Background: Outsiders’ views of Nazi propaganda are
often influenced by that very propaganda. The Nazis seemed to
have a smoothly functioning propaganda system that reached everyone
effectively. The truth was rather different. This essay, based
on the author’s experiences as a Nazi speaker, reveal some of
the problems the system faced.
The source: Max Crooner, “Die öffentliche politische
Versammlung wie sie der Redner sieht,” Unser Wille und
Weg, 7 (1937), pp. 54-59.
The Public Political Meeting
From the Speaker’s Viewpoint
by Gau Speaker Max Cronauer
Our Führer’s greatest goal is to make the whole nation
National Socialist. One of the most important and difficult duties
of a local group leader [of the Nazi
Party] is therefore to prepare the entire population
of his area for this new kind of humanity.
The masses are in part still politically indifferent. The
task is to saturate them with the depths of the National Socialist
worldview, a task that is as difficult as it is decisive for
our political future. A great people like the Germans will master
its historical mission only if it is filled with fanatical faith
and is convinced of the necessity to struggle for its eternal
political existence. In our case: Our German people must accept
the will of the party and state, and gradually become filled
with the worldview of National Socialist thinking. An important
tool in this process is the public political meeting. More than
any other method, it is able to lead broad sections of the population
to National Socialism and its faith, putting an end to the “unpolitical
attitudes” of German citizens once and for all.
The political speaker is an important helper and comrade for
the local group leader in reaching this goal. Close cooperation
between these two will bring us significantly nearer to our great
goal. The speakers sent by the Gaue and Kreise [Nazi regional and county offices]
have great responsibility within the movement.
I will not speak here of the responsibilities of the speaker.
Rather, based on my long years of experience as a Gau
speaker who has seen many fine and well prepared meetings, but
also unfortunately some that have failed. Unfortunately, some
local groups do not think that the external arrangements for
a meeting are important. It is certainly true that the persuasive
speech of a good speaker can be effective even when the meeting
does not have a particularly attractive setting, but the effect
is the same as if one were to see a beautiful painting on the
wall without a frame, or in a frame that was inappropriate and
I have spoken at some meetings this year that were held in
downright unattractive settings, examples of what may no longer
be the case. This is particularly true in small towns and villages.
Let me say openly that it seems that some local group leaders
either do not understand the importance of such meetings, or
at least are not in the position to carry out these meetings
under conditions that are appropriate to the dignity of the movement.
For example, one arrives in a village of 800 and finds a meeting
with 60 to 80 in attendance. Two dozen are members of the HJ
[The Hitler Youth] or the
BDM [the girls’ organization],
etc. The 80 visitors sit ashamed along the walls, one here, two
there. Aside from these few people, the seats before the speaker
are empty, and the walls are undecorated. The speaker has a five
or six hour train ride behind him, and is now supposed to preach
Adolf Hitler’s gospel in these unworthy surroundings. He puts
all his ability into it, trying to salvage what he can. Generally
he will not succeed in establishing a strong connection with
the audience under such conditions. Then the meeting chairman
will stand up and say a few inappropriate words, after which
the few present will sing the national anthem and the “Horst
Wessel Song” out-of-tune. The meeting has sunk to the depths.
That may not be the rule, but there are still, unfortunately,
The few citizens who attend such a miserable meeting will avoid future
meetings and can one blame them? Such meetings are nothing but
a disaster for the movement in the area. The organizers of such meetings
should be reminded that we filled our meetings to overflowing during the
struggle for power, and that often the blood of the best National Socialists
was shed for them. How much more should we expect worthy meetings today,
in a total National Socialist state.
In my experience, what are the worst sins? Here are some suggestions
It is certainly advisable to limit political meetings in villages
during the summer as much as possible, or even to avoid them
entirely, since farmers cannot easily free themselves to attend.
In the other months, however, one should expect at least an attendance
of 30% to 40% of the population. Good meeting leadership means
a good meeting. It is no longer acceptable to have empty seats
at a National Socialist meeting. Besides, a good attendance should
be expected in the villages since the inhabitants have relatively
little else to do. It is not hard to interest villagers in political
meetings, in contrast to city-dwellers who have new opportunities
I sometimes receive a distressing answer when I ask party
officials about propaganda. “Propaganda” often consists
of the local group leader distributing leaflets with an invitation
from door to door. I cannot imagine such a leaflet bringing anyone,
much less 400 people, to a meeting. A National Socialist meeting
may not be prepared in so careless and easy a manner. He who is
lazy and organizes a meeting that fails is not up to his responsibilities,
and unworthy of the confidence the movement has placed in him.
