Propaganda Nazi Essay

The propaganda of the National Socialist German Workers' Party regime that governed Germany from 1933 to 1945 promoted Nazi ideology by demonizing the enemies of the Nazi Party, notably Jews and communists, but also capitalists and intellectuals. It promoted the values asserted by the Nazis, including heroic death, Führerprinzip (leader principle), Volksgemeinschaft (people's community), Blut und Boden (blood and soil) and pride in the Germanic Herrenvolk (master race). Propaganda was also used to maintain the cult of personality around Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and to promote campaigns for eugenics and the annexation of German-speaking areas. After the outbreak of World War II, Nazi propaganda vilified Germany's enemies, notably the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States, and in 1943 exhorted the population to total war.



Antisemitic propaganda was a common theme in Nazi propaganda, although it was occasionally reduced for tactical reasons, such as for the 1936 Olympic Games. It was a recurring topic in Hitler's book Mein Kampf (1925–26), which was a key component of Nazi ideology.

Early in his membership in the Nazi Party, Hitler presented the Jews as behind all of Germany's moral and economic problems, as featuring in both Bolshevism and international capitalism.[1] He blamed "money-grubbing Jews" for all of Weimar Germany's economic problems.[2] He also drew upon the antisemitic elements of the stab-in-the-back legend to explain the defeat in World War I and to justify their views as self-defense.[3] In one speech, when Hitler asked who was behind Germany's failed war efforts, the audience erupted with "The Jews."[1]

After the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923, he moderated his tone for the trial, centering his defense on his selfless devotion to the good of the Volk and the need for bold action to save them; though his references to the Jews were not eliminated (speaking, for instance, of "racial tuberculosis" in "German lungs"), they were decreased to win support.[4] Some Nazis feared their movement lost its antisemitic edge, and Hitler privately assured them that he regarded his previous views as mild.[5] Hitler in Mein Kampf describes Jews as "a dangerous bacillus".[6]

Thereafter, he publicly muted his antisemitism; speeches would contain references to Jews, but ceased to be purely antisemitic fulminations, unless such language would appeal to the audience.[7] Some speeches contained no references to Jews at all, leading many to believe that his antisemitism had been an earlier stage.[8]

Still, the antisemitic planks remained in the Nazi Party platform.[9] Even before they ascended to power, Nazi essays and slogans would call for boycotts of Jews.[10] Anti-capitalist propaganda, touching on usury, would use antisemitic elements from the association of Jews with money-lenders.[11]

A propaganda poster from 1933 attempted to degrade capitalists and Jews for opposing social programs for the public. One sub-headline on the "Down with Judah!" poster read: "Because Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich wants social justice, big Jewish capitalism is the worst enemy of this Reich and its Führer."[12]

In 1933, Hitler's speeches spoke of serving Germany and defending it from its foes: hostile countries, Communism, liberals, and culture decay, but not Jews.[13] Seizure of power after the Reichstag fire inaugurated April 1 as the day for a boycott of Jewish stores, and Hitler, on the radio, and newspapers fervently called for it.[14] The actual effect, of apathy outside Nazi strongholds, caused Nazis to turn to more incremental and subtle effects.[15]

In 1935 the first set of anti-semitic laws went into effect in Nazi Germany; the Nuremberg Laws forbid the Jews and political opponents from civil service. It classified people with four German grandparents as "German or kindred blood", while people were classified as Jews if they descended from three or four Jewish grandparents. A person with one or two Jewish grandparents was a Mischling, a crossbreed, of "mixed blood".[16] These laws deprived Jews of German citizenship and prohibited marriage between Jews and other Germans.[17] The Nuremberg Laws forbid any sexual relations between Aryans and non-Aryans who were along with the Jews, for example the Gypsies, Negroes, and their bastard offspring.[18]

The Aryan Paragraph was officially justified with overt antisemitism, depicting Jews as have undue representation in the professions.[19] Anti-Jewish measures were presented as defensive.[20] Nazi speakers were instructed to say that Jews were being treated gently.[21] Stock answers to counter-arguments were provided for them.[22] Jews were attacked as the embodiment of capitalism.[23] After six issues devoted to ethnic pride, Neues Volk featured an article on the types of the "Criminal Jew";[24] in later issues, it urged no sympathy for victims of the Nuremberg laws, while arguing that its reader could see Jewish life going on about them, unpersecuted.[25] Goebbels defended Nazi racial policies, even claiming that the bad publicity was a mistake for Jews, because it brought forward the topic for discussion.[26]

At the 1935 Nazi party congress rally at Nuremberg, Goebbels declared that "Bolshevism is the declaration of war by Jewish-led international subhumans against culture itself."[27]

The Nazis described the Jews as Untermenschen (subhumans), this term was utilized repeatedly in writings and speeches directed against them, the most notorious example being a 1942 SS publication with the title "Der Untermensch" which contains an antisemitic tirade. In the pamphlet "The SS as an Anti-bolshevist Fighting Organization", Himmler wrote in 1936: "We shall take care that never again in Germany, the heart of Europe, will the Jewish-Bolshevistic revolution of subhumans be able to be kindled either from within or through emissaries from without."

By the mid-1930s, textbooks with more antisemitic content were used in the class room.[28] (This sometimes backfired, with antisemitic caricatures being so crude that the children were unable to recognize their Jewish classmates in them.[29]) "The Jewish Question in Education" assured teachers that children were not only capable of understanding it, but that their sound racial instincts were better than their parents', as witness that the children would run and hide when a Jewish cattle dealer came to deal with their parents.[30]

Biology classes were to emphasize the division of species in nature, to lead children to the analogy:

When migratory birds leave for the south in the fall, starlings fly with starlings, storks with storks, swallows with swallows. Although they are all birds, each holds strictly to its kind. A herd of chamois is never led by a deer or a herd of wild horses by a wild boar. Each kind sticks with its own, and seeks a leader of the same species. That is the way of nature. When these facts are explained in school, the time has to come when a boy or a girl stands up and says: "If that is the way it is in nature, it has to be the same with people. But our German people once allowed itself to be led by those of foreign race, the Jews." To older students, one can explain that a male starling mates only with a female starling. They build a nest, lay eggs, care for the chicks. Young starlings come from that nest. Like is drawn to like, and produces its own kind. That is the way nature is! Only where humanity intervenes do artificial cross-breeds result, the mixed race, the bastard. People cross a horse and a donkey to produce a mule. The mule is an example of a bastard. Nature does not want it to reproduce.[30]

With this, teachers were informed, the logic of the Nuremberg Laws will be easy to explain.[30]

