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Joseph Goebbels

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(1897-10-29)29 October 1897
Rheydt, Prussia, Germany

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Paul Joseph Goebbels (English /ˈɡɜrbəlz/; Template:IPA-de;[1] 29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devoted followers, he was known for his zealous orations and deep and virulent antisemitism, which led to his strongly supporting the extermination of the Jews when the Nazi leadership developed their "Final Solution".

Goebbels came to power in 1933 after Hitler was appointed chancellor. One of Goebbels' first acts was to organize the burning of books considered to be "un-German". Under Goebbels' leadership, the Propaganda Ministry quickly gained and exerted controlling supervision over the news media, arts, and information in Germany.

From the beginning of his tenure, Goebbels organized actions against German Jews, commencing with a one-day boycott of Jewish businessmen, doctors and lawyers[2] on 1 April 1933.[3] These actions may have contributed to the violence of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) on the night of 9–10 November 1938, an open and unrestrained pogrom unleashed by the Nazis across Germany in which synagogues were burned, Jewish-owned businesses trashed, Jews assaulted (91 killed), and thousands of them arrested and incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps.[4]

During World War II, Goebbels increased his power and influence through adroit and shifting alliances with other Nazi leaders. By mid-1943, the tide of war was turning against the Axis powers; Goebbels responded to major defeats on the Russian front in a series of highly orchestrated speeches urging the Germans to embrace the idea of total war and total mobilization. He remained with Hitler in Berlin to the end. Before he committed suicide, Hitler named him his successor as Chancellor in his will. On 1 May 1945, the day after Hitler had committed suicide with his new wife Eva Braun, Goebbels and his wife Magda killed their six young children by giving them poison (in the form of cyanide pills or capsules) in their sleep, then committed suicide themselves. The couple's bodies were burned in a shell crater, but due to the lack of petrol the burning was only partially effective.

Early life

Paul Joseph Goebbels was born in Rheydt, an industrial town south of Mönchengladbach on the Rhine near Düsseldorf.[5] Both parents were Catholics and from humble beginnings.[5] His father Fritz was a clerk in a factory; his mother Katharina (née Odenhausen) was ethnically Dutch.[6] Goebbels had five siblings: Konrad (1893–1947), Hans (1895–1949), Maria (1896–1896), Elisabeth (1901–1915), and Maria (1910–1949);[5] the last married the German filmmaker Max W. Kimmich in 1938.[7]

Goebbels suffered from ill health during his childhood, including a long bout of inflammation of the lungs. He had a deformed right foot (clubfoot) which turned inwards, due to a congenital deformity. It was thicker and shorter than his left foot.[5] He underwent a failed operation to correct it just prior to starting grammar school.[8] Goebbels wore a metal brace and special shoe because of his shortened leg, but nevertheless walked with a limp. He was rejected for military service in World War I due to his leg deformity.[9]

He was educated at a Christian Gymnasium, where he completed his Abitur (university entrance examination) in 1917.[10] He was the top student of his class and was given the traditional honor to speak at the awards ceremony.[11] His parents initially hoped that he would become a Catholic priest.[12] He studied literature and history at the universities of Bonn, Würzburg, Freiburg, and Munich.[13] By this time Goebbels had begun to distance himself from the church.[14]

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Cover of the novel Michael, published by the NSDAP in 1929

Perhaps in compensation for his physical disabilities, he indulged in a lifelong pursuit of women.[15][16] At Freiburg, he met and fell in love with Anka Stalherm, who was three years his senior.[17] She went on to Würzburg to continue school, as did Goebbels.[9] He wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Michael, a three-part work of which only Parts I and III have survived.[18] Goebbels felt he was writing his "own story".[18] Additional antisemitic content and material about a charismatic leader may have been added by Goebbels shortly before the book was published by the Nazi Party (National Socialist German Workers' Party; NSDAP) in 1929.[19] By 1920, the relationship with Anka was over. The break-up filled Goebbels with thoughts of suicide.[20][a]

