When Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, he named his trusted friend and colleague Joseph Goebbels (1897 – 1945) to the major post of minister for public enlightenment and propaganda. In this position, Goebbels was entrusted with presenting Hitler to the public in the most complimentary light, supervising the content of all German media and inciting anti-Semitism. Goebbels oppressed Jewish musicians, artists, directors, actors and magazine and newspaper editors into unemployment, and arranged a burning of books in public that were considered “un-German”. He also headed the production of Nazi propaganda films and projects. Goebbels stayed in this post and was loyal to Hitler until World War II ended (1945). The day after Hitler committed suicide, Goebbels and his wife poisoned the six children and then committed suicide.
Paul Joseph Goebbels was born in Rheydt, Germany, an industrial city located in the Rhineland, on October 29 1897. Due to club foot which he got as a result of childhood osteomyelitis, the young Goebbels was absolved from service in the German army during World War I (1914-18). As an alternative, Goebbels attended German universities, studied literature, philosophy and other subjects, and earned a Ph.D. in German philology from Heidelberg University.
After failing to establish a career as a novelist, journalist and playwright, in the first half of the 1920’s Goebbels became a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party which promoted anti-Semitism and German pride. With time, Goebbels got to know Adolf Hitler, the organization’s leader. During this time, inflation had damaged the German economy, as well as the morale of the German citizens who were defeated in WWI, was low. Goebbels and Hitler both thought that images and words were strong devices that could be utilized to exploit this discontent. While Goebbels was dazzled by Hitler’s flair for speaking in front of huge crowds and using words and gestures to play on German nationalistic pride, Hitler was impressed with Goebbels talent for communicating his opinions in writing.
Goebbel’s Rise in the Nazi Party Ranks
Goebbels rapidly rose in the ranks of the Nazi party. First he split away from Gregor Strasser (1882 – 1934), who he initially supported, and joined with the more conservative Hitler. Next, in 1926, he became a party district leader in Berlin. In 1927, he wrote commentary in Der Angriff (The Attack), a weekly newsletter that adopted the Nazi Party line.
He was then elected to the Reichstag, the German Parliament, in 1928; and more importantly was named Nazi Party Propaganda Director by Hitler. It was in this position that Goebbels began strategizing the myth of Hitler as a decisive and brilliant leader. Hitler was presented as the savior of the new Germany at massive political gatherings. Goebbels also saw to the placing of microphones and movie cameras at important locations to heighten Hitler’s voice and image. These strategies played an important role in convincing the German people that Germany would once again regain its honour if they supported Hitler.
Hitler’s Propaganda Minister
When Goebbels was appointed Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, his aims was to sensor all opposition to Hitler and present him in a positive light while at the same time evoking hatred for the Jewish people.
Goebbels became director of the Reich Chamber of Culture in September 1933, and his mission was to control all parts of the creative arts. A side shoot of the creation of the chamber was forced unemployment of all Jewish creative artists.
The Power of the Moving Image
When WWII started in 1939, Goebbels was appointed the task of uplifting the German people’s spirit and using the media, and particularly the cinema, to persuade German citizens to support the war. One project he started was the propaganda film that superficially told the history of the Jews. It was called “Der ewige Jude” (The Eternal Jew). However, in the film Jews were portrayed as parasites who disrupt an otherwise stable world.
As the war went on, and German casualties increased, Goebbels became an advocate for an all-out battle against Allied forces. On one occasion, he commanded the German people to support a complete war effort; He reasoned that if German was to lose the war, the German nation and its people should be obliterated.
Even though German defeat seemed inevitable, Goebbels stayed loyal to Hitler.
During the final days of April 1945, Hitler was camping out in his bunker. Goebbels alone was the Senior Nazi official at his side. Goebbels replaced Hitler as Chancellor after Hitler’s suicide on April 30. Goebbel’s reign however was very brief. The next day, he and his wife Magda (1901-1945) killed their own children with poison then- the couple took their own lives.