This time also saw a vast increase in antisemitic popular culture; not bearing the overt stamp of Nazi approval, it was regarded as more objective than Ministry of Propaganda information.[31] Even children's books such as Der Giftpilz promoted antisemitism.[32] Academics, in view of increasing Nazi pressure, produced reams of "racial science" to demonstrate the differences between Jews and Germans, frequently ignoring all other races.[33] In books, the measures were presented as reasonable and even self-defense.[20]Das Schwarze Korps increased the harshness of its tone toward Jews, in order to prepare the SS for racial war.[34] This element could also appear in other propaganda in which it was not the centerpiece. The villains of Hans Westmar were not only Communists but Jews as well.[35]

This, however, did not reach the pitch of later propaganda, after the war.[36] Goebbels, despite his personal racism, approved only two comedies and one historical drama with overt antisemitism.[36] Newsreels contained no references to Jews.[36] Propaganda aimed at women as bulwarks against racial degeneration lay heavy emphasis on their role in protecting racial purity without indulging in the antisemitism of Mein Kampf or Der Stürmer.[37]Gerhard Wagner, at the 1936 Nuremberg Rally, discussed the racial law more in terms of the pure and growing race than the evil of the Jews.[38] A 1938 pamphlet urging support for Hitler in the referendum detailed Nazi accomplishments with no mention of antisemitism.[39] This reflected a desire to subtly present their racial doctrines, as apparently objective science.[40] The ground was laid for later antisemitic works by heavy emphasis on the ethnic chauvinism.[41] Hitler made only three overtly antisemitic speeches between seizing power and the war, but included various cryptic comments about Jews that the hardcode Nazis knew meant he had not abandoned the beliefs.[42] Antisemitic propaganda was in particularly suppressed during the Olympics, when Der Stürmer was not allowed to be sold on the streets.[43]

In 1939, Hitler's January 30 speech opened with praise for the flowering of the German people, but went on to declare that whatever was detrimental to the people could not be ethical, and to threaten Jews as the authors of any coming war.[44] In 1942, newspapers quoted Hitler as saying that his "prediction" was being realized.[45]

The Holocaust[edit]

In 1941, when Jews were forced to wear the Star of David, Nazi pamphlets instructed people to remember antisemitic arguments at the sight of it, particularly Kaufman's Germany Must Perish!.[46] This book was also heavily relied on for the pamphlet "The War Goal of World Plutocracy."[47]

The Holocaust was not a topic even for discussion in ministerial meetings; the one time the question was raised it was dismissed as being of no use in propaganda.[48] Even officials in the Propaganda Ministry were told atrocities against Jews were enemy propaganda.[49] But with the Holocaust, aggressive anti-Semitic propaganda was therefore implemented.[48] Goebbels's articles in Das Reich included vitriolic anti-Semitism.[50][51][52][53] The alleged documentary The Eternal Jew purported to show the wretched lives and destruction wrought by Jews, who were lower than vermin,[54] and the historical drama Jud Süß depicted a Jew as gaining power over the Duke by lending him money and using the power to oppress his subjects and enable himself to rape a pure German woman, by having her husband arrested and tortured.[55] Wartime posters frequently described the Jews as responsible for the war, and being behind the Allies.[56] Fervently anti-Semitic pamphlets were published, including alleged citations from Jewish writing, which were generally poor translations, out of context, or invented.[57] An attack on "Americanism" asserted that the Jews were behind it.[58]

The difficulty of simultaneously maintaining anti-Communist propaganda, and propaganda against Great Britain as a plutocracy also led to increased emphasis on antisemitism, describing Jews as being behind both.[48]

Instructions for propaganda speakers in 1943 directed them to claim that antisemitism was rising throughout the world, quoting an alleged British sailor as wishing Hitler would kill five million Jews, one of the clearest reference to extermination in Nazi propaganda.[59]


Antisemitic propaganda was also spread outside Germany. Ukrainians were told that they had acted against Jews many times in the past for their "high-handedness" and would now demand full payment for all injuries.[45] Reports indicated that although the high percentage of Jews in the Communist party had its effect, the Ukrainians viewed it as a religious matter, and not a racial one.[60]

In Der Stürmer[edit]

The propaganda periodical Der Stürmer always made antisemitic material a mainstay, throughout its run before and during Nazi power. It exemplified the crude antisemiticism that Hitler concealed to win popular and foreign support, but its circulation increased throughout the Nazi regime.[61] Even after Streicher was under house arrest for gross misuse of office, Hitler provided him with resources to continue his propaganda.[62]

Salacious accounts of sexual offenses featured in nearly every issue.[63] The Reichstag fire was attributed to a Jewish conspiracy.[64] It supported an early plan to transport all Jews to Madagascar,[65] but this prospect was dropped as soon as it became an actual possibility.[66] Later, taking Theodore N. Kaufman with the importance that the Nazis generally attributed to him, urged that Jews intended to exterminate Germany,[67] and urged that only with the destruction of Jews would Germany be safe.[68]

Its "Letter Box" encouraged the reporting of Jewish acts; the unofficial style helped prevent suspicion of propaganda, and lent it authenticity.[69]

A textbook written by Elvira Bauer in 1936, entitled Trust no Fox on the Green Heath and No Jew Upon his Oath, was designed to show Germans that the Jews could not be trusted. It portrayed the Jews as inferior, untrustworthy and parasitic. A further anti-Semitic children's book entitled The Poisonous Mushroom, written by Ernst Hiemer, was handed out in 1938. Again it portrayed the Jews as worthless subhumans and through a text containing seventeen short stories, as the antithesis of Aryan humanity. The Jew was dehumanized and was seen as a poisonous mushroom. The book included encompassed strands of both religious and racial anti-Semitism towards the Jews. The contents of this book were following themes "How to Tell a Jew", "How Jewish Traders Cheat", "How Jews Torment Animals", "Are there Decent Jews?" and finally "Without Solving the Jewish Question, No Salvation for Mankind".[70]

Two years later by the same author another textbook which attacked the Jews through racial anti-Semitism and decrying the evils of racial miscegenation. In this text, Jews were portrayed as bloodsuckers. He claimed Jews were equal to tapeworms, claiming that "Tapeworm and Jew are parasites of the worst kind. We want their elimination. We want to become healthy and strong again. Then only one thing will help: Their extermination." The aim of such texts was to try and justify the Nazis racial policy on Jews. Der Stürmer was frequently used in schools as part of Nazi "education" to the German youth. Despite its overly anti-Semitic status, the paper published letters from teachers and children approving of it.[70]

Roughly 100,000 copies were printed of the book. The title comes from a phrase by Martin Luther, whose anti-Jewish remarks the Nazis were happy to use.[71]


Adolf Hitler's anti-communism was already a central feature of his book Mein Kampf. Nazi propaganda depicted Communism as an enemy both within Germany and all of Europe. Communists were the first group attacked as enemies of the state when Nazis ascended to power.[3] According to Hitler, the Jews were the archetypal enemies of the German Volk, and no Communism or Bolshevism existed outside Jewry.[72]