At the University of Heidelberg, he wrote his doctoral thesis on a minor 19th century romantic dramatist, Wilhelm von Schütz.[22] He had hoped to write his thesis under the supervision of Friedrich Gundolf who at that time was a well known literary historian. It did not seem to bother Goebbels that Gundolf was Jewish.[23] However, Gundolf was no longer performing teaching duties, so he directed Goebbels to associate professor Max Freiherr von Waldberg. Waldberg was also Jewish.[23] Waldberg was the one who recommended Goebbels write his thesis on Wilhelm von Schütz. After submitting the thesis and passing his oral examination, Goebbels earned his PhD in 1921.[24]

Goebbels then returned home and worked as a private tutor. He also found work as a journalist and was published in the local newspaper. His writing during that time reflected a dislike for modern culture and indicated a growing anti-Semitism.[25] In the summer of 1922, he met and began a love affair with Else Janke, a schoolteacher.[26] After Janke revealed to Goebbels that she was half-Jewish, the relationship ended. Goebbels stated the "enchantment [was] ruined".[26]

He continued for several years to try to become a published author.[27] His diaries, which he began in 1923 and continued for the rest of his life, provided an outlet for his desire to write.[28] The lack of income from his literary works (he wrote two plays in 1923, neither of which sold[29]) forced him to take jobs as a caller on the stock exchange and as a bank clerk in Cologne, a job which he detested.[30][31] He was dismissed from the bank in August 1923 and returned to Rheydt.[32] During this period, he read and was influenced by the works of Oswald Spengler, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the British-born German writer whose book The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899) was one of the standard works of the extreme right in Germany.[33] According to Biographer Peter Longerich, Goebbels' diary entries from late 1923 to early 1924 reflected the writings of a man who was isolated, preoccupied by "religious-philosophical" issues, and lacked a sense of direction.[34] Diary entries of mid-December 1923 forward show Goebbels was moving towards the völkisch nationalist movement.[35]

Nazi activist

Goebbels first took an interest in Adolf Hitler and Nazism in 1924.[36] In February 1924, Hitler's trial for treason began in the wake of his failed attempt to seize power in Munich, Bavaria, during 8–9 November 1923 (this failed coup became known as the Beer Hall Putsch).[37] The trial garnered Hitler much press and gave him a platform for propaganda.[38] Hitler was sentenced to prison, and was released on 20 December 1924.[39] Goebbels was drawn to the NSDAP mostly because of Hitler's charisma and commitment to his beliefs.[40] He joined the NSDAP around this time, and was given the party badge number 8762.[30] In late 1924, Goebbels offered his services to Karl Kaufmann, who was Gauleiter (NSDAP district leader) for the Rhine-Ruhr District. Kaufmann put him in touch with Gregor Strasser, a leading Nazi organizer in northern Germany, who hired him to work on their weekly newspaper and to do secretarial work for the regional party offices.[41] He was also put to work as party speaker and representative for Rhineland-Westphalia.[42] Members of Strasser's northern branch of the NSDAP, including Goebbels, had a more socialist outlook than the rival Hitler group in Munich.[43] Strasser disagreed with Hitler on many parts of the party platform, and in November 1926 began working on a revision.[44]

Hitler viewed Strasser's actions as a threat to his authority, and summoned 60 Gauleiters and party leaders, including Goebbels, to a meeting at Bamberg, in Streicher's Gau of Franconia, where he gave a two-hour speech repudiating Strasser's new political programme.[45] Hitler was opposed to the socialist leanings of the northern wing, stating it would mean "political bolshevization of Germany". Further, there would be "no princes, only Germans", and a legal system with no "... Jewish system of exploitation ... for plundering of our people". The future would be secured by acquiring land, not through expropriation of the estates of the former nobility, but through colonization of territories to the east.[44] Goebbels was horrified by Hitler's characterisation of socialism as "a Jewish creation", and his assertion that private property would not be expropriated by a Nazi government. "I no longer fully believe in Hitler. That's the terrible thing: my inner support has been taken away."[46]

