Hitler and Goebbels: A Deadly Partnership
Perhaps the most notorious figure of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler was the head of the National Socialist German Workers Party, the Nazi Party, and became dictator of Germany from the early 1930s until his suicide in 1945.
Shortly after assuming the title of German führer ("leader" or "guide") in 1933, Hitler moved to consolidate his power through propaganda campaigns carefully orchestrated by Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels and Hitler played on the fears and hopes of the German people, who had been humiliated by the loss of World War I and had suffered through an economic depression, to promote a nationalist, expansionist, racist vision of Germany's future. Their campaign won many Germans over to Nazi rule, convincing many that opposition was pointless. Once the Nazis gained power, they abolished freedom of speech and assembly and created an atmosphere of anti-Semitism that allowed terrible atrocities against Jews, homosexuals and other minorities that culminated in the Holocaust.
The Power of Radio
Hitler appointed Goebbels to establish the Reich Chamber of Culture in 1933. Only members of the chamber could work in cultural professions, and Goebbels made sure that Jews, Marxists, and others unfriendly to Nazism did not become members. To ensure that Nazi culture reached the masses, Goebbels promoted approved art and music. Taking advantage of the relatively new medium of radio, he organized the sale of cheap radio sets called "people's receivers," and established a system of public loudspeakers to broadcast Hitler's speeches and other propaganda events.
Party Rallies at Nuremberg
Each September, the Nazis held the Nuremberg Rally, a spectacle of party loyalty and power. By 1938 over one million people gathered for a weeklong celebration of Nazism. Leni Riefenstahl filmed the 1934 rally for her propaganda film Triumph of the Will. The most vivid event was an outdoor evening rally of party leaders. In 1935 Hitler's architect Albert Speer arranged to have 150 searchlights surround the field, pointing straight up, in what British ambassador Sir Neville Henderson called "a cathedral of light."
Hitler as Savior
In 1942 Hitler observed: "Dr. Goebbels was gifted with the two things without which the situation in Berlin could not have been mastered: verbal facility and intellect. ..." Hitler had good reason to praise his colleague, for it was Goebbels who had created the führer myth, orchestrating a pseudo-religious worship of Hitler as the savior of Germany from Jews, profiteers, and Marxists. On April 30, 1945, on the verge of defeat, Hitler killed himself in his bunker. The next day Goebbels did the same, loyal to his leader until the end.