Propaganda in the Third Reich

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Propaganda was skillfully used by the NSDAP in the years leading up to and during Adolf Hitler's leadership of Germany (1933–1945).
National Socialist propaganda provided a crucial instrument for acquiring and maintaining power, and for the implementation of their policies, including the pursuit of total war.

In Opposition (1919–33)

Adolf Hitler devoted three chapters of his 1925/26 book 'Mein Kampf', itself a propaganda tool, to the study and practice of propaganda.
He claimed to have learnt the value of propaganda as a World War I infantryman exposed to very effective British and ineffectual German propaganda.
The argument that Germany lost the war largely because of British propaganda efforts, expounded at length in 'Mein Kampf', reflected then-common German nationalist claims.
Although untrue – German propaganda during World War I was mostly more advanced than that of the British – it became the official truth of Third Reich thanks to its reception by Hitler.

'Mein Kampf' contains the blueprint of later National Socialist propaganda efforts.
Assessing his audience, Hitler writes in Chapter VI:
"Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people.
All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed.
The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses.
The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgement in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another.
The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning.
This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood."
As to the methods to be employed, he explains: "Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side.
The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble.
On the other hand, they quickly forget.
Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas.
These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.
Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion.
The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula."
Hitler put these ideas into practice with the re-establishment of the 'Völkischer Beobachter', a daily newspaper published by the NSDAP from February 1925 on, whose circulation reached 26,175 in 1929.
It was joined in 1926 by Joseph Goebbels's 'Der Angriff', another propagandistic paper.
During most of the National Socialists' time in opposition, their means of propaganda remained limited.
With little access to mass media, the party continued to rely heavily on Hitler and a few others speaking at public meetings until 1929.
In April 1930, Hitler appointed Goebbels head of party propaganda. Goebbels, a former journalist and National Socialist party officer in Berlin, soon proved his skills.
Among his first successes was the organization of riotous demonstrations that succeeded in having the American anti-war film 'All Quiet on the Western Front' banned in Germany.

In Power (1933–39)

Before World War II, National Socialist propaganda strategy, officially promulgated by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, stressed several themes.

Treaty of Versailles
Their goals were to establish external enemies (countries that inflicted the Treaty of Versailles on Germany) and internal enemies, such as Jews and Bolsheviks, and topics like degenerate art.

Hitler and National Socialist propagandists highlighted the anti-Semitism and resentment present in Germany. The Jews were shown to be responsible for things such as robbing the German people of their hard work while themselves avoiding physical labour.
Posters, films, cartoons, and fliers were seen throughout Germany which attacked the Jewish community, such as the 1940 film 'The Eternal Jew'.

A major political and ideological cornerstone of National Socialist policy was the unification of all ethnic Germans living outside of the Reich's borders under one Greater Germany (e.g Austria and Czechoslovakia and territories taken from Germany by Poland).
Großgermanisches Reich Deutscher Nation
In 'Mein Kampf', Hitler made a direct remark to those outside of Germany.
Großgermanisches Reich
He stated that pain and misery were being forced upon ethnic Germans outside of Germany, and that they dream of common fatherland.
He concluded by stating they needed to fight for one’s nationality.
Throughout 'Mein Kampf', he encouraged Germans worldwide to make the struggle for political power and independence their main focus.
National Socialist propaganda used the 'Heim ins Reich' policy for this, which began in 1938.
National Socialist propaganda efforts then focused on identifying external enemies.
Propagandists strengthened the negative attitude of Germany towards the Treaty of Versailles by territorial claims and ethnocentrism.
Heim ins Reich
When the Treaty was signed in 1919 non-propagandists newspapers headlines across the nation spoke German’s feelings, such as “UNACCEPTABLE” which appeared on the front page of the 'Frankfurter Zeitung' in 1919.
'The Berliner Tageblatt', also in 1919, predicted “Should we accept the conditions, a military furore for revenge will sound in Germany within a few years, a militant nationalism will engulf all.”

Treaty of Versailles
Hitler, knowing his nation's disgust with the Treaty, used it as justifiable leverage to influence his audience.
He would repeatedly refer back to the terms of the Treaty as a direct attack on Germany and its people.
In one speech delivered on January 30, 1937 he directly stated that he was withdrawing the German signature from the document to protest the outrageous proportions of the terms.
He rightly claimed the Treaty made Germany out to be inferior and “less” of a country than others only because blame for the war was placed on it.

Volksdeutsche Killed by Poles - 1939
The success of National Socialist propagandists and Hitler won the NDAP control of Germany.
For months prior to the beginning of World War II in 1939, German newspapers and leaders had carried out a national and international propaganda campaign showing that the Polish authorities had organised and tolerated violent ethnic cleansing of Germans living in Poland.
Until the conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad on February 4, 1943, German propaganda emphasized the prowess of German arms and the humanity German soldiers had shown to the peoples of occupied territories.

Allied Bomber Fleet over the Reich - 1944
Pilots of the Allied bombing fleets were depicted as cowardly murderers, and Americans in particular as gangsters in the style of Al Capone.
At the same time, German propaganda sought to alienate Americans and British from each other, and both these Western nations from the Soviets.
One of the primary sources for propaganda was the Wehrmachtbericht, a daily radio broadcast that described the military situation on all fronts.
German victories lent themselves easily to propaganda broadcasts, and were at this point difficult to mishandle.
Satires on the defeated, accounts of attacks, and praise for the fallen all were useful for the regime.
After Stalingrad, the main theme changed to Germany as the sole defender of "Western European Culture" against the "Bolshevist Hordes".

