Background: This page provides Chapter 3 of Eugen Hadamovsky’s book on the principles on Nazi propaganda. For more details, see the table of contents page.
The source: Eugen Hadamovsky, Propaganda und nationale Macht: Die Organisation der öffentlichen Meinung für die nationale Politik (Oldenburg: Gerhard Stalling, 1933).
Mass Meetings and Powerful Propaganda
In the long run, the man from the people requires
only the development of strength and discipline.
— Goebbels —
After fourteen years of internal political struggle and decline, the German nation again faces all its vital question with awakened understanding. When Hitler during 1923-1924, in the solemn quiet of his cell, unbroken and as certain as ever of victory, wrote down his knowledge of struggle for the nation, he proved that he was more than the best propagandist of our people. It was there that he developed the psychological and practical principles of propaganda and organization that he had learned earlier as a worker among Marxist agitators and as a front line soldier under the flood of enemy propaganda leaflets. These principles have led him as a statesman to victory. As the great teacher of the German nation, he surrounded himself with a band of versatile, active, and fanatic propagandists. He had the good luck to discover among them the brightest of all, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the master of applied propaganda.
With statesmanly coldness and vision, Hitler developed the necessities, means, and methods of political propaganda, and used them when political circumstances required. Stronger, however, than his propaganda, stronger than his speech and words, was the force of his personality. The great strength and confidence which flowed from him overcame individuals and masses, enchained them, made them followers, and mobilized them.
Dr. Goebbels went his own personal and creative way. He became the apostle of modern political propaganda. He proved that propaganda is a creative art. Propaganda became his life, his task, and his mission. With the fervor of a believer and martyr, he carried the banner of the propaganda idea, an idea that always advanced, that knew no limits, that won millions only to make those millions apostles of an idea who were then sent out into the entire world. He united the religious intolerance of a prophet with a superior intellect and the retiring nature of an artist. In every action and expression, he remained subject to the idea and obligation of his mission. They inspired him so perfectly that a critical journalist could rightly say that it made no difference what he said; the masses only wanted to hear him again and again, to be carried along and uplifted by his fervor and passion.
Mass meetings can do without the speaker being visible. The mass meetings of the National Socialists in which radio broadcasts to loudspeakers at overflow meetings were used have proven this. In its place, however, contact between the speaker and the masses must continually be established. Only when that is the case can the speaker sense in the faces of those to whom he speaks the initial apathy which is often characteristic of the masses, empathize with them, enable them to rise and become excited and enthused. This is where our governments since 1918 and our press have so seriously erred. They believed that they could preserve their system from stormy national attacks coming from the masses by cold radio speeches and long-winded newspaper articles.
Other nations have better appraised the psychology of the masses. Until the appearance of Hitler, the United States was undoubtedly the country with the best developed use of oratory. In spite of the varied influences from churches, schools, universities, etc., the American public had developed countless types of professional speakers or political orators, and all major political actions were successful because of their leadership. It is difficult for us to remember our propaganda of the days prior to and during the World War. In America, the flood of propaganda materials, brochures, air dropped leaflets, placards, and newspapers, such as which would be used here, was far surpassed by extensive public speaking. These speeches were quickly adopted to a given situation, depending upon American conditions and abilities.
Mass meetings of with fundamental political confrontations, which Hitler used in Germany, were not used in the America, give the complete unity of political propaganda in all branches of public life. It needed only to find a method of personal contact between the speaker and the masses. This was accomplished by a volunteer band of 75,000 four minute speakers. They volunteered throughout the entire country to speak in all public places — in theaters, movie houses, schools, universities, clubs, associations. They flooded America, day after day and night after night with their short, fanatical speeches. It was the Four Minute Men who finally got the ball rolling in 1916-1917 and brought American public opinion to the boiling point by persuading it that war with Germany was a necessary and honorable duty of America, fervently desired by the entire populace. The Four Minute Men, according to Schönemann, gave about 755,000 speeches in 5,000 communities. In comparison, the National Socialists alone held about 30,000 rallies of approximately two hours duration during the spring of 1932 to prepare for the Reich presidential election.
All the means of public opinion were denied to Hitler. His newspapers were banned, he was denied use of the radio, his brochures and leaflets were confiscated. He had no choice but to reach the masses directly through constantly growing mass rallies. More than actual excitement and direct contact had to be created, for there was no opportunity to use other means of public opinion to prepare for the meeting. Often, the mass meetings had to be built up from scratch, and that occurred in such an unprecedented and ingenious form that from the beginning the German mass meeting had a cultic character. The National Socialist movement made an early decision between evening talks at which discussion could take place and mass meetings at which discussion and hostile interruption were absolutely prohibited. The style of these mass meetings was grand and elevating. The National Socialists, for the first time in the history of any country, demanded an offering from the people, that is, a proper admission fee. Before Hitler’s wise management created this type of mass meeting, it was the practice (as it still is among other parties) to allocate and contribute sums of money for the preparation and execution of large rallies. The National Socialist movement, however, carried things to their conclusion. They not only used the proceeds from their mass rallies to meet all expenses, but also to finance their constantly expanding struggles. That, together with the large contribution of party supporters, explains the enormous financial means produced by the National Socialists for political purposes, the extent and source of which the opposition press so eagerly, extensively, and falsely fantasized about.