In hopes of winning over the opposition, Hitler arranged meetings in Munich with the three Greater Ruhr Gau leaders, including Goebbels.[47] Goebbels was impressed when Hitler sent his own car to meet them at the railway station. That evening Hitler and Goebbels both gave speeches at a beer hall rally.[47] The following day, Hitler offered his hand in reconciliation to the three men, encouraging them to put their differences behind them. Hitler also gave Goebbels "new insight" into the "social question".[48] Goebbels capitulated completely, offering Hitler his total loyalty – a pledge that was clearly sincere, and that he adhered to until the end of his life. "I love him ... He has thought through everything," Goebbels wrote. "Such a sparkling mind can be my leader. I bow to the greater one, the political genius". Later he wrote: "Adolf Hitler, I love you because you are both great and simple at the same time. What one calls a genius."[49] As a result of the Bamberg and Munich meetings, Strasser's new draft of the party programme was discarded. The original National Socialist Program of 1920 was retained unchanged, and Hitler's position as party leader was greatly strengthened.[49]

Propagandist in Berlin

At Hitler's invitation, Goebbels spoke at party meetings in Munich and at the annual Party Congress, held in Weimar in 1926.[50] For the following year's event, Goebbels was involved in the planning for the first time. He and Hitler arranged for the rally to be filmed.[51] Receiving praise for doing well at these events led Goebbels to shape his political ideas to match Hitler's, and to admire and idolize him even more.[52]

Goebbels was first offered the position of party Gauleiter for the Berlin section in August 1926. He travelled to Berlin in mid-September and by the middle of October accepted the position. Thus Hitler's plan to divide and dissolve the northwestern Gauleiters group that Goebbels had served in under Strasser was successful.[53] Hitler gave Goebbels great authority over the area, allowing him to determine the course for organisation and leadership for the Gau. Goebbels was given control over the local Sturmabteilung (SA) and Schutzstaffel (SS) and answered only to Hitler.[54] The party membership numbered about 1,000 when Goebbels arrived, and he reduced it to a core of 600 of the most active and promising members. To raise money, he instituted membership fees and began charging admission to party meetings.[55] Aware of the value of publicity (both positive and negative), he deliberately provoked beer-hall battles and street brawls, including violent attacks on the Communist Party of Germany.[56] Goebbels adapted recent developments in commercial advertising to the political sphere, including the use of catchy slogans and subliminal cues.[57] His new ideas for poster design included using large type, red ink, and cryptic headers that encouraged the reader to examine the fine print to determine the meaning.[58]

Goebbels speaks at a political rally (1932). This body position, with arms akimbo, was intended to show the speaker as being in a position of authority.[59]
Goebbels giving a speech in Berlin (1934). This hand gesture was used while delivering a warning or threat.[59]

Like Hitler, Goebbels practiced his public speaking skills in front of a mirror. Meetings were preceded by ceremonial marches and singing, and the venues were decorated with party banners. His entrance (almost always late) was timed for maximum emotional impact on the audience. He usually meticulously planned his speeches ahead of time, using pre-planned and choreographed inflection and gestures, but he was also able to improvise and adapt his presentation to make a good connection with his audience.[60][59]

Goebbels' tactic of using provocation to bring attention to the NSDAP, along with violence at the public party meetings and demonstrations, led the Berlin police to ban the NSDAP from the city on 5 May 1927.[61][62] Violent incidents continued, including young Nazis randomly attacking Jews in the streets.[59] Goebbels was subjected to a public speaking ban until the end of October.[63] During this period, he founded the newspaper Der Angriff (The Attack) as a propaganda vehicle for the Berlin area. It was a modern-style newspaper which took an aggressive tone.[64] To Goebbels' disappointment, circulation was initially small, only 2,000. Material in the paper was highly anti-communist and antisemitic.[65] Among the paper's favourite targets was the Jewish Deputy Chief of the Berlin Police Bernhard Weiß. Goebbels gave him the derogatory nickname "Isidore" and subjected him to a relentless campaign of Jew-baiting in the hope of provoking a crackdown he could then exploit.[66] Goebbels continued to try to break into the literary world, with a revised version of his book Michael finally being published, and the unsuccessful production of two of his plays (Der Wanderer and Die Saat (The Seed)). The latter was his final attempt at playwriting.[67] During this period in Berlin he had relationships many women, including his old flame Anka Stalherm, who was now married and had a small child. He was quick to fall in love, but easily tired of a relationship and moved on to someone new. He worried too about how a committed personal relationship might interfere with his career.[68]