V1 Rocket
V2 (A4)Rocket
The introduction of the V-1 and V-2 "vengeance weapons" was emphasized to convince Britons of the hopelessness of defeating Germany.

V-weapons, known in the original German as Vergeltungswaffen (retaliatory weapons, reprisal weapons), were a particular set of long range artillery weapons designed for strategic bombing during World War II, particularly terror bombing and/or aerial bombing of cities. They comprised the V-1 flying bomb, the V-2 rocket and the V-3 cannon. All of these weapons were intended for use in a military campaign against Britain, though only the V-1 and V-2 were so used in a campaign conducted 1944-5. After the invasion of Europe by the Allies, these weapons were also employed against targets on the mainland of Europe.
They were part of the range of the so-called Wunderwaffen (wonderweapons) of the Third Reich.

The increasing hardship of the war for the German people also called forth more propaganda explaining that the war had been forced on the German people by the refusal of foreign powers to accept their strength and independence.
Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels called for propaganda to toughen up the German people, and not make victory look easy.

Adolf Hitler reading
the 'Völkischer Beobachter'
The 'Völkischer Beobachter' ("People's Observer") was the official daily newspaper of the NSDAP since December 1920.
It disseminated National Socialist ideology in the form of brief articles directed against the weakness of parliamentarism, the evils of Jewry and Bolshevism, the national humiliation of the Versailles Treaty and other such topics.

The Völkischer Beobachter ("Völkisch Observer") was the newspaper of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) from 1920. It first appeared weekly, then daily from 8 February 1923. For twenty-five years it formed part of the official public face of the Nazi party. The "fighting paper of the National Socialist movement of Greater Germany" (Kampfblatt der nationalsozialistischen Bewegung Großdeutschlands) had its origin in the Münchner Beobachter ("Munich Observer").

Dietrich Eckart
Thule Gesellschaft
In 1918 was acquired by the 'Thule Society', and in August 1919 was renamed Völkischer Beobachter. The NSDAP purchased it in December 1920 on the initiative of Chase Bauduin and Dietrich Eckart, (both Thule members) who became the first editors. In 1921, Adolf Hitler acquired all shares in the company, making him the sole owner of the publication. The circulation of the paper was initially about 8,000 but increased to 25,000 in autumn 1923 due to strong demand during the Occupation of the Ruhr. In that year Alfred Rosenberg became editor. With the prohibition of the NSDAP after the Munich Putsch of 9 November 1923, the paper also had to cease publication, which resumed however on the party's re-foundation on 26 February 1925. The circulation rose along with the success of the NSDAP, reaching more than 120,000 in 1931 and 1.7 million by 1944.

It was joined in 1926 by 'Der Angriff' ("The Attack"), a weekly and later daily paper founded by Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.

The newspaper was set up by Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, who in 1926 had become the Gauleiter in Berlin, and the NSDAP provided most of the money needed to ensure publication. The paper was first founded to rally NSDAP members during the nearly two-year ban on the party in Berlin. 'Der Angriff' was conceived as a mass circulation paper that fought the hated "System".

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbles
The most regular contributors were party functionaries; lead articles were usually written by the publisher, Dr Goebbels, until 1933, and signed "Dr. G.". Willi Krause, using the pen name Peter Hagen, was its first editor-in-chief. He was succeeded first by Julius Lippert, (see below) then in 1933 by Karoly Kampmann, and from 1935, by Dr Goebbels's trusted friend Hans Schwarz van Berk. A further attraction of the paper were the political caricatures by Hans Schweitzer.

Julius Lippert
Julius Lippert (9 July 1895–30 June 1956) was a German politician in the NSDAP.

Born in Basel, Switzerland, he became a nationalist in his youth after reading the philosophers Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain. He joined the German military and fought in World War I, twice being wounded, and ended the war as a 2nd Lieutenant.In 1936, Lippert supervised the 1936 Olympic Games.

Der Angriff was first published 4 July 1927 by the Angriff Press. Its motto was "For the oppressed against the exploiters". In 1927 the circulation was around 2,000. This number rose to 146,694 in 1939 and 306,000 by 1944. After the NSDAP gained political power in Germany on 30 January 1933, the importance of the newspaper slowly decreased. When the Allies started the bombing campaign against Berlin, the circulation was increased to keep up the morale of Berliners. After 19 February 1945 Der Angriff was merged with the Berliner Illustrierte Nachtausgabe (Berlin Illustrated Night Edition). The last edition was published on 24 April 1945.

'Der Angriff ' was mainly dedicated to attacks against political opponents and Jews – but also engaged in the glorification of National Socialist heroes such as Horst Wessel.

Horst Ludwig Wessel
Horst Ludwig Wessel
Horst Ludwig Wessel (October 9, 1907 – February 23, 1930) was a NSDAP activist and an SA-Sturmführer who was made a posthumous hero of the National Socialist movement following his violent death in 1930. He was the author of the lyrics to the song "Die Fahne hoch" ("The Flag On High"), usually known as 'Horst-Wessel-Lied' ("the Horst Wessel Song"), which became the NSDAP anthem and, de facto, Germany's co-national anthem from 1933 to 1945. His death also resulted in his becoming the "patron" for the Luftwaffe's 26th Destroyer Wing, and the 18th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division during World War II.

'llustrierter Beobachter

The 'Illustrierter Beobachter' was their weekly illustrated paper.
Other National Socialist publications included 'Das Reich', a more moderate and highbrow publication aimed at intellectuals; and 'Das Schwarze Korps', an SS publication, aiming at a more intellectual tone.
After Hitler's rise to power in 1933, all of the regular press came under complete NSDAP editorial control through the policy of 'Gleichschaltung', and short-lived propaganda newspapers were also established in the conquered territories during World War II.


