Background: Eugen Hadamovsky was a leading Nazi radio expert, and the author of a half dozen books with heavy propaganda content. In this chapter from his 1934 book on radio, he outlines the nature of the Nazi radio warden system, which he had had a leading role in building. In 1934, his title was Reichssendeleiter, or national programming director. During the war, he held various positions in the Nazi Party’s Central Propaganda Office (Reichspropagandaleitung). Eventually, he annoyed Goebbels enough to be ousted. He went into the military and died on the eastern front in February 1945.
The illustration is from a 1940 issue of a radio magazine.
The source: Eugen Hadamovsky, “Die lebende Brücke: Vom Wesen der Funkwartarbeit ,” in Dein Rundfunk (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1934), pp. 22-26.
The Living Bridge: On the Nature of Radio Warden Activity
by Eugen Hadamovsky
The National Socialist revolution was able to take over German life so quickly and thoroughly because it had prepared for it by years of organizational activity in the most important areas. In the process, it avoided the German mistake of organizing something just for the sake of organizing it. It organized only to give the necessary backbone to propaganda activity, and never tolerated organizations that had not grown out of struggle and were intended to help in that struggle. Thanks to this prior organization, and the sacrifices it took, a rapid radio revolution was possible.
The total use of radio for the idea meant that Marxism could not incite bloody civil war against the National Socialist leadership.
After we were able to reach the German masses, who had been terrorized by the Red [Marxist] and Black [Catholic] potentates, they lost their power. The National Socialist idea is stronger than rabble-rousing, slander, and spiritual terror. That is why the greater part of the nation stood behind the Führer in the election of 5 March 1933, joined by the whole people in the referendum of 12 November 1933. Through enormous mass meetings that radio brought to the whole nation, it was able to assure the peaceful development of Germany’s domestic life. This was important not only for our domestic policies, but also for our foreign relations. Our leaders always said that radio was the best guarantee of peace.
During the nine months that lay between Hitler’s first mass meeting carried by the radio on 10 February and his speech at the Siemens factory on 10 November 1933, radio could perform its tasks so well because it had an army of officials at its disposal who had become familiar with the use of radio during long years of struggle.
This was not true to the same extent in other cultural areas, with the result that they trailed the powerful results of radio, or even in some cases regressed.
While the radio was proving itself the most important political instrument at the hands of the government, it was also winning the hearts of the people. The number of radio listeners grew over a period of fifteen months from 4.3 million to 5.5 million, an increase of 25 percent.
Film, theater, and the press also tried to meet the new requirements. Production of films, for example, increased, but failed to follow the broad lines of the revolution.
Today, radio follows absolutely clear lines in the cultural and racial areas, knowing no compromise. When one compares it with conditions in theater, film, music, and the press, one sees the extent of the cultural-political revolution that radio has undergone. Formerly, it was the instrument of contrary forces.
The prerequisite for such a total revolution in the radio was the creation of unity in the whole field of radio. Given the prevailing conditions, other cultural areas were unable to do this, nor could any other radio system or any other party in the world.
A unique functionary, the radio warden of the NSDAP, and a unique organization of radio listeners, were the foundation of the rapid and complete radio revolution that rebuilt it according to National Socialist principles.
Fortunately for the National Socialist movement, it not only created the organizational foundations in an exemplary National Socialist manner, but there was also a general sense on the part of the party as to radio’s significance (even if it was not always fully realized). This became the foundation of radio work.
As soon as radio broadcasting began in the various nations of the world, radio clubs sprang up spontaneously like mushrooms.
Here in Germany, there were a thousand such clubs. Some joined together in larger organizations, such as the German Technical Radio Federation, the Communist Free Radio Federation, and the Marxist Workers’ Radio Federation. All of these organizations had an extraordinarily vague ideology. They did not serve the good of the radio listener, but rather, from the National Socialist viewpoint, sprang from the particular nature of radio. At the time, it was directed monopolistically from a central office, which made any influence from outside impossible through ordinary means.
Any group of people who share a worldview can publish their own newspaper. However, they cannot influence the radio if they do not understand how to gain influence through that part of the audience that it controls.
Thus, the Marxist Workers’ Radio Federation developed to exert a certain influence on the directors of many radio stations.
The NSDAP recognized this trend and its significance for the organization and leadership of the National Socialist radio it sought for the future.