The ban on the NSDAP was lifted in early 1928, in time for the Reichstag elections, held on 20 May.[69] Results were poor, with the NSDAP losing nearly 100,000 voters and earning only 2.5 per cent of the vote nationwide. Results in Berlin were even worse, where they attained only 1.4 per cent of the vote.[70] Goebbels was one of twelve NSDAP members to gain election to the Reichstag.[70] This gave him immunity from prosecution for a long list of outstanding charges, including a three-week jail sentence he received in April for insulting the deputy police chief Bernhard Weiß.[71] The Reichstag changed the immunity regulations in February 1931, and Goebbels was forced to pay fines for libellous material he had placed in Der Angriff over the course of the previous year.[72]

In his newspaper Berliner Arbeiterzeitung (Berlin Workers Newspaper), Gregor Strasser was highly critical of Goebbels' failure to attract the urban vote.[73] However, the party as a whole did much better in rural areas, attracting as much as 18 per cent of the vote in some regions.[70] This was partly because Hitler had publicly stated just prior to the election that Point 17 of the party programme, which mandated the expropriation of land without compensation, would apply only to Jewish speculators and not private landholders.[74] After the election, the party refocused their efforts to try to attract still more votes in the agricultural sector.[75] In May, shortly after the election, Hitler considered appointing Goebbels as party propaganda chief. But he hesitated, as he worried that the removal of Gregor Strasser from the post would lead to a split in the party. Goebbels considered himself well suited to the position, and began to formulate ideas about how propaganda could be used in schools and the media.[76]

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Goebbels used the death of Horst Wessel in 1930 as a propaganda tool.[77]

By 1930, the violence between the Nazis and communists led to local SA troop leader Horst Wessel being shot by two members of the Communist Party of Germany. He later died in hospital.[78] Exploiting Wessel's death, Goebbels turned him into a martyr for the Nazi movement. He officially declared Wessel's march Die Fahne hoch (Raise the flag), renamed as the Horst-Wessel-Lied, to be the NSDAP anthem.[77]

The Great Depression greatly impacted Germany and by 1930 there was a dramatic increase in unemployment.[79] During this time, the Strasser brothers started publishing a new daily newspaper in Berlin, the Nationaler Sozialist.[80] Like their other publications, it conveyed the brothers' own brand of Nazism, including nationalism, anti-capitalism, social reform, and anti-Westernism.[81] Goebbels complained vehemently about the rival Strasser newspapers to Hitler, and admitted that their success was causing his own Berlin newspapers to be "pushed to the wall".[80] In late April 1930, Hitler publicly and firmly announced his opposition to Gregor Strasser and appointed Goebbels to replace him as Reich leader of NSDAP propaganda.[82] One of Goebbels' first acts was to ban the evening edition of the Nationaler Sozialist.[83] Goebbels was also given control of other Nazi papers across the country, including the party's national newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter (People's Observer). He still had to wait until 3 July for Otto Strasser and his supporters to announce they were leaving the NSDAP. Upon receiving the news, Goebbels was relieved the "crisis" with the Strassers was finally over and glad that Otto Strasser had lost all power.[84]

The rapid deterioration of the economy led to the resignation on 27 March 1930 of the coalition government that had been elected in 1928. A new cabinet was formed, and Paul von Hindenburg used his power as president to govern via emergency decrees.[85] He appointed Heinrich Brüning as chancellor.[86] Goebbels took charge of the NSDAP's national campaign for Reichstag elections called for 14 September 1930. Campaigning was undertaken on a huge scale, with thousands of meetings and speeches held all over the country.[87] Hitler's speeches focused on blaming the country's economic woes on the Weimar Republic, particularly its adherence to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which called for war reparations that had proven devastating to the German economy. He proposed a new German society based on race and national unity.[87] The resulting success took even Hitler and Goebbels by surprise: the party received 6.5 million votes nationwide and took 107 seats in the Reichstag, making it the second largest party in the country.[87]