The NSDAP relied heavily on speakers to make its propaganda presentations, most heavily before they came to power, but also afterwards.
Hitler, in 'Mein Kampf', recounted that he had realized that it was not written matter but the spoken word that brought about changes, as people would not read things that disagreed, but would linger to hear a speaker.
Furthermore, speakers, having their audiences before them, could see their reactions and adjust accordingly, to persuade.
His own oratory was a major factor in his rise, and he despised those who came to read pre-written speeches.
Sturmabteilung speakers were used, though their reliance on instinct sometimes 'offended' well-educated audiences, but their blunt and folksy manner often had their own appeal.
The ministry would provide such speakers with information, such as how to explain the problems on the Eastern Front, or how to discuss the cuts in food rations.
The party propaganda headquarters, sent the Redner-Schnellinformation (Speakers’ Express Information) out with guidelines for immediate campaigns, such as anti-Semitic campaigns and what information to present.
Specific groups were targeted with such speakers.
Speakers, for instance, were created specifically for Hitler Youth.

Nürnberg 1937
Hitler Jugend
Reichsparteitag Nürnberg
Poster art was a mainstay of the National Socialist propaganda effort, aimed both at Germany itself and occupied territories.
It had several advantages.
The visual effect, being striking, would reach the viewer easily.
Posters were also, unlike other forms of propaganda, difficult to avoid.
Imagery frequently drew on heroic realism.
National Socialist youth and the SS were depicted monumentally, with lighting posed to produce grandeur.
Hans Schweitzer, under the pen name "Mjölnir" produced many National Socialist posters.
Posters were also used in schools.


The National Socialists produced many films to promote their views.
Themes included the virtues of the Nordic or Aryan type, German military and industrial strength, and the evils of Germany's enemies.
On March 13, 1933, the Third Reich established a Ministry of Propaganda, appointing Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels as its Minister.

Reichskulturkammer (RKK)
On September 22, 1933, a 'Department of Film' was incorporated into the 'Chamber of Culture'.

Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels
The Reichskulturkammer (RKK) ("Reich Chamber of Culture") was an institution in Nazi Germany. It was established by law on 22 September 1933 in the course of the 'Gleichschaltung' process at the instigation of Reich Minister Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels as a professional organization of all German creative artists. It was intended to control the entire cultural life in Germany, promoting art created by "Aryans" and seen as consistent with National Socialist ideals.
Every artist had to apply for membership on presentation of an Aryan certificate. A rejected inscription de facto resulted in a profession ban.
The RKK was affiliated with the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment with its seat in Berlin. Headed by Dr Goebbels, a state secretary of his ministry served as vice president:

The department controlled the licensing of every film prior to its production.
Sometimes, the government would select the actors for a film, financing the production partially or totally, and would grant tax breaks to the producers.
Awards for "valuable" films would decrease taxes, thus encouraging self-censorship among movie makers.
Under Dr Goebbels and Hitler, the German film industry became entirely nationalised.

'Triumph des Willens'  - Final Scene
Leni Riefenstahl 
The National Socialist Propaganda Directorate, which Dr Goebbels oversaw, had at its disposal nearly all film agencies in Germany by 1936.
Schools were also provided with motion pictures projectors because film was regarded as particularly appropriate for propagandizing children.
Newsreels were explicitly intended to portray such of the truth as was in the interest of Germany to spread.
'Triumph des Willens' (Triumph of the Will, 1934) by film-maker Leni Riefenstahl chronicles the Reich Partietag.
It features footage of uniformed party members (though relatively few German soldiers), who are marching and drilling to classical melodies.
The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various leaders of the NSDAP at the Congress, including speeches by Adolf Hitler.

Triumph des Willens
Der Sieg des Glaubens
'Triumph des Willens' is a 1935 film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Reichsparteitag in Nürnberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 Germans. Hitler commissioned the film and served as an unofficial executive producer; his name appears in the opening titles. The overriding theme of the film is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the leader who will bring glory to the nation. An earlier, less successful film 'Der Sieg des Glaubens' (Victory if Faith) had also been made of  the Fifth Party Rally, which occurred in Nürnberg from 30 August to 3 September 1933.
'Triumph des Willens' was released in 1935.
Riefenstahl's techniques, such as moving cameras, the use of long focus lenses to create a distorted perspective, aerial photography, and revolutionary approach to the use of music and cinematography, have earned 'Triumph' recognition as one of the greatest films in history. Riefenstahl won several awards, not only in Germany but also in the United States, France, Sweden, and other countries. The film was popular in the Third Reich, and has continued to influence movies, documentaries, and commercials to this day.

'Der ewige Jude' (The Eternal Jew, 1940) was directed by Fritz Hippler at the insistence of Dr Goebbels, though the writing is credited to Eberhard Taubert.

'Der ewige Jude'
The Eternal Jew (1940) is an anti-Semitic propaganda film, presented as a documentary. The film's title in German is 'Der ewige Jude', the German term for the character of the "Wandering Jew" in medieval folklore. At the insistence of the Minister of Propaganda, Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, the film was directed by Fritz Hippler. The screenplay is credited to Eberhard Taubert. The film consists of feature and documentary footage combined with materials filmed shortly after the Nazi occupation of Poland. At this time Poland's Jewish population was about three million, roughly ten percent of the total population. Actor Harry Giese (1903–1991) narrated.

The movie is done in the style of a documentary, the central thesis being the immutable racial personality traits that characterize the Jew as a wandering cultural parasite.
Throughout the film, these traits are contrasted to the National Socialist ideal: while Aryan men find satisfaction in physical labour and the creation of value, Jews only find pleasure in money and a hedonist lifestyle.


