Term Paper: Hitler's Ideology and Propaganda

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[. . .] (234)

Hence Hitler advocated repetition and the importance of synthesizing complex ideas into their least common denominator to make propaganda reach the biggest audience and be effective. ("Only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea on the memory of a crowd." 237) Hitler also advises the propagandist to lie big: "When you lie, tell big lies" believing that "in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility." His philosophy on the effectiveness of the big lie rather than a small lie is that most ordinary people (the "masses") are so used to resorting to "small lies" themselves in their everyday lives, that they easily recognize them as such when uttered by their leaders; "big lies" are unfamiliar territory for them.

Another advice that Hitler gives to the propagandist is the importance of never hesitating, never qualifying what one has to say, and never conceding an inch to the other side while putting across one's view point. The philosophy behind painting everything in black and white is that any hesitation by the leader is likely to be viewed at as a sign of uncertainty about the justice of his own cause. Hitler himself believed in and practiced an uncompromising, aggressive attitude while attacking a problem that reflected his conviction about what he was saying. (Fraser 60)

The Power of Speech as Propaganda

The main method of propaganda employed by Hitler in the early days of his political life was through the spoken word (speech) rather than through the written word. Although Hitler developed into a master speaker with time who could sway millions when he spoke at huge gatherings, he had a talent for making passionate speeches from the beginning. He realized that the power of speech had a magic of its own and employed it to the utmost for propaganda purposes. Writing about this in Mein Kampf he says:

The force which ever set in motion the great historical avalanches of religious and political movements is the magic power of the spoken word. The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force.

Hitler developed a unique style of giving speeches that he practiced and perfected in the early days after the formation of the Nazi Party in Munich. Many of his gestures and the way in which spoke were the result of a deliberate and carefully rehearsed performance. He usually started his speech in a low, almost inaudible voice, with the audience straining to hear him, and gradually built up the tempo to a pitch of near-hysteria, ending in a crescendo of explosive climax that would leave both the speaker and the audience emotionally drained. During the speech Hitler would scream and spit out his anger and resentment and carry out a virtual assault on the audience (some have called it 'verbal violence') with the staccato-like repetition of forceful words such as "smash," "force," "hatred," "lies." The effect of his 'performance' on the audience was always electric. Most eye-witness accounts of his speeches describe the way in which Hitler managed to communicate his passion to his listeners. So much so that, caught up in the spell of powerful emotions, men groaned or hissed and women sobbed involuntarily. (Bullock 76) In his speeches, Hitler always appealed to the baser instincts of his audience -- their emotions -- rather than to their intellect. If the words of his speech are isolated from the way in which they were spoken, much of their effect is lost.

Other Means

Nazi propaganda in the early period was not confined to the spoken word alone. The other main propaganda tool was the posters, always in red, chosen to attract the attention. The ubiquitous swastika and the flag was another propaganda tool used by the Nazis. Other rituals like the mass rallies and demonstrations, accompanied by martial music, the salute, the uniform, and the hierarchies of ranks were all part of the Nazi propaganda -- never failing to intoxicate the crowds. Some of the tactics e.g. The mass meetings and the demonstrations had been borrowed by Hitler from other parties such as the Austrian Social Democrats whom he had carefully observed during his youth in Vienna. ("Nazi Propaganda")

The Beer Hall Putsch

The failed attempt by Hitler and a group of his supporters to seize power in 1923 proved to be a crucial turning point in Hitler's career and the fortunes of the Nazi Party. Before the event and the ensuing public trial of Hitler for treason, the Nazi party was one of several provincial right wing political parties and was hardly known outside the province of Bavaria. After the trial, Hitler became a well-known figure all over Germany and although the Nazi party suffered a temporary setback when Hitler was jailed, it was soon re-organized after his release and gained considerable strength from then onwards.

Background

It would be worthwhile to briefly trace the background of the Beer Hall Putsch. In 1923, the democratic Weimar government was faced with a serious crisis. The French and Belgian forces had occupied the industrial Ruhr region due to the Germans' inability to pay the war reparations imposed on it after the First World War by the victorious allied powers. Resistance was shown to the occupation by the Weimar government and the German workers through passive resistance and strikes. This led to runaway inflation and severe economic hardship for the Germans, creating fertile grounds for radical extremists such as the Nazis.

When a right wing government came to power in Bavaria 1920, it was sympathetic to the right wing groups, and the Nazi party's influence in Bavarian politics increased steadily. By 1923 it became the leading party among the right wing extremist groups, its membership reaching 55,000 with a well-organized militant arm (the SA) consisting of 15,000 members. Hitler became head of the Kampfbund, an umbrella organization for various right-wing paramilitary groups and found favor with Gustav von Kahr, the head of the Bavarian government. Inspired by Mussolini's march on Rome in October 1922 to capture power, both Hitler and elements in the Bavarian regime (including Gustav) dreamed of a similar "March on Berlin" to overthrow the Weimar government and establish a nationalist, right-wing government. They had an excuse of sorts too -- the desire to suppress the leftist governments in the states of Thuringia and Saxony that were not acceptable to right wingers including the army. (Spielvogel)

Tensions rose between the Bavarian government and the center when a new Weimar government under Gustav Stresemann took over and ended the policy of passive resistance against the French. The new Weimar government tried to force the Bavarian government to control the Nazis by banning their party newspaper. The head of the Bavarian military, General Lossow, refused the order and was relieved of his command. The Bavarian government asked him to stay on. For a time, events seemed to be moving in Hitler's favor.

Unfortunately for Hitler and the conspirators in his coup plan, the Stresemann government crushed the leftist governments in Saxony and Thuringia by sending in the army in October 1923, and much of the justification for a march on Berlin was removed. Kahr von Gustav and the right wing elements in the army, who had been enthusiastic about the coup, dropped the idea. On November 6, Kahr cautioned Hitler against any hasty military action.

Hitler, however, had aroused the paramilitary forces to a fever pitch. To back down on the promised action would threaten his leadership position. He was also becoming desperate because Weimar government seemed to be regaining control and the economic condition was beginning to improve. It was a case of 'now or never.' Hitler decided to force Kahr and other Bavarian leaders to join him in a march on Berlin. (Ibid. 138-9)

The Failed Putsch, Hitler's Trial & Use of Propaganda

On November 8 a meeting was being held in one of Munich's large beer cellars with Kahr von Gustav as the guest of honor. General Lossow (head of Bavarian military district) and Colonel Seisser, head of the police were also there. Hitler surrounded the building with SA troops, broke in, took over the meeting, and melodramatically proclaimed: "The National Revolution has begun!... The Bavarian and Reich governments have been removed and a provisional national government formed. The barracks of the Reichswehr and police are occupied. The Army and the police are marching on the city under the swastika banner!" All of this was untrue but the people inside the hall no way of knowing that.

Taking Kahr, Lossow, and Seisser into an adjoining room, Hitler pressured them to join him in overthrowing the national government but the three refused. Hitler rushed out in the hall and played another bluff: He took the podium and declared.".. The government of the November criminals and the Reich President are declared to be removed. A new national government will be named this very day in Munich. A new German National Army will… [END OF PREVIEW]

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