In a speech in 1927 to the Bavarian regional parliament the Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher, publisher of Der Stürmer, used the term "Untermensch" referring to the communists of the German Bavarian Soviet Republic: "It happened at the time of the [Bavarian] Soviet Republic: When the unleashed subhumans rambled murdering through the streets, the deputies hid behind a chimney in the Bavarian parliament."[73]

Prior to their seizure of powers, conflicts with Communists, and attempts to win them over, featured frequently in Nazi propaganda. Newspaper articles presented Nazis as innocent victims of Communist assaults.[74] An election flyer aimed at converting Communists.[75] Articles advising Nazi propagandist discussed winning over the workers from the Marxists.[76] Election slogans urged that if you wanted Bolshevism, to vote Communist, but to remain free Germans, to vote Nazi.[77]

Goebbels, aware of the value of publicity (both positive and negative), deliberately provoked beer-hall battles and street brawls, including violent attacks on the Communist Party of Germany.[78] He used the death of Horst Wessel who was killed in 1930 by two members of the Communist Party of Germany as a propaganda tool against "Communist subhumans".[79]

The spectre of Communism was used to win dictatorial powers.[80] The Reichstag fire was presented by Nazi newspaper as the first step in a Communist seizure of power.[81] Hitler made use of it to portray Nazis as the only alternative to the Communists, fears of which he whipped up.[82] This propaganda resulted in an acceptance of anti-Communist violence at the time, though antisemitic violence was less approved of.[83]

When the Pope attacked the errors of Nazism, the government's official response was a note accusing the Pope of endangering the defense against world Bolshevism.[84]

After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Communists were among the first people that were sent to concentration camps.[85] They were sent because of their ties with the Soviet Union and because Nazism greatly opposed Communism.[86]

Films such as Hans Westmar and Hitler Youth Quex depicted the deaths of their heroes as martyrs killed by Communism; in both films, the movement appears as an overall threat, with some ruthless villains as leaders, but with some misguided Communists who could be inspired by the heroes[87]—as, indeed, potential Nazis.[35] Literature, too, depicted heroic German workers who were taken in by international Marxism, but whose Aryan nature revolted on learning more of it.[88]Der Giftpilz had a man tell Hitler Youth members that once he had been a Communist, but he had realized that they were led by Jews who were trying to sacrifice Germany for Russia's benefit.[89]

From very early on after the invasion of the Soviet Union, permission was given to eliminate all communists:

It is necessary to eliminate the red sub-humans, along with their Kremlin dictators. German people will have a great task to perform the most in its history, and the world will hear more about that this task will be completed till the end.

— Newsletter for the troops (Mitteilungen für die Truppe), in June 1941, [90]


The Nazi movement was overtly anti-rationalist, favoring appeals to emotion and cultural myths.[91] It preferred such "non-intellectual" virtues as loyalty, patriotism, duty, purity, and blood, and allegedly produced a pervasive contempt for intellectuals.[92] Both overt statements and propaganda in books favored sincere feeling over thought, because such feelings, stemming from nature, would be simple and direct.[93] In Mein Kampf, Hitler complained of biased over-education, brainwashing, and a lack of instinct and will[94] and in many other passages made his anti-intellectual bent clear.[95] Intellectuals were frequently the butts of Hitler's jokes.[96]Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls were overtly instructed to aim for character-building rather than education.[97] The theory offered for Nazism was developed only after practice, which had denigrated expert thinking, only to seek out intellectuals who could be brought to support it.[98]

Sturmabteilung speakers were used, though their reliance sometimes offended well-educated audiences, but their blunt and folksy manner often had their own appeal.[99] One popular Munich speaker, declaring biological research boring, called instead on racial emotions; their "healthy ethnic instincts" would reveal the quality of the Aryan type.[100]

A 1937 essay aimed at propagandists "Heart or Reason? What We don't Want from Our Speakers", explicitly complained that speakers should aim for the heart, not the understanding, and many of them failed to try this.[101] This included an unrelentingly optimistic view.[102] Pure reason was attacked as a colorless thing, cut off from blood.[103] Education Minister Rust ordered teachers training colleges to relocate from "too intellectual" university centers to the countryside, where they could be more readily indoctrinated and would also benefit from contact with the pure German peasantry.[104]

An SS paper declared that IQ varied inversely with male infertility, and medical papers declared that the spread of educational pursuits had brought down the birth rate.[105]

This frequently related to the blood and soil doctrines and an organic view of the German people.[106] "Blood and soil" plays, for instance, depicted a woman rejecting her bookish fiance in order to marry an estate owner.[107]

It also related to antisemitism, as Jews were often accused of being intellectual and having a destructive "critical spirit."[108] The book burnings were hailed by Goebbels as ending "the age of extreme Jewish intellectualism."[108]

This view affected the creation of propaganda as well. Goebbels, who never tired of railing against intellectuals, told propagandists to aim their work toward the woodcutter in Bad Aibling.[48]

Overall, these themes reflected Nazi Germany's split between myth and modernity.[109]


Capitalism was also attacked as morally inferior to German values[3] and as failing to provide for the German people.[3] Great Britain was attacked as a plutocracy. A few months after the invasion of Poland, Goebbels released his “England’s Guilt” speech that blamed the war on Imperial Britain’s “capitalist democracy” and warmongers, denouncing England for having the richest men on earth while their people get little of this wealth.[110] In that speech, Goebbels claimed that “English capitalists want to destroy Hitlerism” in order to retain its imperial status and harmful economic policies.

This was portrayed as Jewish, so as to attack both Communism and plutocracy, describing Jews as being behind both.[48]Anti-capitalist propaganda, attacking "interest slavery", used the association of Jews with money-lenders.[11]

Nazi propaganda and officials such as Robert Ley describe Germany as a "proletarian nation"[111] as opposed to the plutocratic England, a political divide that Goebbels described as “England is a capitalist democracy” and “Germany is a socialist people's state.”[112]

The Spanish Civil War began the propaganda of portraying Germany as a protector against "Jewish Bolshevism," making heavy use of atrocity stories.[113]

Before the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, from 1936-8, substantial anti-Bolshevist campaigns were conducted.[114] In 1937 the Reichspropagandaleitung had an anti-Bolshevist exhibit travel to major cities.[114] In film, Russian Communists were depicted as ruthless murderers.[87] In Flüchtlinge, only a heroic German leader saves Volga Germans from Bolshevik persecution on the Sino-Russian border in Manchuria.[87]Friesennot depicts a village of Volga Germans being ruthlessly persecuted in the Soviet Union.[87] Goebbels addressed the 1935 annual congress of the Nazi Party with an anti-Communist speech.[115]

The first declaration of the Pact presented it as a genuine change, but this was unpalatable to the Nazi faithful and the line was soon watered down even before its violation.[48] News reports were to be neutral on the Russian army and carefully expurgated of "typical Bolshevist phrases."[48] Still, anti-Communist films were withdrawn.[87]

