Political Propaganda (1934)

Background: This article is taken from the Nazi monthly for propagandists. It is an unusually…

Political Propaganda (1934)

Political Propaganda (1934) Calvin University

Background: This article is taken from the Nazi monthly for propagandists.
It is an unusually complicated explication of Nazi propaganda. The author,
born in 1902, was an early Nazi. In 1934, he was the head of the district
propaganda office of the Propaganda Ministry Berlin-Brandenburg-Kurmark,
and a Reichsredner.

The source: “Politische Propaganda,” Unser Wille
und Weg,
4(1934), pp. 323-332.

Political Propaganda

by Schulze-Wechsungen

No one today will doubt that political propaganda has been

of major significance in the past decades. Waves of propaganda

hit Germany, leaving a world in confusion. We had nothing similar

with which to defend ourselves. Our leaders realized too late

the power and effects of this modern weapon, a weapon without

limits, that thunders more loudly than cannon fire, that is more

destructive than a gas attack.

This weapon forced the World War on us, it forged the alliance

against Germany, it brought ever new armies to the front against

us, it gave them confidence, it used every method—because every

method was at their disposal. Success proved them right,

Only their military leadership found things impossible. For

their propaganda general staff, everything was possible.

Propaganda is the most modern of weapons. We have suffered

under it, we have learned from it. Having learned from experience

its necessity, we now use it.

We had to destroy our airplanes, tanks, guns, and the like,

but not the weapon of propaganda. How could we not have used

it, who is foolish enough to underestimate its power? We owe

our rise to it and will have to depend on it even more in the

future. It is a powerful tool in molding the nature and the thinking

of the new, the modern man.

Alexander von Humboldt wrote that one must organize a lasting

moral force, which is nothing other than a firm, systematic,

coherent attempt to raise the morale of the nation, to control


“To raise the morale of the nation…,” that is

both our task and our goal. We have no desire to apply our idea

outside this framework, apart from conviction, only as a means.

The National Socialist worlview is unique; its full development

presumes Germans in Germany. It will win friends, even some abroad,

since it fits reality. But its deepest power is rooted in German


Our enemy in the World War won the leaders and soldiers it

needed through propaganda. The men who make National Socialist

propaganda have another goal: to win the German people!

We may be proud that the first big step has been taken, but it is only
the beginning. What we have done points the way to what must still be
done; it is both an obligation and a promise. The ferment of decomposition
is in the past. A new page in German history has been turned, a new age
has dawned. Future generations of historians and critics will write books
about our era.

Past German politics and war propaganda were based on sentimentality
and “moral” feelings, untroubled by any understanding of the
psyche of the masses. Politics depends on proper preparation, it depends
on intuitive propaganda. The direction in which propaganda takes the feelings
depends on the goals of the political leadership, on its understanding
of psychology. One must understand human perception and psychology.

Modern psychology (the word, by the way, comes from the days

of Melancthon), supported by psychiatry and neurology, attempts

to discover the laws of psychological processes through systematic

experimentation and statistical analysis (e.g., logical thinking).

These modern methods have led to valuable conclusions, but they

are not sufficient by themselves. There are imponderables in

the psyche of individuals as well as of the masses that can scarcely

be explained. Neither psychological experiments or statistical

techniques can produce laws that the propagandist can apply with

mathematical certainty. This is not to say that certain psychological

discoveries should be ignored or rejected.

Few people are able to bring heart and mind into full agreement.

Propaganda often has particular importance in that it speaks

to the emotions rather than to pure understanding. The individual

as well as the masses are subject to “attitudes”; their

emotions determine their condition.The politician may not coldly

ignore these emotions; he must recognize and understand them

if he is to choose the proper of propaganda to reach his goals.

Although modern psychology has not found any absolute principles for
propagandists, and is unlikely to do so, the total ignorance of psychology
on the part of former German statesmen had catastrophic consequences,
as we know from experience. Professor C. Daenell has this to say with
respect to our psychological relationship to South America during the
war: “We were very bad psychologists.” Professor Adolf Rapp
complains: “We were inexperienced and inept when it came to dealing
with other nations. We did not understand their way of thinking, even
though we praised ourselves for our ability to accept others. We failed
at practical human relations.”

Propaganda strives for long term effects; only occasionally

does it need to aim for momentary successes. Truly effective

propaganda must achieve a continuing understanding of the masses.

It must use effective suggestion, which I define as an idea transformed

into reality through the subconscious.

