Background: August Eigruber was Gauleiter of Oberdonau (Upper Danube), a region of Austria, from 1939-1945. He was tried after World War II for crimes against humanity, convicted, and hanged on 28 May 1947. This speech was given on 12 January 1941 to a meeting of propagandists in his district. It is an interesting look at propaganda in a predominately rural area of Austria three years after the Nazi takeover.
The source: “Der Propagandist in der Kampfzeit und heute,” Ein Gau wächst ins Reich. Das Werden Oberdonaus im Spiegel der Reden des Gauleiters August Eigruber (Wels: Verlag Leitner & Co, 1942), 168-186.
The Propagandist during the Period of Struggle and Today
For the first time in the almost three years since the reunion with the Reich, the propaganda leaders of our local groups and the subsidiary and affiliated organizations of the party have been brought together for a mass meeting to receive fresh strength. Party comrades! There is no immediate reason to bring us propagandists together. I want to say that clearly. Our political and military situation is so obviously clear so that we can look forward to the final victorious end of this war with confident assurance. There is no pressing reason to bring us propagandists together. It is, however probably necessary to bring all leading party comrades together now and then to keep our thinking on the same lines.
We did have a lot of catching up to do. Three years ago in the middle of January 1938 we still had a Kurt von Schuschnigg and his federal government, along with a Christian-authoritarian class-oriented separate and independent Austria. Three years ago, party comrades, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party was still a banned movement! Displaying a swastika meant prison, a brown shirt had not been seen for years, and a swastika banner was something we got only occasionally from the Reich when it could be smuggled across the border. We did not have people with the title political leader, nor did we have a propaganda department. We did not have the dozens of organizations that we have today, nor a WHW [the party’s charity organization]. We did have hundreds of thousands of unemployed and we knew that we had the lowest birthrate of any country in the world. Things looked hopeless, and we were surrounded by a small alliance of countries that no one speaks of any longer, but which three years ago was still a strong force. Party comrades, it is necessary to recall and remember that, particularly for you who are the active propagandists out in the countryside!
We have the difficult school of our propaganda behind us, however. It is relatively easy to be a propagandist in National Socialist Germany today; back then one was a propagandist of a banned, persecuted, suppressed movement that had nothing positive to show in its own country, but could only point to the successes of those in the Reich. That was harder, and we thank fate that we have such a school behind us. That made us hard, it made us adroit, giving us the ability to master difficult problems.
Today we are in the middle of a war, but we National Socialists cannot make the mistake of assuming that the war began on 1 September 1939, the day that our troops crossed the German-Polish border to put an end to the constant provocations of the Polish state. The war did not begin on 1 September 1939. The war, the decisive battle of our people, began on 30 January 1933! We above all can best appreciate and understand that, since we were cut off from the Reich during the four years of constructive activity.
It was a war without bombs and pilots, but it was nonetheless a much tougher and more dangerous war. I remember the year 1934 when Jews in the whole world called for a boycott of German products. We remember that call that went through the whole democratic-capitalist-Jewish world: “Do not buy German products.” That was a serious attack on Germany, which was still building and which was not easy to parry, particularly in the economic realm. We also remember the press campaign against Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Germany. It came in stages. Germany had no foreign currency and would therefore have to collapse eventually. Next, Germany had no raw materials, so Germany could not keep its industry going, much less carry out the Four Year Plan. Or Germany had no gold, and no country on earth could live without gold. Germany would not be able to defend its currency, inflation was sure to come, and with it everything in the country would have to be sold and the population ruined. Others said that we might be propagandists but not statesmen, good soldiers but not generals. Or the Reich was not as unified as the National Socialists said, but rather the unity was only on paper. The S.A. was against the S.S., the army against the party, Goebbels was fighting Göring and Göring was fighting Hitler, and so on, in a thousand variations.
It was hard for National Socialists outside the Reich to find the right way. The material was not always available to provide the proper evidence and proof. Party comrades, back then the propagandist developed the fighting spirit that we need just as much today. Back then the active, energetic, and confident National Socialist, when he heard about a wild fight between Göring and Goebbels simply said: “That is not true, it is a lie!” He had no proof of that, no reason to give. Sometimes he heard that Germany was not able to pay its foreign debts because the Reich lacked foreign currency and gold reserves. The individual party member, particularly less-educated one, had no idea whether that was true or not, since he knew nothing about the financial system, foreign exchange, and the national economy. But he had faith, and with that faith he was able to say: ‘That is not true, that is now how things are! Germany will not collapse because of those things!” That was a conviction that did not need proof.
