Background: The following essay was published in the Nazi Party’s magazine for propagandists at a time when enthusiasm was waning and Germans were tired of the mass of meetings organized by the Nazi Party and its subsidiary organizations. Ringler was employed by the Munich headquarters of the NSDAP propaganda apparatus (Reichspropagandaleitung or RPL).
The source: Unser Wille und Weg, 7 (1937), pp. 245-249.
Heart or Reason? What We don’t Want from Our Speakers
An examination of meetings held today suggests that a not insignificant portion of them are lack a factor that was once the hallmark of the National Socialist meeting. To be sure, times have changed: there are no discussions, no heckling, and above all no more opponents who accompany the speaker’s presentations, troubling and forcing him all the more to give his best. There is, however, still something that in many meetings today seems faded, something that previously was considered a peculiarity of the Nazi meeting, something that is needed still today and in the future: the inner experience and the testimony of an unshakable belief in the Idea.
Indeed, it was just that which distinguished our meetings from those of all other parties. We approached the people during our period of struggle not in order to solve problems with our arguments, nor to explain them down to the very last and very smallest detail, but rather we came before the German people and preached to them our idea.
There stood the speaker before his listeners: inspired and filled to the very core with the marvelous ideals [Ideengut] and thoughts of the National Socialist worldview. And he strove to transfer this inspiration, this devotion, this faith that he carried within himself, to transfer that to his listeners and make them loyal National Socialists. A thousand ways it was proved true that often it was not so much the contents of speech as it was the manner in which it was delivered that influenced the listener and won him to us. Indeed, a speech could even be poor and yet create a success; in such cases the audience had to recognize and feel that there stood a man who lived utterly according to the ideals [Gedankengut] about which he spoke, a man who was totally and completely inspired by faith in what he said. Just as faith can move mountains, so can faith triumph over resistance and opposition.
In contrast to that, today, in a great number of meetings one can observe that speakers who strive quite earnestly yet fail to obtain the expected success. There are so many speakers who think that their listeners have to get every last fact clear, speakers who have the opinion that by verifying every word with indisputable and valid statistical material the people can be persuaded to accept what he says as correct and inevitable. There are speakers who investigate and carve up their subject with almost scientific exactitude and utterly forget that they are supposed to be preaching a worldview.
To be sure, today people want explanations from the speaker about some of the matters which bother them, and thus the speaker must go into specifics. However, in no case should he forget the greater subject out of which these details come our worldview. And he should not forget how to bring this world view nearer to the people. If during the period of struggle speakers tried to bring people to the NSDAP by mathematical materials or by statistical or scientific verification of every topic, then we would still be struggling to achieve power.
The speaker, and he was the strength of the National Socialist Speaker’s Corps, spoke not to the understanding but to the heart. He spoke out of his heart into the heart of his listener. And the better he understood how to execute this appeal to the heart, the more willingly he exploited it and the more receptive was the audience to his message. One could not at all at that time persuade the German people by rational argument; things worked out badly for parties that tried that approach. The people were won by the man who struck the chord that others had ignored the feelings, the sentiment or, as one wants to call it, the heart.
Otherwise it would not have been possible to capture the entire people. Purely intellectual efforts, such as the majority of other parties used and we have witnessed this were again and again able to succeed only with a certain section, a certain stratum. The speaker at National Socialist meetings, however, had something for everyone. The manual laborer went to the meeting just as easily as the teacher; the merchant went just as easily as the public official. Had the National Socialist speakers then also sought to appeal intellectually to the economic or material aspect of the people’s thoughts, then we too would have been able only to satisfy a segment of the public. The intellectually superior or the intellectually motivated man would have then declared: “I know that already; indeed, I know more than that;” and just the reverse would have happened in the opposite case among those whose thoughts occur in simple forms; they would have said, “I don’t understand that; that is too learned or too elevated,” etc.
These experiences of past days are however still entirely valid. And moreover, National Socialist is still not and will never be something that presents itself intellectually; nor can it attract the people to it intellectually. Thousands of examples from life prove this. Where would, for example, the Winter Relief Drive [Winterhilfswerk] have remained if we had tried to persuade the German people of its necessity by intellectual efforts? There we appealed simply and solely to the feelings and the heart of the German people. We said to them: “there stands a million men who have it bad, or at least essentially worse than you; you must consider it your duty to help these people.” On similar or analogous lines lies the entire effort of the National Socialist Public Welfare [Volkswohlfahrt]. If we go into a factory we will not able to convince a plant manager by intellectual or statistical means that erecting a swimming pool, or a finer recreation room and better working conditions, that those will achieve this or that mathematical result for him. And yet the swimming pools will be built; and these improved working conditions will be achieved. Why? Because one appeals to this man as a human. Because one says to him: “Even someone who works under your management as an employee stands as a colleague and has the right to perform his work under dignified conditions.” And, for those who lose themselves off from such appeals, education programs on new ideas still have not accomplished much. for such programs yet speak to the understanding and not to the heart.
