Sei sulla pagina 1di 4

During Adolf Hitlers reign over the Third Reich, Germany was virtually monopolized by a propaganda

machine. Propaganda was the tool by which nearly every facet of German life was dictated. While
Hitlers party, the Nazis, directed everything from politics to military, and education to the economy, their
most successful sphere of influence was in promotion of anti-Semitism. That being said, the idea of using
propaganda was not a concept invented by the Nazis. This method of reaching out to large groups of
people has been used all throughout history. In the First World War European nations utilized propaganda
to sell the idea of a great and glorious war to appeal to citizens unwilling to participate in battle, and
from 1949-1976 China used it to encourage and spread Mao Zedongs communist policies (Lansen). It
was the fact that Hitlers party was successful in creating such effective propaganda that nearly an entire
population was moved to hatred of a whole group of people, the Jews, that is so astounding. The
animosity cultivated and intensified by this propaganda even helped spark and carry out genocide of 6
million of these Jews, what would come to be known as the Holocaust. An investigation into how certain
images like rats, greed, and large noses came to be chosen to represent the Jews will help illustrate, how
this propaganda effected Jewish peoples perception of themselves.
Explosion of Propaganda in Germany
Hitler gained control of Germany for the first time in 1934, with his appointment of Fuhrer, or leader. In
order to ensure the power of his party, and the control he had over the country, Hitler laid out a plan
termed, Gleichschaltung, or the coordination of society. This was the idea that all things German would
be turned Nationalist Socialist, the political ideology of Nazis, transforming the country into a totalitarian
state (OShaughnessy). This streamlining of German society was based on three core factors, 1) Creation
of Nationalist Socialist organizations for every aspect of life and outlawing of the alternatives, 2) Control
through elimination by secret services and police forces of all things not Nazi, and 3) Propaganda to
promote Nazi ideals. The last factor was the means by which the other two factors, and coordination of
German society as a whole, would be accomplished.
Making Effective Propaganda
The first crucial element of creating propaganda that would move people to agree with Nazism was
simplifying; this meant creating a sort of language of the masses (Lansen). In order to do this,
propaganda was marked by simple diction, and straightforward messages that would be easily received by
the people (Nicholas OShaughnessy). This simple message also had to be an agreeable one. The
agreeable message was compromised of basically telling people what they wanted to hear, and conjuring
up lies so outlandish and extreme, that a whole new reality would be created (Lansen). Also important
was the concept of repetition. The more an issue or idea was reiterated, the more likely it was to become a
new reality. The last, and most important part of propaganda was that the messages create subconscious
action (Lansen). If citizens saw and heard propaganda but were not moved to change something, or
actively respond, their efforts were in vain. Propaganda is only truly effective when it moves audiences to

subconscious actions, for that is when transformations occur, and coordination of society is actually
German Expansion: Blut and Boden
Blut and Boden was one of the Nazi ideologies, which focused on race/ethnicity. Blut and Boden literally
means blood and soil, in German. Bloden went along with what Hitler phrased, lebensraum or living
space, the idea that Germany needed to expand its empire, which meant they needed more space to live.
This contributed to dislike for the Jews, because they needed to be pushed out in order to make room for
more Aryan people so that Germany could once again be restored to its former glory. Blut, was the
distinction between the Ubermenschen and Untermenschen, the superior and inferior race. Hitlers
definition of the superior race was Nordic or Aryan, meaning blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. His
definition of the inferior race was all non-Aryans, like Slavs, gypsies, and Jews, as well as people like
those with genetic defects or handicaps, homosexuals, and Jehovah witnesses. Though many groups were
labeled inferior, the primary group targeted was the Jews.
Origins of Anti-Semitism in Germany
Jewish people were singled out as the main recipients of Nazi discrimination for religious, economic,
political, and racial reasons. Jews were hated for their religious beliefs, because they were labeled Christ
killers, blamed for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the Bible, and many myths circulated about their
religious practice. One of these myths was that Jews carried out so-called, blood libel, or ritual killings
where they would use blood from innocent children at Passover to bake bread in order to live another
year (Lansen). The economic based hate came from the accusation that they Jews were stealing money
from hard-working citizens. This belief was grounded in the fact that despite the depression followed by
recession in the early 1930s that crippled the German economy, Jews were relatively well off financially.
Because of this, Jews were seen as greedy money mongers who were obtaining their wealth illegally, even
though their fortune came from the practice of money lending. Politically based anti-Semitism was more
or less an outlandish accusation that Jews were trying to destroy Germany. This included claims that Jews
were trying to take over the world, they were all communists and responsible for the Bolshevik
Revolution, and they were even to blame for Germanys loss of the First World War. All of these
affirmations had little to no truth behind them, but were rather elaborate myths created to single out a
group of people that were seen as a threat. Jews became the scapegoat through which Hitler could blame
all of Germanys misfortunes. All of these misconceptions of Jews were portrayed in Propaganda in order
to rally the German people against the Jews.
Propaganda: Anti-Semitism in Action
Figure 1 is one of many in the book, Der Giftpilz, by Ernst Heimer. The title of the book literally means
the toadstool in German, and is a childrens book released in 1938 by Julius Streicher. The book was
aimed at educating Aryan children about their sub-human Jewish counterparts. This was propaganda
that preyed on the young, and encouraged German citizens, from a very young age, to develop a deep
hatred for the Jews. With this specific picture, Money is the God of Jews one of the most widespread

