"In relation to the political decontamination of our public life, the government will embark upon a systematic campaign to restore the nation's moral and material health. The whole educational system, theatre, film, literature and the press ... all these will be used as a means to this end."(1)
National Socialism considered propaganda as crucial to the conveyance of its new ideal and its discard of liberal democracy. The Fuhrer was the leader of the Party that sought to rectify the damaging and impure influences on the German people of non Aryan culture. A new being and a new conscience was sought by Nazism: a morality that was defined by its contribution to German victory and the eradication of the Jewish people. Propaganda was essential in creating the new norms of society and the means to perpetuate an ideological message.
To perpetrate a Holocaust modernity, was necessitated. Holocaust needed trains, film, theater, art and organizational ability. Whilst Holocaust is the antitheses of modern civilization, it is facilitated by it. Historian Yehuda Bauer explicates the paradox :
"The first thing to remember is that the Holocaust was an actual occurrence in our century. It was not the product of an inexplicable fate or of a supernatural intervention, but one logical, possible outcome of European history. It was done by reasonably educated people in the midst of the most civilized continent on this earth and, in fact, the SS, the murderers, were led by highly educated and sophisticated individuals."(2)
Or as Jack Bemporad, in "The Concept of Man After Auschwitz" denotes:
"The Holocaust has given rise to a temper of absolute dispair - dispair because man has used his most precious knowledge, his reason, his science and technology, the achievements of scientific spirit for genocide, for mass murder."(3)
Propaganda enabled a nation to be imbued by an ideology and become active in the annihilation of the Jewish people or to become passive bystanders. Propaganda provided the means to bridge modernity with barbarism.
The Role of Propaganda in Nazi Germany
Hitler and his Minister of Propaganda, Goebbels, differed in their attitudes towards the role of propaganda. Whilst Hitler believed that:
"Propaganda should go well ahead of organization and gather together the human matter for the latter to work upon ... propaganda and organization stand towards one another in mutual relationship."(4)
Whereas Goebbels argues propaganda will be needed after the Nazi rise to power to guarantee continued faith in party ideology.
Hitler, in 'Mein Kampf', recalls that he was influenced by the impact of the propaganda of the allies in World War One and considered it as resulting in the defeat of Germany:
"Did we have anything you could call propaganda? I regret that I must answer in the negative. Everything that actually was done in this field was so inadequate and wrong from the very start ... the form was inadequate, the substance was psychologically wrong ... The German nation was engaged in a struggle for human existence and the purpose of war propaganda should have been to support the struggle: it's aim to bring about victory."(5)
Hitler was also clear what form propaganda should take:
"Its effects must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so called intellect... all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan ... It does not have multiple shadings: it has a positive and a negative: love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie."(6)
In our previous lecture, we considered Aldous Huxley's description of a propagandist as "a man who canalizes an already existing stream".(7) Goebbels would have agreed. Hitler, however, argued that propaganda should also introduce themes for discussion, whether "Leadership" "The Jew" or "The Purity of Race".
The Nazis considered film an important propaganda tool. Cinema was seen as a mass medium that could appeal to the audience in a crowd, following the rules of group behavior. For an ideology that seeks the individual to lose their sense of individual identity, cinema enduced a mass response of the audience. Moreover due to its visual appeal, film acts on emotion - rather than intellect. Film offers attraction, montage, crescendo and music: It demands the audience to identify with its message, and participate with enthusiasm.
The Nazi's inherited a film industry already in an excellent position to be turned into a state propaganda machine, efficient and loyal. In 1933 Goebbels was made Minister of Popular Enlightenment, and was entrusted with the spiritual direction of the nation. In 1933 a separate Reich Film Chamber was created, although still subordinate to the Reich Chamber of Culture which was given the overall responsibility for theater, literature, music, fine art, press and radio.(8)
A film credit bank was established intended to help finance films and in 1934 the Reich Cinema Law was passed, effectively enabling the state to assume complete responsibility for the creation of film. In 1936 art criticism became restricted, with all art critics requiring a license. On 10th January 1942, UF Film took control of the entire film industry in Germany and facilitated state control over the industry. I am indebted to the writings of Dr. David Welch and Dr. Richard Taylor for this section of the lecture.
