Background: Eugen Hadamovsky was a leading Nazi radio expert, and the author of a half dozen books with heavy propaganda content. His title was Reichssendeleiter, or national programming director. Here, he discusses the effective use of radio for political purposes.
The source: Eugen Hadamovsky, “Die politische Arbeit des Rundfunksprechers,” in Handbuch des deutschen Rundfunks 1939/40 (Heidelberg, Kurt Vowinckel Verlag, 1939), pp. 26-30.
The Political Work of the Radio Announcer
by Eugen Hadamovsky
To outsiders, the work of those in the radio who are right next to the Führer or his top aides at the time of important events seems mysterious. The men of the radio, and particularly the reporters or announcers, experience directly what others only learn through newspapers, photographs, or radio broadcasts..
Decisive political events do not take place “behind the scenes,” but rather they are intended to gain the participation of the whole population. Dr. Goebbels opens the doors, the conference rooms, the meeting halls, the four walls of diplomatic negotiations, and lets the people and the world participate. The broadest public participates in important events through pictures, news reports, the accounts of capable announcers, or through direct broadcasts of political events.
The principle of National Socialist foreign policy is to mobilize the whole popular will for certain international goals. There is therefore no secret diplomacy in Wilson’s sense, no backroom negotiations like those Roosevelt, the English, and the cabinets of nearly all the European capitals have attempted to use against us this year.
Things must be open and clear to the world.
I have the most vivid memories of how our radio experts, in close cooperation with the central programming office and the best German announcers, were present at the major conferences of last year, such as the visits to Germany by Chamberlain and Mussolini, or of our participation in the year’s major political events.
This May, as the German-Italian Friendship and Mutual Support Pact was signed in the Embassy Hall of the Reich Chancellery, we found ourselves there with the Führer, the foreign ministers of both countries, the commanders of the German army, and many German and Italian diplomats.
The announcer chosen by the Central Programming Office (Landgraf from Berlin) understood how to convey this truly historic hour with almost military objectivity, avoiding empty phrases and emotion. It was one of the most interesting and gripping broadcasts of the year.
Another example. On 1 May, the Führer received the workers, Hitler Youth, and BDM members who were victors in the Reich Occupational Competition. He spoke a long while with them, shaking each individual’s hand, asking about their lives and their jobs. He discussed inventions, agricultural and industrial work, German production, family and household matters. We could listen to the Führer in a way we otherwise cannot.
An hour or two later, we chose several scenes from the event and our announcer used them to provide a lively account that once again was one of the most effective broadcasts. It was one of the programs that draws listeners to us! There are probably hundreds of thousands interested in music or literature, in symphonies or plays. But the millions who make up the audience of the new National Socialist radio are interested in politics. They are attracted by political radio. They are more interested in participating in great political events than in listening to a play by Mr. Fritz Müller or a serenade by Heinz Schulz. For them, the most important thing on the radio is the Führer’s voice.
Events like the signing of the pact with Italy or the reception of the men and women who won the occupational competition are such that a hundred thousand could participate in as easily as fifty or a hundred. However, the deeply personal and human nature of such events, such meetings or conversations between the Führer and the youth, would be completely lost. When, however, Dr. Goebbels uses his photographers, his reporters, his radio, then there is a bridge from those who actually participate in such events to the millions who are not there. Of course, we do disturb the event, unfortunately, by our presence, in order to carry the event to millions. It is not ideal when one has a once in a lifetime opportunity to speak with the Führer, only to have flashbulbs going off and reporters writing things down, or even to have a microphone recording it all.
But that has to happen so that everyone else can participate.
There are rules that the radio reporter must follow.
The most important rule is to be as inconspicuous and unobtrusive as possible.
He who charges through the crowd like a tank will not get anything useful for his microphone, but only disrupts the atmosphere.
Modesty, simplicity, and restraint are necessary, but they must go hand in hand with energy and determination. Without them, one is outside the circle of what is happening, and will never get in. He will be no better than a photograph taken at a lucky moment.
When, however, the radio reporter brings his microphone “to the right man,” he reveals the most private discussions between people. That is remarkable by itself. When two farmers speak from their hearts or two workers talk to each other, it becomes a wonderful and important human experience. But when one of these two workers is named Adolf Hitler, a conversation about the simplest aspects of everyday life becomes beautiful evidence of human greatness and the nature of what it means to be German. Then it is worthwhile for the radio to enter the scene, since a photograph or a personal report are not enough. The radio is not there to give a nicely done portrait of events by a particular announcer, but rather the microphone should capture a human event in its original form and pass it on to millions of people.
Aside from the fact that such programs have won the strong support of the leading men of our government, there is hardly a kind of programming that is better received by the people.
The radio announcer must be up to the demands of such political tasks.
His style must fit the events.
