How Was Goebbles Use Of Propaganda In WW2 Unlike Anything Done Before?

How Was Goebbles Use Of Propaganda In WW2 Unlike Anything Done Before?

Jeanette Lamb - January 11, 2017

Ah — The Art of War. Colorful, kitch, pulp propaganda posters created during the First and Second World Wars offer up an entertaining and sometime shocking insight to history. Their purpose and use by governments was very specific. It was used by British, United States, Canadian, French and other government’s alike. No other county stands out like Germany during World War II.

How Was Goebbles Use Of Propaganda In WW2 Unlike Anything Done Before?
Joseph Goebbels, the head of Nazi Germany’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

During that time, the head of the German Nazi’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda from 1933 – 1945 was a man by the name of, Joseph Goebbels. He was a politician and one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates. Not unlike Hitler, he gave dazzling speeches and left audiences captivated. Most of his auditory themes were heavily laced with antisemitic rhetoric. He was unapologetic, purposeful and did not hesitate to share publicly his desire to rid the world of Jews.

His early ambition was to be an author. This was derailed when he fell headlong into a political career — added to which, he spent a number of years writing and unable to get published. During most of his time in politics, his ideals are hard to separate from Geobbels as an individual. After joining the Nazi Party in 1924, it took less than a decade for him to rise to the top ranks. By the time he was appointed head of the Propaganda Ministry, his story telling aspirations were used through radio, art and media — over which he held vast power.

How Was Goebbles Use Of Propaganda In WW2 Unlike Anything Done Before?
Poster for the film, The Eternal Jew, directed by Fritz Hippler

Goebbels may have been in an adventitious position. When he first became a member of the Nazi Party, Hitler was on trial accused of treason. During the fiasco, Goebbels witnessed Hitler’s court case propel his ideology into the public sphere. At the same time, this was happening, the Nazi party took note of Goebbels failed ambitions. Offering him work as a news reporter gave him a glimmer of hope his literary aspirations were not lost. His focus on writing, however, was ultimately swallowed by political ideologies.

He at first broke with Hitler, albeit privately, over differing economic outlooks. This soon changed. Both men were in Munich giving speeches on the same day. They met and soon after Goebbels was confessing his admiration, love and unwavering loyalty to Hitler as if he embodied the meaning of life. It is not easy to argue the Nazi Party and Hitler did not fulfill Goebbles vocation. After meeting Hitler, his future was cast. Goebbles rose in the ranks. He used story telling to successful thrust propaganda into the forefront of people minds. Ideas he created spread like wildfire and shaped political and social thought.

Propaganda is defined as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.” In many ways, there is no one better to compose fictional truth than someone who has a natural talent for spinning fictitious truths. Goebbles had his work cut out for him. His propaganda use departs from how it was employed at the beginning. From its conception, propaganda promoted ideas about religious fervor.

How Was Goebbles Use Of Propaganda In WW2 Unlike Anything Done Before?
A 1937 anti-Bolshevik Nazi propaganda poster. The translated caption: “Bolshevism without a mask – large anti-Bolshevik exhibition of the NSDAP Gauleitung Berlin from November 6, 1937 to December 19, 1937 in the Reichstag building”.

Propaganda: The Early Years …

Perhaps not surprisingly, use of the word first surfaced when Europe was engaged in one of its bloodiest conflicts. In 1622 during the Thirty Years War, the Catholic Church created an official group called, Congregatio de Propaganda Fide or Congregation for Propagating Faith.

Its purpose was to form missions that would venture into foreign regions and spread the Catholic Religion. Because the printing press had been invented by then, it came in handy for such occasions. Of course, it was probably more efficient to dress a person up and send them down the road to cast a message far and wide. There were flaws yet to be worked out. There was no reason to celebrate the ability to create 1000 leaflets for a village where a majority of the population were illiterate.

How Was Goebbles Use Of Propaganda In WW2 Unlike Anything Done Before?
The headquarters of the Propaganda fide in Rome, North facade on Piazza di Spagna by architect Bernini, the southwest facade seen here by Borromini: etching by Giuseppe Vasi, 1761

Art, Revolution and the Superman Complex

Napoleon: Propaganda through Paintings

Finally, in the 1790s the word propaganda was itself being propagated. It was noted as a useful way to spread information, effectively and widely. Creating propaganda to perpetuate political ideas enabled Napoleon Bonaparte to campaign and spread ideas about his military might and superhero like qualities. A painting that exemplifies this depicts Napoleon standing in a village near a group of citizens that are dying from the black plague. His health is evident. His glowing completion is visible because his face is not guarded by a cloth or anything to prevent the fatal disease from attacking him — suggesting, it cannot. It was with the spirit the French artist Jacques-Louis David was commissioned by the King of Spain in 1801 to paint a larger than life Napoleon crossing the perilous Alps, which were known around Europe for being almost sinister due to their ability to make a person lightheaded as a result of looking at them.

How Was Goebbles Use Of Propaganda In WW2 Unlike Anything Done Before?

World Wars I & II: Propaganda & War in a Technologically Developed World

By the time the First and Second World Wars roll around, the western world was in the midst of an Industrial Revolution — mass production had reached a new level of sophistication. Printing evolved immensely and so had the average person’s ability to read. This increased the use of other viable modes of transmitting propaganda. Fabricated stories were promoted by widely read newspapers. Governments issued invented reports. Following the advent of radio and eventually television, war posters were all the rage. They often presented the public with an image that of an average person doing sometimes unbelievable extraordinary things, such as this woman who not only makes bombs for work and to support the war effort, she goes far beyond the call of duty and purchased war bonds — we can assume it is with the cash she earns as a bomb builder.

How Was Goebbles Use Of Propaganda In WW2 Unlike Anything Done Before?
“I’m making bombs and buying bonds! – Buy Victory Bonds.” World War II poster from Canada.
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