Nazi Propaganda During World War II: The Terrible Truths

Noor Islam Habib

17 January, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Nazi Propaganda 
During World War II: 
The Terrible Truths

Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda of Hitler regime, once said, “In propaganda as in love, anything is permissible, which is successful. And that propaganda has nothing to do with the truth. Lies were to be put out as far as possible through indirect and unofficial channels so that if they were detected by enemy, they could be disowned. Once one had started with a lie, one must stick to it and not confess to its accuracy by changing one’s story.” He also said, “It is the absolute right of the states to supervise the formation of public opinion.” The Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler wrote, “The intelligence of the masses is small. Their forgetfulness is great. They must be told the same thing a thousand times.” These narratives clearly point to Nazi propaganda spread during World War II. Let’s have a deeper look into it.

Joseph Goebbels tried to persuade both the Germans and outside world to believe what the Nazis wanted them to believe. Goebbels controlled publications, radio programmes, motion pictures, and the arts in Germany and in German-dominated Europe. During Nazi rule, he worked towards persuading German public to support Hitler regime. During the Second World War II national socialist propagandist made a massive effort to explain and justify Adolf Hitler’s war to the German people. These men adopted Nazi ideology to their propagandistic needs and employed mass media to reach the entire German population.

Goebbels was responsible for presenting a socialist interpretation of the war to the German nation. The Nazi propagandist used the party and state propaganda apparatus to control mass media. It included radio, film, books, posters, placards, leaflets, brochures, coordinated campaign by party speakers and even whisper or word of mouth method.

While Hitler was losing the war on the battlefield, Goebbels was salvaging a different kind of victory for the tyrannical leader. Though one after another town suffered the fate of Berlin, Lubeck and Hamburg, Goebbels, however, offered consolation to both the nation and to himself by saying, “New streets will arise from the ruins, towns of a new character will emerge. After the war the devastated towns would be more beautiful than ever. Monumental buildings, new, wider streets and clean, spacious apartment buildings would replace the rubble.” Even two weeks before the end of the third Reich Goebbels was still making such promises to the German people.

Wartime German propaganda campaigns did not merely mobilize the press and broadcast media. It rather made vast use of books, pamphlets, brochures, leaflets, window displays, slide shows, posters, placards and postage stamps. By the time of 1941, party and private publishers had produced almost a quarter of a billion copies of wartime books and pamphlets. Almost 40 percent dealt directly with issues of the war. The party also began publishing in 1939 a bibliography of works entitled ‘National Socialist Educational Pamphlets’ which were suitable for use in regional training programme. “The German Book for Home” was one of the most widely distributed party wartime publications. It combined literature with functions of a calendar. It was a clever blend of fine writing and Nazi ideology.

Meanwhile the posters appeared everywhere, on building walls, windows of party offices and those of Hitler’s sympathizers. These posters and placards had simple themes. As Goebbels put it in 1941, the aim of these placards was to make the enemy look brutal. The Nazis made increasing use of leaflets, stickers and handbills right before the seizure of power. The same slogans such as “For Freedom and Bread” and “Against Marxism and Reaction” were used again and again. The strident tones and powerful phrases, however vulgar, were the written equivalents of posters and placards.

Moreover the weekly newsreel played a major role in perpetuating the Nazi myth of sacrifice. As thousands of boys stood in military formation, loudspeakers in a public square intoned statistics about the huge numbers of teenagers who had declared their readiness to fight for their homeland. Words such as “I can die, but to be a slave, to see Germany enslaved, that I cannot accept” were propagated through newsreel.  

Despite all these evil initiatives Goebbels could not evade the destined outcome. In the meantime because of such widespread use of propaganda by the Nazis the word ‘propaganda’ itself has gained very negative connotations in the later periods. 


            (The writer is Assistant Director, ISPR.)