Here are parts of a speech by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, delivered in Nuernberg in 1934. The ending of this speech is in the film Triumph of the Will.
“It is difficult to define the concept of propaganda thoroughly and precisely. This is especially true since in past decades it was subject to unfavorable definitions, particularly as the enemy defined it with regards to us Germans. First, then, we must defend it. Those abroad sometimes claim that in the past we Germans were particularly good in this area, but that unfortunately is not consistent with the facts. We learned this all too clearly during the World War. While the enemy states produced unprecedented atrocity propaganda aimed at Germany throughout the whole world, we did nothing and were completely defenseless against it. Only when enemy foreign propaganda had nearly won over the greater part of the neutral states did the German government begin to sense the enormous power of propaganda. It was too late. Just as we were militarily and economically unprepared for the war, so too with propaganda. We lost the war in this area more than in any other.
The cleverest trick used in propaganda against Germany during the war was to accuse Germany of what our enemies themselves were doing. Even today large parts of world opinion are convinced that the typical characteristics of German propaganda are lying, crudeness, reversing the facts and the like. One needs only to remember the stories that were spread throughout the world at the beginning of the war about German soldiers chopping off children’s hands and crucifying women to realize that Germany then was a defenseless victim of this campaign of calumny. It neither had nor used any means of defense.
The concept of propaganda has undergone a fundamental transformation, particularly as the result of political practice in Germany. Throughout the world today, people are beginning to see that a modern state, whether democratic or authoritarian, cannot withstand the subterranean forces of anarchy and chaos without propaganda. It is not only a matter of doing the right thing; the people must understand that the right thing is the right thing. Propaganda includes everything that helps the people to realize this.
Political propaganda in principle is active and revolutionary. It is aimed at the broad masses. It speaks the language of the people because it wants to be understood by the people. Its task is the highest creative art of putting sometimes complicated events and facts in a way simple enough to be understood by the man on the street. Its foundation is that there is nothing the people cannot understand, rather things must be put in a way that they can understand. It is a question of making it clear to him by using the proper approach, evidence and language.
Propaganda is a means to an end. Its purpose is to lead the people to an understanding that will allow them to willingly and without internal resistance devote themselves to the tasks and goals of a superior leadership. If propaganda is to succeed, it must know what it wants. It must keep a clear and firm goal in mind, and seek the appropriate means and methods to reach that goal. Propaganda as such is neither good nor evil. Its moral value is determined by the goals it seeks.”
“Each propaganda had a direction. The quality of this direction determines whether propaganda has a positive or negative effect. Good propaganda does not need to lie, indeed it may not lie. It has no reason to fear the truth. It is a mistake to believe that people cannot take the truth. They can. It is only a matter of presenting the truth to people in a way that they will be able to understand. A propaganda that lies proves that it has a bad cause. It cannot be successful in the long run. A good propaganda will always come along that serves a good cause. But propaganda is still necessary if a good cause is to succeed. A good idea does not win simply because it is good. It must be presented properly if it is to win. But a good idea is itself the best propaganda. Such propaganda is successful without being obnoxious. It depends on its nature, not its methods. It works without being noticed. Its goals are inherent in its nature. Since it is almost invisible, it is effective and powerful. A good cause will lose to a bad one if it depends only on its rightness, while the other side uses the methods of influencing the masses. We are for example convinced that we fought the war for a good cause, but that was not enough. The world should also have known that our cause was good. However, we lacked the effective means of mass propaganda to make that clear to the world. Marxism certainly did not fight for great ideals. Despite that, in November 1918 it overcame Kaiser, Reich and the army because it was superior in the art of mass propaganda.
National Socialism learned from these two examples. It drew the correct practical conclusions from that knowledge. The ideal of a socialist national community did not remain mere theory with us, but became living reality in the thoughts and feelings of 67 million Germans. Our propaganda of word and deed created the conditions for that. Mastering them kept National Socialism from the danger of remaining the dream and longing of a few thousand. Through propaganda, it became hard, steely everyday reality.”
