PAUL JOSEPH GOEBBELS (German: ( listen ); 29 October 1897 – 1
May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of
Goebbels, who aspired to be an author, obtained a Doctor of
Philosophy degree from the
University of Heidelberg in 1921. He joined
Goebbels began to pressure Hitler to introduce measures that
would produce total war , including closing businesses not essential
to the war effort, conscripting women into the labour force, and
enlisting men in previously exempt occupations into the
As the war drew to a close and
* 1 Early life
* 2 Nazi activist
* 3 Propagandist in
* 4.1 Workings of the Ministry * 4.2 Church struggle
* 11 References
* 11.1 Explanatory notes * 11.2 Citations * 11.3 Bibliography
* 12 Further reading * 13 External links
Goebbels was born on 29 October 1897 in
Rheydt , an
industrial town south of
Goebbels suffered from ill health, which included a
long bout of inflammation of the lungs. He had a deformed right foot
that turned inwards, due to a congenital deformity . It was thicker
and shorter than his left foot. He underwent a failed operation to
correct it just prior to starting grammar school.
Goebbels wore a
metal brace and special shoe because of his shortened leg, and walked
with a limp. He was rejected for military service in
World War I
Goebbels was educated at a Christian Gymnasium , where he completed his Abitur (university entrance examination) in 1917. He was the top student of his class and was given the traditional honor to speak at the awards ceremony. His parents initially hoped that he would become a Catholic priest, and Goebbels seriously considered it. He studied literature and history at the universities of Bonn , Würzburg , Freiburg , and Munich , aided by a scholarship from the Albertus Magnus Society. By this time Goebbels had begun to distance himself from the church.
Historians, including Richard J. Evans and Roger Manvell , speculate that Goebbels' lifelong pursuit of women may have been in compensation for his physical disabilities. At Freiburg, he met and fell in love with Anka Stalherm, who was three years his senior. She went on to Würzburg to continue school, as did Goebbels. In 1921 he wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Michael , a three-part work of which only Parts I and III have survived. Goebbels felt he was writing his "own story". Antisemitic content and material about a charismatic leader may have been added by Goebbels shortly before the book was published in 1929 by Eher-Verlag , the publishing house of the Nazi Party (National Socialist German Workers' Party; NSDAP). By 1920, the relationship with Anka was over. The break-up filled Goebbels with thoughts of suicide.
At the University of Heidelberg , Goebbels wrote his doctoral thesis on Wilhelm von Schütz , a minor 19th century romantic dramatist. He had hoped to write his thesis under the supervision of Friedrich Gundolf , who at that time was a well known literary historian. It did not seem to bother Goebbels that Gundolf was Jewish. However, Gundolf was no longer performing teaching duties, so he directed Goebbels to associate professor Max Freiherr von Waldberg . Waldberg was also Jewish. It was Waldberg who recommended Goebbels write his thesis on Wilhelm von Schütz. After submitting the thesis and passing his oral examination, Goebbels earned his PhD in 1921.
Goebbels then returned home and worked as a private tutor. He also found work as a journalist and was published in the local newspaper. His writing during that time reflected his growing antisemitism and dislike for modern culture. In the summer of 1922, he met and began a love affair with Else Janke, a schoolteacher. After she revealed to him that she was half-Jewish, Goebbels stated the "enchantment ruined." Nevertheless, he continued to see her on and off until 1927.
He continued for several years to try to become a published author.
His diaries , which he began in 1923 and continued for the rest of his
life, provided an outlet for his desire to write. The lack of income
from his literary works (he wrote two plays in 1923, neither of which
sold ) forced him to take jobs as a caller on the stock exchange and
as a bank clerk in
Goebbels first took an interest in
Hitler viewed Strasser's actions as a threat to his authority, and
summoned 60 Gauleiters and party leaders, including Goebbels, to a
special conference in Bamberg , in Streicher's Gau of
In hopes of winning over the opposition, Hitler arranged meetings in Munich with the three Greater Ruhr Gau leaders, including Goebbels. Goebbels was impressed when Hitler sent his own car to meet them at the railway station. That evening Hitler and Goebbels both gave speeches at a beer hall rally. The following day, Hitler offered his hand in reconciliation to the three men, encouraging them to put their differences behind them. Hitler also gave Goebbels "new insight" into the "social question". Goebbels capitulated completely, offering Hitler his total loyalty – a pledge that was clearly sincere, and that he adhered to until the end of his life. "I love him ... He has thought through everything," Goebbels wrote. "Such a sparkling mind can be my leader. I bow to the greater one, the political genius." Later he wrote: "Adolf Hitler, I love you because you are both great and simple at the same time. What one calls a genius." As a result of the Bamberg and Munich meetings, Strasser's new draft of the party programme was discarded. The original National Socialist Program of 1920 was retained unchanged, and Hitler's position as party leader was greatly strengthened.
