How effective was Nazi propaganda 1933-1945?
Propaganda was recognized by Hitler and his men as an important tool for the success of a regime. As Goebbels said in 1934, “Propaganda was our sharpest weapon in conquering the state, and remains our sharpest weapon in maintaining and building up the state.” Practically, propaganda was aimed at winning support for policies and keeping the population contented. Yet more than that, it was aimed to indoctrinate the nation to believe in a ‘people’s community’ and to ‘mobilize the spirit’. Goebbels wanted to create ‘one single public opinion’ that was committed to the regime, yet the effect of propaganda varied across different social groups, and changed over time. Some such as Welch thought the youth was particularly receptive to the regime, while Mason suggests that the working class was more resistant to propaganda. Moreover, effectiveness changed over time, most evidently reflected by the turning points in 1939 when war broke out and in 1943 with the defeat in Stalingrad. Propaganda could be said to be the most successful from 1933 to 1936, while the focus had to be shifted to prepare the nation in the years leading up to the war, and faith in the regime collapsed by 1945 as people realized the looming defeat. More importantly, the use of terror and coercion poses a challenge to the effectiveness of propaganda in generating genuine and active support instead of terrorizing the population into passive submissiveness. Ultimately, the effectiveness of propaganda lay in its ability to build on existing prejudices rather than create new beliefs, and in creating the ‘Hitler Myth’ (Kershaw) that focused on the cult of Hitler himself rather than the Nazi Party as a whole. However, it can also be argued that the regime lived on people’s passive conformity and acceptance rather than genuine commitment, and that the success of the regime was partially due to practical economic stability the state provided rather than the effectiveness of propaganda. Under Nazism, propaganda came in different forms and projected different ideas onto its people, and effectiveness varied depending on whether propaganda was building on already existing traditional prejudices. The state controlled media to a large degree as it held everyone involved in cultural activity accountable for their creativity. When Hitler cam into power in 1933, there were 4700 newspapers, 3% of which was controlled by the NSDP. Near the end of the war by 1944, there were 997 newspapers, 82% of which was controlled by the NSDP. Provisions were made for cheap radios which could not pick up foreign broadcasts, and between 1932 to 1939 the number of families with radios rose from 25% to 70%, making Hitler’s speeches readily accessible to the German population. Goebbels described radio as “the spiritual weapon of the totalitarian state”, and all news broadcasts came through the Nazi Office of Propaganda. These forms of propaganda were the most well-received by the German people, probably because indoctrination was tactically infused with daily information rather than being obvious and repulsing the public. Other forms, such as films and the arts, had to be handled with care to avoid the risk of generating uneasiness. Films that exaggerated in glorifying Hitler or anti-semitic propaganda turned out to be a disaster, while more subtle ways to infuse similar ideas with light entertainment were much more successful. Ultimately, films and the arts were utilized by the state more to gain support and popularity through providing entertainment rather than to indoctrinate the people with Nazism. Similarly, propaganda that came in the form of posters focused on building on existing traditional beliefs the German people held. This could be found among posters promoting women as a sign of fertility and strength, and that the perfect family should be one of blue eyes and blonde hair, emphasizing on the pure and superior Aryan race where...
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