Defining the Enemy: The Excluded
"I became a National Socialist because the idea of the National Community inspired me. What I had never realized was the number of Germans who were not considered worthy to belong to this community."
-Postwar memoirs of a German woman active in Nazi youth programs
One crucial factor in creating a cohesive group is to define who is excluded from membership. Nazi propagandists contributed to the regime's policies by publicly identifying groups for exclusion, justifying their outsider status, and inciting hatred or cultivating indifference. Nazi propaganda was crucial in selling the myth of the "national community" to Germans who longed for unity, national pride and greatness, and a break with the rigid social stratification of the past. But a second, more sinister aspect of the Nazi myth was that not all Germans were welcome in the new community. Propaganda helped to define who would be excluded from the new society and justified measures against the "outsiders."
Exploiting pre-existing images and stereotypes, Nazi propagandists portrayed Jews as an "alien race" that fed off the host nation, poisoned its culture, seized its economy, and enslaved its workers and farmers. This hateful depiction, although neither new nor unique to the Nazi Party, now became a state-supported image. As the Nazi regime tightened control over the press and publishing after 1933, propagandists tailored messages to diverse audiences, including the many Germans who were not Nazis and who did not read the party papers.
- Poster: "He is guilty for the war"
- "The Eternal Jew" exhibition
- Entrance to "The Eternal Jew" exhibition
- Anti-Jewish parade float
Jews were not the only group excluded from the vision of the "national community." Propaganda helped to define who would be excluded from the new society and justified measures against the "outsiders": including Jews, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Germans viewed as genetically inferior and harmful to "national health" (people with mental illness and intellectual or physical disabilities, epileptics, congenitally deaf and blind persons, chronic alcoholics, drug users, and others).
- Poster promoting the Nazi monthly publication Neues Volk
- Propaganda slide depicting "loss of racial pride"
- Anti-Roma (Gypsy) propaganda
Identification, Isolation, and Exclusion
Propaganda also helped lay the groundwork for the announcement of major anti-Jewish statutes at Nuremberg on September 15, 1935. The decrees followed a wave of anti-Jewish violence perpetrated by impatient Nazi Party radicals. The Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor prohibited marriage and extramarital sexual relations between Jews and persons of "German" or "related blood," and the Reich Citizenship Law defined Jews as "subjects" of the state, a second-class status. For months before the announcement of the "Nuremberg Laws," the Nazi Party press aggressively incited Germans against racial pollution, with the presence of Jews in public swimming pools becoming a major theme.
- Film: Goebbels claims Jews will destroy culture
- Antisemitic sign
- Nuremberg race laws chart
- Public humiliation: "I am a defiler of the race"
While most Germans disapproved of anti-Jewish violence, dislike of Jews, easily stirred up in hard times, extended far beyond the Nazi Party faithful. Most Germans at least passively accepted discrimination against Jews. A January 1936 underground report by an observer for German Social Democratic Party leaders-in-exile noted: "The feeling that the Jews are another race is today a general one." Propaganda campaigns created an atmosphere tolerant of anti-Jewish violence or exploited the ensuing violence—whether calculated or spontaneous—to encourage passivity and acceptance of anti-Jewish laws and decrees as a means to restore public order. Propaganda demonizing Jews also served to prepare the German population for harsher measures, such as mass deportations and, eventually, genocide.
- Film: Hitler speaks before the German parliament
- Der Stürmer front page, January 1939
- Antisemitic poster published in Poland in March 1941
- Poster advertising the antisemitic film Der ewige Jude ("The Eternal Jew"), ca. 1940
- Poster: "Behind the enemy powers: the Jews"
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