Background: This article is taken from the Nazi monthly for propagandists.
It is an unusually complicated explication of Nazi propaganda. The author,
born in 1902, was an early Nazi. In 1934, he was the head of the district
propaganda office of the Propaganda Ministry Berlin-Brandenburg-Kurmark,
and a Reichsredner.
The source: “Politische Propaganda,” Unser Wille
und Weg, 4(1934), pp. 323-332.
No one today will doubt that political propaganda has been
of major significance in the past decades. Waves of propaganda
hit Germany, leaving a world in confusion. We had nothing similar
with which to defend ourselves. Our leaders realized too late
the power and effects of this modern weapon, a weapon without
limits, that thunders more loudly than cannon fire, that is more
destructive than a gas attack.
This weapon forced the World War on us, it forged the alliance
against Germany, it brought ever new armies to the front against
us, it gave them confidence, it used every methodbecause every
method was at their disposal. Success proved them right,
Only their military leadership found things impossible. For
their propaganda general staff, everything was possible.
Propaganda is the most modern of weapons. We have suffered
under it, we have learned from it. Having learned from experience
its necessity, we now use it.
We had to destroy our airplanes, tanks, guns and the like,
but not the weapon of propaganda. How could we not have used
it, who is foolish enough to underestimate its power? We owe
our rise to it and will have to depend on it even more in the
future. It is a powerful tool in molding the nature and the thinking
of the new, the modern man.
Alexander von Humboldt wrote that one must organize a lasting
moral force, which is nothing other than a firm, systematic,
coherent attempt to raise the morale of the nation, to control
“To raise the morale of the nation...,” that is
both our task and our goal. We have no desire to apply our idea
outside this framework, apart from conviction, only as a means.
The National Socialist worlview is unique; its full development
presumes Germans in Germany. It will win friends, even some abroad,
since it fits reality. But its deepest power is rooted in German
Our enemy in the World War won the leaders and soldiers it
needed through propaganda. The men who make National Socialist
propaganda have another goal: to win the German people!
We may be proud that the first big step has been taken, but it is only
the beginning. What we have done points the way to what must still be
done; it is both an obligation and a promise. The ferment of decomposition
is in the past. A new page in German history has been turned, a new age
has dawned. Future generations of historians and critics will write books
about our era.
Past German politics and war propaganda were based on sentimentality
and “moral” feelings, untroubled by any understanding of the
psyche of the masses. Politics depends on proper preparation, it depends
on intuitive propaganda. The direction in which propaganda takes the feelings
depends on the goals of the political leadership, on its understanding
of psychology. One must understand human perception and psychology.
Modern psychology (the word, by the way, comes from the days
of Melancthon), supported by psychiatry and neurology, attempts
to discover the laws of psychological processes through systematic
experimentation and statistical analysis (e.g., logical thinking).
These modern methods have led to valuable conclusions, but they
are not sufficient by themselves. There are imponderables in
the psyche of individuals as well as of the masses that can scarcely
be explained. Neither psychological experiments or statistical
techniques can produce laws that the propagandist can apply with
mathematical certainty. This is not to say that certain psychological
discoveries should be ignored or rejected.
Few people are able to bring heart and mind into full agreement.
Propaganda often has particular importance in that it speaks
to the emotions rather than to pure understanding. The individual
as well as the masses are subject to “attitudes”; their
emotions determine their condition.The politician may not coldly
ignore these emotions; he must recognize and understand them
if he is to choose the proper of propaganda to reach his goals.
Although modern psychology has not found any absolute principles for
propagandists, and is unlikely to do so, the total ignorance of psychology
on the part of former German statesmen had catastrophic consequences,
as we know from experience. Professor C. Daenell has this to say with
respect to our psychological relationship to South America during the
war: “We were very bad psychologists.” Professor Adolf Rapp
complains: “We were inexperienced and inept when it came to dealing
with other nations. We did not understand their way of thinking, even
though we praised ourselves for our ability to accept others. We failed
at practical human relations.”
Propaganda strives for long term effects; only occasionally
does it need to aim for momentary successes. Truly effective
propaganda must achieve a continuing understanding of the masses.
It must use effective suggestion, which I define as an idea transformed
into reality through the subconscious.