The National Socialists and sympathizers published many books.
Most of the beliefs that would become associated with the National Socialism, such as German nationalism, eugenics and anti-Semitism had been in circulation since the 19th century, and the National Socialists seized on this body of existing work in their own publications.
The most notable is Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' detailing his beliefs.
The book outlines Hitler's major ideas.

Hans F. K. Günther
Gustave Le Bon
It is heavily influenced by Gustave Le Bon's 1895 'The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind', which theorized propaganda as a way to control the seemingly irrational behaviour of crowds.
Particularly prominent is the anti-Semitism of Hitler and his associates.
Other books such as 'Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes' (Ethnology of German People) by Hans F. K. Günther and 'Rasse und Seele' (Race and Soul) by Dr. Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss (de) identify and classify the differences between the German, Nordic, or Aryan type and other supposedly inferior peoples.

Karl May
Dr. Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss
These books were used as texts in German schools during the Third Reich.
The pre-existing and popular genre of 'Schollen-roman', or 'novel of the soil', also known as 'Blut und Boden' (blood and soil) novels, was given a boost by the acceptability of its themes to National Socialists and developed a mysticism of unity.
The immensely popular "Red Indian" stories by Karl May were permitted despite the heroic treatment of the hero Winnetou and "colored" races; instead, the argument was made that the stories demonstrated the fall of the Red Indians was caused by a lack of racial consciousness, to encourage it in the Germans.
Other fictional works were also adapted; Heidi was stripped of its Christian elements, and Robinson Crusoe's relationship to Friday was made a master-slave one.

Text Books

"Geopolitical atlases" emphasized National Socialist theories, demonstrating the "encirclement" of Germany, depicting how the prolific Slav nations would cause the German people to be overrun, and (in contrast) showing the relative population density of Germany was much higher than that of the Eastern regions (where they would seek Lebensraum).
Geography text books stated how crowded Germany had become.
Math books discussed military applications and used military word problems, physics and chemistry concentrated on military applications, and grammar classes were devoted to propaganda sentences.
Other textbooks dealt with the history of the NSDAP.

Elementary school reading text included large amounts of propaganda.
Children were taught through textbooks that they were the Aryan master race (Herrenvolk) while the Jews were untrustworthy, parasitic and Untermenschen (inferior subhumans).
Even fairy tales were put to use, with Cinderella being presented as a tale of how the prince's racial instincts lead him to reject the stepmother's alien blood for the racially pure maiden.
Nordic sagas were likewise presented as the illustration of 'Führerprinzip', which was developed with such heroes as Frederick the Great and Otto von Bismarck.
Literature was to be chosen within the "German spirit" rather than a fixed list of forbidden and required, although Jewish authors were not permitted in the classroom.
While only William Shakespeare's MacBeth and The Merchant of Venice were actually recommended, none of the plays were actually forbidden.
Biology texts, however, were put the most use in presenting eugenic principles and racial theories; this included explanations of the Nuremberg Laws, which were shown to allow the German and Jewish peoples to co-exist without the danger of mixing.
Science was to be presented as the most natural area for introducing the "Jewish Question", once teachers took care to point out that in nature, animals associated with those of their own species.
Despite their many photographs glamorizing the "Nordic" type, the texts also claimed that visual inspection was insufficient, and genealogical analysis was required to determine their types, and report any hereditary problems, however, the National Socialist Teachers League (NSLB) stressed that at primary schools in particular they had to work on only the Nordic racial core of the German Volk and have to contrast this with the racial composition of foreign populations and the Jews.

Nationalsozialistische Lehrerbund (NSLB)
The Nationalsozialistische Lehrerbund (NSLB), (National Socialist Teachers League), was established on 21 April 1929. This organization lasted until 1943. Its seat was in Bayreuth. The founder and first "Reichswalter" of the organization was Hans Schemm. Its organ was the Nationalsozialistische Lehrerzeitung (NS Teachers' News). Its goal was to make the National Socialist world-view the foundation of all education and especially of schooling. In order to achieve this it sought to have an effect on the political viewpoint of educators, insisting on the further development of their spirit along National Socialist lines. 
After 1933 the NSDAP validated the NSLB as the sole organization of teachers in the German Reich. In July 1935 the NSLB was merged with the existing organization of lecturers to form the Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Dozentenbund (NSDDB) (National Socialist German University Lecturers League).

National Socialist publications also carried various forms of propaganda.
'Neues Volk', the monthly publication of the Office of Racial Policy, carried racial propaganda.
While chiefly aimed at fomenting ethnic pride through ideal Aryan types, it also included articles aimed at Jews.
The 'NS-Frauen-Warte', aimed at women, included such topics as the role of women in the Nazi state. 
Despite its propaganda elements, it was predominately a woman's magazine.
It defended certain aspects of anti-intellectualism, urged women to have children, even in wartime, put forth what the NSDAP had done for women, discusses bridal schools, and urged women to greater efforts in total war.

Gertrud Scholtz-Klink

The NS-Frauen-Warte was the magazine for women.Put out by the NS-Frauenschaft, it had the status of the only party approved magazine for women, and served propaganda purposes, particularly supporting the role of housewife and mother as exemplary.
Gertrud Scholtz-Klink née Treusch (9 February 1902 – 24 March 1999) was a fervent member of the NSDAP, and leader of the National Socialist Women's League (NS-Frauenschaft) in Nazi Germany.
The NS-Frauen-Warte had articles on a wide range of topics of interest to women and included sewing patterns.
Its articles included such topics as the role of women in the state, Germanization in Poland, the education of youth, the importance of play for children, claims that Great Britain was responsible for the war, and the Bolshevist threat with the need to annihilate the Soviet Regime. It highlighted the achievements of National Socialist women, and how the system had benefited females, and discussed bridal schools. Poetry exulted in a child as a form of immortality. During wartime it urged women to have children, to join in the war effort either in employment or in Frauenschaft from the very beginning, and to greater efforts in total war. 
It was predominately a woman's magazine despite containing propaganda; this contrasts sharply with 'Das deutsche Mädel', which lay emphasis on the strong and active German woman.