In late 1930 Goebbels met Magda Quandt, a divorcée who had joined the party a few months earlier. She worked as a volunteer in the party offices in Berlin, helping Goebbels organize his private papers.[88] Her flat on the Reichkanzlerplatz soon became a favourite meeting place for Hitler and other NSDAP officials. Magda had a close relationship with Hitler, and became a member of the small coterie of female friends with whom he was able to relax.[89] Goebbels and Quandt married on 19 December 1931.[90]

For two further elections held in 1932, Goebbels organized massive campaigns that included rallies, parades, speeches, and Hitler travelling around the country by airplane with the slogan "the Führer over Germany".[91] Goebbels also undertook numerous speaking tours during these election campaigns.[92] Goebbels had some of their speeches published on gramophone records and as pamphlets. He was also involved in the production of a small collection of silent films that could be shown at party meetings, though they did not yet have enough equipment to widely use this medium. [93] Many of Goebbels' campaign posters used violent imagery such as a giant half-clad male destroying political opponents or other perceived enemies such as "International High Finance".[94] His propaganda characterized the opposition as "November criminals", "Jewish wire-pullers", or a communist threat.[95] Support for the party continued to grow, but neither of these elections led to a majority government. In an effort to stabilize the country and improve economic conditions, Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Reich chancellor on 30 January 1933.[96]

Propaganda Minister

To celebrate Hitler's appointment as chancellor, Goebbels organized a torchlit parade in Berlin on the night of 30 January of an estimated 60,000 men, many in the uniforms of the SA and SS. The spectacle was covered by a live state radio broadcast, with commentary by longtime party member and future Minister of Aviation Hermann Göring.[97] Goebbels was disappointed to not be given a post in Hitler's new cabinet. Bernhard Rust was appointed as Minister of Culture, the post Goebbels was expecting to receive.[98] Like other NSDAP officials, Goebbels had to deal with Hitler's leadership style of giving contradictory orders to his subordinates, while placing them into positions where their duties and responsibilities overlapped.[99] In this way, Hitler fostered distrust, competition, and infighting among his subordinates to consolidate and maximise his own power.[100] The NSDAP took advantage of the Reichstag fire of 27 February 1933, with Hindenburg passing the Reichstag Fire Decree the following day at Hitler's urging. This was the first of several pieces of legislation that dismantled democracy in Germany and put a totalitarian dictatorship—headed by Hitler—in its place.[101] On 5 March, yet another Reichstag election took place, the last to be held before the defeat of the Nazis at the end of the Second World War.[102] While the NSDAP increased their number of seats and percentage of the vote, it was not the landslide expected by the party leadership.[103] Goebbels finally received Hitler's appointment to the cabinet, officially becoming head of the newly created Reichs Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda on 14 March.[104]

The role of the new ministry, which set up its offices in the 18th-century Leopold Palace across from the Reich Chancellery, was to centralise Nazi control of all aspects of German cultural and intellectual life.[105] Goebbels described the goal of his department as increasing the popular support of the party from the 37 per cent achieved at the last free election held in Germany on 25 March 1933 to 100 per cent support. An unstated goal was to present to other nations the impression that the NSDAP had the full and enthusiastic backing of the entire population.[106] One of Goebbels' first productions was staging the Day of Potsdam, a ceremonial passing of power from Hindenburg to Hitler, held in Potsdam on 21 March.[107] He composed the text of Hitler's decree authorizing the boycott of Jewish businesses, held on 1 April.[108] Later that month, Goebbels travelled back to Rheydt, where he was given a triumphal reception. The townsfolk lined the main street, which had been renamed in his honour. On the following day, Goebbels was declared a local hero.[109]

Goebbels converted the 1 May holiday from a celebration of workers' rights (observed as such especially by the communists) into a day celebrating the NSDAP. In place of the usual ad hoc labour celebrations, he organized a huge party rally held at Tempelhof Field in Berlin. The following day, all trade union offices in the country were forcibly disbanded by the SA and SS, and the Nazi-run German Labour Front was created to take their place.[110] "We are the masters of Germany", he commented in his diary entry on 3 May.[111] Less than two weeks later, he gave a speech at the Nazi book burning in Berlin on 10 May.[112]