“Marxism could not be eliminated by a government decision. Its elimination was the end result of a process that began in the people. But that was only possible because our propaganda had shown people that Marxism was a danger to both the state and society. The positive national discipline of the German press would never have been possible without the compete elimination of the influence of the liberal-Jewish press. That happened only because of the years-long work of our propaganda. Today particularism in Germany is something of the past. The fact that it was eliminated by a strong central idea of the Reich is no accident, rather depended on psychological foundations that were established by our propaganda.
Or consider economic policy. Does anyone believe that the idea of class struggle could have been eliminated only by a law? Is it not rather the fact that the seeds we sowed in a hundred thousand meetings resulted in a new socialist structure of labor? Today employers and workers stand together in the Labor Front. The Law on National Labor is the foundation of our economic thinking, realizing itself more and more. Are not these social achievements the result of the long and tireless labor of thousands of speakers?”
“We could eliminate the Jewish danger in our culture because the people had recognized it as the result of our propaganda. Major cultural achievements such as the unique “Kraft durch Freude” are possible only with the powerful support of the people. The prerequisite was and is propaganda, which here too creates and maintains the connection to the people.
The Winter Relief last year raised about 350 million Marks. This was not the result of taxation, rather many gifts of every amount. Everyone gave freely and gladly, many of whom in the past had done nothing in the face of similar need. Why? Because a broad propaganda using every modern means presented the whole nation with the need of this program of social assistance.
45 million Reich Marks of goods and services were provided. 85 million Reich Marks worth of fuel were distributed. 130 million Reich Marks worth of food were given out. Ten million Reich Marks worth of meals were provided, and 70 million Reich Marks worth of clothing.
Some of these achievements were the result of donations in kind, others the result of cash donations. Street collections, donations of a part of paychecks, contributions from companies, and gifts subtracted from bank accounts resulted in cash totaling 184 million Reich Marks. 24 million marks alone were the result of “One Dish Sundays.” The Reich itself added 15 million marks to the contributions of the people. The railway system provided reduced or free shipping with a value of 14 million Marks.
Of our population of 65,595,000, 16,511,00 were assisted by the Winter Relief. There were 150,000 volunteers. There were only 4,474 paid workers, of whom 4,144 were in the 34 Gaue and 330 in the Reich headquarters.
Propaganda and education prepared the way for the largest social assistance program in history. They were the foundation. Their success was that, over a long winter, no one in Germany went hungry or was cold.
Over 40 million people approved of the Fuehrer’s decision to leave the League of Nations on 12 November 1933. That gave him the ability to speak to the world in the name of the nation, defending honor, peace and equality as the national ideals of the German people. The issues of disarmament were put on firm and clear foundations. Once again, propaganda was the foundation for the nation’s unity on 12 November, and therefore of the freedom of action that the Fuehrer had.
Each situation brings new challenges. And each task requires the support of the people, which can only be gained by untiring propaganda that brings the broad masses knowledge and clarity. No area of public life can do without it. It is the never resting force behind public opinion. It must maintain an unbroken relationship between leadership and people. Every means of technology must be put in its service; the goal is to form the mass will and to give it meaning, purpose and goals that will enable us to learn from past failures and mistakes and ensure that the lead National Socialist strength has given us over other nations will never again be lost.
May the bright flame of our enthusiasm never fade. It alone gives light and warmth to the creative art of modern political propaganda. Its roots are in the people. The movement gives it direction and drive. The state can only provide it with the new, wide-ranging technical means. Only a living relationship between people, movement and state can guarantee that the creative art of propaganda, which we have made ourselves the world’s master, will never sink into bureaucracy and official narrow-mindedness.
Creative people made it and put it in the service of our movement. We must have creative people who can use the means of the state in its service.
It is also a function of the modern state. Its reach is the firm ground on which it must stand. It rises from the depths of the people, and must always return to the people to find its roots and strength. It may be good to have power based on weapons. It is better and longer lasting, however, to win and hold the heart of a nation.”