'Der Pimpf' was aimed at boys and contained both adventure and propaganda.

'Der Pimpf'
'Morgen' - First Issue
'Der Pimpf'was the National Socialist magazine for boys, particularly those in the 'Deutsches Jungvolk', with adventure and propaganda.
The Deutsches Jungvolk (German: "German Youth") was a youth organization in for boys aged 10 to 14, and was a section of the Hitler Youth movement. Through a programme of outdoor activities, parades and sports, it aimed to indoctrinate its young members in the tenets of Nazi ideology. Membership became fully compulsory for eligible boys in 1939. By the end of World War II, some had become child soldiers.
The magazine 'Der Pimpf' first appeared in 1935 as 'Morgen' (Morning), changing its name to 'Der Pimpf' in 1937.
It included adventures of troops of Hitler Youth. Its last issue urged the boys to model themselves on the SS, and spoke of the SS Division "Hitler Jugend".

The female counterpart, 'Das deutsche Mädel', lacked this emphasis on adventure.

Das deutsche Mädel
'Das deutsche Mädel' (The German Girl or Maiden) was a magazine aimed at German girls, particularly members of Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls).
Unlike the adventure orientation of 'Der Pimpf', intended for Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth), 'Das deutsche Mädel' urged hiking, tending the wounded, hard work in factories, and preparing for motherhood. On the other hand, in contrast to the woman's magazine with some propaganda, 'NS-Frauen-Warte', it lay far more emphasis on the strong and active German woman; health, education, service, and sports were all featured, and famous women depicted included doctors, athletes, poets, and pilots.
Articles in it included describing a speech by Jutta Rüdiger when she was appointed to lead Bund Deutscher Mädel, telling the girls of their duties to Germany, and a story of how Young Girls had ensured that a dead father's promise to his son was fulfilled.

'Das deutsche Mädel', in contrast, recommended for girls hiking, tending the wounded, and preparing for care for children.
It lay far more emphasis than 'NS-Frauen-Warte' on the strong and active German woman.


Signal was a propaganda magazine published by the Wehrmacht during World War II.
It was distributed throughout occupied Europe and neutral countries.

Signal Magazine
Signal was a modern, glossy, illustrated photo journal and army propaganda tool, meant specifically for audiences in neutral, allied, and occupied countries. A German edition was distributed in Switzerland and to various other countries with a strong German military presence, but Signal was never distributed in Germany proper. Signal was published fortnightly (plus some special issues) in as many as 25 editions and 30 languages, and at its height had a circulation of 2,500,000 copies. It was available in the United States in English until December 1941. The last number was 6/45, only known in one sample from the Swedish edition.
Signal described the combat conditions of the German troops and their allies in all fronts, together with high quality photos, including a central double page full colour picture. Many of the most famous photos of World War II to be seen today are taken from Signal. The magazine also included articles about economics, science, arts, and advertising for the most well-known German companies (BMW, Agfa, Audi, Siemens ...). 
The magazine kept its independence from the Propaganda Ministry, remaining under control of the army. Still, there is a political message, one of a unified Europe (under the so-called 'New Order') fighting together against the Bolshevism, this idea was symbolized by the different foreign units and volunteers fighting for the Third Reich.

"Signal" was published from April 1940 to March 1945, and had the highest sales of any magazine published in Europe during the period 1940 to 1945 - circulation peaked at two and one half million in 1943.
At various times, it was published in at least twenty languages.
There was an English edition distributed in the British Channel Islands of Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, and Sark -  these islands were occupied by the Wehrmacht during World War II.
The promoter of the magazine was the chief of the Wehrmacht propaganda office, Colonel Hasso von Wedel.
Its annual budget was 10 million Reichmarks, roughly $2.5 million at the pre-war exchange rate.
The image that 'Signal' hoped to create was that of the Third Reich and its New Order as the great benefactor of European peoples, and of Western civilization in general.
Germany and its allies were shown to be the humane liberators of the occupied nations.
Some articles displayed colour photographs of dramatic battle scenes.
The magazine contained little anti-Semitic propaganda, and the Jews were hardly mentioned.


Adolf Hitler - Radio Speech
Before Hitler came to power, he rarely used the radio as forms of connection with the public, and when he did so non-party newspapers were allowed publish his speeches.
This soon changed after he came to power in 1933, Hitler's speeches became famous all over Germany and were often major events for the Germans, the speeches were broadcast on the national radio, every newspaper published his speeches, they were shown in the weekly newsreels and reprinted in large editions in books and pamphlets all across Germany.
The speeches made by Hitler became so significant to the National Socialists that that even restaurants and pubs were expected have their radios on whenever Hitler was delivering one of his speeches and in some cities even public speakers were used so passers-by could hear him deliver one of his speeches.
The extent that National Socialist propaganda emphasized and portrayed his speeches was done in so the main points of his speeches appeared in the weekly posters and were all over Germany by the hundreds of thousands.
The radio was an important tool in National Socialist propaganda, and it has been argued that it was the National Socialists who pioneered the use of what was still a relatively new technology.