PROPAGANDIST IN BERLIN
At Hitler's invitation, Goebbels spoke at party meetings in Munich and at the annual Party Congress , held in Weimar in 1926. For the following year's event, Goebbels was involved in the planning for the first time. He and Hitler arranged for the rally to be filmed. Receiving praise for doing well at these events led Goebbels to shape his political ideas to match Hitler's, and to admire and idolize him even more.
Goebbels was first offered the position of party
Like Hitler, Goebbels practiced his public speaking skills in front of a mirror. Meetings were preceded by ceremonial marches and singing, and the venues were decorated with party banners. His entrance (almost always late) was timed for maximum emotional impact. He usually meticulously planned his speeches ahead of time, using pre-planned and choreographed inflection and gestures, but he was also able to improvise and adapt his presentation to make a good connection with his audience.
Goebbels' tactic of using provocation to bring attention to the
NSDAP, along with violence at the public party meetings and
demonstrations, led the
The ban on the NSDAP was lifted in early 1928, in time for the
Reichstag elections, held on 20 May. Results were poor, with the
NSDAP losing nearly 100,000 voters and earning only 2.6 per cent of
the vote nationwide. Results in
In his newspaper Berliner Arbeiterzeitung (
By 1930, the violence between the
The rapid deterioration of the economy led to the resignation on 27
March 1930 of the coalition government that had been elected in 1928.
A new cabinet was formed, and
Paul von Hindenburg
In late 1930 Goebbels met Magda Quandt , a divorcée who had joined the party a few months earlier. She worked as a volunteer in the party offices in Berlin, helping Goebbels organize his private papers. Her flat on the Reichskanzlerplatz soon became a favourite meeting place for Hitler and other NSDAP officials. Goebbels and Quandt married on 19 December 1931.
For two further elections held in 1932, Goebbels organized massive campaigns that included rallies, parades, speeches, and Hitler travelling around the country by airplane with the slogan "the Führer over Germany". Goebbels also undertook numerous speaking tours during these election campaigns. Goebbels had some of their speeches published on gramophone records and as pamphlets. He was also involved in the production of a small collection of silent films that could be shown at party meetings, though they did not yet have enough equipment to widely use this medium. Many of Goebbels' campaign posters used violent imagery such as a giant half-clad male destroying political opponents or other perceived enemies such as "International High Finance". His propaganda characterized the opposition as "November criminals ", "Jewish wire-pullers", or a communist threat. Support for the party continued to grow, but neither of these elections led to a majority government. In an effort to stabilize the country and improve economic conditions, Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Reich chancellor on 30 January 1933.
To celebrate Hitler's appointment as chancellor,
Goebbels organized a
torchlit parade in
The role of the new ministry, which set up its offices in the
Ordenspalais across from the Reich Chancellery, was to
centralise Nazi control of all aspects of German cultural and
Goebbels hoped to increase popular support of the
party from the 37 per cent achieved at the last free election held in
Goebbels converted the 1 May holiday from a celebration of workers'
rights (observed as such especially by the communists) into a day
celebrating the NSDAP. In place of the usual ad hoc labour
celebrations, he organized a huge party rally held at Tempelhof Field
in Berlin. The following day, all trade union offices in the country
were forcibly disbanded by the SA and SS, and the Nazi-run German
Labour Front was created to take their place. "We are the masters of
Germany," he commented in his diary entry of 3 May. Less than two
weeks later, he gave a speech at the
Nazi book burning in
Meanwhile, the NSDAP began passing laws to marginalize Jews and
remove them from German society. The Law for the Restoration of the
Professional Civil Service , passed on 7 April 1933, forced all
non-Aryans to retire from the legal profession and civil service.
Similar legislation soon deprived Jewish members of other professions
of their right to practise. The first Nazi concentration camps
(initially created to house political dissenters) were founded shortly
after Hitler seized power. In a process termed Gleichschaltung
(co-ordination), the NSDAP proceeded to rapidly bring all aspects of
life under control of the party. All civilian organisations, including
agricultural groups, volunteer organisations, and sports clubs, had
their leadership replaced with Nazi sympathisers or party members. By
June 1933, virtually the only organisations not in the control of the
NSDAP were the army and the churches. In a move to manipulate
Germany's middle class and shape popular opinion, the regime passed on
4 October 1933 the Schriftleitergesetz (Editor's Law), which became
the cornerstone of the Nazi Party's control of the popular press.
