The Power of Propaganda and the Creation of the Third Reich

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Klara and Alois Hitler experienced the most significant day of their lives on April 20, 1889 with the birth of their only son to survive infancy. Their son would prove to be important in their lives and the lives of millions of people around the world. They named their son Adolf Hitler. Hitler grew up to have extraordinary ambitions and a successful plan to carry them out. At the time of his death Hitler personified the totalitarian state. He spent decades of his life gathering support and rising to a position of power. He did this first as the leader of the Nazi party, then as the supreme dictator of Germany. How Hitler managed to achieve such immense power is a question that still plagues historians today. His power grew fast and he used a variety of techniques to gain it. The most important technique Hitler exercised was an exceptional use of propaganda which rallied the masses behind his cause and led him towards success. Hitler used his knowledge of speech and his understanding of worldly events to influence the German people. Ultimately, Hitler secured the power he needed to pursue his dreams of turning Germany into the most powerful state in the world.

Generating power for Germany was not an easy task for Hitler to accomplish. The roots of Hitler’s ambitions and the Nazi party can be found in the political events of post World War I Germany. When Germany requested an armistice on October 3, 1918, the existing German government created a “popular demand for radical change” among the population (Kershaw 111). The German revolution of November, 1918, united liberals and socialists under the goal of eradicating the existing autocratic regime. They succeeded and created the Weimer republic, which immediately declared defeat in World War I. The German people were left unsatisfied and confused by the actions of their government. The end of the war and the harsh regulations forced on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles created an unstable society. Germans were not pleased with the results of World War I and many of them sought further political change within their country. This was the perfect base of social instability that Hitler needed to build power for his political party and for himself.

He began his political life by joining a small group called the German Worker’s Party in September, 1919 (Kershaw 131). At first he considered himself an insignificant factor in the greater game of German politics. However, the German Worker’s Party was ripe for exploitation. Hitler used his party position to create the guards of Brown Shirts and Black Shirts, also known as the S.A. and the S.S., which would march behind him throughout his rise to power (Lichtenberger 24). He adopted the swastika as the party’s flag and purchased the party’s first “newspaper organ,” the Völkischer Beobachter, beginning a rise of propaganda never seen before in European politics (Lichtenberger 24). It took Hitler less than two years to become the leader of the party, now known as the NSDAP, in 1921. By 1922 Hitler achieved status as an international political figure, often “spoken of in nationalist circles as Germany’s Mussolini, even compared with Napoleon” (Kershaw 131).

The force behind Hitler’s rapid success was his powerful use of propaganda. The heart of the party’s campaign was the notion of German rebirth as a powerful nation. Hitler was exceptionally good at speaking to the masses and rallying them behind his cause. When supporters came to listen to Hitler they were entranced by the power of his voice. That power came from Hitler’s knowledge that inspiring speech “was less what he said than how he said it” (Kershaw 133). The rise of the NSDAP was reliant on “the orgasmic excitement which only the ecstatic masses could give” (Kershaw 133). Thousands of NSDAP supporters attended these mass meetings to hear Hitler speak. The movement was especially popular with the youth of Germany who felt that they had been thrust unfairly into World War...
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