It therefore did not leave the listener organizations to themselves, nor did it think of dissolving them, since it would have lost its leadership and left the radio to other groups during the time it was fighting for power, and also would have surrendered leading and influencing the listeners in the period after it had taken power, which was necessary if it was to secure its own radio system.
It therefore adapted to the dualism in radio, and created the clearest and most politically consistent form for influencing and controlling it, the Reich Federation of German Radio Participants.
From the beginning of 1930 on, the movement was interested in radio.
The November Regime began at the same time to use radio for its political purposes and its interests.
National Socialism began to use radio for its propaganda purposes, and saw two tasks.
The first task was to control the instrument itself, or at least some part of it.
The second task was to establish some sort of human contact between radio and its listeners. It was not enough to broadcast some sort of message over the airwaves and to assume that that would have some sort of effect.
That was proven by the failed propaganda measures of Brüning, as well as by unsuccessful Bolshevist radio propaganda beamed to Germany from abroad.
The spoken word over radio is in an entirely different context that a speech in a meeting or in a theater. At a meeting, the speaker and the audience are filled with a common will. Each senses the rhythm of this will, and this contact is what enables the will to be realized step by step.
It is similar in theater, where the actor influences the public — and the public influences the actor.
But when a man speaks to a microphone in a small radio studio, he has no sense of the effectiveness of his words. He does not know if anyone is listening at all, or whether the radio audience stops paying attention the moment he begins speaking.
More than that, the peculiarity of radio is that the spoken word is supposed to influence the audience without any visible component.
Everyone knows that in a meeting or theatrical play, one must see the speaker or actor to understand him. No one looks at the back of the speaker. But this is entirely absent in radio.
If one wants the spoken and heard word of the radio to realize a common will, it cannot be done only through transmitters and receivers; instead, a real human connection between sender and receiver must be established.
The radio warden is the living bridge between the two, and in a larger sense, also the grouping of radio listeners that occurs in radio listener organizations. On the one hand, radio is in a certain sense the ideal propaganda instrument because it brings the human voice to every ear. On the other hand, it is totally ineffective if these technical qualities are not supplemented by human organizational means.
One of the most important ways of doing this is to bring many radio listeners together for community listening, which National Socialism has developed to a major degree (think of 1 May!).
The National Socialist radio warden and his listeners’ organization, the Reich Federation of Radio Participants, had two primarily goals:
When in opposition, any human bridge, any contact, between the official System radio and the National Socialist radio listeners had to be cut off and destroyed. The listeners had to stand united against the radio.
They had to be persuaded to laugh at the radio speeches of the System potentates, or even turn them off, as soon as those potentates stood before the microphone.
That was achieved, which made the November System’s radio propaganda almost useless.
With the takeover of power came a second task: It is necessary to ensure that the same methods are not used against National Socialist radio. The radio warden, together with the mass membership of the National Socialist radio listeners organization, must become the most active propagandist of the new radio. He must become the advocate and defender of radio. He must help to form the radio. Radio may no longer stand apart from the people, it cannot be separated from them, but rather must be connected to the people, to the river of strength flowing from popular life, to healthy criticism from the listeners. It must meet the musical and artistic desires of the broad masses who must come to the radio over the bridge, and pay heed to them.
The surprising success of National Socialist radio leadership after 30 January 1933 is the result of this connection, which was later expanded to include the radio industry. Even the radio programming of the night of 30-31 January could not have occurred if the men who organized the broadcasts had not been trained and readied during the years when we were in opposition, if they had not had the trust of the Führer and the trust of their followers as they took on the demands of the hour.
We did not surrender this connection after 30 January, but rather strengthened and deepened it. It is not only a matter of the organizational form, but above all the fact of connection, and of living strengths.
The radio warden, as a party official, must therefore be outside the radio station. His place is with the listeners.
Just as the party supports the state, so the listeners, in particular organized listeners and the radio warden, support radio.
The state apparatus —— including the state apparatus of the radio —— is always an administrative apparatus. The party, along with all of its subordinate organizations, can never be an administrative apparatus, but rather the great reserve of youth, of strength, and of revolutionary will.
Bureaucracy is necessary to administer and preserve the state. The party is necessary to be sure that the state machinery does not become an end in itself, but rather changes with the times and advances. Bureaucracy administers what exists already. The party creates the new. Bureaucracy is the personification of the status quo, whereas the party, both today and in the future, is the living flag bearer of the movement and of its revolutionary will. That is true both for itself and for its subordinate organizations, which proved themselves in active struggle.
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