Modeled to some extent on the system in
At the end of June 1934, top officials of the SA and opponents of the
regime, including Gregor Strasser, were arrested and killed in a purge
later called the
Night of Long Knives
WORKINGS OF THE MINISTRY
The propaganda ministry was organized into seven departments: administration and legal; mass rallies, public health, youth, and race; radio; national and foreign press; films and film censorship ; art, music, and theatre; and protection against counter-propaganda, both foreign and domestic. Goebbels style of leadership was tempestuous and unpredictable. He would suddenly change direction and shift his support between senior associates; he was a difficult boss and liked to berate his staff in public. Goebbels was successful at his job, however; Life wrote in 1938 that "ersonally he likes nobody, is liked by nobody, and runs the most efficient Nazi department."
The Reich Film Chamber, which all members of the film industry were
required to join, was created in June 1933.
Goebbels promoted the
development of films with a Nazi slant, and ones that contained
subliminal or overt propaganda messages. Under the auspices of the
Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture), created in September,
Goebbels added additional sub-chambers for the fields of broadcasting,
fine arts, literature, music, the press, and the theatre. As in the
film industry, anyone wishing to pursue a career in these fields had
to be a member of the corresponding chamber. In this way anyone whose
views were contrary to the regime could be excluded from working in
their chosen field and thus silenced. In addition, journalists (now
considered employees of the state) were required to prove Aryan
descent back to the year 1800, and if married, the same requirement
applied to the spouse. Members of any chamber were not allowed to
leave the country for their work without prior permission of their
chamber. A committee was established to censor books, and works could
not be re-published unless they were on the list of approved works.
Similar regulations applied to other fine arts and entertainment; even
cabaret performances were censored. Many German artists and
Goebbels was particularly interested in controlling radio, which was
then still a fairly new mass medium . Sometimes under protest from
individual states (particularly
A major focus of
Goebbels was involved in planning the staging of the 1936 Summer Olympics , held in Berlin. It was around this time that he met and started having an affair with the actress Lída Baarová , whom he continued to see until 1938. A major project in 1937 was the Degenerate Art Exhibition , organised by Goebbels, which ran in Munich from July to November. The exhibition proved wildly popular, attracting over two million visitors. A degenerate music exhibition took place the following year. Meanwhile, Goebbels was disappointed by the lack of quality in the National Socialist artwork, films, and literature.
In 1933, Hitler signed the Reichskonkordat (Reich Concordat), a treaty with the Vatican that required the regime to honour the independence of Catholic institutions and prohibited clergy from involvement in politics. However, the regime continued to target the Christian churches and to try to weaken their influence. Throughout 1935 and 1936, hundreds of clergy and nuns were arrested, often on trumped up charges of currency smuggling or sexual offenses. Goebbels widely publicised the trials in his propaganda campaigns, showing the cases in the worst possible light. Restrictions were placed on public meetings, and Catholic publications faced censorship. Catholic schools were required to reduce religious instruction and crucifixes were removed from state buildings. Hitler often vacillated on whether or not the Kirchenkampf (church struggle) should be a priority, but his frequent inflammatory comments on the issue were enough to convince Goebbels to intensify his work on the issue; in February 1937 he stated he wanted to eliminate the Protestant church.
In response to the persecution,
Pope Pius XI had the "Mit brennender
Sorge " ("With Burning Concern") Encyclical smuggled into
WORLD WAR II
As early as February 1933, Hitler announced that rearmament must be
undertaken, albeit clandestinely at first, as to do so was in
violation of the Versailles Treaty. A year later he told his military
leaders that 1942 was the target date for going to war in the east.
Goebbels was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Hitler
aggressively pursuing Germany's expansionist policies sooner rather
than later. At the time of the Reoccupation of the
Invasion of Poland in 1939,
Goebbels used his propaganda
ministry and the Reich chambers to control access to information
domestically. To his chagrin, his rival
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Goebbels became preoccupied with morale and the efforts of the people
on the home front. He believed that the more the people at home were
involved in the war effort, the better their morale would be. For
example, he initiated a programme for the collection of winter
clothing and ski equipment for troops on the eastern front. At the
Goebbels implemented changes to have more "entertaining
material" in radio and film produced for the public, decreeing in late
1942 that 20 per cent of the films should be propaganda and 80 per
cent light entertainment. As
By early 1943, the war produced a labour crisis for the regime.