All propaganda is preparation for political action. Life is constantly moving, so a properly expanding propaganda that properly understands its task can never stand still, but must always hurry along. It always has to guide preparations for the necessities of the future so as to be able to use all of its means in the psychologically best way. But although it is occupied with advance preparations for artistic activities, it also faces daily demands to make decisions about things that have to be done tomorrow. This is not planning for far distant activities, but rather by the art of exciting action, the direct contact of wills that leads to actions or to spontaneous agreement.
It is an essential characteristic of propaganda that the preparatory work in the masses can from time to time be started by a single individual. The individual can influence schools, newspapers, and the radio; he can use them spiritually, guide them, and prepare.
If one wishes to get an action-ready crowd from a single prepared individual, one must overcome the barriers that lie before the individual. That is, one must establish contact with the masses in order to spark action. In the end, only the mass mind makes possible the unified actions of many people. When the mass mind awakes, the barriers and walls that separate individuals from one another must entirely fall, the mass must visibly and perceptibly appear. From this moment on, it is capable of acting. No newspaper, no microphone, no film is able to counterfeit these living facts or to cause them by deception. All of these helpful means of propaganda and mass influence are subordinated to the living facts on a fixed level — on the abstract, as with a newspaper, on the acoustical as in radio, on the optical as with a film. Take, for example, the sound film, in which the pretense of reality has achieved the highest degree of perfection. Still, the viewer sees the film as a film and maintains an inner reserve. No one flees the theater in panic when shooting occurs on the screen or when an actor shouts “fire, fire!” The same events in the midst of a mass meeting, whether caused by oneself or by political opponents, unleash panic, flight, and excitement. There is further an essential difference between that which we experience in plays, films, and radio and the actual event. The essential difference is this: all pretense remains pretense and unable to satisfy the intense urge which the masses have for personal experience.
This urge is perfectly expressed in the modern mass meeting. Here the mass feels like a living unity and force. No overview, no excellent radio coverage, no first-rate press or film reports can convey a true-to-life impression of such a meeting or serve the listener or hearer as a substitute. To the contrary, each such report serves only as propaganda for the actual experience itself. It is therefore clear that the mass meeting is generally the strongest form of propaganda that we possess. If we want to trace this phenomenon back to its human origins, we might perhaps say that in the unity of the crowd each individual receives an uplifted and elevated self-confidence as well as a feeling of power. We find all the strong elements of a people in a mass meeting, while the main weaknesses are kept out.
Aside from the number of participants and the conditions of the meeting, the most important aspects of a mass meeting (or of any other important form of mass expression) are those that signify strength — arms, uniforms, weapons of every form. The military parade, for example, owes its existence, its popularity among the crowds, and its necessity to soldiers in whom it creates self-confidence. The clearer the strength is to the masses, the more impressive and forceful is the effect on each individual. When uniformed troops in strict discipline appear before a gathering of the civil populace, the rallies have a powerful character and a boundless jubilation is released. At the splendid parade of 100,000 on Cologne on February 19, 1933, the population joyously greeted countless S.A. units. Their jubilation grew to hurricane force, throwing everything else into the shadows, when armed police marched by in uniform. Whoever has seen something like this will realize the extent of the unconditional admiration which the masses give to strength. He will understand what is meant by the idea that powerful propaganda is the strongest way to have an influence.
A movement or government which has to defend itself against everyone can never rely on the faulty principle of compromise that originated in the days of routine parliamentary politics. Rather, it must always be uncompromising in its propaganda. It is simply not true that he who opposes the government, the social order, or the prevailing worldview or religion may not provoke moderate elements or the government’s resources of power by tough attitudes or open demonstration. All the power one has, indeed even more than one actually has, should be displayed and demonstrated. A hundred speeches, five hundred newspaper articles, radio talks, films, and plays are unable to produce the same effect as a procession of gigantic masses of people taking place with discipline and active participation, or a demonstration in which the means of power and weapons of the state are expressed through its military, police, and political forces. All revolutionary governments since the last war — the Italian Fascists as well as the Russian Bolshevists — have, as their most valuable propaganda, brought the masses supporting them into the streets and shown them one or another of the military means they controlled.
Timid souls certainly will not be suited for such actions, as anxiety is generally the worst counselor in propaganda and politics. They will perhaps grant that such demonstrations are useful and appropriate for internal politics, but that they seriously, very seriously, impede policy. However, one may say that the tone makes the music. Extreme chauvinism or an irresponsible grandiloquence will certainly have that result. But insecurity in domestic politics exposes one to foreign difficulties. Properly weighed and balanced, powerful propaganda will have the proper effect abroad. The principle of appearing weak so as not to provoke one’s opponents is a monstrous creation of irrational anxiety. Powerful propaganda, if it understood that it must be given the proper support, is the best guarantee of peace and security.
Go to Chapter 4
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