German Propaganda Archive Calvin College

 

Background: This article comes from the partyís monthly for propagandists. Itís an interesting statement on propaganda from early in the Nazi period. It suggests a greater role of the Nazi Party in making propaganda than it in fact had. Despite the articleís encouragement, the Nazis quickly found that it wasn’t possible to maintain the population in a state of constant enthusiasm.

The source: Unser Wille und Weg, 4 (1934), pp. 293-301.


The Work of Propagandists

in the National Socialist State

by Hugo Ringler


The 1934 party congress belongs to history. The hundreds of thousands of participants, after a week of powerful experiences, have returned to their homes and jobs. Political leaders received directives for the coming months at the party congress and at numerous special conferences. Every party office, every political leader from the Gau down to the very last local group is now intent on carrying out the plans laid out at Nuremberg, to work for the best of the National Socialist Party and thereby that of the German people. It will be the goal of each participant to meet the goals laid out at Nuremberg not only approximately, but entirely, to further the building of the new state.

The propagandists of the movement of course will follow the general line, particularly as laid out in the proclamation of the Führer. But they will have two further sets of goals as well: those of the major speech by party comrade Dr. Goebbels at the party congress, and those of the special meeting of the Gau and Kreis propaganda leaders held in the Apollo Theater. Dr. Goebbels’ remarks at the party congress to more than 20,000 political leaders are contained in a supplement to this issue. This should be read. Of no less significance and importance for propagandists is the speech the Reichspropagandaleiter [Goebbels] held at the special meeting. It is regrettable that the Appollo Theater is too small to allow all political leaders to hear the speech. The words of Dr. Goebbels are valuable resource for the 1400 Gau and Kreis propaganda leaders and their associates and speakers who were able to attend. A fresh breeze blew through the Appollo Theater. Dr. Goebbels dealt bluntly with objections, and showed how propaganda must be conducted to keep such objections from developing. Here is a brief summary of his remarks.

Everyone must work just as hard today when the National Socialist movement is the ruler of the state as he did in the days when our movement was fighting for power.

That does not mean that propagandists should stop looking for new methods and new ways to improve their work. This is particularly true since some methods and means that were successful during the struggle for power are now outdated or stale. These methods must be replaced by new ones. The Führer in his proclamation set the goal of winning those citizens to the National Socialist world view who were still outside our ranks on 19 August 1934 [the referendum giving Hitler complete power]. We must do everything possible, using new methods and techniques, to win these citizens to our cause.

Those who believe that the movementís propagandists are less important now, since we now control the state, which in turn controls the various propaganda methods, show only that they understand nothing of the nature and necessities of modern propaganda. Occasionally one encounters a party member or even a political leader who thinks this way. They believe that propaganda is no longer really a task of the party, rather of the state, since it controls the major means of propaganda such as the radio, the press, film, etc. They believe that instead of holding a meeting that reaches perhaps a thousand or ten thousand people, it would be better to broadcast the speech over the radio and reach a much larger audience, or they wonder if mass meetings are even necessary any longer, since the state has the ability to get its message to the people through special editions or articles in the press.

We must vigorously oppose such viewpoints. History has shown us, and our opponents, that using such methods would in the long run guarantee us the fate of our opponents. During our struggle for power, our opponents controlled practically the entirety of the press and radio. Films attacked us as well. Our National Socialist movement had none of these media, only itself and the spoken word; it had to rely on its speakers. Despite that fact, in our fourteen year battle we defeated the enemy. That alone is sufficient proof that all those other methods are not enough. If we combine these means with National Socialist action and National Socialist spirit, we can make them into strong weapons for our worldview. But without a connection to the National Socialist fighting spirit, they will remain ineffective.

From this it is clear that the struggle for the German people and the propaganda for the National Socialist state can never be a task of the state, rather must ever be solely a matter for the party. The movement has the people who are ready and willing to put the National Socialist thinking and will of the state into action. They will use the means of the state. The state cannot carry out the tasks of popular enlightenment and propaganda without the help of the fighters of the National Socialist party. And if the methods were used too often they would lose their effectiveness; even worse, too frequent use would destroy the connection between government and people. The fate of the old parties and the old system demonstrates this. These parties believed that once they had a certain degree of power and a certain number of supporters, they could govern the people from government offices. This erroneous theory, which we knew well how to exploit, is the cause of their collapse. In our fourteen-year struggle for power, we went to the people, we sought to maintain a living connection with the people. The leadership of our party did not hold secret conferences and deliberations, rather everyone from the Führer to the last minor official always strove to stand in the middle of the people, for only in that way could they learn the peopleís problems, needs and wishes. Today the National Socialist movement controls the state. No party member with any office at all in the party can neglect to maintain and strengthen this living contact with the people. Were a political leader even in the smallest village to believe that he could neglect this contact, since his party possessed the state, he would quickly find himself and his politics isolated from the people and himself rejected.

