Imagine a world without TV, independent radio, internet, or mobile phones. Imagine that the only information you had was in the form of propaganda and images designed to provoke a reaction and, ultimately, a form of control over you. This was the reality of people living in Germany during the 1930's. Hitler was a destructive man, and it cannot be doubted that Nazi Germany was the most destructive political regime of the twentieth century, not only because it unleashed World war II but because of its impact on society. Hitler's propaganda in the form of images and information alone had a very profound impact on German society.
After the seizure of power by the Nazis in 1933, Hitler established a Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda headed by Joseph Goebbels. The ministry's goal was to ensure that the Nazi message was successfully communicated through art, music, theater, film, books, radio, educational materials, and the press. Propaganda is the name for such materials, which is the understood systematic manipulation of an anonymous audience with the help of mass media.(Stout 12)
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Nazi propaganda was very successful in portraying the Germans as supermen and making Hitler seem almost godlike. What Nazi propaganda did best was make the German people think that world conquest was their destiny and possibly their duty to conquer all people who were "inferior" to them. It pushed the notion that they were the master race, Joseph Goebbels did a very effective job as Minister of Propaganda in many ways. Not only were posters an effective tool but also the speeches Hitler gave were very carefully orchestrated. The way he would begin the speech very calm and work himself into a frenzy by the end of it, that was a great piece of acting.
For the Nazis, propaganda was not only a tool for acquiring new followers, it also took a lead role in the integration of new party members. During wartime, propaganda showed aggression to the opponents of the Nazi Party. Propaganda continuously operated in a very comprehensive sense. Adolf Hitler became the chief propagandist. In autumn 1919, he took responsibility for the propaganda work of the entire party. In 1933, Joseph Goebbels was appointed the Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Gobbels worked to make better previously developed the principles of Adolf Hitler Nazi propaganda. These basic rules he published in his book "Mein Kampf". The Principles of Nazi propaganda were not original, but they fit the contemporary thought. In that same book Hitler wrote about his realization that his propaganda was not only effective but that it had the ability to convince and coerce as art. As author Alan Robbins points out in Dire Image: The Art of Persuasion "Hitler was, notoriously, an artist first. In fact thousands of watercolors, oils, and drawings have been attributed to him."(Robbins 165) Now putting these ideas together we see how he was able to manipulate so well, he was a fine artist and coupled with his leadership abilities made him simply unstoppable. Hitler was no ordinary artist however but he was very devoted to it . In the "Mein Kampf" he even states "art is the only truly enduring effort of human labor."(Hitler 215)
Hitler himself said "All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach." Hitler acknowledged that the images and slogans he produced to rally support needed to be easily recognized and read by everyone. They had to be simple yet powerful at the same time. This relates back to Read Schuchardt's point in The Perfect Icon for the Imperfect Postliterate World and his example of the Christian icthus. Schuchardt says "But to Christians the text less symbol still signified silent rebellion against the ruling authorities. Within three centuries, the faith signified by the fish had transformed Rome into a Christian empire."(Schuchardt 76) Now thinking back to Germany, we see this is the exact same situation. Hitler's propaganda and images did the same thing, allowing him to rise to power easily and without much opposition at first. His pro-Nazi symbols and posters were easily recognizable by the general population and quite hard to miss.
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Two of the key points of a successful public propaganda event are the location and time of day. Hitler knew from his own experience that events evenings and other prestigious venues such as sports stadiums, brought the best success. The events were also supported with banners, fanfare, marching columns, flames, torches and banners. At the time people felt well cared for, connected, and thus susceptible to the propaganda messages of Hitler.
A prime example of a powerful image produced by Hitler is shown in figure one below. In the poster, it is very hard not to notice the appearance of light around Hitler, almost giving him a halo. Furthermore, the presence of a winged bird lends angelic characteristics to the poster, and this is only enhanced by the presence of wreath-like flowers around the poster. We can also see what appears to be thousands of men behind Hitler holding Nazi flags presumably to show the growing support for him. The major part here is the German phrase below the picture. It means "Long live Germany" meaning that Hitler is planning to lead the crusade to make Germany the all powerful nation. There is also an Eagle overhead symbolizing majesty and power. Now all else aside, a person viewing that poster would associate Hitler with power and majesty which are two positive characteristics for a leader to have. We soon realize why he rose to power so quickly; it was through images like this.
It is clear that certain images can have a profound effect on society. Hitler used the visual effects of poster to show that things were good in the Nazi party. He used images of himself to show the image of unity and reassurance that everything was ok and that people will be treated as a friend. This was a quite effective as the posters and leaflets were put up around the towns and cities in Germany and so the people could gather certain images and information off the Nazi party easily. We can see the overall combined effectiveness of this by looking at history, and what Hitler was able to do with the power that he was granted by using this propaganda. In the end it all comes down to one thing, an image is only effective if the person who views it interprets it as the author intended. Hitler was a very good with images and people who viewed his images interpreted them exactly the way he intended. Consequences from this can still be seen today, after all no other image in history carries such a shock of recognition as the swastika or a pro Nazi poster.