German Propaganda Archive Calvin College

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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.


Political Propaganda

by Schulze-Wechsungen


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 method—because 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 it.

“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 nature.

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 any failure.

“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, confidence!

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 the propaganda.

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 statesmen—statesmen 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 to it.

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 labors.

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 and understand.

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 opinion—it 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 opinion—unless 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 public—the people!

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 interest in.

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 Germany.

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 something specific.

Advertising serves the economy, or particular areas, purposes and tasks.

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 soldier. Therefore:

On with propaganda!

 

[Page copyright © 1998 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]


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