Initially the Nazis wanted to have alliance with United Kingdom, however after the war started they were denounced as "the Jew among the Aryan peoples" and as plutocrats, fighting for money.[116] Another major theme was the difference between British "plutocracy" and Nazi Germany. German newspapers and newsreels often pictured photos and footage of British unemployed and slums together with unfavorable commentary about the differences in living standards of the working class of Nazi Germany vs that of the working class living under British "plutocracy". Simultaneously, propaganda presented them as tools of the Communists. A German parody stamp, of one depicting King George and Queen Elizabeth, replaced the queen with Stalin and added a hammer and sickle, and stars of David. The Parole der Woche's weekly wall newspaper declared that the United States and Britain had agreed to let Stalin take Europe.[117] Using propaganda to present the Jews as being behind both helped juggle the issues of opposing "plutocracy" and Communism at once.[118]

After the invasion of the Soviet Union, propaganda resumed, quickly linking the attack with British forces, which simplified the task of attacking both Communism and "plutocracy" at once.[48] Within two weeks of the invasion, Goebbels proclaimed the attack the preservation of European civilization from Communism.[119] A weekly propaganda poster declared that the soldiers would liberate Europe from Bolshevism.[120] Anti-Communist films were re-issued,[87] and new films such as The Red Terror were issued.[121] Guidelines issued to the army described the Soviet commissars as inhuman and hate-filled.[3] They were also told that the Soviets took no prisoners.[3]

This also allowed Goebbels to make use of anti-Communist propaganda to the occupied nations, portraying a Utopia protected by German versus a slave camp under Communism.[122] The term Iron Curtain was invented to describe this state.[122] This propaganda asserted, with blatant falsity, that Germany wanted to protect European rather than German culture, from the threat.[123] A rare Ukrainian poster from 1941 shows people looking through a wall and telling the Ukrainians that the Soviets had built a wall around them to keep their misery invisible.[45]

In 1942, a "Soviet Paradise" exhibit was opened to depict the Soviet Union as having been found a place of filth and poverty.[124] This was supplemented with a pamphlet and "documentary film" of the same title.[125]

Also in 1942, the Nazi government believed Churchill's fall was possible, which Goebbels chose to spin as England surrendering Europe to Bolshevism.[48] This received continuing plan and was a major element in the Sportpalast speech.[48]

Preparations were made, in anticipation of victory in Russia, to present this as the triumph over Communism.[126]

In 1943, the defeat at Stalingrad led to a serious Anti-Bolshevist campaign in view of the possibility of defeat.[127] The Katyn massacre was exploited in 1943 to drive a wedge between Poland, Western Allies, and the Soviet Union, and reinforce the Nazi propaganda line about the horrors of Bolshevism and American and British subservience to it.[48] Pamphlets were released to whip up fear of Communism.[128] The negative impact of Soviet policies implemented in the 1930s were still fresh in the memory of Ukrainians. These included the Holodomor of 1933, the Great Terror, the persecution of intellectuals during the Great Purge of 1937-38, the massacre of Ukrainian intellectuals after the annexation of Western Ukraine from Poland in 1939, the introduction and implementation of Collectivisation. As a result, the population of whole towns, cities and villages, greeted the Germans as liberators which helps explain the unprecedented rapid progress of the German forces in the occupation of Ukraine.[129] The Ukrainians at first had been told it was being freed from Communism;[45] this had quickly given way to exploitation, where even celebrating Kiev's "liberation" was forbidden,[45] but the failure at Stalingard brought propaganda into play.[45]


Russia became an important role in Hitler's German expansion and foreign policy (Lebensraum), in his 1924 written and 1926 programmatic writing Mein Kampf developed Adolf Hitler, in a special chapter on Facing: East or Eastern policy detail his habitat plans.[130] He called on them to "secure its rightful land on this earth," the German people and announced:

We National Socialists consciously draw a line under the direction of our foreign policy war. We begin where we ended six centuries ago. We stop the perpetual Germanic march towards the south and west of Europe, and have the view on the country in the east. We finally put the colonial and commercial policy of the pre-war and go over to the territorial policy of the future. But if we speak today in Europe of new land, we can primarily only to Russia and the border states subjects him think."[131]

Because the Russian people were Slavic, not Germanic, the Soviet Union was also attacked on racial grounds for "living space" as Nazi ideology believed that only the Nordic people (referred to as the Germanic people) represented the Herrenvolk (master race) which was to expand to the East (Drang nach Osten). To Hitler, Operation Barbarossa was a "war of annihilation", being both an ideological war between German National Socialism and Jewish Bolshevism and a racial war between the Germans and the Bolshevik, Jewish, Gypsies and Slavic Untermenschen.[132]

Influenced by the guidelines, in a directive sent out to the troops under his command, General Erich Hoepner of the Panzer Group 4 stated:

The war against Russia is an important chapter in the German nation's struggle for existence. It is the old battle of the Germanic against the Slavic people, of the defence of European culture against Muscovite-Asiatic inundation and of the repulse of Jewish Bolshevism. The objective of this battle must be the demolition of present-day Russia and must therefore be conducted with unprecedented severity. Every military action must be guided in planning and execution by an iron resolution to exterminate the enemy remorselessly and totally. In particular, no adherents of the contemporary Russian Bolshevik system are to be spared.[133]

Heinrich Himmler in a speech to the Eastern Front Battle Group "Nord" declared:

It is a war of ideologies and struggle races. On one side stands National Socialism: ideology, founded on the values of our Germanic, Nordic blood. It is worth the world as we want to see: beautiful, orderly, fair, socially, a world that may be, still suffers some flaws, but overall a happy, beautiful world filled with culture, which is precisely Germany. On the other side stands the 180 millionth people, a mixture of races and peoples, whose names are unpronounceable, and whose physical nature is such that the only thing that they can do - is to shoot without pity or mercy. These animals, which are subjected to torture and ill-treatment of each prisoner from our side, which do not have medical care they captured our wounded, as do the decent men, you will see them for yourself. These people have joined a Jewish religion, one ideology, called Bolshevism, with the task of: having now Russian, half [located] in Asia, parts of Europe, crush Germany and the world. When you, my friends, are fighting in the East, you keep that same fight against the same subhumans, against the same inferior races that once appeared under the name of Huns, and later - 1,000 years ago during the time of King Henry and Otto I, - the name of the Hungarians, and later under the name of Tatars, and then they came again under the name of Genghis Khan and the Mongols. Today they are called Russian under the political banner of Bolshevism.[134]

During the war, Himmler published the pamphlet "Der Untermensch" (The Subhuman) which featured photographs of ideal Aryans contrasted with photographs of the ravages of barbarian races (Jews) from the days of Attila and Genghis Khan to massacres in the Jewish-dominated Soviet Union.[135]

Hitler believed that after the invasion of the Soviet Union, the war in the East was to destroy Bolshevism, as well as aiming to ruin the Great Russian Empire, and a war for German expansion and economic exploitation.[72]

Goebbels, in Das Reich, explained Russian resistance in terms of a stubborn but bestial soul.[136] Russians were termed "Asiatic"[137] and the Red Army as "Asiatic Hordes".[138]

The troops were told that in World War I, the Russian troops had often feigned death or surrender, or donned German uniforms, in order to kill German soldiers.[3]

Until early 1942 the following slogan was in use "the Russian is a beast, he must croak" (der Russe sei eine Bestie, er muesse verrecken) but the need for Russian manpower in the German labor force led to its demise.[139]

Events such as the Nemmersdorf massacre and Metgethen massacre were also used by German propaganda to strengthen the fighting spirit on the eastern front towards the end of the war.

