Background: The following essay was published in Unser Wille und Weg. The magazine was a monthly published for those active in conducting Nazi propaganda. It deals with problems in holding public meetings. It is interesting as an attempt to keep the enthusiasm of Nazi propagandists high.
The source: “Fehlerquellen in der Versammlungspropaganda,” Unser Wille und Weg, 11 (1941), pp. 39-40.
Mistakes in Meeting Propaganda
All the mistakes people make are tolerable, as long as they affect only an individual. They become dangerous when they affect a group of people that is of decisive significance for an entire people. The NSDAP has just such decisive significance for the German people. It has established the intellectual, spiritual, and moral presuppositions for the growth of Greater Germany. It is the way the will of the Führer is transmitted to the people. Remember that it is the will of the Führer not to dominate, but rather to lead the people. The goal is to win the people though national, economic, cultural, and social means with persuasion, not by force. That shows the enormous responsibility that the leaders of the NSDAP have to the nation as a whole. He who is not strong in this situation has never been strong and must be replaced by someone fully capable. We must examine from this standpoint the mistakes that have snuck into the meeting propaganda of the NSDAP.
“Active propaganda” is one of the most persuasive tools we have to acquaint the people with the will of the Führer. This means that the bearers of this propaganda, from the department head in the Reichspropagandaleitung to the local group propaganda leader, from the national speaker to the county speaker, must be the most responsible and sacrificing men of the movement. Those who served as the unknown speakers of the Führer throughout Germany in the days before and after the seizure of power do not need to be convinced of this. Clearly, there can be no room for major errors in preparing and carrying out large popular meetings. It must be said, however, that very often there are mistakes discovered in the lesser gears of this great clockwork of propaganda that often are the result of insufficient creative ability, but sometimes also of the indolence of the responsible political leaders. All too often, speakers ask the local group leader: “What kind of preparations were made for the meeting?”, only to get the answer “My propaganda leader is responsible for that!” That means that the local group leader gave the responsibility for the meeting entirely to the propaganda leader, and saw his role only as opening and closing a weakly attended meeting with a rude complaint about the attendance. The local group leader entirely failed to note that his complaint should be addressed not to the limited number of attendees, but rather to himself and his cell and block leaders. The latter will work effectively to prepare a meeting only when their local group leader sets the example. If he does nothing, even the best propaganda leader will not accomplish much.
In this regard, it should be noted that an old, repeatedly forbidden practice is always being repeated by meeting leaders: quenching the holy flame of enthusiasm by long introductions. For example, a county leader “greeted” the assembled people officers, soldiers and groups with a 25-minute introduction. After he had greeted the “entire world,” save for the speaker of the party, he concluded by saying: “But this evening’s speaker can say it much better than I. After all, a prophet is without honor in his own country.”
Another group of local group leaders had their cell and block leaders sell tickets door to door. They proudly told the speaker that they had sold 1700 tickets in a town of 24,000. However, only 400 people showed up in a room with seats for 2,000. If these local group leaders could see the inner effect on the speaker of such an embarrassing attendance, they would do better the next time. It is not a question of how many tickets are sold, but of how many people come. In other words, it is a question of the propagandistic spirit that results when citizens are visited in their homes. That is the best chance to hammer the necessity of attending meetings into the minds of the people. It is not enough to sell a ticket; the people must promise to attend the meeting. One cannot say there is not enough time for such work. He who has sworn an oath to the Führer must either banish this excuse from his mind or resign. Naturally, such time-consuming work with the people can only be expected when the great mass meetings are held rather infrequently, not as sometimes is falsely done every week.
Very often this excuse is used: “Well, if we had known how good this speaker was, we would have made better propaganda. The last speaker was a disappointment.” This attitude clearly is a betrayal of National Socialist duty. Even the thought that no real propaganda should be made for the next meeting only because the previously speaker was bad is more than criminal. The responsible local group leader will see to it that such bad speakers are excluded. More than that, he will work as hard as he can to show the people that the next meeting will be a success.
Other local group leaders think they have done their duty when they advertise the meeting with posters, often without any idea of the topic of the meeting. Where there is a newspaper, they will publish a few words and give the speaker’s name, then order people to attend. These local group leaders have forgotten that during the struggle for power, they and their cell and block leaders talked to people at home, in shops, factories, streetcars, busses, on the street, and everywhere else, urging them to attend a meeting. He who believes that such propaganda is no longer timely or appropriate must learn that those local groups with packed meetings still consider the propaganda of the period of struggle entirely timely. They use their cell and block leaders for mouth-to-mouth propaganda. The officers of the German Workers Front also get instructions to have their subordinates spread the news of the meeting. The formations of the SA, the SS, and so on work in the same way, guaranteeing the success of the meeting.
It is, by the way, wholly false to maintain that propaganda today uses more “refined” methods than those of the period of struggle. The times have not changed, but people have become used to their offices and lost their fighting spirit. These human failings and weaknesses are a great threat to our people. If the creative fighting spirit of our leaders weakens, complacency gains ground; contentment and weakness replace joy in struggle. Should this happen, everything great and powerful that the Führer has given the German people will become worthless. The blood of our fathers and sons will have been shed in vain upon the battlefield. We know that will never happen; that is why such mistakes must be recognized and opposed with unforgiving firmness.
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