Nazi and British Propaganda during WWII
In this paper I will discuss the use of propaganda before and during the World War II and how it affected British and German society. I will first note that differences in the countries' war aims had a great effect upon the success and content of propaganda. Then I will examine how propaganda affected morale. I will describe how hatred and violence were successful parts of the German, but not British, propaganda campaign. I will then examine how propaganda saturated every aspect of civilian life. Throughout this paper I will prove that British propaganda was more successful towards the war effort than German propaganda. It is important to note that Britain and Germany had different aims and ambitions in mass persuasion. The Nazis talked of "fighting on the battlefields of the mind," but this idea never took hold in Britain because Britain was not suggesting major changes in society as Germany was (Briggs 6). German propaganda:
"had set itself the task of educating the German people for a new society based upon a dramatically restructured value system. The revolutionary' task of German propaganda contrasts starkly with the conservative' basis of British propaganda aims" (Kershaw 182).
The Nazi's main propaganda aim was to keep the keep the people of Germany from seeing or reading anything that was damaging to the Nazi Party and to present the Nazi ideals to the public in the most persuasive way possible. One effect of this exclusive method of mass persuasion was that stifled and prosecuted people such as artists and intellectuals fled to other countries (Propaganda in Nazi Germany -WEB). British propaganda has no such exclusivity. It focused on the total involvement of society in the war effort and giving people a sense of unity and enthusiasm. "In German home propaganda, the Nazi's found it difficult at critical moments to strike the same motes as the British had been able to strike with little fuss in 1940". Germans went to war with "reluctant loyalty" (Balfour 148). When Germany began to lose the war, "the task of upholding morale was incomparably greater than that of British propaganda." Because it was promoting more drastic changes, German propaganda had to work harder than British to gain support for the war (Kershaw 182).
Both countries directed their propaganda at the masses, although with different attitudes toward them. Hitler thought of the masses as malleable and corrupt and had an utter contempt for public opinion. The British government saw the people as malleable but did not view them with such great disdain. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. There was no point in trying to influence the intellectuals: Hitler conceded that they would be capable of forming their own opinions. Hitler believed that the proper task for propaganda was to bring certain subjects within the field of vision of the masses. It concentrated on as few points as possible and hammered them home repeatedly (Propaganda in Nazi Germany -WEB) One of the main duties of propaganda in Britain was to maintain a high level of civilian morale. This was the prime duty of the Ministry of Morale, which was formed in 1935 and had departments devoted to news, control, publicity, collecting, and administration. Unfortunately, the Ministry of morale was almost comically ineffective, but morale was boosted by other means and remained remarkable high during the war. The British film industry used drama, political films, and comedy to raise morale as well as shaping peoples values and worldview (McLaine 2). In both countries, morale was heightened by public spectacles and speeches, and by the wireless.
Both styles of propaganda were highly emotional and both sides presented ideas in terms of black and white; but a key difference was in the arousal of hatred in the civilian population. Hitler thought that a politically...
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Kershaw, Ian. Nazi Propaganda: The Power and Limitations, ed. David Welch. London: Croom Helm, 1983
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