Czechs and Slovaks[edit]

Until the end of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, that state was a major target of abuse. Czechoslovakia was represented as an "abomination" created by the Treaty of Versailles, an artificial state that should never had been created.[citation needed] Moreover, Czechoslovakia was frequently accused of engaging in some sort of genocide against the ethnic Germans of the Sudetenland with German media making recurrent and false claims of massacres of Sudetenlanders.[140] In addition, the Czechoslovak-Soviet treaty of 1935 was represented as an aggressive move aimed at Germany.[141] A particular favourite claim was that Czechoslovakia was a "Soviet air-craft carrier" in Central Europe, namely that were secret Red Air Force bases in Czechoslovakia that would allow the Soviets to bomb and destroy German cities.[141] The high-point of anti-Czechoslovak propaganda was in 1938 with the crisis that ended in the Munich Agreement.


At first, Hitler and the Nazis saw Poland as a potential ally against the Soviet Union, Hitler repeatedly suggested a German-Polish alliance against the Soviet Union, but Piłsudski declined, instead seeking precious time to prepare for potential war with Germany or with the Soviet Union.[142] Eventually in January 1934 the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact was signed and all attacks against Poland ceased.[143] A sign of the change occurred in 1933 when a German professor published a book that was given much media attention calling for German-Polish friendship, and praised the "particularly close political and cultural relationship" between Germany and Poland that was said to be 1, 000 years old.[144]

For many years, it was forbidden to discuss the German minority in Poland, and this continued through into early 1939, even while newspapers were asked to press the matter of Danzig.[145] The reasons for this lay with the German–Polish Non-Aggression Pact of 1934, an attempt on the part of Germany to split the Cordon sanitaire as the French alliance system in Eastern Europe was known.[146] Propaganda attacks on Poland would inspire the Poles to doubt the sincerity of Germany's policy of rapprochement with Poland. In 1935, when two secretaries at the German War Ministry were caught providing state secrets to their lover, a Polish diplomat, the two women were beheaded for high treason while the diplomat was declared persona non grata.[146] Through the two women were widely vilified in the German press for engaging in espionage on behalf of a "foreign power", the name of the "foreign power" was never mentioned in order to maintain good relations with Poland.[146] At the same time, the loss of territory to Poland under the Treaty of Versailles

Poster for occupied Poland: "Jews Lice - Typhus"
German citizens, public reading of Der Stürmer "Die Juden sind unser Unglück".
The diagram shows the pseudo-scientific racial division, which is the basis of racial policies of Nazi Germany. Only people with four German grandparents (four white circles - the first table on the left) were considered to be "full-blooded" Germans. German nationals with in your family tree three or four Jewish ancestors (fourth and fifth column from the left) were recognized by the Nuremberg laws for Jews. The center column shows the people of "mixed blood", depending on the number of Jewish ancestry. All Jewish grandparents were automatically defined as members of the Jewish community of religious (regardless of the extent to which, in fact, identify with this group.)
A Nazi propaganda poster which reads "Marxism is the guardian angel of capitalism".
German Nazi propaganda poster: "Danzig is German".

The propaganda used by the German Nazi Party in the years leading up to and during Adolf Hitler's leadership of Germany (1933–1945) was a crucial instrument for acquiring and maintaining power, and for the implementation of Nazi policies. The pervasive use of propaganda by the Nazis is largely responsible for the word "propaganda" itself acquiring its present negative connotations.[1]

Mein Kampf[edit]

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler devoted three chapters of his 1925 book Mein Kampf, itself a propaganda tool, to the study and practice of propaganda.[2] He claimed to have learned the value of propaganda as a World War I infantryman exposed to very effective British and ineffectual German propaganda.[3] The argument that Germany lost the war largely because of British propaganda efforts, expounded at length in Mein Kampf, reflected then-common German nationalist claims. Although untrue – German propaganda during World War I was mostly more advanced than that of the British – it became the official truth of Nazi Germany thanks to its reception by Hitler.[4]

Mein Kampf contains the blueprint of later Nazi propaganda efforts. Assessing his audience, Hitler writes in chapter VI:

"Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. (...) All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. (...) The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. (...) The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood."[5]

As to the methods to be employed, he explains:

"Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side. (...) The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. (...) Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula."

Early Nazi Party (1919–33)[edit]

Hitler put these ideas into practice with the reestablishment of the Völkischer Beobachter, a daily newspaper published by the Nazi Party (NSDAP) from February 1925 onwards, whose circulation reached 26,175 in 1929. It was joined in 1927 by Joseph Goebbels's Der Angriff, another unabashedly and crudely propagandistic paper.

During most of the Nazis' time in opposition, their means of propaganda remained limited. With little access to mass media, the party continued to rely heavily on Hitler and a few others speaking at public meetings until 1929.[6] One study finds that the Weimar government's use of pro-government radio propaganda retarded Nazi growth.[7] In April 1930, Hitler appointed Goebbels head of party propaganda. Goebbels, a former journalist and Nazi party officer in Berlin, soon proved his skills. Among his first successes was the organization of riotous demonstrations that succeeded in having the American anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front banned in Germany.[8]

In power (1933–39)[edit]

On 13 March 1933, the Third Reich established a Ministry of Propaganda, appointing Joseph Goebbels as its Minister. Its goals were to establish enemies in the public mind: the external enemies which had imposed the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, and internal enemies such as Jews, Romani, homosexuals, Bolsheviks, and cultural trends including "degenerate art".

