Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution or nation. During World War II, propaganda was displayed in public places as well as private homes to justify Adolf Hitler’s “Final Solution.”
Making a Leader Adolf Hitler was a man who knew how to manipulate the minds of others to his own advantage. Through the persuasive use of propaganda, Hitler became chancellor of Germany. The image of Hitler that was portrayed to the public was a military leader, a father figure, and a messianic leader. Millions of copies of Hitler’s military autobiography were produced and disseminated to the masses. Paintings, posters, and busts were made of him and “Nazi propaganda constantly reinforced the notion that Hitler was the embodiment of the national will. Here, a determined looking Hitler in military dress stands with clenched fist, poised for action above the adoring crowd. This poster, designed for a 1934 public referendum on uniting the posts of German chancellor and president, conveys unanimous popular support for Hitler.”
Hitler’s propagandists were very biased toward the new “National Community” which is for “pure Aryans” only. They influenced the public against the current Weimar system by saying it was unstable and ineffective. The Weimar system was a democratic system of government in Germany which was struggling due to disagreements over economic policies, as well as the growing opposition between political parties. Hitler used this to promote his own party, the National Community. His promise to unite the nation and create jobs for 6 million people is what earned Hitler massive popular support.
Nazi propaganda targeted specific subgroups in the German population with messages specially crafted to speak to a group’s desires, hopes, and needs. This poster appears to imply that a vote for Hitler will mean an end to unemployment for this group.”
“Poster:"We’re for Adolf Hitler!"
This poster was aimed at unemployed miners.
Defining the Enemy Propaganda defined who would be excluded from the National Community and targeted groups that were considered the "outsiders.” These groups included Jews, Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, and Germans viewed as genetically inferior. The genetically inferior were people with mental illness and intellectual or physical disabilities, epileptics, congenitally deaf and blind people, chronic alcoholics, drug users, and others. The main focus was the Jews who were blamed for WWI. Propaganda “demonizing” Jews was a way to justify to the German population the harsher measures later taken such as mass deportations and then, genocide.
Antisemitic poster published in Poland in March 1941
“An antisemitic poster published in Poland in March 1941. The caption reads, "Jews are lice; They cause typhus." This German-published poster was intended to instill fear of Jews among Christian Poles.”
Indoctrinating Youth Hitler and the Nazi party brainwashed youths to have Nazi socialistic views through the use of posters, books, education, and extracurricular activities. Children brought up during this time period were taught that Jews were beneath them and were the cause of all of their problems. It was mandatory for boys and girls from 10-17 years old to join a Nazi youth group. Their training focused on loyalty to Hitler. When boys turned 18 years old they had to enlist in the armed forces. Hitler used things that appealed to specific age groups. He even produced toy soldiers modeled after the SA (Storm Troopers).
“German children read an anti-Jewish propaganda book titled DER GIFTPILZ ("The Poisonous Mushroom"). The girl on the left holds a companion volume, the translated title of which is "Trust No Fox." Germany, ca. 1938.”
Writing the News The Nazis only controlled about 3% of Germany’s 4,700 newspapers when Hitler first took power in 1933. All that changed. With the removal of the multiparty political system hundreds of newspapers produced by outlawed political parties went under. The state also seized the printing plants and equipment of the Communist and Social Democratic Parties and often then turned them over to the Nazi Party. The Nazis also gained control over independent press companies. The regime used radio, press, and newsreels to stir up fears of a pending "Communist uprising," then turned this fear into political measures that wiped out civil liberties and democracy.
“Cover of a 1936 issue of the Illustrierter Beobachter, the illustrated companion publication to the official Nazi Party newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter.”
Deceiving the Public To justify their actions, the Nazis misinformed the public about the Jews. They used anti-Semitism propaganda to claim that Jews spread diseases. The Nazis put quarantine signs at the entrances of the Jewish ghettos saying there was danger of contagious disease. They did this to prevent non-Jews from entering and seeing the horrible conditions of daily life. There were not enough water and sanitation supplies but also starvation rations contributed to the ill health of the Jews there. Soon the warning signs became true as typhus and other infectious diseases devastated ghetto populations. This is how the Nazis’ man-made epidemics justified isolating the "filthy" Jews from the larger population.
“German police patrol the border of the Jewish residential quarter before sealing off the Warsaw ghetto. The sign in German and Polish reads "Quarantined area. Only through traffic is permitted." 1940.”
Assessing Guilt After the war the Allies had to reform German society after 12 years of Nazi rule and lots of hate propaganda. Also, they had to punish the Nazi government and military leaders responsible for the genocide of Jews. The trials were broadcast to all of the German public so that the people would hear the details of the mass murder. Julius Streicher was found guilty on the charge of crimes against humanity because he called for the extermination of the Jews in 23 articles published in Der Stürmer between 1938 and 1941. This was the evidence that proved a link between words and actions. The Allies pledged to demilitarize and de-Nazify the German population. They renamed streets, parks, buildings, etc. that had Nazi influence. They removed statues, monuments, signs, and emblems linked with Nazism, or militarism. In addition, they confiscated Nazi property, eliminated Nazi propaganda from education, media, and the many religious institutions which had pro-Nazi leaders and clergymen and prohibited Nazi parades, anthems, or the public display of Nazi symbols. For the first time in history, war crimes courts tried propagandists against crimes against humanity.