Sunday, 7 June 2015

Peter Longerich, "Goebbels: A Biography" (2015)

Just finished. Comments to follow soon.

Two useful reviews:
- Nigel Jones, "Ménage-à-trois with Hitler: the Goebbels’ marriage was a bit crowded," Spectator (UK), 9 May 2015.
- James J. Sheehan, New York Times, 13 May 2015.

Some noteworthy excerpts:
In this historical biography, first and foremost concerned with the question of the part played by Goebbels in the leadership of the Third Reich, insights gained into the deficiencies of his personality can help to develop wider perspectives. A particular purpose of this biography is to open the way to an analysis of the construction and modus operandi of the Nazi propaganda apparatus.

The connections, often quite subtle, among his various responsibilities become apparent only through a description of his life.

“Faith Moves Mountains”: Political Beginnings in Berlin
He developed a friendship with the graphic artist Hans Herbert Schweitzer, who designed National Socialist posters under the pseudonym Mjölnir.

“Dare to Live Dangerously!”: Goebbels’s Radicalism and Hitler’s Policy of “Legality”
December 1930
After consulting “Hitler and a large number of experts,” Goebbels came up with a definition of socialism that immediately met with Hitler’s “enthusiastic” approval: “placing the concept of the people above that of the individual.”

A few weeks later it emerged, either as a result of police inquiries or of a leak by former Party employees, that the assassination attempt had clearly been faked by Goebbels himself—and quite crudely at that. The “explosives” consisted of some jumping jacks and a little gunpowder. That Goebbels wrote up the “assassination attempt” in his diary as a genuine threat shows his relationship to the truth: Having acted out a charade for public consumption, he then recorded it as a fact in his diary.

“Dare to Live Dangerously!”: Goebbels’s Radicalism and Hitler’s Policy of “Legality”
On March 13, he records in the diary, “someone tried to kill me with a bomb.”

“Dare to Live Dangerously!”: Goebbels’s Radicalism and Hitler’s Policy of “Legality”
In all these disputes it became clear how small Goebbels’s power base within the Party actually was during this phase of the NSDAP’s rapid expansion into a mass movement. In Berlin he had to appear as a radical hothead in order to keep the SA on board, but this in turn created tensions around his attitude to the “legal” course chosen by the Party leader, upon whose support he was so highly dependent.

Kurt Tucholsky poem of 1928: “Due to bad weather, the revolution will be held indoors.”

“We’re Here to Stay!”: Taking Power
...the head office of the fascist leisure organization Dopolavoro, which impressed Goebbels very much: “We must do something like that. The people at leisure. Sport…"

The great majority of the public had grown used to manifesting their support for the regime—as was expected of them—in their everyday behavior. This happened, for example, through the officially encouraged “Heil Hitler!” greeting; the wearing of uniforms by a large part of the population, or at least the wearing of insignia to signal their support for the regime; the public display of flags at home; attendance at Party events and mass rallies; donations to street collectors; listening en masse to broadcasts in public squares; the gradual exclusion of Jews, labeled enemies of the state, from normal daily life; and many other ways.

“Taking Firm Control of the Inner Discipline of a People”: Propaganda and Manipulation of the Public Sphere
...let journalists know what areas were out of bounds for critical, or even just independent, reporting. There should never, for example (stated Point 1 on the list of guidelines), be any broad-brush description of “official ceremonial occasions”: This took Goebbels back to one of his favorite themes, the avoidance of “pomp” in the Third Reich. Another rule was that any controversial discussion of proposed legislation was incompatible with the idea of a “Führer state.” Likewise, to discuss the form of government was “intolerable.” When reporting political trials it was undesirable to “discuss in detail false assertions that are the subject of the trial.” One of Goebbels’s guidelines stated succinctly: “Today, the church question has been settled.” With regard to ecclesiastical affairs, in order to avoid confusion as well as adverse reactions from foreign propaganda, only reports from the German News Service should be used. And as far as the much-lamented monotony of the German press was concerned, Goebbels forbade any discussion of press uniformity outright.

...he characterized the attitude now taken by German journalists toward the Nazi regime as “neue Sachlichkeit.”

Goebbels: "We have removed the journalist from his humiliating and demeaning dependence on parties and business interests, thereby placing him in a position of honorable and loyal dependence on the state. For we see the freedom of Germans not in the opportunity to do or not do what one wants, but in the opportunity to integrate freely and responsibly into the higher laws and higher moral commandments of a state.” his cultural address the dictator not only condemned the “vandals” of modern art but also spoke out against “backward-looking people” and their “old-world Teutonic art”—those of Rosenberg’s persuasion, in other words.

These examples show that in 1934–35 Goebbels was by no means the unconstrained sole master and expert helmsman of Germany’s culture and media he liked to claim he was: He had to share control and management
with others.

