CAS Calvin College


 

Background: Outsiders’ views of Nazi propaganda are often influenced by that very propaganda. The Nazis seemed to have a smoothly functioning propaganda system that reached everyone effectively. The truth was rather different. This essay, based on the authorís experiences as a Nazi speaker, reveal some of the problems the system faced.

The source: Max Crooner, “Die öffentliche politische Versammlung — wie sie der Redner sieht,” Unser Wille und Weg, 7 (1937), pp. 54-59.


The Public Political Meeting —

From the Speakerís Viewpoint

by Gau Speaker Max Cronauer


Our Führerís greatest goal is to make the whole nation National Socialist. One of the most important and difficult duties of a local group leader [of the Nazi Party] is therefore to prepare the entire population of his area for this new kind of humanity.

The masses are in part still politically indifferent. The task is to saturate them with the depths of the National Socialist worldview, a task that is as difficult as it is decisive for our political future. A great people like the Germans will master its historical mission only if it is filled with fanatical faith and is convinced of the necessity to struggle for its eternal political existence. In our case: Our German people must accept the will of the party and state, and gradually become filled with the worldview of National Socialist thinking. An important tool in this process is the public political meeting. More than any other method, it is able to lead broad sections of the population to National Socialism and its faith, putting an end to the “unpolitical attitudes” of German citizens once and for all.

The political speaker is an important helper and comrade for the local group leader in reaching this goal. Close cooperation between these two will bring us significantly nearer to our great goal. The speakers sent by the Gaue and Kreise [Nazi regional and county offices] have great responsibility within the movement.

I will not speak here of the responsibilities of the speaker. Rather, based on my long years of experience as a Gau speaker who has seen many fine and well prepared meetings, but also unfortunately some that have failed. Unfortunately, some local groups do not think that the external arrangements for a meeting are important. It is certainly true that the persuasive speech of a good speaker can be effective even when the meeting does not have a particularly attractive setting, but the effect is the same as if one were to see a beautiful painting on the wall without a frame, or in a frame that was inappropriate and tasteless.

I have spoken at some meetings this year that were held in downright unattractive settings, examples of what may no longer be the case. This is particularly true in small towns and villages. Let me say openly that it seems that some local group leaders either do not understand the importance of such meetings, or at least are not in the position to carry out these meetings under conditions that are appropriate to the dignity of the movement.

For example, one arrives in a village of 800 and finds a meeting with 60 to 80 in attendance. Two dozen are members of the HJ [The Hitler Youth] or the BDM [the girls’ organization], etc. The 80 visitors sit ashamed along the walls, one here, two there. Aside from these few people, the seats before the speaker are empty, and the walls are undecorated. The speaker has a five or six hour train ride behind him, and is now supposed to preach Adolf Hitlerís gospel in these unworthy surroundings. He puts all his ability into it, trying to salvage what he can. Generally he will not succeed in establishing a strong connection with the audience under such conditions. Then the meeting chairman will stand up and say a few inappropriate words, after which the few present will sing the national anthem and the “Horst Wessel Song” out-of-tune. The meeting has sunk to the depths. That may not be the rule, but there are still, unfortunately, such meetings.

The few citizens who attend such a miserable meeting will avoid future meetings — and can one blame them? Such meetings are nothing but a disaster for the movement in the area. The organizers of such meetings should be reminded that we filled our meetings to overflowing during the struggle for power, and that often the blood of the best National Socialists was shed for them. How much more should we expect worthy meetings today, in a total National Socialist state.

In my experience, what are the worst sins? Here are some suggestions for improvement.

Meeting Attendance:

It is certainly advisable to limit political meetings in villages during the summer as much as possible, or even to avoid them entirely, since farmers cannot easily free themselves to attend. In the other months, however, one should expect at least an attendance of 30% to 40% of the population. Good meeting leadership means a good meeting. It is no longer acceptable to have empty seats at a National Socialist meeting. Besides, a good attendance should be expected in the villages, since the inhabitants have relatively little else to do. It is not hard to interest villagers in political meetings, in contrast to city-dwellers who have new opportunities every day.