stereotypes of Jews being money hungry thieves and crooks is being illustrated. A male figure, who is
rather large is sitting on top of an overstuffed bag of money. The caption below the image reads, The
God of the Jews is money. To earn money, he commits the greatest crimes. He will not rest until he can sit
on a huge money sack, until he has become the king of money. This is just one example of Nazi efforts,
through propaganda, to turn German citizens completely against Jewish people. Figure 2 piece also
from Der Giftpilz, reads, How to Tell a Jew: "The Jewish nose is bent. It looks like the number six....
This is one example of the propaganda playing off the prominence of some Jews noses, and suggesting a
universal truth that all Jewish people have distinguished noses. What Christ Said about the Jews: "When
you see a cross, remember the gruesome murder of the Jews on Golgotha... is below in Figure 3, an
image in Der Giftpilz. Images like this reinforced the idea that Jews were Christ-killers, and deserved
all the hate that Nazis were encouraging.
What About the Jews?
Propaganda basically brainwashed citizens into believing that Jews were the reason for all of their
problems, which is obviously the reason the plan was so successful. Theres another side to look at
though, the Jewish perspective. How did all of this affect the way that Jews saw themselves? Thinking
about the question made me reflect back to my two years of psychology in high school. I remembered
talking about the term, self-fulfilling prophecy, which says basically that negative beliefs predict negative
behaviors. For weeks in my psychology classes we discussed how science has shown that group
expectations are perhaps the strongest predictor of the future. That being said, a self-fulfilling prophecy is
a valid explanation for how negative thoughts culminate to create a reality (Myers 238-240). This is the
very thing that happened to Jews subjected to the stereotyping of Nazi propaganda.
Last year my high school participated in district wide discussion on the Holocaust where we had the
opportunity to speak with a survivor and her daughter. During our Question and Answer session of the
event two questions were asked about propaganda. The first one was how the anti-Semitic slander made
the survivor feel, and the second was if and how the legacy of the propaganda affected the daughter. The
survivor began by saying, Do you know how it feels to be portrayed as something less than human,
worthless, better off dead? She went on to relay the horrors of being stereotyped as all these negative,
evil, and vile things and how eventually even against your better judgment, your psyche begins to
transform into all the labels one has tried so desperately to create distance from. She talked about the
sinking feeling she started to have every time she saw an anti-Semitic poster, or speech, or image, the
little part of her that began to believe that what the Nazis said about her and her people was true. As for
the daughter, she said that even being the descendent of a Jew who personally experienced the
propaganda, affected her. She expressed a sort of syndrome in which the pain that her mother
experienced first-hand, was passed on to her and became a burden. She saw how her mothers self-esteem
dropped, and the way she saw Jews as a people was transformed from positive to negative. This is the
self-fulfilling prophecy that psychology says is so eminent.
A Two-Sided Stereotype
From all of the inquiring done for this paper, I have attained a much greater understanding for why Jews

were represented with the specific prejudice images that they were, how the mass of German people were
coerced into believing these lies, and even more importantly how these images changed the lives of those
who were misrepresented. Before, when I saw these heinous Nazi brainwashing methods I thought only
of how it altered the mindset of Germans being taught hate for Jews, but now there is a whole new
discovery of the side of propaganda that is less often discussed, the ways in which Jews psyches were