The Power of Propaganda: Adolf Hitler
Picture Germany in 1939 - A national community shaped according to racial ideals, twisted laws and exploited economic woes all lead by one infamous dictator - Adolf Hitler.
Adolf Hitler, the legendry dictator and the leader of the Nazi party, often reminds us of his rabble-rousing speeches, death, and destruction that encompassed World War 2. Hitler used his charisma to win the support of Germany’s young democracy, implementing radical programs under his dictatorship and, most importantly, justifying war and mass murder.
Adolf Hitler was born in a small Austrian town, Braunau am Inn near the Austrian-German front on 20th April. After the death of his parents, Hitler moved to Vienna in the early 18th century. Lonely, Hitler soon became interested in politics and came up with many ideologies that were later used by the Nazi party.
In 1913, Hitler eventually moved to Munich, a state in Bavaria, and was part of the First World War, where he was wounded twice and then transferred to a hospital in Pasewalk, Berlin. He soon received news of the loss of Germany in the First World War, and he believed, like many others, that the main reason was the lack of nationalistic fervor, and a rise in German traitors.
In late 1918 Hitler returned to Munich and joined the German worker's party - the precursor to National Socialist German Workers' Party or the Nazi party. By the end of 1921, he was leading the Nazi party and took advantage of extensive discontent against the punishing terms of the Versailles treaty.
Adolf Hitler soon understood the importance of creating an appealing public image. He tailored his attire and speeches according to his audience and practiced hand gestures to enhance his presence. The Austrian-born Hitler portrayed himself as the foreign soldier who fought in the First World War and as the messiah of the German people, following which he became the first director of propaganda.
Propaganda or biased data designed to shape public opinion and behavior was a technique/method used by the Nazis that made people vulnerable and helped the Nazis achieve their goal, eventually leading to the death in the Holocaust of about 55 million people, and the systematic murder of 6 million Jewish men, women, and children.
The Nazi party’s extreme nationalism, racism, and antisemitism brought them a few followers, but as the Great Depression struck in 1929, the simple messages and concrete policies attracted the Germans at this time of economic difficulty. Although the Nazi party did not win the majority, they won nearly 40% of the seats in Reichstag, helping them rise from insignificance to eminence. All of this was the result of the propaganda-based campaigns.
Nazi propagandists constantly supported their view that birth and economic status will no more affect their social, military, or political advancements in the new ‘National Community’.
Antisemitism was one of the main philosophies of Hitler. He maintained that the Aryan race is superior, but it disguised persecution. This seemed to cater to the German people as well as the elites. The command made it clear that not all Germans, such as Jews, African Germans, and Roma, would be tolerated and separated based on the grounds of their race.
Based on their biological abilities, and disabilities, they were also qualified. They circulated anti-Semitic films, newspaper cartoons, and expressed theories about ethnic purity and racial impurity, and it soon became a government policy. The Jews were now portrayed as the separate and alien race that was used for various vicious political attacks and infected the Germans. The main source for their anti-Jewish propaganda was the newspaper Der Stürmer (The Attacker).
Few months after the onset of the Nazi propaganda Hitler became chancellor, and very soon the freedom of the press was obsolete. Jewish-owned businesses were forcefully transferred to the non-Jews and daily directives from the government were sent dictating what could and what could not be published. The Nazi propaganda was spread through newspapers, radio, and music all by controlling what they produced.
From the early 1920s onwards, the Nazis started indoctrinating the youth. They targeted educators as their audience. Independent youth organizations were prohibited, and membership in the Hitler Youth was made mandatory for all German Aryans between the ages of 10 to 18.
Propaganda became an integral part of the Nazi Party’s military expansionist strategy. They constantly emphasized that the nation's enemies had instigated the war and were trying to enslave the German people. Although the Nazi’s did not incite Germans to murder the Jewish, they asked them not to interfere while the state carried out their mass genocide to “protect” them from the “Jewish enemy”.
The Nazis showed us in the 20th century how dangerous propaganda in the hands of an expert can be. The Nazi propagandists used technology and mass communication strategies to conduct misleading political campaigns and to achieve and advance their radical goals. All the evils executed by the Nazi's altered public opinion of propaganda demonstrated the dangers of information manipulation and the elimination of free speech. Propaganda is well and truly a terrible weapon even in the hands of a commoner.
About The Author -
Shivangi Shekhar, an active member of the rotary and interact club loves spending her time doing community service. A student of humanities at Sophia high school, an amateur writer who loves capturing every moment in her camera .