeinschaft (the people’s community, the Nazi ideal community) Exhibition preceded by a Day of German Art, annual pageant in Munich celebrating 2,000 years of German history 600,000 attended exhibition
19 July, Exhibition of Degenerate Art opened 5,000 exhibits labelled as degenerate, Bolshevik or artistically poor Deemed to reflect cultural decadence of Weimar era Included works by Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann as well as works by Gaugin, Van Gogh and Picasso 2,000,000 attended exhibition Works later destroyed, sent abroad or kept by Goering!
Hitler was personally interested in architecture as well as art Rejected decadent architectural styles, e.g. work of Gropius and favoured more traditional neoclassical style of Troost Albert Speer was Nazi architect who particularly admired the monumentalism of neo-classical art Local housing was to be inspired by traditional art regional styles
What are the problems in assessing the impact of Nazi propaganda on ordinary people?
How successful was Nazi propaganda?
Problems: quantifying people’s responses impact of social, political, economic and religious context effect of Nazi repression
How successful was Nazi propaganda?
Mason, sceptical of effect of Nazi propaganda on all groups, for example the working classes Welch, argues Nazi propaganda was successful in strengthening support for Hitler, but not its policies e.g. anti-Semitism and some propaganda was arguably counter-productive, e.g. anti-Church propaganda Geary believes Nazi propaganda was most successful when it played on traditional German prejudices, e.g. nationalism, fear of Bolshevism etc.
Useful texts and websites Geoff Layton, Germany: The Third Reich 1933-45, p.8488 John Hite and Chris Hinton, Weimar and Nazi Germany, p.244-275 www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/ww2era.htm www.activehistory.co.uk/worksheets/a2/lme/nazi_pro paganda.pdf www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERnazigermany.htm www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwtwo/nazi_propaganda _gallery.shtml