Internal Broadcasts

Certainly the National Socialists recognised the importance of radio in disseminating their message, and to that end Dr Goebbels approved a scheme whereby millions of cheap radio sets (the Volksempfänger) were subsidised by the government.

The Volksempfänger (German for "people's receiver") was a range of radio receivers developed by engineer Otto Griessing at the request of Propaganda Minister Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.
The purpose of the Volksempfänger-program was to make radio reception technology affordable to the general public. Joseph Goebbels realized the great propaganda potential of this relatively new medium and thus considered widespread availability of receivers highly important. The original Volksempfänger VE301 model was presented on August 18, 1933 at the Große Deutsche Funkausstellung in Berlin. The VE301 was available at a readily affordable price of 76 German Reichsmark (equivalent to two weeks' average salary), and a cheaper 35 Reichsmark model, the DKE38  fitted with a multisection tube, was also later produced, along with a series of other models under the Volksempfänger, Gemeinschaftsempfänger, KdF (Kraft durch Freude), DKE (Deutscher Kleinempfänger) and other brands.

Volksempfänger Poster
1936 Nazi propaganda poster, promoting the use of the Volksempfänger. The translated text reads, "All Germany hears the Führer with the Volksempfänger."
Dr Goebbels claimed the radio was the "eighth great power", and he, along with the NSDAP, recognized the power of the radio in the propaganda machine of the Third Reich.
In that "Radio as the Eighth Great Power" speech, Dr Goebbels proclaimed: '
It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio.
It is no exaggeration to say that the German revolution, at least in the form it took, would have been impossible without the air-plane and the radio.
Radio reached the entire nation, regardless of class, standing, or religion.
That was primarily the result of the tight centralization, the strong reporting, and the up-to-date nature of the German radio.
Above all it is necessary to clearly centralize all radio activities, to place spiritual tasks ahead of technical ones, to provide a clear world-view.'
By the start of the Second World War over 70% of German households had one of these radios.
Radio broadcasts were also played over loudspeakers in public places and workplaces.
In private homes, however, people could easily turn off the radio when bored, and did so once the novelty of hearing the voice from a box wore off; this caused the National Socialists to introduce many non-propaganda elements, such as music, advice and tips, serials and other entertainment.
This was accelerated in the war to prevent people from tuning in enemy propaganda broadcasts.

Fine Art

Adolf Ziegler - 'The Four Elements'
By National Socialist standards, fine art was not propaganda.
Its purpose was to create ideals, for 'eternity'.
This produced a call for heroic and romantic art, which reflected the ideal rather than the real.
Explicitly political paintings were very rare.
Still more rare were anti-Semitic paintings, because the art was supposed to be on a higher plane. 
Nevertheless, selected themes, common in propaganda, were the most common topics of art.
Sculpture was used as an expression of National Socialist racial theories.
The most common image was of the nude male, expressing the ideal of the Aryan race.
Nudes were required to be physically perfect.
At the Paris Exposition of 1937, Josef Thorak's 'Comradeship' stood outside the German pavilion, depicting two enormous nude males, clasping hands and standing defiantly side by side, in a pose of defence and racial camaraderie.

Haus der Deutschen Kunst
Tag der Deutschen Kunst
On 15 and 16 October 1939, the 'Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung' inside the 'Haus der Deutschen Kunst' was complemented by the monumental 'Tag der Deutschen Kunst' (Day of German Art) celebration of "2,000 years of Germanic culture" where luxuriously draped floats (one of them carrying a 5 meter tall golden Reichsadler) and thousands of actors in historical costumes paraded down Prinzregentenstraße for hours in the presence of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Albert Speer, Robert Ley, Reinhard Heydrich, and many other high-ranking members of the government of the Third Reich, with minor events taking place in the Englischer Garten nearby. 

Landscape painting featured mostly heavily in 'Die Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung' (Greater German Art Exhibition), in accordance with themes of 'Blut und Boden' (blood and soil).
Peasants were also popular images, reflecting a simple life in harmony with nature, frequently with large families.
With the advent of war, war art came to be a significant though still not predominating proportion.
The continuing of  'Die Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung' throughout the war was put forth as a manifestation of German Culture.

Death and Sacrifice - 'Und ihr habt doch gesiegt'
Heroic death was often portrayed in National Socialist propaganda as glorious.
It was glorified in such films as 'Flüchtlinge', 'Hans Westmar', and 'Kolber'.

Hans Westmar- 'Einer von vielen'
Hanns Heinz Ewers
'Hans Westmar. Einer von vielen. Ein deutsches Schicksal aus dem Jahre 1929' (Hans Westmar. One of many. A German Fate from the Year 1929) was the last of an unofficial trilogy of films commissioned by the Third Reich shortly after coming to power in January 1933, celebrating the 'Kampfzeit' - a 'mythologised' history of their period in opposition, struggling to gain power. The film is a fictionalized life of the famous National Socialist martyr Horst Wessel.
The film was based on a novel, personally commissioned by Adolf Hitler from his close friend Hanns Heinz Ewers. It was among the first films to depict dying for Hitler as a glorious death for Germany, resulting in his spirit inspiring his comrades. His decision to go to the streets is presented as fighting "the real battle."

'Wunschkonzert', though chiefly about the home-front, features one character who dies playing the organ in a church in order to guide his comrades, though he knows the enemy forces will also find him.

