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Nazi propaganda was centered around a hatred of the Jews

Poster depicting America as a monstrous war machine destroying European culture
Poster depicting America as a monstrous war machine destroying European culture

Nazi Germany was noted for its psychologically powerful propaganda, much of which was centered around Jews, who were scapegoated as the source of Germany's economic problems. Nazi propaganda also expressed themes more common among the warring countries: the imminent defeat of their enemies, the need for security, etc. Doctored newsreel footage was also used to garner support for the Nazi cause. Leni Riefenstahl is likely the most famous propagandist; her film Triumph of the Will is still viewed today as a masterpiece in filmmaking.

Joseph Goebbels was the Minister for Public Enlightenment & Propaganda in Nazi Germany and played a large role in creating new anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi material for the party. He was in charge of a propaganda machine which reached right down to branch level. In this way information and instructions could be sent out from party headquarters and adapted to local circumstances.

Before the war

The ideology of Nazism and its resulting propaganda before the start of World War II had several distinct audiences:

  • German audiences were continually reminded of the struggle of the Nazi Party and Germany against foreign enemies and internal enemies, especially Jews.
  • Ethnic Germans in countries such as Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, the Soviet Union, and the Baltic states were told that blood ties to Germany were stronger than their allegiance to their new countries.
  • Potential enemies, such as France and the United Kingdom, were told that Germany had no quarrel with the people of the country, but that their governments were trying to start a war with Germany.
  • All audiences were reminded of the greatness of German cultural, scientific, and military achievements.

During world war II

Until the conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad on February 4, 1943, German propaganda emphasized the prowess of German arms and the supposed humanity German soldiers had shown to the peoples of occupied territories. Pilots of the Allied bombing fleets were depicted as cowardly murderers, and Americans in particular as gangsters in the style of Al Capone. At the same time, German propaganda sought to alienate Americans and British from each other, and both these Western nations from the Soviets.

After Stalingrad, the main theme changed to Germany as the sole defender of what they called "Western European culture" against the "Bolshevist hordes". The introduction of the V-1 and V-2 "vengeance weapons" was emphasized to convince Britons of the hopelessness of defeating Germany.

On June 23, 1944, the Nazis permitted the Red Cross to visit concentration camp Theresienstadt to dispel rumors about the Final Solution, which was intended to kill every Jew. In reality, Theresienstadt was a transit camp for Jews en route to extermination camps, but in a sophisticated propaganda effort, fake shops and cafés were erected to imply that the Jews lived in relative comfort. The guests enjoyed the performance of a children's opera, Brundibar, written by inmate Hans Krása. The hoax was so successful for the Nazis that they went on to make a propaganda film at Theresienstadt. Shooting of the film began on February 26, 1944. Directed by Kurt Gerron, it was meant to show how well the Jews lived under the "benevolent" protection of the Third Reich. After the shooting, most of the cast, and even the filmmaker himself, were deported to the concentration camp of Auschwitz where they were killed.

Goebbels committed suicide on April 30, 1945, shortly after Hitler killed himself. Hans Fritzsche, who had been head of the Radio Chamber, was tried and acquitted by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.

Propaganda Posters

Poster art was a mainstay of the Nazi propaganda effort, targeted both for Germany itself and occupied territories. The themes used reflect a great deal of research into the power of images and ideas to motivate.

Propaganda Films

The Nazis produced a number of films to promote their views. Themes included the virtues of the Nordic or Aryan type, German military and industrial strength, and the evils of the Nazi enemies. On March 11, 1933 The Third Reich established a Ministry of Propaganda, appointing Joseph Goebbels as Minister of Propaganda. On September 22, a Department of Film was incorporated into the Chamber of Culture. The department controlled the licensing of every film prior to production. Sometimes the government would select the actors for a film, financing the production partially or totally, and would grant tax breaks to the producers.

Under Goebbels and Hitler, the German film industry became entirely nationalised. The National Socialist Propaganda Directorate, which Goebbels oversaw, had at its disposal nearly all film agencies in Germany by 1936. Occasionally certain directors, such as Wolfgang Liebeneiner, were able to bypass Goebbels by providing him with a different version of the film than would be released. Such films include those directed by Helmut Käutner: Romanze in Moll (Romance in a Minor Key, 1943), Grosse Freiheit Nr. 7 (The Great Freedom, No. 7, 1944), and Unter den Brücken (Under the Bridges, 1945).

Triumph of the Will, by filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg. It features footage of uniformed party members (though relatively few German soldiers), who are marching and drilling to classical melodies. The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various Nazi leaders at the Congress, including portions of speeches by Adolf Hitler.

The Eternal Jew (or The Wandering Jew) was directed by Fritz Hippler at the insistence of German Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, though the writing is credited to Eberhard Taubert. The movie is done in the style of a documentary, the central thesis being the immutable racial personality traits that characterize the Jew as a wandering cultural parasite. Throughout the film, these traits are contrasted to the Nazi state ideal: While Aryan men find satisfaction in physical labour and the creation of value, Jews only find pleasure in money and a hedonist lifestyle.

Here is an incomplete list of Nazi film: List of films made in the Third Reich.


The Nazis and sympathizers published a great number of books. Many beliefs which would become associated with the Nazis, such as German nationalism, Eugenics and Anti-Semitism had been in circulation since the 19th century, and the Nazis seized on this body of existing work in their own publications.

The most notable is Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf detailing his beliefs. The book outlines major ideas that would later culminate in World War II. It is heavily influenced by Gustave Le Bon's 1895 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, which theorized propaganda as an adequate rational technique to control the seemingly irrational behaviour of crowds. Particularly prominent is the violent anti-Semitism of Hitler and his associates, drawing, among other sources, on the fabricated "Protocols of the Elders of Zion". For example, Hitler claimed that the international language Esperanto was part of a Jewish plot and makes arguments toward the old German nationalist ideas of "Drang nach Osten" and the necessity to gain Lebensraum ("living space") eastwards (especially in Russia).

Other books such as Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes (Ethnology of German People) by Hans Günther and Rasse und Seele (Race and Soul) by Dr. Ludwig Ferdinand Clauss attempt to identify and classify the differences between the German, Nordic or Aryan type and other, supposedly inferior, peoples. These books were used as texts in German schools during the Nazi era.

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