It has in response to a genuine demand which our worldview placed upon those who felt called upon to preach it that past speakers devoted themselves; indeed only those speakers who genuinely and spiritually were attracted to the worldview. And on the same basis it is to be understood why the movement attracted such an immense number of good speakers, although previously none of them had allowed himself even to dream about standing on a platform. We became speakers because we had become National Socialists. These facts should not be forgotten or overlooked by those who today perhaps as novices stand before the German people and speak. If they genuinely realize the full significance of this, then their meetings will not appear, as so often is the case, more like a lecture hall of a university than a public meeting.
He who can not meet this demand shows thereby that he does not have the stuff in him to be a speaker. He may nevertheless feel himself called to it; he may possess ambition; but in such a case his manpower will serve the movement better in some other capacity.
The absence of certain prerequisites is not made up for by attendance in a so-called speaker school. Because these schools serve, in so far as they are conducted by the NSDAP in the form of national and regional speaker schools, not the purpose of making speakers out of party members; but rather they furnish the already oratorically talented members with adequate information that they can then make use of in their meetings.
An ingenious private industry has now come upon the idea of expanding its speaker schools (which up until now worked with people who in their careers had to possess a special speaking skill) to include improving the speaking of party members for their activities as party speakers.
In the years since we came to power, certain institutes have sprung up like toadstools after a warm rain. In their press releases and other promotional means these institutes have puffed up the appropriateness of their teaching METHODS to the party member who wants to become a speaker. They neglect almost nothing. They stress that besides such and such number of party members of all callings they have also already taught thousands of political leaders to speak. With utter boldness a prospectus in which they praise themselves states this or that prominent position in the movement or the government required a man tested in speaking and that he had actually become a speaker through them. It was in such ads and publicity that attendance at one course was described as indispensable, and one can only be thankful that our speakers during the period of struggle were able to succeed with their part of the campaign in such imposing numbers, even though they had not this “indispensable” prerequisite at their disposal.
Make no mistake. It is utterly possible that some speaker(s) who participate for reasons of health in such speaker courses learn how one can preserve their vocal organs despite many loud speeches. We know too that, for example, stage speech is different from the way we speak in everyday life, and that it is possible for the trained speaker to achieve through correct speaking the same effect with inferior vocal production as the untrained. From this point of view, there is no objection to such vocal instruction.
On the other hand, however, one must object that the praise and the “development” are not limited to such simple matters. On the contrary, the prospectus claims that “effective” speaking is taught: that is that the students learn what stresses they should speak their sentences with and so on. This method, if applied to all of our speakers, would mean that the party would have at its disposal a great number of speakers who would be extra-ordinarily well developed rhetoricians whose performance of “effective speaking” in all its heights and depths and other refinements would shoot off like a fireworks of rocketing words and sentences. They would no longer come from their own experience or from the realm of the heart, but rather they would be brought forth by a mechanical method for public display.
By “effective speech” of the sort we expect from National Socialist speakers we do not mean the kind that sounds like a recording machine spewing its wisdom in a rather mechanically learned pitch. Effective speaking for us is when the speaker suggests that his words do not come over his lips like the product of a formulated method; he creates his words out of his soul, and with the complete power of his faith and trust he brings understanding to his listeners. And for that there is no teachable rhetoric. To be sure, with a learned rhetoric a speaker can pull out all the stops of human emotional life; however nevermore will what he says come genuinely and truly from the heart; for now he must always be thinking of how the next word must be pronounced.
We are convinced that the German people do not come to National Socialist meetings in order to listen to talented orators.
Against this [the author’s skepticism of speech courses] the objection might be raised that here the end justifies the means; i.e., it might still be that a speaker who generally was absolutely ineffective in his speaking would improve by schooling in some technique. We cannot follow that. We take the position that speaking, as the Reichspropagandaleiter has already expressed it, is an art, and that anyone who is not gifted in this art cannot be a speaker. To be sure, even the artist must learn and become accustomed to certain techniques. Always first, however, the natural gift must be present; it can then be built upon.
In a few weeks the party again launches its winter drive which indeed brings an abundance of work for the speaker. The National Socialist speaker should enter into this work with the awareness that everything that was accomplished and achieved up to now has its origin in the faith and loyalty with which the entire people stand behind the Führer. The speaker might also realize that the demand placed upon him in the coming work is to above all further strengthen his words with deep faith and deep loyalty, and until that occurs all other matters are secondary. He must let his soul speak and not try to influence his listeners with intellectual expositions nor cheap superficialities. We do not acknowledge the word “work” in our efforts as national-Socialist speakers; for we are not supposed to “work,” but rather we are willing. And after all that was indeed why we became speakers the greatest and noblest recognition that National-Socialism has given to us. We want this new faith and this new trust in Germany and its future carried within the people so that 68 million become alike in our souls.
* Freely translated by Dr. Robert D. Books, All Rights Reserved, May 1972.
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