Wunschkonzert - Poster
Wunschkonzert ("Request Concert") is a 1940 German drama propaganda film by Eduard von Borsody. After 'Die grosse Liebe', it was the most popular film of wartime Germany, reaching the second highest gross. The popular music show "Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht" ("Request Concert for the Wehrmacht") was broadcast on the German radio network every Sunday afternoon. Its popularity was based on the fact that it broadcast music requested by men in the armed forces, thus uniting the armed forces and the homefront in Volksgemeinschaft. Reich Minister Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels insisted that all German performers contribute to it and concluded that a film based on it would be even more successful. Starring roles were played by Ilse Werner as Inge Wagner, Carl Raddatz as Herbert Koch and Joachim Brennecke as Helmut Winkler. Wunschkonzert was officially classified as "Politically valuable", "Artistically valuable", "Valuable for the people" and "Valuable for youth". By the end of World War II the film had been seen by almost 26 million people and taken 7.6 million Reichsmarks.

'Heroic Head' - Arno Breker
'Und ihr habt doch gesiegt '
And you are also victorious
The dead of World War I were also portrayed as heroic; in a film of 'Operation Michael', the general tells a major that they will be measured by the greatness of their sacrifice, not by that of their victory, and in 'Leave on Parole', the people are portrayed as being corrupted by pacifist slogans while soldiers stand their ground unflinching.

Even the film 'Morgenrot', predating the National Socialist seizure of power, and containing such matters as a woman refusing to rejoice because of the sufferings on the other side, praised such deaths and found favour among NSDAP officials.

'Morgenrot' is a 1933 German submarine film set during World War I.
Released three days after Adolf Hitler became Reichskanzler, it was the first film to have its screening in the Third Reich. It became a symbol of the new times. The title, literally "morning-red", is German for Dawn) 
It was filmed in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, the first German submarine movie made after World War I.
The film offered a heroization of death, with the captain explicitly stating that Germans may not know how to live, but they know how to die.

Propaganda about the Volk depicted it as a greater entity to which the individual belonged, and one worth dying for.
Several dead Storm-troopers were singled out for glorification by Dr Goebbels, especially Horst Wessel (see above).

Hitlerjunge Quex
The films 'Hitlerjunge Quex' and 'S.A.-Mann Brand' also glorified those had died in the struggle to seize power; 'Quex' was based on a novel that sold over 200,000 copies over two years.

Hitlerjunge Quex is a 1932 German propaganda novel based on the life of Herbert “Quex” Norkus. The 1933 movie 'Hitlerjunge Quex: Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend' was based on the novel, and was described by Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels as the "first large-scale" transmission of National Socialist ideology using the medium of cinema.

Hitlerjunge Quex
Both the book and the movie, like 'S.A.-Mann Brand' and 'Hans Westmar' (see above), both released the same year, fictionalized and glorified death in the service of the NSDAP and Hitler. The novel Der Hitlerjunge Quex was written by Karl Aloys Schenzinger between May and September 1932. It was first published in Nazi party outlet Völkischer Beobachter, and as a book in December 1932.

Hitlerjungen marschieren
von Herbert Norkus 'Grab der
NSDAP Kongress in Nürnberg
Both novel and movie are based on the real story of Herbert Norkus' life. Norkus, a Hitler Youth member, died from injuries suffered when chased and confronted by Communist youths in the night of 23 / 24 January 1932 in the Beusselkietz neighbourhood of Moabit, Berlin. While the murder was condemned by the press, the Communists started a counter-propaganda offensive, describing the incident as an accidental result of Communist self-defense during a NSDAP attack. By January 1934 the film had been viewed by a million people.

Soldiers and street fighters were the heroes of the NSDAP - those who had died or might die.
Even the 1936 anthem for "Olympic youth" celebrated not sports but sacrificial death.
This continued in the war.
In 1942-3, the Winter Relief booklets recounted the stories of 20 decorated war heroes.
The dead of Stalingrad were portrayed as heroes of Valhalla.
A 1944 Mother's Day Card, particularly intended for the wives and mothers of the war dead, presented a mystical view that the dead continued in the life that followed them.
Similarly, 'Die grosse Liebe' depicted its self-centred heroine learning to bravely send the air force lieutenant she loves back to his squadron.

Zarah Leander 

'Die große Liebe' (The Great Love) is a German drama film of the National Socialist period, made by Rolf Hansen, starring Zarah Leander and Viktor Staal.

It premièred in Berlin in 1942 and went on to become the most commercially successful film in the history of the Third Reich. The film included one of the most popular songs of the Third Reich - 'Davon geht die Welt nicht unter' ("It's Not the End of the World"). After 1942, as the military situation became more and more unfavourable to Germany, the song became a staple element of the prevalent informal propaganda geared to "seeing it through". 

Deutscher Volkssturm Armband
The creation of the Volkssturm had propagandists make full use of themes of death, transcendence, and commemoration to encourage the fight. Dr Goebbels and other propagandists depicted the 'Volkssturm' as an outburst of enthusiasm and will to resist. National Socialist themes of death, transcendence, and commemoration were given full play to encourage the fight, however, many also realized that this was a desperate attempt to turn the course of the war.

Deutscher Volkssturm
The Volkssturm ("people's army" or "national militia") was a German national militia of the last months of World War II. It was set up, not by the traditional German Army, but by the NSDAP on the orders of Adolf Hitler on October 18, 1944. It conscripted males between the ages of 16 to 60 years who were not already serving in some military unit as part of a German Home Guard. 'Volkssturm' units were placed under direct command of the local NSDAP, meaning local Gau- and Kreisleiters. The 'Volkssturm' was also to become a nation-wide organization, with Heinrich Himmler as Replacement Army Commander, responsible for armament and training. Though normally under party control, 'Volkssturm' units were placed under Wehrmacht command when engaging in action.