A major political and ideological cornerstone of Nazi policy was the unification of all ethnic Germans living outside the Reich's borders (e.g. in Austria and Czechoslovakia) under one Greater Germany.[9] In Mein Kampf, Hitler denounced the pain and misery of ethnic Germans outside Germany, and declared the dream of a common fatherland for which all Germans must fight.[10] Throughout Mein Kampf, he pushed Germans worldwide to make the struggle for political power and independence their main focus, made official in the Heim ins Reich policy beginning in 1938.[11]

For months prior to the beginning of World War II in 1939, German newspapers and leaders had carried out a national and international propaganda campaign accusing Polish authorities of organizing or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans living in Poland.[12] On 22 August, Adolf Hitler told his generals:

"I will provide a propagandistic casus belli. Its credibility doesn't matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth."[13][14]

The main part of this propaganda campaign was the false flagOperation Himmler, which was designed to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, in order to justify the invasion of Poland.[13][14][15]

Research finds that the Nazis' use of radio propaganda helped it consolidate power and enroll more party members.[7]


Adolf Hitler and Nazi propagandists played on widespread and long-established German anti-Semitism. The Jews were blamed for things such as robbing the German people of their hard work while themselves avoiding physical labour. Hitler declared that the mission of the Nazi movement was to annihilate "Jewish Bolshevism".[16] Hitler asserted that the "three vices" of "Jewish Marxism" were democracy, pacifism and internationalism,[17] and that the Jews were behind Bolshevism, communism and Marxism.[18] Joseph Goebbels in the 1937 The Great Anti-Bolshevist Exhibition declared that Bolshevism and Jewry were the same thing.[19]

At the 1935 Nazi party congress rally at Nuremberg, Goebbels declared that "Bolshevism is the declaration of war by Jewish-led international subhumans against culture itself."[20]

Der Stürmer, a Nazi propaganda newspaper, told Germans that Jews kidnapped small children before Passover because "Jews need the blood of a Christian child, maybe, to mix in with their Matzah." Posters, films, cartoons, and fliers were seen throughout Germany which attacked the Jewish community. One of the most infamous such films was The Eternal Jew directed by Fritz Hippler.

A study finds that the Nazis' use of radio propaganda incited anti-Semitic acts. Nazi radio was most effective in places where anti-Semitism was historically high but had a negative effect in places with historically low anti-Semitism.[7]


See also: Racial hygiene and Nazi eugenics

The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring was introduced on 14 July 1933, and various propaganda was used to target the disabled.[21] A special euthanasia program, called T-4 Euthanasia Program began in 1939, related propaganda arguments were based on the books, Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens ("Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living"), written by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche and the book Human Heredity Theory and Racial Hygiene, written by Eugen Fischer, Erwin Baur and Fritz Lenz.[22]

Nuremberg Laws[edit]

In 1935, anti-semitic laws in Nazi Germany were introduced known as the Nuremberg Laws, the laws forbid non-Aryans and political opponents of the Nazis from the civil-service and any sexual relations and marriage between people classified as "Aryan" and "non-Aryan" (Jews, Gypsies, blacks) was prohibited as Rassenschande or "race defilement".[23] The Nuremberg Laws were based on notions of racial purity and sought to preserve the Aryan race, who were at the top of the Nazi racial hierarchy and were said to be the ubermenschen "herrenvolk" (master race),[24] and to teach the German nation to view the Jews as subhumans.[25]

Political opponents[edit]

Soon after the takeover of power in 1933, Nazi concentration camps were established for political opponents. The first people that were sent to the camps were Communists.[26] They were sent because of their ties with the Soviet Union and because Nazism greatly opposed Communism.[27] Nazi propaganda dismissed the Communists as "Red subhumans".[28]

Goebbels used the death of Horst Wessel who was killed in 1930 by two members of the Communist Party of Germany as a propaganda tool for the Nazis against "Communist subhumans".[29]

Treaty of Versailles[edit]

When the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, non-propagandists newspapers headlines across the nation spoke German's feelings, such as "schändlich!"("Unacceptable!") which appeared on the front page of the Frankfurter Zeitung in 1919. The Berliner Tageblatt, also in 1919, predicted "Should we accept the conditions, a military furore for revenge will sound in Germany within a few years, a militant nationalism will engulf all."[30] Hitler, knowing his nation's disgust with the Treaty, used it as leverage to influence his audience. He would repeatedly refer back to the terms of the Treaty as a direct attack on Germany and its people. In one speech delivered on 30 January 1937 he directly stated that he was withdrawing the German signature from the document to protest the outrageous proportions of the terms. He claimed the Treaty made Germany out to be inferior and "less" of a country than others only because blame for the war was placed on it. The success of Nazi propagandists and Hitler won the Nazi party control of Germany and eventually led to World War II.[31]

At war (1939–45)[edit]

Until the conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad on 2 February 1943, German propaganda emphasized the prowess of German arms and the humanity German soldiers had shown to the peoples of occupied territories. Pilots of the Allied bombing fleets were depicted as cowardly murderers, and Americans in particular as gangsters in the style of Al Capone. At the same time, German propaganda sought to alienate Americans and British from each other, and both these Western nations from the Soviet Union. One of the primary sources for propaganda was the Wehrmachtbericht, a daily radio broadcast from the High Command of the Wehrmacht, the OKW. Nazi victories lent themselves easily to propaganda broadcasts and were at this point difficult to mishandle.[32] Satires on the defeated, accounts of attacks, and praise for the fallen all were useful for Nazis.[33] Still, failures were not easily handled even at this stage. For example, considerable embarrassment resulted when the Ark Royal proved to have survived an attack that German propaganda had hyped.[32]

After Stalingrad, the main theme changed to Germany as the sole defender of what they called "Western European culture" against the "Bolshevist hordes". The introduction of the V-1 and V-2 "vengeance weapons" was emphasized to convince Britons of the hopelessness of defeating Germany.

Problems in propaganda arose easily in this stage; expectations of success were raised too high and too quickly, which required explanation if they were not fulfilled, and blunted the effects of success, and the hushing of blunders and failures caused mistrust.[32] The increasing hardship of the war for the German people also called forth more propaganda that the war had been forced on the German people by the refusal of foreign powers to accept their strength and independence.[32] Goebbels called for propaganda to toughen up the German people and not make victory look easy.[32]

On 23 June 1944, the Nazis permitted the Red Cross to visit the concentration camp Theresienstadt to dispel rumors about the Final Solution, which was intended to kill all Jews. In reality, Theresienstadt was a transit camp for Jews en route to extermination camps. In a sophisticated propaganda effort, fake shops and cafés were erected to imply that the Jews lived in relative comfort. The guests enjoyed the performance of a children's opera, Brundibar, written by inmate Hans Krása. The hoax was so successful for the Nazis that they went on to make a propaganda film Theresienstadt. Shooting of the film began on 26 February 1944. Directed by Kurt Gerron, it was meant to show how well the Jews lived under the "benevolent" protection of the Third Reich. After the shooting, most of the cast, and even the filmmaker himself, were deported to the concentration camp of Auschwitz where they were murdered. Hans Fritzsche, who had been head of the Radio Chamber, was tried and acquitted by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.