Party comrades, things have not changed. Today, too, we need these faithful, active National Socialists, and particularly for you propagandists there are no doubts, but rather only rock-hard faith: “I believe in the Führer, I believe in the Reich, I believe in victory. With this faith I stand as an active National Socialist before each comrade, each organization, each party member!” This camaraderie must be the foundation of our struggle. Today as we are in power, however, we encounter the same people who three years ago thought things looked bad, who doubted our victory because they did not understand our struggle. They show up again and say: “We knew that this is what would happen!” As if they really knew that men from Steiermark, Kärnten, and Salzburg would stand guard in Narvik! In truth, three and a half years ago they had no idea whether the Krukenkreuz [the cross potent, the symbol of the conservative Austrian Vaterländische Front] or the Swastika would triumph; they nervously thought and speculated about how they could come out of things in the best way possible, where they should place their bets to come out with as many Schillings or Marks as possible.
Party comrades, today these fools come along and say: “Sure, the Nazis needed those uneducated people back then, but today they need people who can do something. Now they need local group leaders, county leaders, county officials, mayors. Such positions can only be held by those who have thoroughly studied National Socialism, who have spent long nights studying Hitler’s Mein Kampf line by line, and who know that these are the only ideas in the world.” Party comrades, with such clever minds as these we would still be where we were in 1933, 1934, 1935.We did not need only such fine people, but also Nazis to the core, and without them we could not have done it. We could not have distributed our leaflets overnight, we could not have kept the Swastika fire burning. I do not depend on such a clever and smooth gentleman, but rather on an upright, open, honest National Socialist who believes blindly in the Führer, in his people, and in his movement. One of your tasks, therefore, is to deal with the small cliques of grumblers in the villages, smaller markets, and towns, telling them: “The functionaries in our party and its subsidiaries proved themselves in the period of struggle, and are therefore also able to do their work today. If you don’t like it, we’ll give you what you deserve.”
Few in Europe knew Adolf Hitler and National Socialism. One of them was the deceased Polish President and Marshall Pilsudski. Pilsudski told the French and English in May or June of 1933 that he was afraid that Germany would regain its power and strength under Adolf Hitler’s leadership. He saw two possibilities: either a preventive or diversionary war against the Reich to hinder its military and economic growth, or to make some sort of treaty of friendship with Germany. Back then they laughed in Paris, London, Prague, Vienna, Brussels, and Den Haag. You know that at the beginning of 1934 the ten-year treaty between Germany and Poland came into effect. If Pillsudski had lived things would probably have gone in a different direction. He was a statesman. Everyone else, if I may speak plainly, was completely convinced that we were bankrupt from the first day. Daladier, Laval, Chamberlain, Reynaud and all the rest of them, the many minister presidents, Mr. Benesch and King Carol and so on where convinced that National Socialism would suffer a shipwreck sooner or later.
Party comrades! You know that at the start of the war against Holland and Poland people said we had a fifth column. We did not. I can say that, since we would have admitted if had we had one. We did, however, have a fifth column in Paris, London, Prague, and New York: our emigrants, our Jews, our Marxists, our Heimwehr leaders, and our clerics who had fled. They made the best propaganda for Germany. Mr. Zernatto, for example, wrote a book while he was in Paris: The Last Days of Austria. He described how Austria was overrun with hundreds of tanks and airplanes, hundreds of thousands of German soldiers who marched in. The intimidated Austrian population stood along the streets because they were forced to. He wrote that they stood with clenched fists in their pockets and now the Austrians were waiting for liberation, the hour when Mr. Zernatto and Ernsterl Starhemberg and the like could be brought back. That is what Mr. Zernatto wrote in his book. He said the same thing to French politicians, one day to Mr. Reynaud, the next day to Mr. Gamelin. He always said: “Look, I come from Austria and still have connections there. I know how things are. There is a huge patriotic organization, but only on foot since we have no armored vehicles and no tanks. But I guarantee that at the smallest opportunity the Austrian people will rise up and liberate itself and chase the Prussians or the Nazis out of beautiful Austria.” It is clear why Mr. Chamberlain and others from the outside believed that we really were near collapse when he heard such things every day not only from Zernatto, but also from our well-known commerce minister Stockinger, who sold postage stamps that had printing errors, or from Prince Ernst Starhemberg, or from the Marxist leader Braun who had governed the Saar, or Mr. Kaas or Mr. Held from Bavaria, or from Thomas Mann, or from Benesch. One person came along and said he had reliable information that the army was not cooperating, that the army was against the party. A big fight had broken out and all the generals were against the NSDAP. Open battle was coming, Hitler could not depend on the army. Another said that the Marxists were well organized and were waiting for the call to strike. Yet another said there had been big fights between the SA. and the SS. So you see, this happened every day, and you know that constant drips wear away stone. The brains of a Frenchman or an Englishman gradually softened, the mind gave in, and they believed what they were told. Believing these constant stupid rumors lead to them not taking us seriously. They waited until Germany would collapse. Mr. Lipsky, the Polish ambassador in Paris, send a telegram to Mr. Chamberlin as late as 2 September claiming that Germany would fall into domestic turmoil and revolution if England declared war on the Reich. Party comrades, they believed that! We can warmly thank our emigrants for that!