How should one make propaganda in the villages? There are many
ways, all of which cannot be covered here. But one major point.
The three most important people in a village are the local group
leader, the mayor, and the local farmers’ leader. At least these
three should all be involved in the propaganda for political
meetings. They are the pillars of propaganda. They should be
assisted by other party leaders and the leaders of other organizations
such as the S.A., the S.S., the NSKOB, the Labor Front, etc.
These leaders along with their members can assist in propaganda.
Other groups such as veterans can also of course be included.
A meeting conducted by the local group leader should be held
at least eight days before the public meeting. Thereafter, each
leader should call a brief meeting of his organization and encourage
people to promote the public meeting. It is essential that those
who are not members of an organization are also persuaded to
attend the meeting. There is no point in filling the hall only
with those who have been ordered to attend.
Propaganda is by no means finished when this has been done.
The evening before the meeting, and two hours before the meeting
itself, the Hitler Youth should march through the village. Chants
accompanied by their own band or one from a neighboring community
should announce the meeting.
The local press will naturally make propaganda as well. Local
news items are particularly effective. The meeting should also
be announced by public officials or posted on bulletin boards.
But these methods may not replace one’s own work, in particular
These are just a few of the methods that can be used in every
village, without incurring any cost. All of them together, not
one alone, are necessary for success. The local group leader
must be sure that a variety of means are used. Then the meeting
will be a success.
The Meeting Itself:
The outward appearance of the meeting hall is often still
not satisfactory. What is the minimum that must be done? First,
the hall must be decorated with party symbols. If the hall owner
himself does not have large Swastika flags, one should get them
from schools, the mayor, private citizens, etc. If possible,
there should be several flags in the hall. At the least, the
platform on which the speaker stands must have a Swastika flag.
Many villages are in or near forests. It will be easy to secure
greenery and decorate the hall with it. The local women’s group
may find this a pleasant assignment!
Heating is a regular problem. I have often spoken at meetings
in the winter that were too cold! The only stove is in a corner.
It is lit only just before the meeting begins, and to save money
the fire is not kept going. The few attendees cluster around
the fire, producing a miserable sight. Those sitting near the
speaker, and the speaker himself, freeze. The local group leader
must see to it that the hall is well heated during the entire
meeting. That naturally requires the appropriate negotiations
with the hall owner. People will not come if they know they will
freeze. They will stay in bed. Neither may the room be overheated.
A hot room is impossible for the speaker and wears out the audience.
Only rarely are village meetings begun by ceremonial entrances
of flag bearers. If there are enough flags, it is obvious that
the meeting should begin with such a march. It is a worthy and
moving ceremony that greatly influences the further course of
the meeting. Naturally music is necessary. If there is no S.A.
or Hitler Youth band, a piano may be an acceptable substitute,
as long as it is not too out of tune and there is a good piano
player available. It is a good idea to play a few marches or
fighting tunes before the flag bearers march in. That gets the
meeting excited and will even persuade some to show up in the
The meeting chairman does not speak after the political speech
is over. He merely closes the meeting preferably with a single
sentence and announces the singing of the national anthem.
Anything more than that is bad! Even if the meeting chairman
can speak well, he should not give a long speech, something that
unfortunately sometimes happens. If there is some particularly
reason to say something about local events, he may mention it
in the context of the speech, but only then, and very briefly.
Nothing more, Why should the meeting chairman add to the speaker’s
political address? The speaker has finished, and that should
Of course the local group leaders should treat the speaker
as the guest of the local group. He should pick him up at the
train station and bring him to his quarters. With a few exceptions,
the speaker is not a full-time speaker, but rather is a volunteer
for the movement. He must be taken care of in every way. Payment
should be made by the treasurer before the meeting. Sometimes,
the treasurer is either not there, or “doesn’t know anything.”
The speaker’s honorarium is fixed by the Gau. It is not
a “reward” for the speaker, but rather it covers his expenses,
meals, etc. It is not appropriate for the speaker and the local
group leader to argue about money.
Evaluating the Speaker:
The local group leader is obligated to send a report about
the meeting to the Gau office immediately afterward. Probably
every Gau uses a questionnaire for this purpose. If the
local group leader is not satisfied with the speaker, he can
note this in the report. If there are still speakers here and
there who are not up to the task, they must stop speaking and
serve the movement in other ways. The local group leader has
an important role in maintaining the speaker corps. In each report,
he should judge the speaker strictly, but also fairly.
[Page copyright © 1999 by Randall Bytwerk.
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