Nazi Essay Introduction

Example answer to question 1(b)

"Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on the 30th January 1933. Hitler and the Nazi party greatly appealed to the German people for many reasons. These included the effective use of propaganda by the Nazis"(Topic of first paragraph)"and the policies put forward by the party that promised the German people many things."(Topic of second paragraph)"People in Germany were also afraid of communism and the intimidating tactics used by the Nazis."(Topic of third paragraph). (This whole paragraph gives an introduction which addresses the question and outlines what will be in each paragraph of the essay).

"One reason that Hitler and the Nazi party appealed to the German people was due to the effective use of propaganda. Short films were shown in cinemas before the main feature and the Nazis also used short messages that they repeated often on posters, on the radio and in newspapers so that voters would remember them. Propaganda posters used slogans like 'Hitler: Our Last Hope' to convince the German people that Hitler and the Nazis were the answer to Germany’s problems."(First paragraph)

"Another reason that Hitler and the Nazi party appealed to the German people was because they had many policies which voters supported. Hitler promised that if he was elected he would get rid of the hated Treaty of Versailles. Many Germans supported this policy. The Nazis also promised to create jobs which appealed to people as the Great Depression meant millions of people were out of work."(Second paragraph)

"A final reason that Hitler and the Nazi party appealed to voters was because they played on the fears of the German people. Many people were worried that Germany would become a communist state and electing the fascist Nazi party meant that this would not happen. Many Germans also witnessed the violent tactics used by the SA towards the enemies of the Nazis and were intimidated into supporting the party."(Third paragraph)

"In conclusion, the Nazi rise to power took place for many reasons. Hitler and the Nazi party greatly appealed to the German people by using propaganda to convince them the Nazis were the answer to the country’s problems. The Nazis also had several policies that the German people supported like getting rid of the Treaty of Versailles. Voters were also afraid of communism and the way the Nazi party dealt with opponents which led to people voting for Hitler."(Clearly signposted conclusion which sums up the essay and is different from the introduction)

Propaganda was one of the most important tools the Nazis used to shape the beliefs and attitudes of the German public. Through posters, film, radio, museum exhibits, and other media, they bombarded the German public with messages designed to build support for and gain acceptance of their vision for the future of Germany. The gallery of images below exhibits several examples of Nazi propaganda, and the introduction that follows explores the history of propaganda and how the Nazis sought to use it to further their goals.

Introduction to the Visual Essay

The readings in this chapter describe the Nazis’ efforts to consolidate their power and create a German “national community” in the mid-1930s. Propaganda—information that is intended to persuade an audience to accept a particular idea or cause, often by using biased material or by stirring up emotions—was one of the most powerful tools the Nazis used to accomplish these goals.

Hitler and Goebbels did not invent propaganda. The word itself was coined by the Catholic Church to describe its efforts to discredit Protestant teachings in the 1600s. Over the years, almost every nation has used propaganda to unite its people in wartime. Both sides spread propaganda during World War I, for example. But the Nazis were notable for making propaganda a key element of government even before Germany went to war again. One of Hitler’s first acts as chancellor was to establish the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, demonstrating his belief that controlling information was as important as controlling the military and the economy. He appointed Joseph Goebbels as director. Through the ministry, Goebbels was able to penetrate virtually every form of German media, from newspapers, film, radio, posters, and rallies to museum exhibits and school textbooks, with Nazi propaganda. 

Whether or not propaganda was truthful or tasteful was irrelevant to the Nazis. Goebbels wrote in his diary, "no one can say your propaganda is too rough, too mean; these are not criteria by which it may be characterized. It ought not be decent nor ought it be gentle or soft or humble; it ought to lead to success."1 Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that to achieve its purpose, propaganda must "be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away."

Some Nazi propaganda used positive images to glorify the government’s leaders and its various activities, projecting a glowing vision of the “national community.” Nazi propaganda could also be ugly and negative, creating fear and loathing by portraying the regime’s “enemies” as dangerous and even sub-human. The Nazis’ distribution of antisemitic films, newspaper cartoons, and even children’s books aroused centuries-old prejudices against Jews and also presented new ideas about the racial impurity of Jews. The newspaper Der Stürmer (The Attacker), published by Nazi Party member Julius Streicher, was a key outlet for antisemitic propaganda. 

This visual essay includes a selection of Nazi propaganda images, both “positive” and “negative.” It focuses on posters that Germans would have seen in newspapers like Der Stürmer and passed in the streets, in workplaces, and in schools. Some of these posters were advertisements for traveling exhibits—on topics like “The Eternal Jew” or the evils of communism—that were themselves examples of propaganda. 

Connection Questions

  1. As you explore the images in this visual essay, consider what each image is trying to communicate to the viewer. Who is the audience for this message? How is the message conveyed?
  2. Do you notice any themes or patterns in this group of propaganda images? How do the ideas in these images connect to what you have already learned about Nazi ideology? How do they extend your thinking about Nazi ideas? 
  3. Based on the images you analyze, how do you think the Nazis used propaganda to define the identities of individuals and groups? What groups and individuals did Nazi propaganda glorify? What stereotypes did it promote? 
  4. Why was propaganda so important to Nazi leadership? How do you think Nazi propaganda influenced the attitudes and actions of Germans in the 1930s?
  5. Some scholars caution that there are limits to the power of propaganda; they think it succeeds not because it persuades the public to believe an entirely new set of ideas but because it expresses beliefs people already hold. Scholar Daniel Goldhagen writes: “No man, [no] Hitler, no matter how powerful he is, can move people against their hopes and desires. Hitler, as powerful a figure as he was, as charismatic as he was, could never have accomplished this [the Holocaust] had there not been tens of thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands of ordinary Germans who were willing to help him.”2 Do you agree? Would people have rejected Nazi propaganda if they did not already share, to some extent, the beliefs it communicated? 
  6. Can you think of examples of propaganda in society today? How do you think this propaganda influences the attitudes and actions of people today? Is there a difference between the impact of propaganda in a democracy that has a free press and an open marketplace of ideas and the impact of propaganda in a dictatorship with fewer non-governmental sources of information? 
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