Hitler and Goebbels differed in opinion over their attitude concerning the relationship between art and propaganda. Although Hitler considered the two irreconcilable, a random survey of Nazi film shows that German film makers were trying to combine the two; mixing entertainment and propaganda. Indeed, as the prospect of German success became more uncertain, Nazi cinema helped facilitate escapism rather than reinforce ideology.(9) As success in the German war effort became unlikely, propaganda provided an opiate for the masses.
Fuhrerprinzip - The Leadership Principle in Nazi Propaganda.
It is not by accident that the exultation of the leader is central to National Socialism, which demands total subordination to the Fuhrer's will. The role of the Fuhrer has its roots in Volkish mythology in which a revolutionary leader, a personification of true will, would emerge. Hitler, in Nazi propaganda, was portrayed as divine, the embodiment of the collective will of the people. Hitler was considered almighty, all powerful and omnipresent.
To understand the Leadership Principle more clearly, let us consider a number of pieces of Nazi propaganda more specifically. "The Triumph of the Will" (1935) whilst not a "typical" Nazi film, provides a combination of manipulated symbols to aggrandize the icon of the leader and to encourage leadership veneration. In Der Herrsched (The Ruler, 1937) we see an industrialist, whose family attempt to certify him as insane, renounce his family and become a powerful figure in the rebuilding of the new Germany. The industrialist relinquishes his loyalty and obedience unconditionally to the state in an exhaltation of national interest.
In the box office, success 'Bismark' (1940) an historical parallel between Hitler and Bismarck is drawn. The propaganda method of comparison is applied. The film is successful in its purpose: to reinforce the message that faith in the Fuhrer was the essential prerequisite of the unity and greatness of the Third Reich. The Jew in Nazi Propaganda
Antisemitism presented the very cornerstone of National Socialism. Its objective was both ideological and pragmatic. The Jewish stereotype contrived by film propaganda presented the antitheses of what it meant to be German. It enabled contrast to be used, to identify and clarify the Aryan stereotype. By creating an opposite to the ideological ideal propaganda enhanced the ideological message of National Socialism.
The Jew was presented as an infestation; a menace to be resisted, a pest to be destroyed. They were compared to vermin, rats and lice. Pragmatically, antisemitism presented an outlet for the violence inherent within Nazism. Hatred is a unifying force and the creation of an eternal wandering enemy provided the symbol needed to unify the nation. Moreover, with a malevolent enemy, ones own cause becomes indisputably just. Antisemitism provided a unifying force, a purpose and mission, it provided an explanation, and a scapegoat .
Nazi film did not create antisemitism but rather identified an underlying current, and manipulated it for its own purpose. Film provided the stereotype to which its audience could identify. It provided not the hatred, but the stereotypical form of the Jew. It is a development of stereotype, that provides the analytic insight to antisemitism in Nazi film.
The two films 'Leinen aus Ireland' (1939) and 'Robert und Bertram' (1939) sought to portray the subhuman Jew in the framework of comedy. Yet the development of the stereotype remained unsophisticated until the trilogy in 1940 of 'Rothschilds', ' Jud Suss' and 'Wandering Jew'. Indeed, the Jew as a comical figure was problematic for Nazi propaganda. Humor lacks threat, a menace and a sense of urgency.
'Rothschilds' sought to explain the wealth of the Rothschilds family and the emergence of the British - Jewish plutocracy. The film shows Napoleon giving six million Pounds to Rothschilds for safe keeping. The Jew, cunning and interested in profit, uses this as a foundation for a world empire of wealth. Rothschild draws a map of the centers of his influence, effectively his drawing forms a Star of David. The propaganda message is unmistakable, the British are the Jews of the Aryans. Moreover the message implies that the British, by not fighting the Jewish menace, deserve to be subservient to them. Jews are a racial and economic threat. The theme of Jewish power can be traced back to the protocols of the "Elders of Zion", a classic antisemitic writing.
