Propaganda and censorship

Purpose

The aim of propaganda and censorship was to brainwash people into obeying the Nazis and idolising Hitler.

It was achieved by ensuring only the ideas and values of the Nazis were heard and seen by the masses.

Methods

The government department responsible for propaganda was the Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda, headed by Dr Joseph Goebbels.

He believed propaganda worked best if it were “invisible” (i.e. subtle) and “all-pervasive” (i.e. everywhere).

Therefore, all aspects of the media, culture and the arts were censored and used for Nazi propaganda.

Much of the information Germans received reinforced the message of Aryan racial superiority whilst bitterly bad-mouthing the Jews and other ‘enemies’ of the regime.

1. Censorship of the press

  • Newspapers could only print stories favourable to and approved by the Nazis.
  • Daily briefings were held for editors to tell them what to print and where to place articles in their newspapers.
  • Jewish journalists were banned.
  • Editors had to join the Nazi Party or be dismissed.
  • By 1935, 1,600 newspapers were closed.
  • By 1939, 69% of newspapers were directly owned by the Nazis.

2. Control of radio broadcasts

  • All radio output was controlled by Goebbels’ Ministry through the Reich Broadcasting Corporation. Goebbels saw radio as the most important medium for propaganda.
  • Listening to foreign stations was banned.
  • 9 million radios were sold cheaply so that most Germans could afford one and thus be indoctrinated. These “People’s Receivers” could only be tuned to the Nazi station. By 1939, 70 per cent of households owned one of them.
  • Radio wardens were used to ensure people listened to major speeches being broadcast.

3. Large public events

  • There were mass rallies to show public support for Nazism which involved music, speeches and demonstrations of German military strength. The biggest rally was the annual Nuremberg Rally held in August. It lasted a week, with a different Nazi organisation being featured each day. There were four specially-built stadia. The rallies were characterised by order and discipline, marching, massive displays of flags and symbols, rousing music (like the “Horst-Wessel-Lied” Nazi anthem) and the clever use of modern technology (such as arc lamps to create atmosphere, loudspeakers, car cavalcades and flypasts by planes). Rallies were held at other times in the year as well, for example on Hitler’s birthday.
  • Sports events were held to allow people to be either spectators or participants in mass activities. The Strength Through Joy (KdF) movement organised many of these. Berlin hosted the Olympics of 1936, which the Nazis used as an opportunity to showcase the success of the regime and to demonstrate the superiority of the Aryan race. The victories of an African-American athlete from the USA, Jesse Owens, infuriated the Nazi leadership.
Poster advertising 1936 Olympic Games.

4. Use of loudspeakers in public places

Loudspeakers were placed in cafés, town squares and workplaces to blare out Nazi propaganda. Therefore, even those people who did not have a radio did not escape the Nazi message.