Naturally the propagandist must understand not only the means

that are at his disposal, but also the characteristics of “his”

masses, however they are expressed, of whatever type they may

be. The enemy may command better resources, and will certainly

take pleasure and satisfaction in any mistake. He will exploit

any failure.

“The German people and its former ruling classes have

learned nothing from the most terrible experience that any nation

has ever had,” says the German-American F. Hansen. He goes

on: “The official German position on any propaganda that

was directed to the Anglo-Saxon world was: ‘We do not want to

excite them.’” Professor Schönemann quite properly

adds: “The German government held to the same almost unbelievable

attitude with respect to questions of atrocities and war guilt!

Here, too, was a politics of missed opportunities.”

The essential task of propaganda is to use psychological skill

to create a favorable atmosphere. As Schopenhauer says: “When

the heart resists, the mind will not accept.”

The fundamental attitude of all successful propaganda is optimistic.

He who allows pessimism in his own cause can expect nothing but

uncertainty and resistance. But optimism means, in all circumstances,


A good politician can accomplish little, if he faces a pessimistic

populace which doubts his good will and even the practicality

of his plans. On the other hand, it is clear that even the best

propaganda cannot conceal constant political failures. Propaganda

is only meaningful and believable when it can show positive results.

Such then are the tasks of propaganda: it is the proclaimer

of an idea, it undermines the positions of the enemy with all

the means and forces at its disposal. It stands in the middle

of life, in the middle of events, and draws the necessary consequences.

Whether the means of propaganda are proper or whether it serves

the facts or ideas is entirely irrelevant. The reality that propaganda

faces is so confused and the conditions it faces so unnatural,

the new idea which propaganda carries so much better, that it

would be inexcusable weakness if propaganda did not use every

at its disposal to bring down as rapidly as possible the rotten

system it faces.

Propaganda is evolutionary, the organization revolutionary.

The word of propaganda becomes the deed of the organization,

and the deed of the organization improves an intolerable condition.The

task of propaganda is to explain to the people new ways and ideas,

to interest the masses in events and to win their cooperation,

Politics and propaganda cannot conflict with each other, nor

can they run parallel to each other, but rather they are inextricably

bound to each other. Without politics there is no propaganda

and without propaganda there is no politics. Good politics always

needs good propaganda. Both have the same goal, the same direction,

and the same thing is true of them as is true of an individual:

“One moves in life in the direction one looks.”

No philosophy that doubts its abilities can guide a government

to success. Propaganda, however, can persuade the people of the

abilities of their government, and to their advantage.

Propaganda and passion belong together. Great passion is as

rare as great genius.The greater the passion, the more effective

the propaganda.

Germans recognized late the nature and role of propaganda,

and later still its necessity. A new day is before us. We must

find economic and cultural paths to build a people domestically

and to build a nation facing the world. Propaganda prepares the

way, it awakens the masses.

People say that politics draws the national balance. Should

not that also be a task of propaganda?

In the past, the National Socialist movement was accused by many, particularly
from certain circles of the intelligentsia that stood apart from the people
and politics, from bringing politics to the people. With the slogan “politics
is a dirty business,” these know-it-alls retreated to their quiet
cells. They did not realize that by letting politics drift, or drift as
it was driven, they were giving their own fate over to forces that would
one day draw conclusions from this lack of interest.

Politics and sentimentality do not agree very well. The task

of politics, as Bismarck said, is to “make the proper preparations

for what other people will do. This capacity of foresight is

rare. It requires a man of broad experience and human understanding,

and I become uncomfortable when I think of the extent to which

this capacity has been lost by our leading circles.”

Most groups of our people displayed an unbelievable ignorance

of foreign affairs. Theoretical crankiness and hyper-patriotism

were the characteristics of the German middle class. This type

was also found among working class leaders as well as university

professors, who had lost all understanding of politics.

Bismarck’s fears became hard reality. We had no politically

aware masses, no politically aware leaders. Did we have great

statesmen—statesmen of mature thought who left something behind?

What happened after the “granite block”—if I may permit

myself an erratic phrase? A few decades later, the internationalism

of unthinking politicians led to pan-European phrases and then

to people-destroying bolshevistic ideas.

Propaganda is not a science; the variety of its methods makes

impossible any straitjacket of scholarly training. There are

no firm recipes for it, but neither may one trifle with it.

Aesthetes and know-it-alls may make elegant propaganda for

their small circle. They can develop a fresh method every day,

always looking for something new, but they will never make effective

political mass propaganda in this way. The opposite! The professional

propagandists of the movement should beware of those deadly enemies!

