To What Extent Did The Nazis Rely On Propaganda To Stay In Power Between 1933 And 1939?

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An essay about Nazi Germany and Hitler.

Submitted: January 20, 2015

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Submitted: January 20, 2015

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The innovative and convincing propaganda that was used by the Nazis was a key factor in ensuring that the Nazis remained in power between 1933 and 1939. Hitler’s powerful leadership and oratory skills made his speeches to the public a huge success. Newspapers, radios and cinemas all contained Nazi propaganda. Parades and rallies were also often held to advertise the Nazis. However, other factors contributed to the Nazis retaining power. These were: the sheer force through which the Nazis would crush anyone who opposed them, the use of fear or terror, the polices that offered something good for everyone, the economic success and the brainwashing techniques used to indoctrinate the youth of Germany.

 

Josef Goebbels was Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. His propaganda campaign depicted Nazi beliefs and was designed to appeal to specific groups of society with different slogans and policies to gain their support. The swastika on the Nazi flag stood out from other political movements. The organised mass marches and rallies made the Nazis look like a disciplined military force. The posters, newspapers, pamphlets and radio spread the Nazi message to all ordinary people. An important strength of the Nazis was the funding that they received from rich, communist-fearing businessmen. This money allowed the Nazis to produce propaganda, control the media and run campaigns without having to worry about money. There was a public desire for order and strength and Hitler, in his speeches, said that he could offer this. Hitler’s ability to reach the masses was unique and remarkable. He spoke his heart, and therefore reached the hearts of all those who heard him. He had the ability to express things so clearly, logically and directly that listeners were convinced that it was what they always thought themselves. The essential characteristics of his speeches to the German people were: clear organisation, irrefutable logical reasoning, simplicity and clarity of expression, razor-sharp dialectic, a developed and sure instinct for the masses and their feelings, an electrifying emotional appeal that was used sparingly, and the ability to reach out to the souls of the people. Therefore, propaganda was an important factor in maintain Nazi rule but was not the most important reason.

 

Hitler emphasised the great importance of children. Unlike other political leaders, Hitler did not disregard young people or under-estimate their political value. His vision of an enduring Third Reich hinged not only on the loyalty and obedience of adults, but also of their offspring. Hitler wanted Nazi ideology to appeal to all levels of society, including the young. He also wanted to provide children in Nazi Germany with a sense of purpose and community, something he felt which had been missing from his own childhood. The purpose of Hitler’s youth policies was to fill the minds of the young with ideas about racial supremacy, German expansion and future military conquests. Education therefore became an important tool of control. Hitler used the state education system to disseminate Nazi ideology, enhance loyalty to Hitler and prepare millions of German boys for military service. During the mid-1930s the Nazis established a party-controlled education system. It began by forming the Nazi Teachers’ League. Teachers of Jewish origin or socialist political beliefs were dismissed. Non-Nazi teachers were either pressured to join the Nazi Teachers’ League or leave their jobs. As the Nazis infiltrated schools, they shaped German curriculums to convey their own values and political beliefs. The main part of the Nazi syllabus was racial education which taught children about supposed Aryan supremacy and the despicable traits of Untermenschen (sub-human people). History lessons were filled with tales of Germanic heroes and warriors, political leaders and military conquests. In geography, German children learned about European borders and the need for lebensraum (‘living space’) for the German people. Physical education and sport were also priorities in Nazi schools. By ensuring that all German children were taught to believe his beliefs, Hitler was able to prevent them swaying to other political parties in the future.

 

The Nazis did not rely solely on schools for the indoctrination of German children. The Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) was a party-run organisation that served two main functions: physical training and ideological indoctrination. Hitler’s rise to the chancellorship in 1933 produced a dramatic spike in Hitler Youth membership. The Nazi leader appointed Baldur von Schirach as Reichsjugendfuhrer (‘German youth leader’) and tasked him with the expansion and re-organisation of the group on a national level. The Hitler Youth adopted and embraced the same symbols, psychology and appeals to nationalism that were employed in the SA and SS. As German schools were infiltrated by Nazi propaganda in the mid-1930s, they were also used to promote the Hitler Youth and to pressure children into joining. The Nazi government encouraged enlistment in the Hitler Youth by banning rival groups, such as the Boy Scouts and Catholic youth leagues. It was essentially a paramilitary group for boys aged 14-18, to prepare them for entry into the armed forces. The members engaged in a range of physical activities and skills training, including sports and games, bushwalking, orienteering and knot-tying to mention but a few. Weekends and school holidays were an opportunity for units to camp or bivuoac, or to attend larger regional rallies. From the mid-1930s the group’s training regime became more militaristic, with more emphasis on marching and drills, weapons training, obstacle and assault courses, camouflage and combat tactics. These physical activities were accompanied and underpinned by racial and ideological teachings. Hitler Youth members attended lectures and instructional sessions about Hitler’s life, Nazi ideas and racial theory. New recruits were required to take an oath of loyalty to Hitler as this would produce a generation of loyal supporters of Nazi views. By 1930 the Hitler Youth contained more than 25,000 boys between the ages of 14 and 18. The combination of the new schooling system and the youth movements meant that Hitler had complete control over the young Germans minds. He managed to persuade them that the Nazi party was what was what German needed.

