Goebbels on propaganda (1931)

In 1931, the NSDAP’s propaganda chief, Doctor Joseph Goebbels, wrote on the functions and purpose of propaganda within the Nazi state. Extract reproduced with the permission of the German Propaganda Archive.

“No other political movement as understood the art of propaganda as well as the National Socialists. From its beginnings, it has put heart and soul into propaganda. What distinguishes it from all other political parties is the ability to see into the soul of the people and to speak the language of the man in the street. It uses all the means of modern technology. Leaflets, handbills, posters, mass demonstrations, the press, stage, film and radio – these are all tools of our propaganda. Whether or not they serve or harm the people depends on the use to which they are put.

In the long run, propaganda will reach the broad masses of the people only if at every stage it is uniform. Nothing confuses the people more than lack of clarity or aimlessness. The goal is not to present the common man with as many varied and contradictory theories as possible. The essence of propaganda is not in variety, but rather the forcefulness and persistence with which one selects ideas from the larger pool and hammers them into the masses using the most varied methods.

National Socialist propaganda is the most important aspect of our political activity. It is in the foreground of our practical goals. Without it, all our knowledge would be fruitless, without effect. Propaganda must put knowledge in a fresh form. It must spread it to the people, it must convince people of the necessity of our knowledge. It wins new fighters for the movement. It makes members out of supporters and martyrs out of members.

Today, we have a tight network of National Socialist propaganda throughout the country. It should be clear to any observer that we are preparing not only for the tasks of today but for the future. National Socialist propaganda serves to educate the people. Its task is not only to win them for the tasks of today but to assist in the transformation of the character of the broad masses. We are convinced that a new politics in Germany is possible only after a complete transformation of our national character, after an entirely new national way of thinking. This is our most pressing task, and in working for these tasks today we are doing the best preparatory work for the great political tasks of tomorrow.

A National Socialist propagandist is the teacher of the people. National Socialist propaganda is the art of teaching the people. Today we are in the opposition. The propaganda we carry out today will become practically organised and wide-ranging national education after we take power. The goal of [propaganda] is to create the foundations, to show the ways and means through which we can reach these high goals. We intend to strengthen and sharpen our will for our political goals. We want to deal with our practical daily tasks. We want to give ourselves the steely firmness that is necessary to survive the nerve-wracking daily battles.

But this will must not be directed aimlessly at the people. This will must be focused in a clear direction. It must be directed to the nation, organised, disciplined, focused and clear. We want to show the way that leads from success to success until victory is attained. Our goal in these pages is to bring will and way together in a unified synthesis of practical techniques. We are not writing for the general public, but rather for those active in daily politics throughout the country. It is a forum for discussion firmly tied to the party. Each who has something to say has the right and duty to speak. We will exchange experiences, make proposals, criticise mistakes and suggest improvements.”