Naturally the propagandist must understand not only the means
that are at his disposal, but also the characteristics of “his”
masses, however they are expressed, of whatever type they may
be. The enemy may command better resources, and will certainly
take pleasure and satisfaction in any mistake. He will exploit
“The German people and its former ruling classes have
learned nothing from the most terrible experience that any nation
has ever had,” says the German-American F. Hansen. He goes
on: “The official German position on any propaganda that
was directed to the Anglo-Saxon world was: ‘We do not want to
excite them.’” Professor Schönemann quite properly
adds: “The German government held to the same almost unbelievable
attitude with respect to questions of atrocities and war guilt!
Here too was a politics of missed opportunities.”
The essential task of propaganda is to use psychological skill
to create a favorable atmosphere. As Schopenhauer says: “When
the heart resists, the mind will not accept.”
The fundamental attitude of all successful propaganda is optimistic.
He who allows pessimism in his own cause can expect nothing but
uncertainty and resistance. But optimism means, in all circumstances,
A good politician can accomplish little, if he faces a pessimistic
populace which doubts his good will and even the practicality
of his plans. On the other hand, it is clear that even the best
propaganda cannot conceal constant political failures. Propaganda
is only meaningful and believable when it can show positive results.
Such then are the tasks of propaganda: it is the proclaimer
of an idea, it undermines the positions of the enemy with all
the means and forces at its disposal. It stands in the middle
of life, in the middle of events, and draws the necessary consequences.
Whether the means of propaganda are proper or whether it serves
the facts or ideas is entirely irrelevant. The reality that propaganda
faces is so confused and the conditions it faces so unnatural,
the new idea which propaganda carries so much better, that it
would be inexcusable weakness if propaganda did not use every
at its disposal to bring down as rapidly as possible the rotten
system it faces.
Propaganda is evolutionary, the organization revolutionary.
The word of propaganda becomes the deed of the organization,
and the deed of the organization improves an intolerable condition.The
task of propaganda is to explain to the people new ways and ideas,
to interest the masses in events and to win their cooperation,
Politics and propaganda cannot conflict with each other, nor
can they run parallel to each other, but rather they are inextricably
bound to each other. Without politics there is no propaganda
and without propaganda there is no politics. Good politics always
needs good propaganda. Both have the same goal, the same direction,
and the same thing is true of them as is true of an individual:
“One moves in life in the direction one looks.”
No philosophy that doubts its abilities can guide a government
to success. Propaganda, however, can persuade the people of the
abilities of their government, and to their advantage.
Propaganda and passion belong together. Great passion is as
rare as great genius.The greater the passion, the more effective
Germans recognized late the nature and role of propaganda,
and later still its necessity. A new day is before us. We must
find economic and cultural paths to build a people domestically
and to build a nation facing the world. Propaganda prepares the
way, it awakens the masses.
People say that politics draws the national balance. Should
not that also be a task of propaganda?
In the past, the National Socialist movement was accused by many, particularly
from certain circles of the intelligentsia that stood apart from the people
and politics, from bringing politics to the people. With the slogan “politics
is a dirty business,” these know-it-alls retreated to their quiet
cells. They did not realize that by letting politics drift, or drift as
it was driven, they were giving their own fate over to forces that would
one day draw conclusions from this lack of interest.
Politics and sentimentality do not agree very well. The task
of politics, as Bismarck said, is to “make the proper preparations
for what other people will do. This capacity of foresight is
rare. It requires a man of broad experience and human understanding,
and I become uncomfortable when I think of the extent to which
this capacity has been lost by our leading circles.”
Most groups of our people displayed an unbelievable ignorance
of foreign affairs. Theoretical crankiness and hyper-patriotism
were the characteristics of the German middle class. This type
was also found among working class leaders as well as university
professors, who had lost all understanding of politics.
Bismarck’s fears became hard reality. We had no politically
aware masses, no politically aware leaders. Did we have great
statesmenstatesmen of mature thought who left something behind?
What happened after the “granite block”if I may permit
myself an erratic phrase? A few decades later, the internationalism
of unthinking politicians led to pan-European phrases and then
to people-destroying bolshevistic ideas.
Propaganda is not a science; the variety of its methods makes
impossible any straitjacket of scholarly training. There are
no firm recipes for it, but neither may one trifle with it.
Aesthetes and know-it-alls may make elegant propaganda for
their small circle. They can develop a fresh method every day,
always looking for something new, but they will never make effective
political mass propaganda in this way. The opposite! The professional
propagandists of the movement should beware of those deadly enemies!