Now we have 1940 with its victories and successes behind us. We still do not understand the magnitude of this victory, and its ultimate significance for the course of the war and for the building of the new Europe. We cannot comprehend what it means that our battalions occupy a crucial position up north in Kirkenes, in Lapland, or that we occupy Dronthiem from which we control the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean. We still do not know what it means that we are in Holland, Belgium, and along the English Channel, that we occupy Calais. We cannot imagine being cut off from our North Sea again since we occupy territory down to the Pyrenees, and even harbors on the Black Sea. One has to keep that in mind. And we do not know how things will look at the end of this year.
It is easy to understand why propaganda under these conditions is very easy. It takes no great skill to make propaganda, particularly when things are done so well from up above and there are so many great examples. One cannot imagine better propaganda than that provided by our radio. Think back on Compiégne or the armistice at 2 a.m. That captivated everyone. It was not necessary to do anything more. However, we must still do something with propaganda in daily life. This is what concerns us the most. One cannot always speak about great matters, one must also deal with everyday daily life. You deal with the average man. We have to keep this in mind: we have about 100,000 inhabitants who have never traveled by train [There were just over a million inhabitants of the Gau in 1939]. There are at least 80,000 to 100,000 who do not have electric lighting, since we have nearly 200 communities and villages without electricity. When we had a battery shortage they were not able to listen to the radio. They were unable to listen to the radio for months. When we lacked petroleum, people in the Mühlviertel and the Bohemian Forest had to use wooden torches (Kienspäne) during the winter to go to the stalls to milk. They went to bed when it got dark and got up when there was light. Clearly, I can’t deal with that by using the great themes of propaganda. Dealing with the heavy demands of everyday life requires committed and active Nazis. As I have said before, it is less a matter of intellect than of the clear attitude of the individual propagandists.
Such propaganda activity is particularly important in periods when nothing significant is happening militarily. It is quite possible that nothing much happens for several months, but there is still a lot of talk. Small-mindedness surfaces during such times. People mutter in the village or neighborhood. They complain about the roads or the NSV. All the trivial matters with their associated frictions and insults blossom. We have former party members in the Gau who left since the takeover only because Mr. Maier or Frau Maier said this and that about Mrs. Huber, which is such on outrage that they can no longer stay in the party as long as Mrs. Huber is still a member. No National Socialist can give such a reason, which comes from the narrow-mindedness of small communities and from limited understanding. See, one always has to work to raise the level of the individual, to help the individual to improve himself, to help make the work of an individual easier.
We cannot allow someone to influence an opinion without any involvement from us. Sometimes a local group leader writes to me, or the propaganda leader, or the county leader: “We have to do something, people are talking about something. We have to hold a meeting and tell them that it is not true, or that things are different.” Such things show that the local group leader does not understand the situation, that he does not realize that his organization has ways to spread and change opinions without needing the help of the county leader.
There is one more thing I need to mention today: the unity of the party. In villages out in the countryside — and the smaller the place, the more this is true — each National Socialist organization is becoming its own party. One reads only about the NSV. I think that 50% of the population does not know that this belongs to the NSDAP and is subordinate to it. I want to say clearly, and will emphasize strongly in the future: There is one NSDAP and everything else is subordinate to it! The NSDAP is the leader. It directs public opinion and conducts propaganda, which its domain. Everything else is subordinate to the party and is there only to support it. The subsidiaries and organizations serve the party, and the party itself is only a means to the end of making it easier for the Führer to lead his people and better form the future. That is why we are there; we are not there for ourselves, either. You, party comrades, have the opportunity as propagandists to make things clear. Anyone has the right to criticize; the task of the party is to fix it.