Along the same lines, some think that mass meetings are no longer necessary, or even worse, that meetings in general are no longer effective, since the people no longer want them. Dr. Goebbels rejected this idea energetically, saying that wherever the population displayed such a dislike of meetings, the fault was not with the people, rather with those who were not able to hold meetings that the public liked. Some of our opponents laughed when the NSDAP first began holding mass meetings. They believed that since people refused to attend their old-fashioned and calcified meetings, they would also stay away from the our movementís meetings, which corresponded to the wishes of the people. Those gentlemen aren’t laughing any longer. We could one day suffer the same fate if we make the same mistake and believe that meetings are no longer necessary or effective. Whenever such a threat surfaces, we must work to see that meetings are conducted effectively and that the people come because they are interested in our meetings. If we prepare our meetings with the same fanatic effort, with the same passion, and the same intensity as during the struggle for power, we will not have to complain about poor attendance or even opposition. But if a local group leader believes he can force people to attend a meeting by a meeting by putting an ad in the local newspaper or by distributing a leaflet threatening that those who do not attend will be seen as traitors or will show that they are uninterested in the party or the new state, who indeed attempts in any way to fill his meeting hall by force, he should not be surprised when he finds uninterested people or even empty seats on the night of the meeting. Such behavior can only be explained as the result of great intellectual weakness. We have always been proud to be a movement of the people. Today, too, we must mobilize the people so that they come to our meetings with enthusiasm and interest in hearing what we have to say. We cannot compel the people who showed on 19. August 1934 how powerfully they supported us to attend our meetings. He who tries to fill his meetings by threats, even if he succeeds, does not advance our idea, rather damages it, for the attendees will conclude that the National Socialist movement is no longer able to attract people to it without the use of force.

It is self-evident that careful preparations must be made for meetings and that the speaker must do his best. No speaker, particularly in the thousands of small meetings that occur every day, may assume that it is not as important as it once was to prepare his speeches carefully. It is impermissible to speak for an hour or an hour and a half in a cold and empty way. During the struggle for power we fought for the soul of every single citizen and gave our full energies to winning supporters for our movement. Today we must fight to strengthen the teachings of our worldview in the souls of the people, to persuade them and make true National Socialists of them.

The core of the Reichspropagandaleiterís message to those at the special meeting was that speakers “have to look the people in the eyes.” We may not think that the struggle is over since we now possess power, and that our meetings now should have a “higher intellectual level.” We must resolutely reject the claim of those who want us to believe that it is no longer “polite” so speak with the same forceful and clear language of the struggle for power. We must always remember that we succeeded because we spoke in a way that the people understood. In the bible of National Socialism, the Führerís Mein Kampf, he ironically describes a bourgeois meeting. A certain part of the intellectual class found pleasure in the “well organized and profound knowledge” of the speaker. The overwhelming majority of the German people, and the workers in particular, however, rejected this lukewarm hash. May our meetings never become a kind of “fine arts” gathering. Speakers must avoid being offensive, but they must also avoid weakness. The speaker must speak in a way that the people understand. They must sense that he feels the worries and problems of the people, and that his work serves the good of the people.

If today the same fighting spirit that supported our fourteen year struggle for power fills our meetings, if we conduct our labors in this same spirit, if we never give up on a deep and living relationship to the people, the success of our labors is assured. The same force that once filled our meetings — and only our meetings — will flow in our meetings today as well.

The same spirit necessary for our meetings is required for all other areas of our work for the movement. The key commandment is never to depart from the line that we followed in our fourteen-year struggle for power. In all that we do we must remain what we were when we joined the ranks of the activists of the movement. We must never believe that, just because the means and power of the state are on our side, we may slack off, or conduct our struggle differently than in the way that led us to that power.

Reichspropagandaleiter Dr. Goebbels gave a vivid illustration of how to act. There have been cases in which a newspaper editor believed he had to editorialize against National Socialism or against some measure of the new government. The local group leader or the responsible party office responded by sending the editor to a concentration camp, or by threatening to do so. If the offense is not overly serious, if there really is no great need to punish it, if it is a case of minor importance in some provincial paper, or even if it is in a city paper, we should approach it as we did during the struggle for power. During those days tens of thousands of red [socialist] and black [Catholic] pigs spewed their poison against us. We could not ask the state to deal with them. That was probably good, for we were then unable to present these black and red pigs to the public for what they really were. They would have appeared to the public as “martyrs of conscience” or “martyrs to their profession.” In those days we called the people to mass meetings and proved to them the slanderous nature of the accusations. We must do the same today. If a newspaper forgets its duty and wants to return the methods of the past, we should oppose it forcefully with every means at our disposal. We must show the people in a mass meeting who it is who still attempts to interfere with the building of the new Germany. We can be sure that in such a case we act not only in the interests of the movement, but also in the interests of every decent citizen. Those who we oppose in such a manner will most certainly lose interest in any similar experiments in the future. But we will also have given the people proof that National Socialism does not need to depend on state power or require it to carry out its work. Such action will also contribute to winning over that small part of our people that still is not with us. We do not wish to win this small group to our worldview by force or pressure. Rather, where ever and whenever it is possible, and without force or pressure, we want to use the means of education and public pressure on the foes of renewal. If we work in this way, the splendid old fighting spirit that was with us at the very beginning, and which led us onward to our present success, will live on in us and our movement. That will be the best guarantee that the movement will continue to move forward in every way.

 

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