Public Relations Nation occasionally posts an article written by a guest blogger. Raffaella Tonani is a journalism major and a Hofstra Honors College student enrolled in my Fundamentals of Public Relations course. –JM
“The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it.” — Joseph Goebbels
Communication is powerful enough to persuade people to purchase a product/service, to act a certain way or to believe in ideas. Joseph Goebbels recognized that power and used it to get one of history’s most evil men elected as Germany’s leader. In effect, this may have made Goebbels may even more powerful than the leader.
Adolf Hitler appointed Goebbels as propaganda director for the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) in 1928. As president of the Chamber of Culture, he controlled the press, including radio and newspapers, plus art like films, books and music. Later named Reich minister of propaganda, he decided what content was appropriate for the public and banned any material that was not aligned with Nazi ideology. He was founder and editor of newspaper Der Angriff (The Assault), and he even controlled who produced messages, firing Jewish and non-Nazi editors from newspapers and magazines. Some film topics were about the greatness of Hitler and Nazi life.
Censorship limits thinking and debate in a society. Goebbels tried to shape the future generation by indoctrinating them through a program called Hitler’s Youth, which trained young boys for the military service and girls for motherhood. He ordered the sale of cheap radios called “People’s receiver,” and set up speakers on streets and cafes for people to listen to Hitler’s speeches. He also organized rallies that hosted thousands of people to spread anti-Semitic thinking. Goebbel’s propaganda encouraged thousands of people to commit inhumane acts and kill thousands of others. Anyone who defied the government could die.
According to The New York Times, Julia Litzkow, a student at a German school who visited Anne Frank’s exhibit in 2008 said, “It’s not a burden. It’s a responsibility… we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Similar to Litzkow, other people in Germany are taught not to feel guilty but to be informed about their country’s past to prevent something similar from happening.
I have been asked “Why do we study history?” multiple times, usually from professors. However, we should know by heart it is important to learn from our past’s mistakes to avoid stepping on the same stone twice. We learn history to learn how to be more responsible with the power of communication than certain people in our past.