Goebbels called on the Gestapo to send six members of the cabaret casts who in the meantime had been arrested to a concentration camp for an initial stint of six weeks.

...the trial of five of the performers from the two theaters ended in October 1936 with an acquittal in all cases.

...directive prohibiting all authorities, organizations, and associations from giving the press any instructions or orders. Likewise, no one was entitled to exercise criticism of the press.

The law also introduced the classification of films by the state board of censors: The board was authorized to categorize films as “of political value to the state,” “artistic,” “educational,” or “culturally valuable,” thus exempting the films in question from the entertainment tax. Additionally, the Cinema Law provided for a “Reich film dramaturge” who—independently of the board of censors—was entitled to oversee all film projects at the planning and screenplay stages.

December 15, 1935, Goebbels gave another set-piece lecture at the Kroll Opera to “film creators.” Here he accepted in principle the justification for “entertainment films” but was critical of their “stupidity” and the “assembly- line production of those who followed the same formula.” Almost three years after the “seizure of power,” this was a fairly damning indictment of his own impact on filmmaking,

Among the amenities enjoyed there was a television set, installed in February 1935; the propaganda minister loved watching it with his family, although broadcasting was limited to a few hours and was still at the test stage.

“Never Tire!”: Foreign Policy Successes and Anti-Jewish Policies
In his capacity as head of propaganda for the Reich, Goebbels ordered that “between about 19 and 21 hours today, Tuesday, January 15, the population will spontaneously [sic] attend mass rallies to celebrate victory in the Saar.”

In his speech, broadcast to the nation, he described Christmas as a Christian festival but at the same time claimed it for National Socialism, which in the form of the “national community” had given the command to love your neighbor a “new and unexpected content” in the form of the national community.

“The Tougher the Better!”: The Olympic Year, 1936
It was not until the next day that Hitler and Göring informed him of the decision made the previous night, to which Goebbels pointedly attributed only minor significance in his diary entry: “So we’re getting a bit involved in Spain. Planes etc. Not obvious. Who knows what the point is.”

...placed a wreath on Horst Wessel’s grave

“The Most Important Factors in Our Modern Cultural Life”: Consolidating Nazi Cultural Policies
...lack of support for his “völkisch-Germanic” ambitions, Rosenberg’s mission to “spiritually educate” the whole Nazi movement carried little weight.

...on Goebbels’s initiative artists shown in the Munich “Decadence Exhibition” were branded as “degenerate” even though they were teaching at state art schools or were members of the Prussian Academy of Fine Art. 1937 the Reich Chamber of Fine Art still had 156 Jewish members, mostly art dealers and art publicists.

Even by May 1943, he found himself stating with consternation that “the Reich Culture Chamber is not yet as de-jewified as I intended”; “a whole lot of quarter-Jews, even a few half-Jews, and numbers of Jewish-related are hanging around there.”

Hitler was “extremely” pleased with some photos showing Helga on the Obersalzberg: “Says that if Helga was 20 years older and he was 20 years younger, she would be the wife for him.”

“Don’t Look Around, Keep Marching On!”: The Firebrand as Peacemaker
...the appearance of the three million — a majority of Berlin’s population — was not exactly a display of spontaneous popular enthusiasm. On September 26, for example, there was an article in the Völkischer Beobachter peremptorily commanding “the working Berlin population” to attend the rally en masse. The guarantee of “en masse” participation was achieved—to mention only one detail of the nearly perfect planning for this event—by the German Labor Front. After work ended early, they made the staff fall in and marched them en masse to their allocated sector of the approach roads. It was not easy to escape: If you felt ill, for example, you had to request special permission to leave from the works organizer.

Goebbels: "If I don’t do everything myself, I’m pleased when things go wrong.”

Hitler’s interest in this conversation was far-reaching, as he confided to Goebbels: “We need a prince of the church if we want to break away from Rome. And we must do so. There must be no authority outside Germany
able to give orders to Germans.”

Goebbels: "What I’m doing is trying to incite you. Against any kind of sentimentality. The watchword is not the law but harassment. The Jews have got to get out of Berlin.”

“Maturity Is Only Achieved Through Suffering!”: Preparations for War—from the Munich Agreement to the Attack on Poland
Goebbels arranged with the War Ministry in 1937 that, should war break out, units from his ministry would be put in uniform and “embedded” with the Wehrmacht.

“Our Banners Lead Us On to Victory!”: Between the War in the West and the War in the East
...the dictator made it quite clear to his propaganda minister: “No invasion planned,” although propaganda should encourage fears of invasion by dropping hints “in order to confuse the enemy.”

