Writing the News
Reflecting in his diary (April 14, 1943) during the war on the press's loss of independence, Joseph Goebbels, a one-time journalist, wrote: "Any man who still has a residue of honor will be very careful not to become a journalist."
When Hitler came to power in 1933, Germany had a well-developed communications infrastructure. Over 4,700 daily and weekly newspapers were published annually in Germany, more newspapers than in any other industrialized nation, with a total circulation of 25 million. Although Berlin was the press capital, small town presses dominated newspaper circulation (81% of all German newspapers were locally owned). Eight papers published in larger cities, however, had established international reputations. Germany's movie industry ranked among the world's largest, its films had won international acclaim, and it had pioneered in the development of both radio and television.
Establishing Control of the Press
When Hitler took power in 1933, the Nazis controlled less than 3% of Germany’s 4,700 papers. The elimination of the multiparty political system not only brought about the demise of hundreds of newspapers produced by outlawed political parties; it also allowed the state to seize the printing plants and equipment of the Communist and Social Democratic Parties, often then turned over directly to the Nazi Party. In the following months, the Nazis established control or exerted influence over independent press organs. During the first weeks of 1933, the regime used radio, press, and newsreels to stoke fears of a pending "Communist uprising," then channeled popular anxieties into political measures that eradicated civil liberties and democracy.
- In Berlin, a German woman reads a copy of the Berliner Illustrierte newspaper
- A member of the Municipal Police looks through the storeroom of the Communist Party headquarters
- Film: Reichstag (German parliament) building on the day after it was set on fire
- Cover of a 1936 issue of the Illustrierter Beobachter
- Unser Wille und Weg (Our Will and Way), published monthly by the Nazi Party Propaganda
One Man, One Paper
Der Stürmer was the most notorious antisemitic newspaper in Germany. Nazi provincial leader Julius Streicher, a former schoolteacher turned Nazi activist, edited and directed the paper. The newspaper ran for more than 20 years, from 1923 to 1945, publishing lurid tales of Jewish "ritual murder," sex crimes, and financial malfeasance. During the Weimar Republic, the outrageous and libelous claims of Der Stürmer frequently resulted in lawsuits filed by outraged politicians and Jewish organizations against Streicher himself and the newspaper.
- Adolf Hitler and Julius Streicher
- Front page of the most popular issue ever of the Nazi publication, Der Stürmer
- A Der Stürmer newspaper salesman hands a copy of the paper to a passenger through a train window
- A German couple reads the latest issue of Der Stürmer
Jewish Newspapers as Communal Response
As the Nazi propaganda machine hijacked the German press in service of its racist ideology, newspapers published by local Jewish communities (Gemeinden) became a lifeline for Jews in towns and cities across Germany and a link between local communities and the leaders of national organizations. After the boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, Arno Herzberg, bureau chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in Berlin, wrote: "The new circumstances in which German Jewry now finds itself have also heralded a new era for the Jewish press. This new era has ushered in far-reaching tasks for Jewish journalism. Beforehand, the Jewish press led a quiet existence. It was peripheral to the concerns of the average German Jew ... All this has changed fundamentally in the era in which Jews are excluded from broad German intellectual and social circles."
- Jewish community news bulletin, May 1939
- Announcement in a 1938 Jewish community bulletin
- Jewish newspapers for sale at a kiosk in Berlin
- A sign posted outside the offices of the Jüdische Rundschau publishing and distribution office
New Avenues for Propaganda: Film, Radio, Television
The Nazis understood the power and attraction of emerging technologies, such as film, loudspeakers, radio, and television, in the service of propaganda. These technologies offered the Nazi leadership a means for mass dissemination of their ideological messages and a vehicle for reinforcing the myth of the Volksgemeinschaft ("national community") through communal listening and viewing experiences. After 1933, German radio broadcast Hitler's speeches into homes, factories, and even onto city streets through loudspeakers. Officials in Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda saw the tremendous promise of radio for propaganda. In 1935, Germany became the first nation to introduce regular television service.
- Photo: "All of Germany listened to the Führer's speech, at the memorable Reichstag meetings on January 30, 1937."
- Poster: "All of Germany Listens to the Führer with the People's Radio".
- Volksempfänger ("People's Receiver")
Behind the Headlines: Nazi Media Manipulation—Kristallnacht
On the night of November 9/10, 1938, Nazi leaders instigated a wave of violence that devastated Jewish communities throughout the Greater German Reich and outraged world opinion. At the urging of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, local and regional Nazi leaders engaged in wanton destruction and brutality, using the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris by an angry Jewish teenager to justify the violence. On Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), rioters damaged or destroyed some 7,500 Jewish businesses, torched hundreds of synagogues, and murdered 91 Jews. During the following days, the German Security Police arrested up to 30,000 Jewish men and incarcerated them in Buchenwald, Dachau, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.
- Fire destroys the synagogue in the village of Ober-Ramstadt during Kristallnacht
- Burning synagogue in Rostock the morning after Kristallnacht
- Front page of the Dallas Morning News, November 11, 1938
Forbidden Broadcasts: Foreign Radio as an Alternative Source of News
During times of war, governments generally restrict and censor public access to information in order to prevent sensitive data leaking to the enemy or to isolate the domestic population from information that might undermine public morale. After Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the Nazi regime implemented draconian measures to prevent its population from receiving outside information. The German government prohibited its citizens to listen to foreign broadcasts, making doing so a criminal offense. German courts could sentence persons who disseminated stories gleaned from enemy radio stations to prison terms or even death.
- Board game encouraging players to listen to German radio stations
- Poster: "Traitor" (1944)
- Tag attached to a radio warning against listening to foreign broadcasts
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