The goal of propaganda is this: to persuade the masses. It

ignores everything that wants to make an “interestingly

varied” propaganda, anything that wants to change the fundamental

principles and content that propaganda wants to convey. Propaganda

methods can, indeed must, vary, but propaganda must be carried

out in a unified and disciplined way. Only that brings success,

only that leads to the goal.

For both politics and propaganda, the slogan is true: limitation

is the mark of the master, or as Kant put it, “Every reality

develops through limitation.” Since the reality for which

we strive is called “Germany,” we restrict our desires

to it.

The aim, the general line, is known. We are on the attack, on the march.
There is no turning back, no wavering. The propagandists must think subjectively.
Absolutely subjectively, one-sidedly! He has under all circumstances to
avoid the notorious and dangerous German objectivism! He need not weigh
right and wrong, he does not need to worry if there might be some slight
truth on the enemy’s side. Propaganda is concerned only with its goal,
with its justice, its truth. All else is half truth. The more consistently,
the more uniformly propaganda is applied, the greater will be its success
— and the sooner success will come.

Many a one laughed at the propaganda of the NSDAP in the past

from a position of superiority. It is true that we had only one

thing to say, and we yelled and screamed and propagandized it

again and again with a stubbornness that drove the “wise”

to desperation. We proclaimed it with such simplicity that they

thought it absurd and almost childish. They did not understand

that repetition is the precursor to success and simplicity is

the key to the emotional and mental world of the masses. The

masses are mostly extraordinarily forgetful, and their understanding

less than that of the learned. Propaganda had to be made not

to please the learned, but rather to reach the masses. We wanted

to appeal to the intuitive world of the great masses, not the

understanding of the intellectuals. The significance of events

and facts must be presented over and over again, until after

a long time indeed the masses recognize the necessity of a fundamental

change, until they demand it. Scientists, on the other hand,

are persuaded by scientific proofs.

The time has come for the scientist, too, to see as the final, highest
and most decisive factor not science, but rather the interests of his people,
the interest of the whole. That must become the highest goal of all his

The NSDAP, to give only one vivid example, recognized Marxism

as a powerful enemy of the people. The doctrine of Marxist socialism

failed from the moment it achieved political power. Although

its misuse (Ausbeutung)—avoiding Marx’s unnecessary foreign

term exploitation— of the masses led to ever greater misery

for the individual, the masses nonetheless with blind short-sightedness

believed in the world-conquering power of Marxist teaching. Our

task as propagandists was not to debate materialistic revolution

or philosophy, or the teachings of Marxism, but rather we had to

make the masses aware of the facts, of the essential, critical

events and consequences. We did it over and over again, until

the ice broke, until at least a part of the masses began to listen

and understand.

The enemy was Marxism. Our goal was its annihilation. Our

propaganda had to shake the foundations of the core of the Marxist

idea in the minds and hearts of the masses, the theory of class

struggle. Then we had to replace it with a new theory, which

later the organization or positive power would use to win these

same masses to a free state without a theory of class struggle.

Alongside the propaganda struggle against Marxism, we also

fought against the war guilt lie and the Treaty of Versailles.

If one reconstructs today the phrases of this propaganda,

if one lets the kaleidoscope of images roll by once more, one

can still sense the problemss, the hatred of the enemy, our rejection

by public opinion—it was like an impregnable wall around us.

To be sure, we made breaches in the wall. We broke out of

anonymity, out of the depths of contempt and calumny, to the

depth and freedom of the people. In the end the masses heard

us. The movement and its propaganda had enormous success. But

what was the goal?

The winning of the masses was a victory, but only a prerequisite

to our goal. Propaganda now has its second, and perhaps even

harder task: to maintain what we have achieved, and second to

deepen what we have and to reach toward the goal.

An effective government has to be sure that public opinion,

and in particular political opinion, supports its policies and

actions. Public opinion “depends to a large degree on a

sometimes unbelievably tough and thorough belaboring of mind

and feelings, and only to a small degree on personal experience

or knowledge.” Public opinion can be organized, or must

be made capable of organization by propaganda, for the foundation

on which opinion rests is of great significance for the fate

of the community. Popular feelings with all its heights and depths

cannot be separated from the concept of public opinion in a normal

state. An eternal conflict or contradiction between popular feelings

and public opinion is possible only in parliamentary states,

and only in them, as Ferdinand Tönnies says, can one speak

of types of public opinion.

Tönnies distinguishes between public opinion as a conglomerate

of various and contradictory views, wishes and intentions and

public opinion as a unified force, as an expression of common

will. “Public opinion is essentially the common or shared

opinion of a certain group, the firm judgment of a whole.”