Anti-semitism during World War II[edit]

Anti-semitic wartime propaganda served a variety of purposes. It was hoped that people in Allied countries would be persuaded that Jews should be blamed for the war. The Nazis also wished to ensure that German people were aware of the extreme measures being carried out against the Jews on their behalf, in order to incriminate them and thus guarantee their continued loyalty through fear by Nazi-conjectured scenarios of supposed post-war "Jewish" reprisals.[34][35] Especially from 1942 onwards,

the announcement that Jews were being exterminated served as a group unification factor to preclude desertion and force the Germans to continue fighting. Germans were fed the knowledge that too many atrocities had been committed, especially against the Jews, to allow for an understanding to be reached with the Allies.

— David Bankier (2002) The Use of Antisemitism in Nazi Wartime Propaganda[36]



The Nazis and sympathizers published many books. Most of the beliefs that would become associated with the Nazis, such as German nationalism, eugenics and anti-Semitism had been in circulation since the 19th century, and the Nazis seized on this body of existing work in their own publications.

The most notable is Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf detailing his beliefs.[37] The book outlines major ideas that would later culminate in World War II. It is heavily influenced by Gustave Le Bon's 1895 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, which theorized propaganda as a way to control the seemingly irrational behaviour of crowds. Particularly prominent is the violent anti-Semitism of Hitler and his associates, drawing, among other sources, on the fabricated "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (1897), which implied that Jews secretly conspired to rule the world. This book was a key source of propaganda for the Nazis and helped fuel their common hatred against the Jews during World War II.[38] For example, Hitler claimed that the international language Esperanto was part of a Jewish plot and makes arguments toward the old German nationalist ideas of "Drang nach Osten" and the necessity to gain Lebensraum ("living space") eastwards (especially in Russia). Other books such as Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes (Ethnology of German People) by Hans F. K. Günther and Rasse und Seele (Race and Soul) by Dr. Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss (de) attempt to identify and classify the differences between the German, Nordic, or Aryan type and other supposedly inferior peoples. These books were used as texts in German schools during the Nazi era.

The pre-existing and popular genre of Schollen-roman, or novel of the soil, also known as blood and soil novels,[39] was given a boost by the acceptability of its themes to the Nazis and developed a mysticism of unity.[40]

The immensely popular "Red Indian" stories by Karl May were permitted despite the heroic treatment of the hero Winnetou and "colored" races; instead, the argument was made that the stories demonstrated the fall of the Red Indians was caused by a lack of racial consciousness, to encourage it in the Germans.[41] Other fictional works were also adapted; Heidi was stripped of its Christian elements, and Robinson Crusoe's relationship to Friday was made a master-slave one.[42]

Children's books also made their appearance. In 1938, Julius Streicher published Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom), a storybook that equated the Jewish people to poisonous mushrooms and aimed to educate children about the Jews. The book was an example of anti-Semitic propaganda and stated that, "The following tales tell the truth about the Jewish poison mushroom. They show the many shapes the Jew assumes. They show the depravity and baseness of the Jewish race. They show the Jew for what he really is: The Devil in human form."[43]


"Geopolitical atlases" emphasized Nazi schemes, demonstrating the "encirclement" of Germany, depicting how the prolific Slav nations would cause the German people to be overrun, and (in contrast) showing the relative population density of Germany was much higher than that of the Eastern regions (where they would seek Lebensraum).[44] Textbooks would often show that the birth rate amongst Slavs was prolific compared to Germans.[45] Geography text books stated how crowded Germany had become.[46] Other charts would show the cost of disabled children as opposed to healthy ones, or show how two-child families threatened the birthrate.[47] Math books discussed military applications and used military word problems, physics and chemistry concentrated on military applications, and grammar classes were devoted to propaganda sentences.[48] Other textbooks dealt with the history of the Nazi Party.[49] Elementary school reading text included large amounts of propaganda.[50] Children were taught through textbooks that they were the Aryan master race (Herrenvolk) while the Jews were untrustworthy, parasitic and Untermenschen (inferior subhumans).[51] Course content and textbooks unnecessarily included information that was propagandistic, an attempt to sway the children's views from an early age.[52]

Maps showing the racial composition of Europe were banned from the classroom after many efforts that did not define the territory widely enough for party officials.[53]

Even fairy tales were put to use, with Cinderella being presented as a tale of how the prince's racial instincts lead him to reject the stepmother's alien blood (present in her daughters) for the racially pure maiden.[54] Nordic sagas were likewise presented as the illustration of Führerprinzip, which was developed with such heroes as Frederick the Great and Otto von Bismarck.[55]

Literature was to be chosen within the "German spirit" rather than a fixed list of forbidden and required, which made the teachers all the more cautious[56] although Jewish authors were impossible for classrooms.[57] While only William Shakespeare's Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice were actually recommended, none of the plays were actually forbidden, even Hamlet, denounced for "flabbiness of soul."[58]

Biology texts, however, were put to the most use in presenting eugenic principles and racial theories; this included explanations of the Nuremberg Laws, which were claimed to allow the German and Jewish peoples to co-exist without the danger of mixing.[59] Science was to be presented as the most natural area for introducing the "Jewish Question" once teachers took care to point out that in nature, animals associated with those of their own species.[60]

Teachers' guidelines on racial instruction presented both the handicapped and Jews as dangers.[61] Despite their many photographs glamorising the "Nordic" type, the texts also claimed that visual inspection was insufficient, and genealogical analysis was required to determine their types and report any hereditary problems.[62] However, the National Socialist Teachers League (NSLB) stressed that at primary schools, in particular, they had to work on only the Nordic racial core of the German Volk again and again and contrast it with the racial composition of foreign populations and the Jews.[51]

Books for occupied countries[edit]

In occupied France, the German Institute encouraged translation of German works although chiefly German nationalists, not ardent Nazis, produced a massive increase in the sale of translated works.[63] The only books in English to be sold were English classics, and books with Jewish authors or Jewish subject matter (such as biographies) were banned, except for some scientific works.[64] Control of the paper supply allowed Germans the easy ability to pressure publishers about books.[64]


The Nazi-controlled government in German-occupied France produced the Vica comic book series during World War II as a propaganda tool against the Allied forces. The Vica series, authored by Vincent Krassousky, represented Nazi influence and perspective in French society, and included such titles as Vica contre le service secret anglais, and Vica défie l'Oncle Sam.[65]


Main articles: Nazism and cinema and List of German films 1933-1945

The Nazis produced many films to promote their views, using the party's Department of Film for organizing film propaganda. An estimated 45 million people attended film screenings put on by the NSDAP.[66] Reichsamtsleiter Neumann declared that the goal of the Department of Film was not directly political in nature, but was rather to influence the culture, education, and entertainment of the general population.[66]

On 22 September 1933, a Department of Film was incorporated into the Chamber of Culture. The department controlled the licensing of every film prior to its production. Sometimes the government selected the actors for a film, financed the production partially or totally, and granted tax breaks to the producers. Awards for "valuable" films would decrease taxes, thus encouraging self-censorship among movie makers.[67]

Under Goebbels and Hitler, the German film industry became entirely nationalised. The National Socialist Propaganda Directorate, which Goebbels oversaw, had at its disposal nearly all film agencies in Germany by 1936. Occasionally, certain directors such as Wolfgang Liebeneiner were able to bypass Goebbels by providing him with a different version of the film than would be released. Such films include those directed by Helmut Käutner: Romanze in Moll (Romance in a Minor Key, 1943), Große Freiheit Nr. 7 (The Great Freedom, No. 7, 1944), and Unter den Brücken (Under the Bridges, 1945).