Meanwhile, the NSDAP began passing laws to marginalize Jews and remove them from German society. The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, passed on 7 April 1933, forced all non-Aryans to retire from the legal profession and civil service.[113] Similar legislation soon deprived Jewish members of other professions of their right to practise.[113] The first Nazi concentration camps (initially created to house political dissenters) were founded shortly after Hitler seized power.[114] In a process termed Gleichschaltung (co-ordination), the NSDAP proceeded to rapidly bring all aspects of life under control of the party. All civilian organisations, including agricultural groups, volunteer organisations, and sports clubs, had their leadership replaced with Nazi sympathisers or party members. By June 1933, virtually the only organisations not in the control of the NSDAP were the army and the churches.[115] At the end of June 1934, top officials of the SA and opponents of the regime, including Gregor Strasser, were arrested and killed in a purge later called the Night of Long Knives. Goebbels was present at the arrest of SA leader Ernst Röhm in Munich.[116] On 2 August 1934, President von Hindenburg died. In a radio broadcast, Goebbels announced that the offices of president and chancellor had been combined, and Hitler had been formally named as Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor).[117]

Workings of the Ministry

The propaganda ministry was organized into seven departments: administration and legal; mass rallies, public health, youth, and race; radio; national and foreign press; films and film censorship; art, music, and theatre; and protection against counter-propaganda, both foreign and domestic.[118] Goebbels style of leadership was tempestuous and unpredictable. He would suddenly change direction and shift his support between senior associates. He was a difficult boss and liked to berate his staff in public.[119]

The Reich Film Chamber, which all members of the film industry were required to join, was created in June 1933.[120] Goebbels promoted the development of films with a Nazi slant, and ones that contained subliminal or overt propaganda messages.[121] Under the auspices of the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture), created in September, Goebbels added additional sub-chambers for the fields of broadcasting, fine arts, literature, music, the press, and the theatre.[122] As in the film industry, anyone wishing to pursue a career in these fields had to be a member of the corresponding chamber. In this way Goebbels could prevent anyone whose views were contrary to the regime could be excluded from working in their chosen field and thus silenced.[123] In addition, journalists (now considered employees of the state) were required to prove Aryan descent back to the year 1800, and if married, the same requirement applied to the spouse. Members of any chamber were not allowed to leave the country for their work without prior permission of their chamber. A committee was established to censor books, and works could not be re-published unless they were on the approved list. Similar regulations applied to other fine arts and entertainment; even cabaret performances were censored.[124] Many German artists and intellectuals left Germany in the pre-war years rather than work under these restrictions.[125]

It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio and the airplane. It is no exaggeration to say that the German revolution, at least in the form it took, would have been impossible without the airplane and the radio.

Joseph Goebbels (18 August 1933). "The Radio as the Eight Great Power"[126]

Goebbels was particularly interested in controlling radio, which was then still a fairly new mass medium.[127] Sometimes under protest from individual states (particularly Prussia, headed by Göring), Goebbels gained control of radio stations nationwide, and placed them under the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft (German National Broadcasting Corporation) in July 1934.[128] Manufacturers were urged by Goebbels to produce inexpensive home receivers, called Volksempfänger (people's receiver), and by 1938 nearly ten million sets had been sold. Loudspeakers were placed in public areas, factories, and schools, so that important party broadcasts would be heard live by nearly all Germans.[127] On 2 September 1939 (a few days after the start of the war), Goebbels and the Council of Ministers proclaimed it illegal to listen to foreign radio stations. Disseminating news from foreign broadcasts could result in the death penalty.[129] Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and Minister for Armaments and War Production, later said the regime "made the complete use of all technical means for domination of its own country. Through technical devices like the radio and loudspeaker, 80 million people were deprived of independent thought."[130]

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2004-0312-504, Nürnberg, Reichsparteitag, Rede Adolf Hitler.jpg
Hitler was the focal point at the 1934 Nuremberg Rally. Leni Riefenstahl and her crew are visible in front of the podium.

