The Role of Propaganda in the Nazi Takeover


When one thinks of the term "propaganda", what comes to mind? Would it bring a positive response? Would it bring a negative response? When one thinks of "propaganda" in association with the Holocaust, what comes to mind? A positive response or a negative response? Most likely a negative response. Why is "propaganda" any different from what any political party or regime does, namely to disseminate its views? Is "propaganda" simply the name we give to views which we do not like or which we think to be untrue? And finally, was the role of "propaganda" in the Nazis' assumption of power overstated? (Daniel Goldhagen, 1996) As many people who are learned in the field of the Holocaust will agree, propaganda played an extremely vital part in the Nazis' rise to power, as well as their brain-washing of the German population into detesting all, of what they considered, "heretics" to the degree of accepting their murders. Validity of the accusations upon which they attempted to justify their action against the Jews was not an issue. The issue in this case was its power of persuasion. Although to achieve this goal the Nazi party deemed it necessary to monopolize the communications, media, and entertainment industries, Germany already had a strong anti-Semitic background.

European anti-Semitism is an outgrowth of Christianity. Since the time of the Roman Empire, Christian leaders preached boundlessly against Jews. It escalated from generation to generation, for as long a the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, the Jews "challenged" the whole belief system of Christianity. The idea that it was the Jews that killed their savior also evolved from that time period. Along those lines, the notion that all Jews of forever were responsible for Jesus' death, for they approved of the crime, would have certainly done it again (according to the anti-Semitics), and had always rejected his teachings.

As the Medieval period came, the Christians' hatred for Jews further articulated and was brought to a new level. The Christians in the Medieval world saw Jews in twofold opposition to Christianity: they rejected his revelation and were his killers. In addition, church members had much detested the Jews on the basis that they should have accepted Jesus as their Messiah. Consequently, persecution and killing of the Jews became a part of everyday life, leaving many regions of Western Europe without any Jews by the end of the sixteenth century.

Entering the nineteenth century, German anti-Semitism went through an acute transformation. It was then that it made its change from a religious issue, to a racial one. Germans naturally detested Jews, and with a passion. Nineteenth century Germans now saw Jews as the symbol for everything awry in their declining economy, even though they made up but a mere one percent of the population. Soon the cultural taboos that had formerly shaped the moral fabric of Germany at the time lost all influence. It was then that German anti-Semitism reached a high point: false, cruel, yet indisputable accusations. Prostitution, sexual degradation and depravity, and the sexual assaulting of unsuspecting German virgins are examples. The Germans also imagined Jew conducting ritual murders.

By the time the Nazi party instituted totalitarian control, all that remained was to build on the framework provided by the nineteenth century. A framework which included anti-Semitism being common knowledge, Germans' obsessive hatred toward Jews, the common belief of Jews being the reason for their collapsing economy, the belief of Jews being evil and a source of great harm. This new type of anti-Semitism was of a savage nature and a logic that it was necessary to rid Germany, along with the rest of the world, of Jews by whatever means necessary.

Already having a foundation for their cause, all the Nazis had to do was execute their strategies. Even before gaining full control in January of 1933, they used all possible methods, and even introduced new forms of publicity, to get national attention and recognition. The Nazi party sponsored mass meetings and pageants, distributed all sorts of visual aids and propaganda, and assumed control of the radio and film industry.

Once the Nazis gained control they used all the above means and more to strengthen their totalitarian control on the German population. By means of blatant false claims and accusations, the Nazis made untrue justifications for political and military aggression, as well as enthusiasm toward Nazi goals.