Nazi Propaganda: Acknowledging their own Evil

In my last post, I wrote about how many of the propaganda techniques that the Nazis used were frighteningly common. Since then, I have been trying to figure out why relatively basic strategies were able to convince people to follow Adolph Hitler as he killed millions of people and destroyed much of Europe.

One of the things that struck me as most significantly distinguishing Nazi propaganda from that of other political entities using the same techniques was the fact that the Nazis made little attempt to hide their evil from the public.

Whereas most governments attempt to minimize the general populations awareness of their unsavory actions, the Nazis literally broadcast their mistreatment of Jewish people across Germany. As Yael Hersonski’s 2010 project, A Film Unfinished, details, the Nazis extensively filmed the Jewish ghettos for propaganda purposes (You can watch this movie on Hulu for free and I highly recommend it!). They deliberately staged scenes of families living in wealth to contrast with the realities of starving corpses lying in the street in order to make it appear that the Jews were subjecting their own neighbors to the suffering that they faced.

By making no attempt to conceal the inhumane conditions of the ghettos, the Nazis were ironically able to vilify the Jews and portray them as cruel people who needed to be quarantined. Through these propaganda films, the Jews became selfish, greedy, and cruel in the eyes of the Aryan German public, because who else would allow those around them to starve to death while they lived in luxury? From there, it was not difficult for the Nazis to convince the Aryan population that the Jews posed a danger to Germany’s well being.

The Nazis figured out how to control the release of potentially damaging information (the fact that people were living in despicable conditions in the ghettos they had created) and turn it into further support for their cause (as additional evidence that Jews are bad people). It scares me just how effectively they were able to do this, and I am thankful that our media seems to hold politicians accountable enough that it would be difficult to get away with something like this in America today. However, I do wonder if the public reaction to the “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Guantanamo Bay would have been different if the government had been able to get out in front of the story and turn the detainees into the wrong doers.

Comments

  1. julianneabruzzo says:

    Jenifer,
    I could not agree more with your statement in your abstract about how critical it is to understand the mechanisms and motivations of the Nazi party to prevent another mass tragedy similar to the Holocaust from ever manifesting again. This past summer while in Munich, Germany I visited the Dachau concentration camp. Seeing the camp in person, the abandoned gas chambers, cramped quarters, barbed wire fences, incinerating room, and poisonous showers was an experience that can’t be understood by words.Surreal, horrific gut-wrenching. These touch on it but still leave much out. I have also read many books, non-fictiona and historical fiction about the Holocaust, usually about specific human experiences in the Holocaust. I have always believed the Holocaust to be such a fascinating subject. I don’t mean this in a sick or intellectually twisted way. I only mean to suggest that this event is so heavily studied because of its incomprehensibility and complexity. It is unfathomable how such atrocities were committed and by such a great magnitude of Nazi supporters. To even begin to understand this I think that it is important to move past the simple condemnation that all Nazi followers were purely evil people and to investigate (as your project aid to do) the effect of different manipulating techniques and how they influenced misplaced devotion to doctrine. Not only does your project aim to analyze the perverting propaganda techniques, but it also focuses even more directly on their applicability to women. Aside from Anne Frank, women seem less represented in the Nazi movement than men and I am curious to see what your research unveils about their less well known role. This post in particular provides an interesting observation about the transparency of the Nazi’s evil and how they manipulated Jewish ghettos to make them appear deserving of such blatant injustices. I am interested to see how you next connect this propaganda observation to the role of women in the Nazi Movement. I wish you the best in the rest of your research!