Hitler created a three-man committee with representatives of the
State, the army, and the Party in an attempt to centralise control of
the war economy. The committee members were
Hans Lammers (head of the
Reich Chancellery), Field Marshal
Partly in response to being excluded from the Committee of Three, Goebbels pressured Hitler to introduce measures that would produce "total war ", including closing businesses not essential to the war effort, conscripting women into the labour force, and enlisting men in previously exempt occupations into the Wehrmacht. Some of these measures were implemented in an edict of 13 January, but to Goebbels' dismay, Göring demanded that his favourite restaurants in Berlin should remain open, and Lammers successfully lobbied Hitler to have women with children exempted from conscription, even if they had child care available. After receiving an enthusiastic response to his speech of 30 January 1943 on the topic, Goebbels believed he had the support of the German people in his call for total war. His next speech, the Sportpalast speech of 18 February 1943, was a passionate demand for his audience to commit to total war, which he presented as the only way to stop the Bolshevik onslaught and save the German people from destruction. The speech also had a strong antisemitic element and hinted at the extermination of the Jewish people that was already underway. The speech was presented live on radio and was filmed as well. Goebbels' efforts had little impact for the time being, as while Hitler was in principle in favour of total war, he was not prepared to implement changes over the objections of his ministers. The discovery around this time of a mass grave of Polish officers that had been killed by the Red Army in the 1940 Katyn massacre was made use of by Goebbels in his propaganda in an attempt to drive a wedge between the Soviets and the other western allies.
PLENIPOTENTIARY FOR TOTAL WAR
Allied invasion of Sicily
As Germany's military and economic situation grew steadily worse, on
25 August 1943
Goebbels and Speer continued to press Hitler to
bring the economy to a total war footing. The
20 July plot , where
Hitler was almost killed by a bomb at his field headquarters in East
At Hitler's behest, the Volkssturm (People's Storm) – a nationwide militia of men previously considered unsuitable for military service – was formed on 18 October 1944. Goebbels recorded in his diary that 100,000 recruits were sworn in from his Gau alone. However, the men, mostly age 45 to 60, received only rudimentary training and many were not properly armed. Goebbels' notion that these men could effectively serve on the front lines against Soviet tanks and artillery was unrealistic at best. The programme was deeply unpopular.
DEFEAT AND DEATH
In the last months of the war, Goebbels' speeches and articles took
on an increasingly apocalyptic tone. By the beginning of 1945, with
the Soviets on the
Oder River and the Western Allies preparing to
cross the Rhine , he could no longer disguise the fact that defeat was
When other Nazi leaders urged Hitler to leave
Goebbels knew how to play on Hitler's fantasies, encouraging him to
see the hand of providence in the death of
I call on you to fight for your city. Fight with everything you have
got, for the sake of your wives and your children, your mothers and
your parents. Your arms are defending everything we have ever held
dear, and all the generations that will come after us. Be proud and
courageous! Be inventive and cunning! Your
After midnight on 29 April, with the Soviets advancing ever closer to the bunker complex, Hitler married Eva Braun in a small civil ceremony within the Führerbunker. Afterwards, Hitler hosted a modest wedding breakfast with his new wife. Hitler then took secretary Traudl Junge to another room and dictated his last will and testament . Goebbels and Bormann were two of the witnesses.
In his last will and testament, Hitler named no successor as Führer
or leader of the Nazi Party. Instead, he appointed
Goebbels as Reich
Chancellor; Grand Admiral
Karl Dönitz , who was at
In the mid-afternoon of 30 April, Hitler shot himself . After Hitler's suicide, Goebbels was depressed. Voss later recounted Goebbels as saying: "It is a great pity that such a man is not with us any longer. But there is nothing to be done. For us, everything is lost now and the only way out left for us is the one which Hitler chose. I shall follow his example."
On 1 May,
Goebbels completed his sole official act as Chancellor. He
dictated a letter to General
Later on 1 May, Vice-Admiral Voss saw Goebbels for the last time: "... While saying goodbye I asked Goebbels to join us. But he replied: 'The captain must not leave his sinking ship. I have thought about it all and decided to stay here. I have nowhere to go because with little children I will not be able to make it, especially with a leg like mine...' " The Goebbels family. In this vintage manipulated image , Goebbels' stepson Harald Quandt (who was absent due to military duty) was added to the group portrait.
