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How significant was Nazi Propaganda in maintaining Hitler in power in the years 1933-39? The appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany in 1933 should

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Introduction

Lee Waring HIS103 How significant was Nazi Propaganda in maintaining Hitler in power in the years 1933-39? The appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of Germany in 1933 should, in theory, have been nothing more than merely a change of administration. However, from the start of their 'seizure of power' the Nazis were prepared to apply this power in 'revolutionary' ways. (Fest, 1974, p.373). In the elections of 1933 that resulted in Hitler's chancellorship, the Nazi party only managed to gain 43.9% of the vote; yet by 1939 they had the support of the majority of the German population. There has been much debate during the last fifty years, questioning how Nazism managed not only to have initially attained their power, but also, how they managed to maintain this power and so effortlessly and rapidly gain the support from the majority of the German people (Fest, 1974, p.374). There have been many factors which have been used to explain Hitler's maintenance of power from 1933-39, and the significance of propaganda has often been given much of the credit for this. William Shirer, who lived and worked in the Third Reich during the first half of its existence, wrote that no-one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the...consequences of a regime's calculated and incessant propaganda. (Shirer, 1962, p.248) However, what this essay will attempt to show is that whilst the significance of propaganda in maintaining Hitler in power cannot be underestimated, it is not all-pervasive; even Goebbel's "full bag of tricks could not turn black into white" (Kershaw, 1991, p.89). In order for propaganda to succeed it could, perhaps, be argued that it must have been able to exploit and 'interpret' existing political values, and also exploit Hitler's successes in both domestic and foreign policy. Moreover, underlying all of these arguments is the existence of terror and repression within the regime which cannot be ignored if attempting to ask why Hitler was able to maintain power from 1933-39. ...read more.

Middle

C.W. Guillebaud, a Cambridge Economist, emphasised the economic successes achieved during the Third Reich, such as solving the economic stagnation and problems of mass unemployment, as a cause for Hitler's maintenance of power. (The Third Reich - Politics and Propaganda, 1995, p.59). Figures show that compared to 1933 when over one third of the population were unemployed, by 1939 only 74 thousand people were unemployed and that there were over 1 million job vacancies. This is a massive achievement on the part of the regime and although Guillebaud goes on to say that there was a 'cynical book-keeping manoeuvre' in spring 1933 which wiped 1 million off the unemployment register, by autumn 1933 there was real work creation. (The Third Reich - Politics and Propaganda, 1995, p.59). It must be said that many of these jobs were created in 'labour camps', but nevertheless a considerable number of people were 'offered' tasks and jobs which, perhaps, boosted their self esteem and offered opportunities for promotion (Peukert, 1987, p.72). The economy also experienced an economic 'boom'. This was partly due to Hitler's re-armament programme, and partly due to an increase in industrialisation through programmes such as building the Autobahns, but nevertheless GNP rose from 58 thousand million in 1932, to 93 thousand million by 1937. (Peukert, 1987, p.69). However, although it could be argued, perhaps, that the 'successes' were enough on their own to guarantee Hitler in power, one cannot ignore the way in which propaganda exploited these successes. Even where there was some opposition, from industrial workers for example, who saw the economic 'miracle' in terms of increased working hours and reduced wages; they still welcomed the restoration of full employment and the economic upturn as portrayed in the propaganda. (The Third Reich - Politics and Propaganda, 1995, p.88) Propaganda also played an important role in convincing many workers that the economic 'miracle' was a direct result of Hitler's leadership. ...read more.

Conclusion

Furthermore, whilst Hitler clearly used violence as a means of repression following the 'seizure of power,' Kershaw tells us that his was not a constant over time. (Kershaw, 1991, p.63). He goes on to say that the numbers in concentration camps after the initial terror surge, fell for some years with numbers not rising again until 1938/9. Kershaw then goes on to say that the terror and repression was also highly selective, aimed only at people associated with Left Wing parties, or at an 'unloved' tiny majority such as Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, beggars and other 'anti social elements.' (Kershaw, 1991, pp.62-4). In conclusion, whilst the significance of propaganda cannot be ignored when considering how Hitler was able to maintain power from 1933-39, it would be an "over simplification to think of the German public as a 'tabula rasa' upon which the regime drew whatever picture it wished" (Welch, The Third Reich - Politics and Propaganda, 1995, p.51) Without concrete achievements, propaganda alone would not have been able to sustain the positive image of Hitler. Arguably, much of Hitler's popularity, perhaps, came from the scale of his both his domestic achievements and his many foreign policy successes after 1933. There are those however who would argue that Hitler's maintenance of power was possible because the "opposition was crushed, broken, cowed and neutralised through unprecedented and unmitigated levels of repression by the Nazi state" (Kershaw, 1991, p.75) and therefore that the "weakness of the opposition [was] the strength of the regime."(Kershaw, 1991, p.65). Nevertheless, the basic consent for Hitler lay, perhaps, due to one of Goebbels' most significant successes. Through the use of propaganda and the creation of the 'Hitler myth,' it was possible to separate Hitler from the increasingly negative image of the Nazi party (Welch, Nazi Propaganda, 1983, p.185) and the positive image of Hitler was then used to counterbalance the use of terror. Indeed Emil Lederer, a contemporary observer argued that winning over the masses was not merely more important than brutality as a means of control, but was the "necessary pre-requisite for the use of terror."(Hiden et al, 1983, p. ...read more.

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