 

Unemployment had fallen from 6 million in 1933 to 300,000 by 1939. The Nazis concentrated on rearming. Thousands of Germans worked in factories producing weapons and machinery. Conscription (1934) into the German armed forces helped to reduce the numbers of unemployed. The Nazis gave work contracts to companies that relied on manual labour rather than machines eg the massive autobahn (motorway) programme. Hitler also encouraged the mass production of radios. As he saw them as a means of supplying a steady stream of Nazi propaganda to the German people. The Strength through Joy organisation was set up to encourage workers to work as hard as they could for Germany and the Nazis. Cheap holidays and a car were offered to win the support of people. The Strength through Joy programme also built sports facilities, paid for theatre visits and financially supported travelling cabaret groups. Although the German worker paid for these benefits through compulsory deductions, the image of people being given holidays and subsidized entertainment was of great propaganda value to the Nazi government. Hitler became involved in designing the affordable Volkswagen (The People's Car). The Nazis created a scheme where the workers could get a car.

 

The Treaty Of Versailles made Germany forcefully accept sole responsibility for the war and to face its humiliating consequences. The new Weimar Government was resented for signing the Treaty. Hatred for this document was still high in Germany. Hitler openly detested the Treaty and promised to get back everything that was lost by the treaty. Hitler promised also to make Germany powerful and to gain extra lands for the Aryan master-race. In 1936, Hitler put soldiers into the Rhineland. In 1938, Hitler forced Austria to unite with Germany. Later on in 1938, Hitler forced Czechoslovakia to give up a part of it’s land called the Sudetenland. Britain’s Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, let Hitler have all of his demands. This was called appeasement. Chamberlain believed that if Hitler got what he wanted then Britain could avoid war with Germany. In March 1939, Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia, although he promised Chamberlain he would not and in August 1939, Hitler invaded Poland. Chamberlain decided enough was enough and declared war on Germany.

 

 

The Enabling Act (23rd March 23, 1933) allowed the Cabinet to introduce legislation without it first going through the Reichstag. Any legislation passed by the Cabinet did not need presidential approval either. The Act had a lifespan of four years and then it had to be renewed via the Reichstag. Hitler was now able to create any law and it would be automatically passed. He banned all political parties other than the Nazi party. Hitler’s power allowed him to merge the positions of Chancellor and President and create the position of Führer after the death of Hindenburg. With all other political parties banned, Hitler was free to do anything that he wanted in German.

 

In dealing with all forms of opposition the Nazis developed many concentration camps and death camps. The first concentration camp was established in the town of Dachau on 1st April 1933 and Chelmno was the first extermination camp to be established as part of the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question’. By the end of the war, 22 main concentration camps were established, together with around 1,200 affiliate camps. Death camps were constructed with the specific purpose of mass murdering Jews and other victim groups. The concentration camps claimed thousands of victims. Imprisonment in a concentration camp meant inhuman forced labour, brutal mistreatment, hunger, disease, and random executions. It is certain that several hundred thousand died in the concentration camp and more than three million Jews were murdered in the extermination camps.

 

On the 26th April 1933 The Gestapo (Nazi secret police) were formed. Their main purpose was to hunt out those considered a threat to Nazi Germany. By the time World War Two started these included Jews, Communists, Jehovah Witnesses and homosexuals. After the outbreak of World War Two, the work of the Gestapo covered Occupied Europe where it had two main tasks. The first was to hunt out Jews and other ‘Untermenschen’ (subhuman) while the second was to tackle the threat of resistance movements. The Gestapo’s greatest weapon was the fear that it created. The perception of the German population was that the Gestapo were everywhere and that you could trust no-one. There was an acceptance that if you crossed the state, the Gestapo would get you. Special 'people's courts' made sure that opponents of the Nazis charged with treason were found guilty, even if there was barely any evidence against them. Their methods of dealing with anyone in ‘protective custody’ were well publicised to further enforce the message that an individual should be totally loyal to the state. People living in constant fear, ensure that nobody could overthrow Nazi rule. Any slight opposition was eliminated.

 

The Night Of The Long Knives (30th June 1934) involved the SS executing 150 leaders of the SA. Many members of the SA were committed socialists and demanded that Nazi policy embrace socialist aims. This was not a direction the Nazis wished to follow so the SA were eliminated, allowing the Nazi campaign to triumph in the way which Hitler wanted.

 

In conclusion, Josef Goebbels’ propaganda campaign was important in keeping control in the hands of the Nazis but it would not have been enough without other factors. Ensuring that German citizens lived in constant fear of the Nazis was the upmost important factor. Without the fear of punishment or death from the Gestapo or Nazi camps, people would have spoken out against the Nazis and Nazi control may have been overthrown. Therefore, I believe that Nazis did not solely rely on propaganda to stay in power between 1933 and 1939. Nazi maintenance of power was achieved through a combination of different factors with the main one being terror or fear of Nazis.


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