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Propaganda

Propaganda was one of the most important weapons in Hitler’s arsenal as he and his Fascist part rose to power in the years prior to World War II. It is defined as the organized dissemination by one or more means, or information, accusations, allegations and so on to either assist or destroy the cause of a government, a party, or a movement. This can take the form of the printed word, rumors, speeches, cartoons, or even government proclamations. Propaganda does not have to consist of fabrications, but often does include lies or exaggerations. (New World Dictionary, 2007)

Adolph Hitler was a soldier in the First World War and found the occupation very much to his liking. Later, in his goal to rise to ultimate power in Germany during the 1920’s and 1930’s he very efficiently used many different forms of propaganda to not only destroy the fortunes and offices of others, but to elevate himself. (Keynes, 100-145)

All of Europe was in chaos during the time after the end of World War economically, socially, and politically. The Armistice, or cease fire was signed November 11, 1918 which was the date of the end of the “Great” war. But, as history has shown, this was also the start of a period of time in Europe and the rest of the world that began the rumblings which resulting in World War II. Germany came out of World War I as the conquered, and they had lost big. Over 30 terms were forced upon them by the victors, including losing a large amount of territory and paying huge reparations to other countries for the war. (Churchill)

Germany’s Army and Navy were going to be almost non-existent and most of the materials of war were to be given over to the Allies.

The German Army and Navy were to be decimated. War materials would be surrendered to the winning countries. To a nation like Germany with such a proud military history, this was devastating. Not just the former military and political leaders, but the people themselves were humiliated and their spirits were broken. Economically, Germany was a wreck. Food shipments were blocked and the population was starving. Hate and bitterness towards those who the Germans believed caused this, lingered for years and the conditions forced upon them made them want to reach out and find “blame” for the rotten situation they country was experiencing. (Keynes)

Adolph Hitler was living in Munich after the armistice, still a soldier. He had very conservative beliefs that embraced the dominance of the Germans and Austrians, and the particular animosity of other peoples moving into their former “empire.” People of all nationalities moved into eastern Europe and other areas that Hitler and many others felt was historically supposed to be German territory. These were Serbs, Croations, and others, but most despised were those that were Jews. (Churchill)

Hitler, during this time happened to go to a political meeting and found that his fierce nationalist beliefs agreed with the people at this meeting. They appeared to be against foreigners, Jews, Communists, and anyone that was not from the German-Austrian area and had different beliefs than their own. He fit right in. He decided to join this group called the “German Worker’s Party.”

Soon, Hitler displayed a great talent for propaganda. He changed the name to the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, or Nazi Party to try to embrace as many people as possible. He began a propaganda program try to get rid of the Treaty which took so much away from Germany. He issued a mission statement demanding the treaty be dispensed with and blaming everyone except Germany for World War I. (Churchill)

Since this Nazi party was just one of many and really was small and ineffective, without much money, Hitler decided he had to convince the public to fight the treaty and get Germany back to where it was in years past. He needed to do this by winning over the people’s loyalty and political adherence to his plans. His instrument to get this allegiance was various types of propaganda. It consisted of a lot of anti-Jewish material, including a newspaper, and nasty cartoons portraying Jewish people in a terrible light. (Shirer)

To assist in the identity of his new Nazi party, he knew there should be a dramatic symbol. He adopted the swastika. It had been used decoratively in Germany for many years and was a mythological symbol of “stirring things up.” More than this, however, it was sharp cornered, easy to draw and to remember. The colors he chose were the starkest of all colors—black, white, and red. This made the flags and symbols very striking and gave the people the idea that the Nazi party would “stir things up” and that they were strong, powerful and would get the job done. It took many years, but through denigrating the leaders, steadily putting down the non-Germans and other parties, the Nazi’s rose to a very powerful place in the German government. (Shirer)

Within a short time Hitler and his Nazi party barreled into a meeting where a municipal official was making a speech in Bavaria and announced that he and his party were taking over the nation. He was bluffing but he got a few thousand people to follow him. Hitler was arrested but had so much of the public sympathy he served very little time in prison. While there, he wrote a book named “Main Kampf,” which eventually was the “playbook” of the Nazi movement in World War II. (Churchill)

During the 1920’s various plans were put in place to try to restore the German economy. In 1925, Field Marshal Paul Von Hindenberg became president even though he was elderly at the time. Hitler’s Nazi’s won over 100 seats in the legislature, making huge strides towards the entire country’s takeover. Any plans that were put into place were attacked by Hitler and his party regulars. Nothing but their plans were good enough. Hitler’s next plan was to run for president in the 1932 election. He did not win, but his backing increased substantially, as he got more and more exposure. President Von Hindenberg, old possibly senile, was making bad choices, including instituting Adolph Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. (Roberts)

The government building, the Reichstag, was burned, and was blamed on a young Dutch Communist. That fire set off the Nazi’s and fueled the propaganda against the Communist party. It also set off a round of terror and violence. Some thought the Communists were not really behind this fire at all, but rather that the Nazi’s did it. Hitler had the Nazi flag raised everywhere and said there was a revolution. He demanded that he be appointed as ruler by decree for at least four years. That decree was approved and Fascism took over in Germany. All other political parties were outlawed and Hitler was in charge. (Roberts)

The Nazi’s were Fascists. That is a party or group that believes that the “state” is everything and all loyalty belongs to the state. The individual, according to fascist beliefs, mean nothing. This is opposite to the Communist party which says that the people are everything. (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

The propaganda increased. All enemies of the “Reich” were to be eliminated whether political, foreigners, Catholics, gypsies, or Jews. Thousands were either killed or taken away to concentration camps. As World War II became closer, a variety of propaganda kept the Nazi machine moving. It was necessary to convince the Germans of the necessity to fight and defend their country. The second issue covered by propaganda was to make the people believe that other “races” especially Jews were evil and had to be eliminated in order to elevate Germany back to its former glory. (Shirer)

German propaganda used radio, Nazi speeches, posters, and newspapers. Much printed material including books and leaflets were circulated. The themes were the same. Germany had been “shafted” by the treaty ending World War I, and it was the fault of the foreigners, the Jews, and the religious. Hitler ran a very effective propaganda machine. Every speech and rally was carefully set up. Every printed word was authored by the Nazi’s. Every political view was to be the same. (Shirer)

As the Nazi government took over more and more it became clear that religion, as least most religion, would not be tolerated, because it took allegiance away from the fascist Nazi party. Catholics, gypsies, and many other religious or ethnics groups were not tolerated and many were killed or removed to concentration camps. At the very least people had to abandon any religion or other nationality designation except “pure” German. The country, through propaganda and strong leadership went along with these ideals. It was one of the main ways Hitler became the ruler of Germany and the cause of World War II.


Conclusion

Adolph Hitler went from a disgruntled World War I soldier to the ruler of the Axis forces and head of the Fascist movement which threatened the entire world in the 1930’s and 1940’s. He was a master at convincing people to follow him and also to turn against others in his rise to the “top” in Germany. Propaganda was one of the most important weapons in Hitler’s arsenal as he and his Fascist part rose to power in the years prior to World War II.

Works Cited

Churchill, Winston, The Gathering Storm, Houghton-Mifflin, 1948.

Keynes, John Maynard, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, Macmillan and Co. Limited

(London) 1920.

New World Dictionary, 2007.

Roberts, E.M., Hitler’s Pre-War Policy and Military Plans, The Citadel Press 1967.



Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Simon and Schuster, 1960.

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