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Through controlling information the Nazi regime aimed to reinforce Nazi power and suppress opposing viewpoints and information. They executed these measures through various methods such as the suppression of independent newspapers; through the Reich Press Law and the establishment of the Reich Chamber of Culture to control the arts. The most important reason for them wanting to control information and ‘censor’ material was to maintain the support for the regime through preventing dangerous elements of the regime becoming apparent. If the electorate was sheltered from the negatively viewed aspects of the regime it was more likely the Nazis would remain popular.
The most prominent figure perhaps in controlling information was the Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. It was his responsibility to see that the German people were fed with material acceptable to the Nazi state. Newspapers, radio and all forms of media were put under the control of the Nazis. Through utilizing all media platforms available effectively, combined with restrictions on content the Nazis were able to easily present their view and have the electorate accept it as the only correct and fundamental view. This was easier with a lack of opposition.
Restraints on newspaper content and radio material meant readers and listeners were continually subject to a mass stream of Nazi propaganda and promotion. This gave the Nazis access and control over potentially all aspects of German life, allowing them to maximize their influence on the electorate. It also allowed them to exploit these platforms to further establish stronger support for the regime, particularly targeting individual policies such as the Hitler myth and the Fuhrerprinzip and more radical ideas such as anti Semitism.
Film was an area in which the Nazis were particularly successful, in getting across such views to a mass audience. The Reich Chamber of Culture controlled film content and even artwork. This shows the extent of Nazi control and demonstrated the heavy influence the Nazis had, which if resisted could have dire consequences. One of the Nazi’s aims through such implementation was to reinforce their power. If considered as an element of Gleichschaltung it shows the Nazis progress in this area as they increased the extent of their controls, and the process of the ‘Nazification’ of society.
Encapsulating the youth of society very early on can also be seen as motivation for information control. Hitler placed increasing significance on the youth of society and its role in embracing and continuing the Nazi ‘culture’. Young people were forced to use school text books that had been rewritten by the Nazis which ensured support and more importantly devotion to Hitler was rooted from a young age.
Through filtering information available the Nazis had the German public in their grip as they bombarded them on a daily basis on how their lives had been improved from the day Hitler became Germany’s leader; creating and maintaining support for the regime.
(b) ‘Most Nazi propaganda was ineffective’ Explain why you agree or disagree with this view (24 marks)
The Nazi rise to power is often seen as a classic example of how to achieve political fortune through propaganda. The effectiveness of propaganda is difficult to measure entirely however the Nazis themselves were certainly convinced of its effectiveness and saw it as a skilful way of conveying a message to the bulk of the German people. Although propaganda played a vital role in the success (if one may describe the Nazi’s position as a successful one) of the Nazi regime one of its least effective aspects was that it still failed to convince some individuals into supporting the regime. Despite a few limitations of effectiveness Nazi propaganda was largely effective and vital in securing the Nazis firm grip on German society.
To be able to fully assess the effectiveness of propaganda the aims and objectives of propaganda first need to be considered and then a judgement made on how effectively the Nazi propaganda fulfilled the desired aims. Hitler was clearly devoted to propaganda as he discusses its importance at length in his autobiography, Mein Kampf stating: “The chief function of propaganda is to convince the masses, whose slowness of understanding needs to be given time so they may absorb information; and only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea on their mind.” In accomplishing this aim it was particularly effective as its ubiquitous presence served as a constant reminder to the electorate for the need of their devotion to the Nazi regime.
Propaganda was effective in securing the consolidation of the dictatorship. Many forms of propaganda such as posters and artwork demonstrated state paternalism and reinforced Nazi ideas for the family and young people. The Nazis did this skilfully and with subtlety, with the main purpose of propaganda in the form of film and artwork being to entertain, they included undertones of Nazi beliefs. Also it often reinforced popular prejudices, which widened the appeal of the Nazis. All these elements combined were the key to effective propaganda.
Propaganda aided the Nazis in maintaining support for the regime but was also pivotal in securing their position in the first place through enforcing conformity to the regime. Its omnipresence meant it was difficult for any opposition to have a significant impact. This in effect led to little opposition to the regime, coupled with fear of speaking out against the regime it was an effective combination in ensuring Nazi supremacy.
The many ways in which propaganda was presented to the German population increased its effectiveness. The common thought was the propaganda should infiltrate all aspects of life. A variety of platform such as colour film and the Volksempfanger (the people’s receiver) made it easier for the Nazis to get out their message to the public. With censorship in place the Nazis were confident of success. A rise in cinema attendance figures illustrates this and if one were to judge effectiveness on grounds of exposure it can be stated the statement is false.
An effective form of propaganda was a regular programme of rallies, demonstrations and processions. Whilst displaying the might and prestige of the Nazi regime they also caught the attention of the German people and maintained support. The cameras made sure everybody saw it, the microphones and make sure they heard it. Thousands of Germans gathered at the events to see Hitler’s addresses – the great orator in the hub of the incredible scene. It was all, understandably fantastic for morale and patriotism: of course this was the singular purpose, and it was massively effective in doing so.
Despite a large amount of Germans showing support, many remained unconvinced. Although there was little opposition to the regime, there was a lot less obvious/evident opposition to the regime. Public opinion was highly hostile, especially amongst the working classes. This existence, although not to a great extent, but to an extent, along with punishments implemented for speaking out against the regime undermine the effectiveness of propaganda, as it shows how some signs of effectiveness were perhaps illusionary due to the undocumented difference between publicly stated opinions and private beliefs.
It is possible the Nazis could have succeeded without such extreme propaganda due to their fortunate position, as there was a strong hate for the Weimar constitution they needed little to convince voters and could just as easily have gained support-perhaps not to an equal extent- as an alternative to the constitution, which questions the role of propaganda in their rise to power and implies propaganda was ineffective as there were already circumstances that dictated the Nazi’s success.
A lack of credibility had a vague existence in Nazi propaganda yet a profound impact. The main aim was to promote the regime and perhaps more importantly portray Hitler as the saviour and messiah of Germany. However some propaganda weakened its image by being too extreme. Such propaganda disturbed the carefully created balance between the promotion of Hitler as a caring leader and Nazism leading to speculation of the credibility of propaganda.
The Germans were a highly educated and cultured nation and propaganda failed when it was crude or oppressive. Although it was carefully constructed to appeal to the masses there were exceptions to the rule, such as intellectuals, who denied the regime and refused to support Hitler. Despite little resistance there were still many Germans who remained cynical or unconvinced as demonstrated through the lack of enthusiasm for the attack on Jews during Crystal Night in 1938 and for a European War in 1939.
It is difficult to measure the actual effectiveness of propaganda as public opinion and private beliefs varied and no actual record of effectiveness or success such as opinion polls were kept to provide us with any evidence. However it must be concluded that Nazi propaganda was extremely effective on the basis that it fulfilled its objectives to a large extent. It held wide appeal amongst society when it was subtle yet unambiguous however oppressive tactics were less impressive yet were deployed and reduced the effectiveness of propaganda. Despite this, the most important reason for its massive effectiveness was the way in which it integrated all available platforms turning everything into a propaganda opportunity. Its ubiquitous presence made it difficult to resist its attempts at infiltration. The innovative use of film and radio; a balance of public and personal experiences, define Nazi propaganda as highly effective.
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