Hitler And The Nazi Party Essay

Nothing is more liable to render the entire German-National (deutsch-voelkisch) movement, if not actually barren from the outset, then yet ineffective in its results, than the total lack of understanding of the fact that every idea is without value so long as its aim is not translated into action, but remains forever thought alone.

And, in the same way, no danger that is motivated by deliberate evil can ever be conquered through the mere recognition of its harmful nature or motivating power, but only through the deliberate confrontation with another power. In the whole of Russia there may today remain no more than 600,000 persons among its 150 million who are not horrified by the Jewish dictatorship of blood and its satanic infamy. Nevertheless, millions of helpless people suffer under the 600,000 destroyers, because the conviction of the latter expresses itself in bloody terror, but among the millions it is no more than impotent wishing  perhaps despite their better knowledge....

...And the German-National movement may well be the only one to realize that the whole internal structure of our state is not Germanic, but rather Semitic, that all our actions, even our thinking, are today no longer German but Jewish.

The movement may bewail a hundred times that our people are being destroyed by the poison of a mammonism that is so alien to its inner feeling; it may discern that class struggle and party disputes will rob us of the last remnant of resistance; it may foresee with prophetic spirit that we too shall sink into the blood-swamp of Bolshevism, and may prove a thousand times that the ultimate cause of all this misery, that the ultimate germ of this disease of the race is the Jew – the German-National movement may recognize this, but it will not be able to help and cannot do so, until it leaves the field of theoretical knowledge and replaces it with the decision to transform understanding into political power: to replace long-suffering scholarly study with the willingness to apply the organization of power...And yet this is the real cause of the disintegration of our people. This cursed splitting of the nation into two classes that today oppose each other as enemies to the death is our worst misfortune, and it alone is the reason why there is no hope for a better future for our nation.

For this reason only that movement which removes Germany’s greatest national misfortune will be able to call itself National.

The movement which will no longer be proletarian and may no longer be bourgeois, but will be simply German.

The movement which unites those that strengthen this Germanism (Deutschtum) day by day, not only in words but in all the thousandfold deeds of human activity....

In them lies the eternal fountain of the strength of our people. In them lies the future of our race. Whoever divides them strikes at Germany. Whoever unites them is National.

Finally, only that movement is national which does not bind this strength in order to lame it, but binds it in order to cast it as a solid block into the battle for victory for our own race.

And this battle will not be fought by majorities and parliamentary groups, but by the only form of majority that has shaped the fates of nations and states on this earth as long as it has existed. The majority of power and of the greater will and the strength to apply this power without consideration for mere numbers. To be German-National means not to dream today but to be a revolutionary; it means not to make do with academic knowledge; it means to have the passionate will to let deed some day follow on word.

Hundreds of thousands already know today what we need. But millions long for salvation. The first deed must today be to create an organization, from house to house, that will weld together the hundreds of thousands of the determined in order to fulfil the profound longings and hopes of the best of our people.

To liberate our race from inside, to free it from its chains on the outside....

Propaganda was one of the most important tools the Nazis used to shape the beliefs and attitudes of the German public. Through posters, film, radio, museum exhibits, and other media, they bombarded the German public with messages designed to build support for and gain acceptance of their vision for the future of Germany. The gallery of images below exhibits several examples of Nazi propaganda, and the introduction that follows explores the history of propaganda and how the Nazis sought to use it to further their goals.

Introduction to the Visual Essay

The readings in this chapter describe the Nazis’ efforts to consolidate their power and create a German “national community” in the mid-1930s. Propaganda—information that is intended to persuade an audience to accept a particular idea or cause, often by using biased material or by stirring up emotions—was one of the most powerful tools the Nazis used to accomplish these goals.

Hitler and Goebbels did not invent propaganda. The word itself was coined by the Catholic Church to describe its efforts to discredit Protestant teachings in the 1600s. Over the years, almost every nation has used propaganda to unite its people in wartime. Both sides spread propaganda during World War I, for example. But the Nazis were notable for making propaganda a key element of government even before Germany went to war again. One of Hitler’s first acts as chancellor was to establish the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, demonstrating his belief that controlling information was as important as controlling the military and the economy. He appointed Joseph Goebbels as director. Through the ministry, Goebbels was able to penetrate virtually every form of German media, from newspapers, film, radio, posters, and rallies to museum exhibits and school textbooks, with Nazi propaganda. 

Whether or not propaganda was truthful or tasteful was irrelevant to the Nazis. Goebbels wrote in his diary, "no one can say your propaganda is too rough, too mean; these are not criteria by which it may be characterized. It ought not be decent nor ought it be gentle or soft or humble; it ought to lead to success."1 Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that to achieve its purpose, propaganda must "be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away."

Some Nazi propaganda used positive images to glorify the government’s leaders and its various activities, projecting a glowing vision of the “national community.” Nazi propaganda could also be ugly and negative, creating fear and loathing by portraying the regime’s “enemies” as dangerous and even sub-human. The Nazis’ distribution of antisemitic films, newspaper cartoons, and even children’s books aroused centuries-old prejudices against Jews and also presented new ideas about the racial impurity of Jews. The newspaper Der Stürmer (The Attacker), published by Nazi Party member Julius Streicher, was a key outlet for antisemitic propaganda. 

This visual essay includes a selection of Nazi propaganda images, both “positive” and “negative.” It focuses on posters that Germans would have seen in newspapers like Der Stürmer and passed in the streets, in workplaces, and in schools. Some of these posters were advertisements for traveling exhibits—on topics like “The Eternal Jew” or the evils of communism—that were themselves examples of propaganda. 

Connection Questions

  1. As you explore the images in this visual essay, consider what each image is trying to communicate to the viewer. Who is the audience for this message? How is the message conveyed?
  2. Do you notice any themes or patterns in this group of propaganda images? How do the ideas in these images connect to what you have already learned about Nazi ideology? How do they extend your thinking about Nazi ideas? 
  3. Based on the images you analyze, how do you think the Nazis used propaganda to define the identities of individuals and groups? What groups and individuals did Nazi propaganda glorify? What stereotypes did it promote? 
  4. Why was propaganda so important to Nazi leadership? How do you think Nazi propaganda influenced the attitudes and actions of Germans in the 1930s?
  5. Some scholars caution that there are limits to the power of propaganda; they think it succeeds not because it persuades the public to believe an entirely new set of ideas but because it expresses beliefs people already hold. Scholar Daniel Goldhagen writes: “No man, [no] Hitler, no matter how powerful he is, can move people against their hopes and desires. Hitler, as powerful a figure as he was, as charismatic as he was, could never have accomplished this [the Holocaust] had there not been tens of thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands of ordinary Germans who were willing to help him.”2 Do you agree? Would people have rejected Nazi propaganda if they did not already share, to some extent, the beliefs it communicated? 
  6. Can you think of examples of propaganda in society today? How do you think this propaganda influences the attitudes and actions of people today? Is there a difference between the impact of propaganda in a democracy that has a free press and an open marketplace of ideas and the impact of propaganda in a dictatorship with fewer non-governmental sources of information? 

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