Your job is to deal with all the rumors, whatever their sources, that weaken morale. Here is an example of how such rumors and attitudes develop: 50,000 people were at a football match in Vienna. The referees made several bad calls. I don’t know if they were right or wrong. However there were several calls that the 50,000 Viennese did not like and there was some excitement. They people started saying that there had been “demonstrations” in Vienna with absolutely unbelievable things being said. Not among the broad masses, mind you, but primarily among the coffee house politicians who then came up with the most stupid political jokes. You all know such “political” jokes. Let me speak my opinion clearly: political jokes today are entirely inappropriate, whether on the stage at a KdF gathering or a theater, but also in a pub or even more so among party comrades. It is necessary for you to speak to this issue in your circles, presenting a clear position. We sacrificed 230 dead for the reunion of Austria with the Reich. Tens of thousands were in prison, hundreds of thousands unemployed and in poverty. Yet today, people here and there joke about this unity and spread rumors and fables. English radio is happy to broadcast all these jokes, wherever they come from. Party comrades, we must speak clearly here! When someone tells you a joke about a Prussian or a Bavarian, let him finish, then knock him flat. If someone tells a joke about the Führer or Goebbels or someone else, let him finish, don’t run to the Gestapo! They are the police. We do not want to run to the police, since we are not a police state! Give him two quick punches and the matter is taken care of! I am convinced that if we do that, people will at least refrain from telling a Nazi a political joke in the future! That by itself is an accomplishment. One more time: we must display a clear attitude, not sit in the pub and listen, even laugh at political jokes as we often did before, then go home and pass the joke on to others. That is beneath our dignity! This is an important task for the propagandist, and I ask that in the future when you hear something that offends a National Socialist, do not wait for instructions, but instead make your position clear!
We would not have won our battle by instructions alone. Earlier, we were not given instructions, but rather we simply did what our feelings told us to do, we did what we stood for. If we are active National Socialists who have the ability to lead, we can act on our own initiative and take the responsibility. No one has ever been expelled from the party for doing too much, even if occasionally he missed the target. If I throw someone out, it will only be because he did not do anything!
Party comrades, the war will not decide the fate of the National Socialist state as such, but rather the fate of the German people. After Roosevelt’s speech, which you have read, after what the British newspapers and magazines have written, after all the statements we hear every day from the island, we know one thing: If the Jewish-democratic-clerical world clique against which we are fighting were to win, they would not break Germany apart, but rather cut each German into four parts. Their hatred is enormous, and it is not against the Führer, not against the National Socialist movement, but rather against each German woman and each German man. Their hatred is so great that we can only say: Thank God that we know how much that they hate us! We will act accordingly, and fight this battle to the end. We know today that there can be no compromise. If our enemies offer us peace, we will agree only when they are flat on the ground, since otherwise they will only use the time to tear victory from our hands in the future. We must be fully clear as to the magnitude and reach of this battle. It is a matter of our ancient fate, of the very existence of the German nation. That is why determination and action is required from each of you and from us all, from each German.
We all know that 1940 gave us a crucial position. Italy became our ally during the year. At the beginning of the war Italy tied up powerful French and English forces in the Mediterranean. It continues to do so today. We know that Italy today is enduring the heaviest attacks, since the English have said that they want to knock Italy out of the war by spring. The whole Empire with its reserves from India, Australia, New Zealand, and the dominions and colonies in Africa is facing Italy, trying to chase our ally out of this war. Their whole reserve force and significant parts of the active forces face Italy today, which therefore faces a very difficult situation. It is playing its part in the war, also in sacrifices of blood.
We have unshakable faith in our leadership, which is why we are so confident in this war. Each has the feeling that nothing can go wrong, that everything that has happened and everything that will happen has been foreseen by the Führer. He considers every eventuality and acts only when he is 100% certain that something will succeed. That is why we are certain that this war will at the proper time come to its finish. We have huge stores of war matériel. A while ago when we were at a meeting with the Führer, he said that he had only one “worry,” the worry that after the war the auditor general would accuse him of having produced too many munitions. We have the largest army that a people has ever had at arms. We have all of Europe’s reserves, since we control Europe today. We will try no military experiments. It may take a long time, but the end is sure. Your task, your pride, as a propagandist is to help, to inspire the community, to keep the homeland behind the flag. We live in an age in which Germany’s greatness is being established, when Germany is advancing. The generations that follow will envy us. We want to use the time and help the Führer build a united Reich!
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