The second film in the antisemitic trilogy is a powerful propaganda film entitled 'Jud-Suss''. It contorts the historically tragic story of Suss Oppenheimer for propagandist purposes. The plot depicts the arrival of the main character Suss ,who because of his cunning and animal instinct, is able to take advantage of the weak Duke and gain a powerful position in society. The film repeats the theme of the animalistic character of the Jew. identifying him as a pest, a rodent and a threat.
Unaware of the Jewish intention of, needless to say ,world domination, the Duke agrees to allow Jews to enter the town. Like parasites, they arrive in thousands to take over.. This continuing theme of Jews as a parasite is central to Nazi antisemitc propaganda. Parasites can be killed and are a threat to their host. Indeed in the film Suss, is killed. It is not by coincidence that this abhorrent film was shown in cities as a prelude to deportation and to SS guards serving in camps. The propaganda rolls the senses, justifies murder and creates the potential for perpetrators and by standers.
It is in the final film of the trilogy, that the full development of the Jewish stereotype in Nazi propaganda is revealed. 'The Wandering Jew' is a powerful propaganda film, claiming documentary authenticity. The name of the film itself, would have a stronger impact on the religious (e.g., Catholics of Poland). The Wandering Jew, is a biblical reference to the Jew that prevented Christ from resting. From the outset the Jew is seen as unchristian, barbaric and oriental.
The film begins with a scene inside the Jew's house. It is depicted as the parasite's nest. It is swarming, dirty and dark. Flees and filth provide the natural surroundings for the Jew; he is like bloodsucker, a leek or a creature of the sewer. This, it is argued, is the natural state of the state Jew, when his guise of civility is dropped. The Jew is the opposite of Aryan, who is pure, strong and wholesome. The children haggle in the street. From an early age money is of essence. Repetition is crucial to the success of propaganda in 'The Eternal Jew'. We saw again a repetition of the theme of Jewish financial strength where the Rothschilds are shown as examples of Jewish financial power. In a similar fashion to the scene of Jud Suss a map is presented that graphically illustrates the spread of the Jew. Jewish history is the history of rootlessness, wherever the Jew roams, it is claimed, he brings disease, misery and dispair, wandering eternally in the search of business and trade. The Jew seeks to dominate every country; imitating his host, appearing refined, German and western. Yet his character, his true nature is always constant.
Orwell was concerned with the influence of propaganda and the spread of totalitarian ideology . In the closing of his book "1984", the main character whose name is Winston:
..gazed up at the enormous face. forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark mustache. O cruel needless misunderstanding! Oh stubborn, self willed exile from the loving breast... But it was alright ... everything was alright, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself... He loved Big Brother."(10)
Likewise, propaganda helped imbue the German people with the love of their leader and a hatred for the Jew. The rest, the consequence of their action and inaction, is but history.
1. Volkischer Beobachter: 23 March 1933, Quoted by Welch David: 'Propaganda and the German Cinema 1933-45': University Printing House, Oxford, Great Britain; 1987; pp. 39-40 2. Bauer Yehuda: 'The Holocaust in Historical Perpective'; University of Washington Press, Seattle; 1980; pp.47-48 3. Bemporad Jack; "The Concept of Man After the Holocaust", reproduced in Friedlander A H (ed) "Out of the Whirle wind - A Reader of Holocaust literature"; Schoken Books; 1976; p. 478 4. Hitler Adolf: 'Mein Kampf'; Hutchinson; 1985; p.530 5. Hitler Adolf; Ibid p.162 6. Hitler Adolf; Ibid, pp. 164-7 7. See "What is Propaganda'; Lecture One 8. For an indepth analysis of the history of film propaganda in Germany read: Welch David; Op Cit. 9. For an excellent analysis of this growth of escapist film in Nazi Germany, see Welch David. Op Cit. pp. 43-4 10. Orwell George: "1984"; Penguin Books; 1983; p.256