Public opinion is the common view of an educated, in particular

the politically aware public, or in other words “the desire

of the intellectually most active, financially strongest, literarily

most influential part of a nation, which is able to overshadow

the other thinking parts of the population.”

In Germany, we have seen enough of the attempt by these above-mentioned

potentates, the intellectually active, the financially strongest,

etc., to fabricate public opinion. We must observe that it was

more or less a public, but not a real opinion—unless one wants

to define egotism as opinion.

The true leader comes from the people, and represents the

people. He forges the opinions of the broad masses.That is his

reality, that is the source of his power: He is the personification

of public opinion. I can not agree with a continuation of the

discussion about the concept by social philosophers, and consider

discussions about the necessity of such debates useless, in fact

superfluous. For those who will lead public opinion today and

tomorrow, the question has been answered. The direction is determined

by necessity, and the people are the final goal. Public opinion

consequently may never be confused with the more or less noisy

views of a class of a clique which are of no interest to the

public—the people!

By public opinion I mean those opinions that contribute to

nation-building and maintenance in which the majority of the

people have a direct interest or can be persuaded to take an

interest in.

There cannot therefore be an uncertain public opinion, for

it has to hold an entirely clear line on material matters and

ideas. When that is not the case, for example during liberal

periods, the resulting confusion of sectarian views of the various

classes and groups leads to the abyss from which we rescued the

German people by presenting them with a revolutionary idea that

by the help of propaganda became their public opinion.

It is time to distinguish the often misunderstood words propaganda

and advertising, which are sometimes intentionally confused.

Advertising experts, historians, scientists, experts and laymen

alike have attempted to distinguish the words propagandist and

advertising agent by a variety of longer or shorter definitions.

No one has really succeeded. Perhaps that is because no one from

the propaganda side has gotten involved in the discussion, since

during the last fourteen years professional propagandists in

Germany have hardly had time for theoretical discussions, and

before that one could hardly speak of propaganda activity in


Now that the National Socialist worldview has taken power

and there is a Ministry of Propaganda, such theoretical questions

can be neither ignored nor left unclear.

The National Socialist movement over the years has trained

a certain group of people to be propagandists. One cannot any

longer conceive of the organization without them. Both are factors

in the state that form a political unit with the same goal as

ever: All for Germany.

They serve no interest group. Rather they are there to express the will
of the people and its worldview, a worldview that has proven itself to
the people as true and good. They are there to spread it to the masses
for the good of the people.

Propagandists help to form and carry out governmental politics,

and share the responsibility for it.

Politics is not a necessary evil, nor is it one of many factors

necessary to the existence of a people. It is the essential factor

for the people. Sound politics spreads strength and progress

to all other branches of society and the sciences. The best economic

policy will be fail under bad politics.

Politics is the primary factor.

A successful, far-seeing politics requires a powerful idea.

All successful ideas are bound to the laws of existence, but

their uniqueness depends upon the fact that they apply to “everyone,”

not to “some.”

Worldviews descend to the depths of humanity. Their impact

is above all spiritual, inward.

We do not need to argue here that every political idea has

the characteristics of a worldview.

We have established our worldview after a long struggle. Each must now
reckon with us, whether he likes it or not. The idea has become reality,
and this reality can not be disputed or ignored.

The proclaimer of this worldview is the politician.

The worldview, this politics, applies to everything. Therefore

its propaganda is the political line, political education, political

advertising and also political pressure for everyone for the

good of the people.

The propagandist is therefore the authorized representative

of a political worldview or of a spiritual-religious idea.

Advertising is promotion for something physical, indeed for

something specific.

Advertising serves the economy, or particular areas, purposes

and tasks.

Advertising praises goods.

Propaganda spreads an idea.

Propaganda serves only politics.

The two have in common an organized set of methods — often different
ones — which “result in the acceptance or fulfillment of the
needs they present.” Both use agitators, though in recent years the
term has come to have a thoroughly political meaning.

It would be erroneous to attempt to draw a value judgment

from the difference outlined here.

Some propagandists have been or could be good advertising

agents, though we have rarely seen it work the other way. But

that is not my point! The advertising agent is familiar, and

has a long tradition. The propagandist should also become as

familiar a concept. He must create something necessary: a tradition!

Just as any other German, he is a worker in construction,

a becomer and a knower. But he has even greater responsibility

to do more, to create more fanatically, for he is a political

soldier. Therefore:

On with propaganda!

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