Schools were also provided with motion picture projectors because film was regarded as particularly appropriate for propagandizing children.[68] Films specifically created for schools were termed "military education."[68]

Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will, 1935) by film-maker Leni Riefenstahl chronicled the Nazi Party Congress of 1934 in Nuremberg. It followed an earlier film of the 1933 Nuremberg Rally produced by Riefenstahl, Der Sieg des Glaubens. Triumph of the Will features footage of uniformed party members (though relatively few German soldiers), who are marching and drilling to militaristic tunes. The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various Nazi leaders at the Congress, including Adolf Hitler. Frank Capra used scenes from the film, which he described partially as "the ominous prelude of Hitler's holocaust of hate", in many parts of the United States government's Why We Fight anti-Axis seven film series, to demonstrate what the personnel of the American military would be facing in World War II, and why the Axis had to be defeated.

Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew, 1940) was directed by Fritz Hippler at the insistence of Goebbels, though the writing is credited to Eberhard Taubert. The movie is done in the style of a documentary, the central thesis being the immutable racial personality traits that characterize the Jew as a wandering cultural parasite. Throughout the film, these traits are contrasted to the Nazi state ideal: while Aryan men find satisfaction in physical labour and the creation of value, Jews only find pleasure in money and a hedonist lifestyle.

A main medium was Die Deutsche Wochenschau, a newsreel series produced for cinemas, from 1940. Newsreels were explicitly intended to portray German interests as successful.[69] Themes often included the virtues of the Nordic or Aryan type, German military and industrial strength, and the evils of the Nazi enemies.

Fine art[edit]

Main article: Nazi art

See also: Degenerate art

By Nazi standards, fine art was not propaganda. Its purpose was to create ideals, for eternity.[71] This produced a call for heroic and romantic art, which reflected the ideal rather than the realistic.[53] Explicitly political paintings were very rare.[72] Still more rare were anti-Semitic paintings, because the art was supposed to be on a higher plane.[73] Nevertheless, selected themes, common in propaganda, were the most common topics of art.

Sculpture was used as an expression of Nazi racial theories.[74] The most common image was of the nude male, expressing the ideal of the Aryan race.[75] Nudes were required to be physically perfect.[76] At the Paris Exposition of 1937, Josef Thorak's Comradeship stood outside the German pavilion, depicting two enormous nude males, clasping hands and standing defiantly side by side, in a pose of defense and racial camaraderie.[53]

Landscape painting featured mostly heavily in the Greater German Art exhibition,[72] in accordance with themes of blood and soil.[77] Peasants were also popular images, reflecting a simple life in harmony with nature,[78] frequently with large families.[79] With the advent of war, war art came to be a significant though still not predominating proportion.[80]

The continuing of the German Art Exhibition throughout the war was put forth as a manifestation of German's culture.[81]


In and after 1939, the Zeitschriften-Dienst was sent to magazines to provide guidelines on what to write for appropriate topics.[82] Nazi publications also carried various forms of propaganda.

Neues Volk was a monthly publication of the Office of Racial Policy, which answered questions about acceptable race relations.[83] While mainly focused on race relations, it also included articles about the strength and character of the Aryan race compared to Jews and other "defectives".[84]

The NS-Frauen-Warte, aimed at women, included such topics as the role of women in the Nazi state.[85] Despite its propaganda elements, it was predominantly a woman's magazine.[86] It defended anti-intellectualism,[87] urged women to have children, even in wartime,[88][89] put forth what the Nazis had done for women,[90] discussed bridal schools,[91] and urged women to greater efforts in total war.[92]

Der Pimpf was aimed at boys, and contained both adventure and propaganda.[93]

Das deutsche Mädel, in contrast, recommended that girls take up hiking, tending the wounded, and preparing to care for children.[94] Far more than NS-Frauen-Warte, it emphasized the strong and active German woman.[86]


Main article: Signal (magazine)

Signal was a propaganda magazine published by the Wehrmacht during World War II[95] and distributed throughout occupied Europe and neutral countries. Published from April 1940 to March 1945, "Signal" had the highest sales of any magazine published in Europe during the period—circulation peaked at 2.5 million in 1943. At various times, it was published in at least twenty languages. An English edition was distributed in the British Channel Islands of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, and Sark, which were occupied by the Wehrmacht during the war.

The promoter of the magazine was the chief of the Wehrmacht propaganda office, Colonel Hasso von Wedel. Its annual budget was 10 million Reichmarks, roughly $2.5 million at the pre-war exchange rate.

The image that Signal transmitted was that of Nazi Germany and its New Order as the great benefactor of European peoples and of Western civilization in general. The danger of a Soviet invasion of Europe was strongly pointed out. The quality of the magazine itself was quite high, featuring complete reviews from the front lines rich in information and photos, even displaying a double center-page full-colour picture. In fact, many of the most famous Second World War photos that are to be seen today come from Signal. The magazine contained little to no anti-Semitic propaganda, as the contents were mainly military.[96][97][98]


The Völkischer Beobachter ("People's Observer") was the official daily newspaper of the NSDAP since December 1920. It disseminated Nazi ideology in the form of brief hyperboles directed against the weakness of parliamentarism, the evils of Jewry and Bolshevism, the national humiliation of the Versailles Treaty and other such topics.[99] It was joined in 1926 by Der Angriff ("The Attack"), a weekly and later daily paper founded by Joseph Goebbels. It was mainly dedicated to attacks against political opponents and Jews – one of its most striking features were vehemently antisemitic cartoons by Hans Schweitzer – but also engaged in the glorification of Nazi heroes such as Horst Wessel.[6] The Illustrierter Beobachter was their weekly illustrated paper.[100]

Other Nazi publications included;

  • Das Reich, a more moderate and highbrow publication aimed at intellectuals and foreigners;
  • Der Stürmer, the most virulently antisemitic of all;[101]
A 1937 anti-Bolshevik Nazi propaganda poster. The translated caption: "Bolshevism without a mask – large anti-Bolshevik exhibition of the NSDAP Gauleitung Berlin from November 6, 1937 to December 19, 1937 in the Reichstag building".
Nur für deutsche Fahrgäste ("Only for German Passengers"), a Nazi slogan used in occupied territories, mainly posted at entrances to parks, cafes, cinemas, theatres and other facilities.
Arno Breker's sculptures of the Nordic man made him Hitler's favorite sculptor.[70]
Das Schwarze Korps (The Black Corps), the official SS newspaper.


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