“The function of propaganda is,for example,not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people,but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for.it’s task is not to make an objective study of the truth,…its task is to serve our own right,always and unflinchingly”(Hitler,1971,p182).Propaganda as defined by Welch(1983,p2),is the art of brainwashing,so as to alter attitudes and ideas.Though the art of persuasion is nothing new,it became more innovative in the first half of the twentieth century,such as through the “popular press,then the film and the radio”(Tegel,2007,p.12).This was headed by the Ministry of Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels,who was appointed by Hitler who believed that he had found his expert(Welch,1983,p3)
According to Reuth(1993,pxiii) “A successful twentieth century propagandist has to possess two different sets of qualities:He must have an intuitive grasp of the feelings and thoughts of the masses and must be able to convey messages to them which hold their attention and combine simplicity with attractiveness.” This was why film was one of the most effective form of propaganda used. The cinema, together with the radio and motor-car was effectively used to allow the Nazis to assume power(Grunberger,1995,p378).It was widely used because both Hitler and Goebbels were obsessed with it, as well as to attack the Reich internal(mainly the Jews) and external enemies(the Allied powers).More importantly,film was used to rally and influence the masses.This was crucial during the war years where films even led the Germans to believe that the “war isn’t lost”.This essay would hence analyze the extent to which film was being used and the effectiveness of it as a form of propaganda
One motive why film was used by the Nazis as a propaganda tool was because both Hitler and Goebbels were obsessed with it.Hitler himself wrote in his book, Mein Kampf(Tegel,2007,p1) that film alone,presents a concrete understanding of propaganda as through pictures,the masses could easily understand whatever that was being propagated without having to think.This was in line to what he believed, that propaganda has to be simple so that it could be easily understood by the masses(Hitler,1971,p181). Similarly,Goebbels too, share the same thought as the Fuhrer,who described film as “one of the most modern and far-reaching media that there is for influencing the masses today”(Tegel,2007,p18)In his diary dated in 22 January 1942,he noted that “Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitive”(Lochner,1948,p56).
According to Tegel(2007,p4),unlike Hitler who favored a more direct approach to propaganda,Goebbles on the other hand,opted for a less overt approach,in the pretext of entertainment.In fact,Goebbels saw the cinema as a from of escapism as to him,the public required engaging escapist material, despite the peak of Nazi success in spring 1940 (Moeller,2000,p94).This showed that Goebbels was astute to use film as a form of both entertainment as well as to spread propaganda messages.Being the nation’s number two film expert and the right to censor films,he could banned films which he thinks it’s essential for urgent reasons relating to the public good(Ibid,p128).
In addition,to secure greater control over the cinema ,he nationalized all the major film companies-Ufa,Tobis and Bavaria,and two important smaller firms,Terra and Froelich.This was depicted in his diary on 27 January,1942,
“Film production is flourishing almost unbelieveably despite the war.What a good idea of mine it was to take possession of the films on behalf of the Reich several years ago!It would be terrible if the high profits now earned by the motion picture industry were to flow into private hands”(Loucher,1948,p38).
This shows that Goebbels was cunning to take advantage of the high revenue generated form cinema-goers to...