On the evening of 1 May 1945,
Goebbels arranged for an SS dentist,
Helmut Kunz , to inject his six children with morphine so that when
they were unconscious, an ampule of cyanide could be then crushed in
each of their mouths. According to Kunz's later testimony, he gave
the children morphine injections but it was
Magda Goebbels and
At around 20:30, Goebbels and Magda left the bunker and walked up to the garden of the Chancellery, where they committed suicide. There are several different accounts of this event. According to one account, Goebbels shot Magda and then himself. Another account was that they each bit on a cyanide ampule and were given a coup de grâce immediately afterwards. Goebbels' SS adjutant Günther Schwägermann testified in 1948 that they walked ahead of him up the stairs and out into the Chancellery garden. He waited in the stairwell and heard the shots sound. Schwägermann then walked up the remaining stairs and, once outside, saw their lifeless bodies. Following Goebbels' prior order, Schwägermann had an SS soldier fire several shots into his body, which did not move.
The bodies were then doused with petrol , but they were only
partially burned and not buried. A few days later, Voss was brought
back to the bunker by the Soviets to identify the partly burned bodies
of Joseph and
Magda Goebbels and their children. The remains of the
Goebbels' family, Hitler, Braun, General Krebs, and Hitler\'s dogs
were repeatedly buried and exhumed. The last burial was at the SMERSH
ANTISEMITISM AND THE HOLOCAUST
A ruined synagogue in Munich after Kristallnacht
Like many Germans of that time,
Goebbels was antisemitic from a young
age. After joining the NSDAP and meeting Hitler, his antisemitism
grew and became more radical. He began to see the Jews as a
destructive force with a negative impact on German society. After the
The Nazi party's goal was to remove Jews from German cultural and
economic life, and eventually to remove them from the country
altogether. In addition to his propaganda efforts,
promoted the persecution of the Jews through pogroms, legislation, and
other actions. Discriminatory measures he instituted in
In November 1938, the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath was killed in Paris by a young Jewish man. In response, Goebbels arranged for inflammatory antisemitic material to be released by the press, and the result was the start of a pogrom . Jews were attacked and synagogues destroyed all over Germany. The situation was further inflamed by a speech Goebbels gave at a party meeting on the night of 8 November, where he obliquely called for party members to incite further violence against Jews while making it appear to be a spontaneous series of acts by the German people. At least a hundred Jews were killed, several hundred synagogues were damaged or destroyed, and thousands of Jewish shops were vandalized in an event called Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass). Around 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps. The destruction stopped after a conference held on 12 November, where Göring pointed out that the destruction of Jewish property was in effect the destruction of German property, since the intention was that it would all eventually be confiscated.
Goebbels continued his intensive antisemitic propaganda campaign that
culminated in Hitler's 30 January 1939 Reichstag speech, which
Goebbels helped to write:
If international finance Jewry in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the bolshevization of the earth and thereby the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!
Goebbels had been pressing for expulsion of the
Goebbels had frequent discussions with Hitler about the fate of the Jews, a subject they discussed almost every time they met. He was aware throughout that the Jews were being exterminated, and completely supported this decision. He was one of the few top Nazi officials to do so publicly.
Post-reconciliation photo commissioned by Hitler, 1938
Hitler was very fond of
Magda Goebbels and the children. He enjoyed
staying at the Goebbels'
In 1936, Goebbels met the Czech actress Lída Baarová and by the winter of 1937 began an intense affair with her. Magda had a long conversation with Hitler about it on 15 August 1938. Unwilling to put up with a scandal involving one of his top ministers, Hitler demanded that Goebbels break off the relationship. Thereafter, Joseph and Magda seemed to reach a truce until the end of September. The couple had another falling out at that point, and once again Hitler became involved, insisting the couple stay together. Hitler arranged for publicity photos to be taken of himself with the reconciled couple in October. Magda too had affairs, including a relationship with Kurt Ludecke in 1933 and Karl Hanke in 1938.
The Goebbels family included Harald Quandt (Magda's son from her first marriage; born 1921), plus Helga (1932), Hilde (1934), Helmuth (1935), Holde (1937), Hedda (1938), and Heide (1940). Harald was the only member of the family to survive the war.
* ^ Among Goebbels' school papers offered for auction in 2012 were more than 100 love letters written between Goebbels and Stalherm. The Telegraph 2012 . * ^ Hitler later removed the restriction on crucifixes, as it was damaging morale. Rees -webkit-column-width: 20em; column-width: 20em; list-style-type: decimal;">
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