When a radio reporter hurries to the site of a big fire, records a report, and goes back to his station and broadcasts the news, he is reporting on an event that many interested listeners might not otherwise have heard about. The announcer is thus not only the reporter of this event, but rather the source and the molder of the news. The listener experiences what he says. The announcer is the critical person. Without him, the listener would not have learned anything, other than perhaps what he could read a day or two later in the personal report of a newspaper reporter.
In these and similar situations, the radio announcer is a sovereign lord. He decides whether the event is spoken about at all, that is, whether it is broadcast. He decides the length of the report, organizes the presentation, pauses as he wishes, speeds up the tempo and the words as he thinks best, and delivers a complete minor artwork.
An announcer may have a completely different task, depending on whether he is reporting a state ceremony in the Lustgarten [in Berlin], the signing of a friendship treaty, or the Führer’s reception of a worker.
Even if the announcer were not there, the public would hear about the most important aspects of the event. Newspapers would cover the parade, though not in a personal way, but rather in official reports, of which the public would already have heard a great deal.
All the newspapers in the world will cover an important state ceremony. One will read the texts of the speeches everywhere. The speech will be carried by the radio and everyone will listen regardless of whether announcer Schmidt provides an introduction or not. The world listens not to hear Mr. Schmidt’s introduction, but rather to hear the Führer speak.
It is exactly the same with regards to the signing of a state treaty with Italy or with a reception for workers in the Reich Chancellery. The personality of the announcer is unimportant. What is important is the Führer, Ribbentrop and Ciano [the Italian foreign minister]. That is what is of interest.
The announcer is not an independent creative force when the German radio carries important political events, but rather a small but important link in a chain.
The cause of the event is, depending on its important, the Führer himself, or the Minister for People’s Enlightenment and Propaganda, or his department head for political propaganda, or some other leading figure. The announcer doesn’t make the event significant, but rather simply reports that the event is important. He must only fit himself intelligently and smoothly into the already determined course of events.
Of course, it can also be done stupidly and badly.
That happens more often than one might think. Citizens know all about it. They curse the announcer who spoils the mood, or who always says the same thing, or who misses the important things people want to hear about, or the overeager gentleman who thinks it necessary to express his own thoughts even though the Führer is already speaking, or whomever it is who is the reason for the whole gathering, or who talks during military commands, flag commands, or while the dead are being honored by the Good Comrade Song, or our national anthem or that of other countries, is being played — the public rightly views these things as a crime.
When the Führer, the General Field Marshall [Goering] or the Propaganda Minister speak at a mass meeting, everyone else should be silent, even Mr. Meier and his microphone. And when the German national anthem or the Good Comrades song is being played, one raises his right arm and sings along, or keeps quiet. One does not talk.
There are established methods for our radio announcers to follow when covering political events, based on experience and thought. The announcer works with others. His greatest skill comes in understanding what the organizer of the political event wants to have happen. Once the announcer has understood that, he can use the time he has to best advantage. Indeed, that is what he should do. Visiting the labor camp in Dingskirchen, or reporting on a barn fire in Kötzschenbroda, or a visit to the rock gardens in the Elbsandstein hills, may be worthwhile. A much more important and honorable activity, however, and one that recognizes his creative abilities, is to work with the Führer himself and his closest aides.
The desire to do the best one can is good and healthy. However, one must be modest in the face of the events and the personality who stands in the center. Only then will outstanding work be done. Only then does one earn the title: Master Announcer of German Radio.
That requires controlling the individual, just like a solder. He must do the best he can, but within the bounds of his unit!
Back in 1933, we began to evaluate very carefully the work of our radio announcers, using recordings of our broadcasts to criticize and evaluate what we had done.
The major events of recent months have also been prepared thoroughly and carefully reviewed after the broadcasts.
The circle includes those who directly participated in the events, and who were responsible for parts of it, or for it all. We listen patiently to the entire broadcast. Then the engineers have their say. Were all the technical details in order, or could something have been done better? Could one perhaps have given the program some variety by including parade music by having had microphones in the right places — not only right next to the parade, but also further away so that one could catch the marching footsteps of the battalion or the cheers of the crowd?
Then the announcer has his say.
Everyone has a chance to speak, beginning with those comrades who did not speak during the broadcast. Finally, if necessary, the “accused” has his say. The leaders give their opinions only at the end. The result is practical training, reasonable and factual criticism based on precise knowledge of the events, which also provides practical guidance for the future. Anyone who made a mistake learns how to do it better the next time.
The value of this approach is best shown when we have to work with foreigners during state visits or interesting events. We suddenly see the differences between our National Socialist announcers and those foreigners who have not been trained in their worldview. They are not as propagandistically capable. Other countries also have splendid and sometimes brilliant announcers.
To put one’s personal abilities in the service of the community and make one’s personal fame secondary to the events being covered — our German radio announcers have earned laurel wreaths in this regard. They have been effective aides and helpers of National Socialist propaganda and people’s enlightenment in this past year.
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