The goal of propaganda is this: to persuade the masses. It
ignores everything that wants to make an “interestingly
varied” propaganda, anything that wants to change the fundamental
principles and content that propaganda wants to convey. Propaganda
methods can, indeed must, vary, but propaganda must be carried
out in a unified and disciplined way. Only that brings success,
only that leads to the goal.
For both politics and propaganda, the slogan is true: limitation
is the mark of the master, or as Kant put it, “Every reality
develops through limitation.” Since the reality for which
we strive is called “Germany,” we restrict our desires
The aim, the general line, is known. We are on the attack, on the march.
There is no turning back, no wavering. The propagandists must think subjectively.
Absolutely subjectively, one-sidedly! He has under all circumstances to
avoid the notorious and dangerous German objectivism! He need not weigh
right and wrong, he does not need to worry if there might be some slight
truth on the enemy’s side. Propaganda is concerned only with its goal,
with its justice, its truth. All else is half truth. The more consistently,
the more uniformly propaganda is applied, the greater will be its success
and the sooner success will come.
Many a one laughed at the propaganda of the NSDAP in the past
from a position of superiority. It is true that we had only one
thing to say, and we yelled and screamed and propagandized it
again and again with a stubbornness that drove the “wise”
to desperation. We proclaimed it with such simplicity that they
thought it absurd and almost childish. They did not understand
that repetition is the precursor to success and simplicity is
the key to the emotional and mental world of the masses. The
masses are mostly extraordinarily forgetful, and their understanding
less than that of the learned. Propaganda had to be made not
to please the learned, but rather to reach the masses. We wanted
to appeal to the intuitive world of the great masses, not the
understanding of the intellectuals. The significance of events
and facts must be presented over and over again, until after
a long time indeed the masses recognize the necessity of a fundamental
change, until they demand it. Scientists, on the other hand,
are persuaded by scientific proofs.
The time has come for the scientist, too, to see as the final, highest
and most decisive factor not science, but rather the interests of his people,
the interest of the whole. That must become the highest goal of all his
The NSDAP, to give only one vivid example, recognized Marxism
as a powerful enemy of the people. The doctrine of Marxist socialism
failed from the moment it achieved political power. Although
its misuse (Ausbeutung)avoiding Marx’s unnecessary foreign
term exploitation of the masses led to ever greater misery
for the individual, the masses nonetheless with blind short-sightedness
believed in the world-conquering power of Marxist teaching. Our
task as propagandists was not to debate materialistic revolution
or philosophy, or the teachings of Marxism, but rather we had to
make the masses aware of the facts, of the essential, critical
events and consequences. We did it over and over again, until
the ice broke, until at least a part of the masses began to listen
The enemy was Marxism. Our goal was its annihilation. Our
propaganda had to shake the foundations of the core of the Marxist
idea in the minds and hearts of the masses, the theory of class
struggle. Then we had to replace it with a new theory, which
later the organization or positive power would use to win these
same masses to a free state without a theory of class struggle.
Alongside the propaganda struggle against Marxism, we also
fought against the war guilt lie and the Treaty of Versailles.
If one reconstructs today the phrases of this propaganda,
if one lets the kaleidoscope of images roll by once more, one
can still sense the problemss, the hatred of the enemy, our rejection
by public opinionit was like an impregnable wall around us.
To be sure, we made breaches in the wall. We broke out of
anonymity, out of the depths of contempt and calumny, to the
depth and freedom of the people. In the end the masses heard
us. The movement and its propaganda had enormous success. But
what was the goal?
The winning of the masses was a victory, but only a prerequisite
to our goal. Propaganda now has its second, and perhaps even
harder task: to maintain what we have achieved, and second to
deepen what we have and to reach toward the goal.
An effective government has to be sure that public opinion,
and in particular political opinion, supports its policies and
actions. Public opinion “depends to a large degree on a
sometimes unbelievably tough and thorough belaboring of mind
and feelings, and only to a small degree on personal experience
or knowledge.” Public opinion can be organized, or must
be made capable of organization by propaganda, for the foundation
on which opinion rests is of great significance for the fate
of the community. Popular feelings with all its heights and depths
cannot be separated from the concept of public opinion in a normal
state. An eternal conflict or contradiction between popular feelings
and public opinion is possible only in parliamentary states,
and only in them, as Ferdinand Tönnies says, can one speak
of types of public opinion.
Tönnies distinguishes between public opinion as a conglomerate
of various and contradictory views, wishes and intentions and
public opinion as a unified force, as an expression of common
will. “Public opinion is essentially the common or shared
opinion of a certain group, the firm judgment of a whole.”