Goebbels, who after his conversations with Hitler always conscientiously recorded all the Führer’s comments about his foreign policy and military plans, does not report anything in his 1940 diaries about concrete plans for an attack on the Soviet Union. Rather, Goebbels’s entries in his diary for August 1940 show that Hitler intentionally left him in the dark about his war plans.

“Our Banners Lead Us On to Victory!”: Between the War in the West and the War in the East
Some prominent films produced under the Nazis - The Rothschilds, Jud Süss, The Eternal Jew, Bismarck, Ohm Krüger (on which Goebbels himself worked), and Carl Peters, Goodbye, Franziska and Request Concert, I Accuse, Stukas, U-Boat Going Westwards, and The Lützow Squadron

“A Great, a Wonderful Time, in Which a New Reich Will Be Born”: The Attack on the Soviet Union
On August 14 an inter-ministerial conference took place in the Propaganda Ministry at which, among other things, this plan to visibly identify the Jews was discussed.

Rühmann film The Gasman
Meine Frau Theresa

March 6 Goebbels read a “detailed memorandum prepared by the SD and the police about the final solution of the Jewish question.

Der große König

“We Can See in Our Mind’s Eye a Happy People”: Offensives and Setbacks
Goebbels: "I have no desire to have a 22-year-old eastern Jew—the saboteurs of the anti-Soviet exhibition included types like that—putting a bullet in my guts. I prefer ten Jews in a concentration camp or under the earth than having one in freedom.”

His continuing attempts to eliminate any remnant of the German people’s admiration and respect for Russia and Soviet communism can also be seen as an obsessive attempt to kill off the last germ of this dangerous sickness in himself.

Hitler’s increasing physical frailty was a growing problem in terms of the deployment of the Führer for propaganda purposes. Thus Goebbels was obliged to note that Hitler “is very unwilling to appear in the weekly newsreels” and kept removing clips in which he was shown

In December 1942 a growing number of reports about the mass murder of Jews in German-occupied Europe began to appear in the international media. On December 17 the Allies published a statement about the systematic murder of the Jews by the Nazi regime;

For the Führer state to be maintained in the absence of the Führer was going to require extraordinary efforts.

Hitler’s public silence had created a vacuum, which the propaganda minister was now entering with a vengeance.

During the evening many people were saying that this meeting represented a sort of quiet coup. [...] Total war is now no longer a matter for a few perceptive men; it’s now supported by the whole nation.

...both were agreed on “what would threaten us all if we became weak in this war”; they had committed themselves so far in the “Jewish question” that “there is no possible chance of escape. And that’s a good thing.” For “experience shows that a movement and a nation which has burned its bridges fights with far fewer reservations than one that still has the possibility of withdrawal.”

“The Masses Have Become Somewhat Skeptical or...Are in the Grip of a Permanent State of Hopelessness”: Crisis as a Permanent State
When they devised the plan for the total destruction of the German people, they were signing their own death warrant.

Horthy’s soft attitude had strengthened Hitler in his view that “the junk of small states which still exists in Europe must be liquidated as quickly as possible.”

The deep depression among the population that Goebbels detected at the end of May had to a significant extent been caused by the excessive use of anti-Semitism.

“I Have No Idea What the Führer’s Going to Do in the End”: The Search for a Way Out
During 1944, apart from his addresses on January 30 and after the July 20 assassination attempt, Hitler made no speeches that were broadcast and did not speak at any major events.

Goebbels’s summary of Hitler’s comments. “Anyone who says A must say B, and now that the Hungarians have begun implementing our Jewish policy they can no longer back out of it. After a certain point the Jewis

While hitherto German propaganda had put forward the thesis that “the Jews,” either as plutocrats or as communists, were the “glue” holding the enemy coalition together (an assertion that Goebbels frequently made both in public and in private), now, in view of the threat of military defeat, it was necessary to emphasize the contradictions within the enemy camp.

...actual instances of vigilantism committed against pilots, he hoped to make an impact in the enemy countries.

“Virtually a Wartime Dictatorship on the Home Front”: Between an Apocalyptic Mood and Total War
There were further trials in the People’s Court lasting until April 1945 with more than 150 people accused of participating in the conspiracy, of whom over a hundred were sentenced to death and hanged.

“But When Will There Be Some Action?”: Downfall
He was also unsuccessful in gaining acceptance for his idea of a Military Auxiliaries Law subjecting all women under thirty to military conscription and thereby recruiting two hundred thousand women as “military auxiliaries.” It was blocked by Bormann and Himmler.

...while the propaganda that was now preparing the German population for a confrontation with Poland justified the use of military means, it also led to this war, which allegedly had been forced on Germany, being seen as an exceptional situation. The result was that after its rapid conclusion the vast majority of the population wanted to return to peacetime conditions.

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