Propaganda:

I sometimes receive a distressing answer when I ask party officials about propaganda. “Propaganda” often consists of the local group leader distributing leaflets with an invitation from door to door. I cannot imagine such a leaflet bringing anyone, much less 400 people, to a meeting. A National Socialist meeting may not be prepared in so light and easy a manner. He who is lazy and organizes a meeting that fails is not up to his responsibilities, and unworthy of the confidence the movement has placed in him. How should one make propaganda in the villages? There are many ways, all of which cannot be covered here. But one major point. The three most important people in a village are the local group leader, the mayor, and the local farmers’ leader. At least these three should all be involved in the propaganda for political meetings. They are the pillars of propaganda. They should be assisted by other party leaders and the leaders of other organizations such as the S.A., the S.S., the NSKOB, the Labor Front, etc. These leaders along with their members can assist in propaganda. Other groups such as veterans can also of course be included. A meeting conducted by the local group leader should be held at least eight days before the public meeting. Thereafter, each leader should call a brief meeting of his organization and encourage people to promote the public meeting. It is essential that those who are not members of an organization are also persuaded to attend the meeting. There is no point in filling the hall only with those who have been ordered to attend.

Propaganda is by no means finished when this has been done. The evening before the meeting, and two hours before the meeting itself, the Hitler Youth should march through the village. Chants accompanied by their own band or one from a neighboring community should announce the meeting.

The local press will naturally make propaganda as well. Local news items are particularly effective. The meeting should also be announced by public officials or posted on bulletin boards. But these methods may not replace oneís own work, in particular personal invitations.

These are just a few of the methods that can be used in every village, without incurring any cost. All of them together, not one alone, are necessary for success. The local group leader must be sure that a variety of means are used. Then the meeting will be a success.

The Meeting Itself:

The outward appearance of the meeting hall is often still not satisfactory. What is the minimum that must be done? First, the hall must be decorated with party symbols. If the hall owner himself does not have large Swastika flags, one should get them from schools, the mayor, private citizens, etc. If possible, there should be several flags in the hall. At the least, the platform on which the speaker stands must have a Swastika flag. Many villages are in or near forests. It will be easy to secure greenery and decorate the hall with it. The local womenís group may find this a pleasant assignment!

Heating is a regular problem. I have often spoken at meetings in the winter that were too cold! The only stove is in a corner. It is lit only just before the meeting begins, and to save money the fire is not kept going. The few attendees cluster around the fire, producing a miserable sight. Those sitting near the speaker, and the speaker himself, freeze. The local group leader must see to it that the hall is well heated during the entire meeting. That naturally requires the appropriate negotiations with the hall owner. People will not come if they know they will freeze. They will stay in bed. Neither may the room be overheated. A hot room is impossible for the speaker and wears out the audience.

Only rarely are village meetings begun by ceremonial entrances of flag bearers. If there are enough flags, it is obvious that the meeting should begin with such a march. It is a worthy and moving ceremony that greatly influences the further course of the meeting. Naturally music is necessary. If there is no S.A. or Hitler Youth band, a piano may be an acceptable substitute, as long as it is not too out of tune and there is a good piano player available. It is a good idea to play a few marches or fighting tunes before the flag bearers march in. That gets the meeting excited and will even persuade some to show up in the first place.

The meeting chairman does not speak after the political speech is over. He merely closes the meeting — preferably with a single sentence — and announces the singing of the national anthem. Anything more than that is bad! Even if the meeting chairman can speak well, he should not give a long speech, something that unfortunately sometimes happens. If there is some particularly reason to say something about local events, he may mention it in the context of the speech, but only then, and very briefly. Nothing more, Why should the meeting chairman add to the speakerís political address? The speaker has finished, and that should be that.

Handling Speakers:

Of course the local group leaders should treat the speaker as the guest of the local group. He should pick him up at the train station and bring him to his quarters. With a few exceptions, the speaker is not a full-time speaker, but rather is a volunteer for the movement. He must be taken care of in every way. Payment should be made by the treasurer before the meeting. Sometimes, the treasurer is either not there, or “doesn’t know anything.” The speakerís honorarium is fixed by the Gau. It is not a “reward” for the speaker, but rather it covers his expenses, meals, etc. It is not appropriate for the speaker and the local group leader to argue about money.

Evaluating the Speaker:

The local group leader is obligated to send a report about the meeting to the Gau office immediately afterward. Probably every Gau uses a questionnaire for this purpose. If the local group leader is not satisfied with the speaker, he can note this in the report. If there are still speakers here and there who are not up to the task, they must stop speaking and serve the movement in other ways. The local group leader has an important role in maintaining the speaker corps. In each report, he should judge the speaker strictly, but also fairly.

 

[Page copyright © 1999 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]


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