Public opinion is the common view of an educated, in particular
the politically aware public, or in other words “the desire
of the intellectually most active, financially strongest, literarily
most influential part of a nation, which is able to overshadow
the other thinking parts of the population.”
In Germany, we have seen enough of the attempt by these above-mentioned
potentates, the intellectually active, the financially strongest,
etc., to fabricate public opinion. We must observe that it was
more or less a public, but not a real opinionunless one wants
to define egotism as opinion.
The true leader comes from the people, and represents the
people. He forges the opinions of the broad masses.That is his
reality, that is the source of his power: He is the personification
of public opinion. I can not agree with a continuation of the
discussion about the concept by social philosophers, and consider
discussions about the necessity of such debates useless, in fact
superfluous. For those who will lead public opinion today and
tomorrow, the question has been answered. The direction is determined
by necessity, and the people are the final goal. Public opinion
consequently may never be confused with the more or less noisy
views of a class of a clique which are of no interest to the
By public opinion I mean those opinions that contribute to
nation-building and maintenance in which the majority of the
people have a direct interest or can be persuaded to take an
There cannot therefore be an uncertain public opinion, for
it has to hold an entirely clear line on material matters and
ideas. When that is not the case, for example during liberal
periods, the resulting confusion of sectarian views of the various
classes and groups leads to the abyss from which we rescued the
German people by presenting them with a revolutionary idea that
by the help of propaganda became their public opinion.
It is time to distinguish the often misunderstood words propaganda
and advertising, which are sometimes intentionally confused.
Advertising experts, historians, scientists, experts and laymen
alike have attempted to distinguish the words propagandist and
advertising agent by a variety of longer or shorter definitions.
No one has really succeeded. Perhaps that is because no one from
the propaganda side has gotten involved in the discussion, since
during the last fourteen years professional propagandists in
Germany have hardly had time for theoretical discussions, and
before that one could hardly speak of propaganda activity in
Now that the National Socialist worldview has taken power
and there is a Ministry of Propaganda, such theoretical questions
can be neither ignored nor left unclear.
The National Socialist movement over the years has trained
a certain group of people to be propagandists. One cannot any
longer conceive of the organization without them. Both are factors
in the state that form a political unit with the same goal as
ever: All for Germany.
They serve no interest group. Rather they are there to express the will
of the people and its worldview, a worldview that has proven itself to
the people as true and good. They are there to spread it to the masses
for the good of the people.
Propagandists help to form and carry out governmental politics,
and share the responsibility for it.
Politics is not a necessary evil, nor is it one of many factors
necessary to the existence of a people. It is the essential factor
for the people. Sound politics spreads strength and progress
to all other branches of society and the sciences. The best economic
policy will be fail under bad politics.
Politics is the primary factor.
A successful, far-seeing politics requires a powerful idea.
All successful ideas are bound to the laws of existence, but
their uniqueness depends upon the fact that they apply to “everyone,”
not to “some.”
Worldviews descend to the depths of humanity. Their impact
is above all spiritual, inward.
We do not need to argue here that every political idea has
the characteristics of a worldview.
We have established our worldview after a long struggle. Each must now
reckon with us, whether he likes it or not. The idea has become reality,
and this reality can not be disputed or ignored.
The proclaimer of this worldview is the politician.
The worldview, this politics, applies to everything. Therefore
its propaganda is the political line, political education, political
advertising and also political pressure for everyone for the
good of the people.
The propagandist is therefore the authorized representative
of a political worldview or of a spiritual-religious idea.
Advertising is promotion for something physical, indeed for
Advertising serves the economy, or particular areas, purposes
Advertising praises goods.
Propaganda spreads an idea.
Propaganda serves only politics.
The two have in common an organized set of methods often different
ones which “result in the acceptance or fulfillment of the
needs they present.” Both use agitators, though in recent years the
term has come to have a thoroughly political meaning.
It would be erroneous to attempt to draw a value judgment
from the difference outlined here.
Some propagandists have been or could be good advertising
agents, though we have rarely seen it work the other way. But
that is not my point! The advertising agent is familiar, and
has a long tradition. The propagandist should also become as
familiar a concept. He must create something necessary: a tradition!
Just as any other German, he is a worker in construction,
a becomer and a knower. But he has even greater responsibility
to do more, to create more fanatically, for he is a political
On with propaganda!
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