People's Radio

This is a People’s Radio. It has a molded brown plastic cover. The only decoration is the emblem of the German national broadcasting system, the screaming eagle, just below the dial. There very few positions on the dial. Operation of the radio is kept simple as well, there are only three knobs—one for volume, one for selecting a station, and one for fine tuning. The large mesh inset takes up half of the front of the radio, which indicates the size of the size of the speaker inside the box.

Goebbels’s ministry recognized the tremendous promise of radio for propaganda. It heavily subsidized the production of the inexpensive “People’s Radio” to facilitate sales. By early 1938, the number of radios in German homes surpassed more than 9 million, roughly one for every two German households. Three years later, this figure rose to almost 15 million, providing 50 million Germans with regular radio reception.

The simple design of this radio allowed the Nazis to manufacture both the radio and its replacement parts cheaply, quickly, and in large numbers out of readily available raw materials. The plastic cover could be stamped out by machine in great quantities. Most of the room inside the box was taken up by the speaker, the rest housed the relatively few other parts. The parts are designed to be mass-produced and interchangeable so that maintenance and repair could also be easy and inexpensive. A radio that could be manufactured so inexpensively could also be sold at a price that everyone could afford.

To make mass radio reception at any location possible, several models of the People’s Radio were manufactured. The first set came out in 1933; it could receive only long wave transmissions, which meant that it could not receive broadcasts from most foreign radio stations. In 1935, production began on a community radio receiver intended for use on factory floors for communal listening in the workplace; on the day it was introduced, employees gathered in the machine shop of the Siemens factory, where radios and other electronic devices were manufactured, to witness the broadcast of a speech by Adolf Hitler from the factory floor. In 1938, building on the success of the previous two models, a technically simpler and smaller radio receiver, was offered for sale for only 35 RM. With this simple technical apparatus, anyone could receiver broadcasts from the nearest regional station and from Radio Germany, which broadcast news on long waves.

The positions on the dial correspond to the regional broadcasting stations and Radio Germany that broadcast only content and entertainment approved by the Ministry of Propaganda and Enlightenment. If Germans tuned in to the approved stations, they would hear carefully controlled news broadcasts, propaganda speeches by Nazi officials, military music, and special programs for Hitler Youth, but also helpful advice such as making the most of rationed foodstuffs, as well as radio dramas, classical concerts and light entertainment. They would not, however, hear American jazz or swing, or music by Jewish composers.

The mass-produced “People’s Radio” was designed to have a limited range and could not easily pick up foreign broadcasts. However, simple modifications could increase reception in order to hear foreign broadcasts. The British Broadcasting Company (the BBC) had broadcast a special schedule of programs daily in German, as did the U.S. Armed Forces Radio. These broadcasts included political and military news that would have been censored by the Nazis. Both the British and the Americans gave broadcasting time to European governments-in-exile so that they could broadcast to their fellow citizens living under German occupation.