Propaganda: ‘Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.’


Hitler the propagandist, 1933

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1987-0703-506 / CC-BY-SA

Joseph Goebbels, as Hitler’s minister for propaganda, controlled all forms of media. National newspapers were closed down, allowing room for only the official Nazi organ, the contents of which Goebbels and his ministry kept on a tight rein. The production of radios greatly increased, providing further avenues of employment and allowing the party the means of extending its propaganda message. The Reich Radio Company, set up purely for propaganda purposes, gave Hitler the platform to deliver his frequent messages to the nation (pictured above).

The cinema was also a favoured means of communication. Director Leni Riefenstahl made epic films, such as Triumph des Willens (The Triumph of the Will) and Olympia, which showed the Nazi Party in all its grandiose pomposity. Goebbels organized the huge Nuremberg rallies (pictured below) at which Hitler, the gifted orator, poured forth his message in increasingly hysterical rhetoric.


Nuremberg Rally, 1934

Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-16196 / CC-BY-SA

All art had to correspond to the party line; figurative depictions of the Nazi paradise or legends of German history being two favourite themes. Reflecting Hitler’s personal taste in art, modern or abstract art was considered degenerate. Artists, forced into conformity, produced work lacking creativity or spontaneity.

The works of over 20,000 writers were banned; their books ceremoniously burnt on Berlin’s Opernplatz in May 1933 (pictured below), including those of the nineteenth-century romantic poet and playwright, Heinrich Heine, whose famous line: ‘Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people’ is today engraved on a plaque at the site. The music of many great Jewish composers, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Schoenberg and others, fell out of favour.


Nazi book burning, 10 May 1933

Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-14598 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA

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