The functions of Nazi propaganda (1934)

nazi propaganda 1934
A Nazi poster from 1934. The title reads “Yes! We follow the Fuhrer”
Unser Wille und Weg [‘Our Will and Way’] was a monthly journal published by the Reich Propaganda Directorate of the Nazi government. Edited by Joseph Goebbels, it contained articles on the purposes, strategies and methodology of Nazi propaganda. The extract here is from an article titled “Politische Propaganda”, written by Walther Schulze-Wechsungen and published in Unser Wille und Weg in 1934. A veteran of World War I and the Kapp Putsch, Schulze-Wechsungen joined the NSDAP in 1930 and three years later was elected to the Nazi-dominated Reichstag. He worked for Goebbels as a provincial propaganda chief before being arrested on corruption charges and sent to Orianenburg concentration camp, where he died in 1944. In this extract, Schulze-Wechsungen discusses the functions and objectives of Nazi propaganda, its disregard for intellectuals and scientists, and the role of the leader in the Nazi state:

“Propaganda is the most modern of weapons. We have suffered under it; we have learned from it. Having learned from experience its necessity, we now use it…

Propaganda strives for long-term effects. Only occasionally does it need to aim for momentary successes. Truly effective propaganda must achieve the continuing understanding of the masses. It must use effective suggestion, which I define as an idea transformed into reality through the subconscious. Naturally, the propagandist must understand not only the means that are at his disposal but also the characteristics of ‘his’ masses, however they are expressed and whatever type they may be…

Many laughed at the propaganda of the NSDAP in the past, looking at it from a position of superiority. It is true that we had only one thing to say, that we yelled and screamed and propagandised it again and again, with a stubbornness that drove the ‘wise’ to desperation. We proclaimed it with such simplicity that they thought it absurd and almost childish.

They did not understand that repetition is the precursor to success, that simplicity is the key to the emotional and mental world of the masses. The masses are mostly very forgetful and their understanding is not that of the educated. Propaganda had to be made not to please the educated but rather to reach the masses. We wanted to appeal to the intuitive world of the great masses, not the understanding of the intellectuals.

Scientists, on the other hand, are persuaded by scientific proofs. [But] the time has come for the scientist to also see the final, highest and most decisive factor not as science, but rather the interests of his people, the interest of the whole. That must become the highest goal of all his labours.

The NSDAP, to give only one vivid example, recognized Marxism as a powerful enemy of the people… The enemy was Marxism. Our goal was its annihilation. Our propaganda had to shake the foundations of the Marxist idea in the minds and hearts of the masses, the theory of class struggle. Then we had to replace it with a new theory, [to] win these same masses to a free state without a theory of class struggle. Alongside the propaganda struggle against Marxism, we also fought against the ‘war guilt’ lie and the Treaty of Versailles…

The true leader comes from the people and represents the people. He forges the opinions of the broad masses. That is his reality; that is the source of his power: he is the personification of public opinion… For those who will lead public opinion today and tomorrow, the question has been answered. The direction is determined by necessity and the people are the final goal. Public opinion should never be confused with the noisy views of a class or clique who are of no interest to the people…

The National Socialist movement over the years has trained a certain group of people to be propagandists. One cannot any longer conceive of the organisation without them… They serve no interest group. Rather they are there to express the will of the people and its worldview, a worldview that has proven itself to the people as true and good. They are there to spread it to the masses for the good of the people. They are important factors in the state that forms a political unit with the same goal: ‘All for Germany’.

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