Leopold Schmutzler - 'Arbeiten Jungfrauen' 1940
While men were the ones depicted as dying for Germany, women were also presented as needing to sacrifice.
Exercise was praised as making young women strong, able to do hard physical labour for their country at need, particularly in agriculture, where the 'blood and soil' ideology glamorized hard labour at the farm.
This was not, however, translated in strong propaganda for women to join the workforce during the war; NS-Frauenschaft, in its magazine 'NS-Frauen-Warte' and the speeches of Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, urged such behaviour, and collections of essays praised heroic German women of the past, but the propaganda was weak and not widespread or repeated.
Part of the problem may have been that the German government had called for sacrifice incessantly since 1931, and could bring no new appeal to it with the outbreak of war.
Women, and other civilians, were also called on by Dr Goebbels to reduce their standard of living to that of soldiers and civilians living in bombed areas, so as to sacrifice that material for total mobilization.


Many propaganda films developed the importance of the 'Führerprinzip' or leader principle.
'Flüchtlinge' depicted Volga German refugees being saved from persecution by a leader, who demands their unquestioning obedience.
'Der Herrscher' depicts its hero, Clausen, as the unwavering leader of his munitions firm, who, faced with his children's machinations, disowns them and bestows the firm on the state, confident that a worker will arise capable of continuing his work and, as a true leader, needing no instruction.

Otto von Bismark
Frederick the Great
In schools, adolescent boys were presented with Nordic sagas as the illustration of 'Führerprinzip', which was developed with such heroes as Frederick the Great and Otto von Bismarck.
Hitler Youth in particular indoctrinated for blind obedience and "Führer worship."
This combined with the glorification of the one, central Führer.
At the time of the Munich Putsch, Hitler used his trial to present himself, claiming it had been his sole responsibility and inspiring the title Fuhrer.
Booklets given out for the Winter Relief donations included 'The Führer Makes History', a collection of Hitler photographs, and 'The Führer’s Battle in the East'.
Films such as 'Der Marsch zum Führer' and 'Triumph of the Will' glorified him.
Carl Schmitt, drawn to the Nazi party by his admiration for a decisive leader, praised Hitler in his pamphlet 'State, Volk and Movement', because only the ruthless will of such a leader could save Germany and its people from the "asphalt culture" of modernity, to bring about unity and authenticity.


The Volksgemeinschaft or people's community received a great deal of propaganda support.
The Volk were not just a people; a mystical soul united them, and propaganda continually portrayed individuals as part of a great whole, worth dying for.
This was portrayed as overcoming distinctions of party and social class.
A common Party mantra declared they must put "collective need ahead of individual greed" - a widespread sentiment in this era.
The commonality this created across classes was among the great appeals of National Socialism.
After the failure of the Munich Putsch, Hitler, on the trial, centred his defence on his selfless devotion to the good of the Volk, and the need for bold action to save them.
The Versailles settlement had betrayed Germany, which they had tried to save.
Thereafter, his speeches concentrated on his boundless devotion to the Volk, though not entirely eliminating the antisemitism.
Even once in power, his immediate speeches spoke of serving Germany.
The Volksgemeinschaft was also used for war support.
Film on the home-front during World War II, depicted the war uniting all levels of society, as in the two most popular films of the war era, 'Die grosse Liebe' and 'Wunschkonzert' (see above).
Failure to support the war was an anti-social act; this propaganda managed to bring arms production to a peak in 1944.

'Blut und Boden' - Blood and Soil

'Blut und Boden'

Closely related to the community was the notion of 'blood and soil', a mystical bond between the German people and Germanic lands.

A true Volkish life was rural and agrarian, rather than urban, a theme pre-dating National Socialism.
It was foundational to the concept of 'Lebensraum' (Living-space).
Prior to their ascension to power, NSAP called for a movement back to the rural areas, from the cities.
"Blood and soil" novels and theatre celebrated the farmer's life and human fertility, often mystically linking them.

Adolf Wissel - 'Bauernfamilie'
Erbhofbauer - Farmstead Peasant
Hans Toepper
'Neues Volk' displayed demographic charts to deplore the destruction of the generous Aryan families' farmland, and how the Jews were eradicating traditional German peasantry.
Posters for school depicted and deplored the flight of people from the countryside to the city.
'Der Giftpilz', a children's book, included an account of a Jewish financier forcing a German to sell his farm.
Carl Schmitt argued that a people would develop laws appropriate to its "blood and soil" because authenticity required loyalty to the Volk over abstract so-called 'universals'.
The charge laid against degenerate art was that it had been cut off from 'blood and soil'.
Landscape paintings were featured most heavily in the 'Greater German Art Exhibitions', to depict the German people's Lebensraum.
Peasants were also popular images, promoting a simple life in harmony with nature.
'Blud und Boden' films likewise stressed the commonality of Germaness and the countryside.
'Die goldene Stadt' has the heroine running away to the city; after becoming pregnant, she drowns herself.
Her last words beg her father to forgive her for not loving the countryside as he did.


Nazi propaganda promoted Nazi ideology by demonizing the enemies of the Nazi Party, especially Jews and communists, but also capitalists and intellectuals.
It promoted the values asserted by National Socialists, including heroic death, Führerprinzip (leader principle), Volksgemeinschaft (people's community), Blut und Boden (blood and soil) and the youth were taught early to take pride in the Germanic Master Race (Herrenvolk).
Propaganda was also used to maintain the cult of personality around Adolf Hitler, and to promote campaigns for eugenics and the annexation of German-speaking areas.
After the outbreak of World War II, National Socialist propaganda vilified Germany's enemies, notably the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States, and exhorted the population to partake in total war in defence of European Civilisation.

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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013