A major focus of Nazi propaganda was Hitler himself, who was glorified as a heroic and infallible leader and became the focus of a cult of personality.[131] Much of this was spontaneous, but some was stage-managed as part of Goebbels' propaganda work.[132] Adulation of Hitler was the focus of the 1934 Nuremberg Rally, where his moves were carefully choreographed. The rally was the subject of the film Triumph of the Will, one of several Nazi propaganda films directed by Leni Riefenstahl. It won the Gold Medal at the 1935 Venice Film Festival.[133]

Goebbels was involved in planning the staging of the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin. It was around this time that he met and started having an affair with the actress Lída Baarová, whom he continued to see until 1938.[134] A major project in 1937 was the Degenerate Art Exhibition, organised by Goebbels, which ran in Munich from July to November. The exhibition proved wildly popular, attracting over two million visitors.[135] A degenerate music exhibition took place the following year.[136] Meanwhile, Goebbels was disappointed by the lack of quality in the National Socialist artwork, films, and literature.[137]

Church struggle

In 1933, Hitler signed the Reichskonkordat (Reich Concordat), a treaty with the Vatican that required the regime to honour the independence of Catholic institutions and prohibited clergy from involvement in politics.[138] However, the regime continued to target the Christian churches and to try to weaken their influence. Throughout 1935 and 1936, hundreds of clergy, nuns, and lay leaders were arrested, often on trumped up charges of currency smuggling or sexual offences.[139][140] Goebbels widely publicised the trials in his propaganda campaigns, showing the cases in the worst possible light.[139] Restrictions were placed on public meetings, and Catholic publications faced censorship. Catholic schools were required to reduce religious instruction and crucifixes were removed from state buildings.[141] Hitler often vacillated on whether or not the Kirchenkampf (church struggle) should be a priority, but his frequent inflammatory comments on the issue were enough to convince Goebbels to intensify his work on the issue in the first half of 1937.[142]

In response to the persecution, Pope Pius XI had the "Mit brennender Sorge" ("With Burning Concern") Encyclical smuggled into Germany for Passion Sunday 1937 and read from every pulpit. It denounced the systematic hostility of the regime toward the church.[143][144] In response, Goebbels renewed the regime's crackdown and propaganda against Catholics.[145] His speech of 28 May in Berlin in front of 20,000 party members, which was also broadcast on the radio, attacked the Catholic church as morally corrupt. As a result of the propaganda campaign, enrolment in denominational schools dropped sharply, and by 1939 all such schools were disbanded or converted to public facilities. Harassment and threats of imprisonment led the clergy to be much more cautious in their criticism of the regime.[146] Partly out of foreign policy concerns, Hitler ordered a scaling back the church struggle by the end of July 1937.[147]

Goebbels at war

As early as February 1933, Hitler announced that rearmament must be undertaken, albeit clandestinely at first, as to do so was in violation of the Versailles Treaty. A year later he told his military leaders that 1942 was the target date for going to war in the east.[148] Goebbels was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Hitler aggressively pursuing Germany's territorial claims sooner rather than later. At the time of the Reoccupation of the Rhineland in 1936, Goebbels summed up his general attitude in his diary: "[N]ow is the time for action. Fortune favors the brave! He who dares nothing wins nothing."[149] He saw it as his job to make the German people accept this and if possible welcome it. At the time of the Sudetenland crisis in 1938, Goebbels was well aware that the great majority of Germans did not want a war, and used every propaganda resource at his disposal to overcome what he called this "war psychosis," by whipping up sympathy for the Sudeten Germans and hatred of the Czechs.[150] After the western powers acceded to Hitler's demands concerning Czechoslovakia in 1938, Goebbels soon redirected his propaganda machine against Poland. From May onwards, he orchestrated a "hate campaign" against Poland, fabricating stories about atrocities against ethnic Germans in Danzig and other cities. Even so, he was unable to persuade the majority of Germans to welcome the prospect of war.[151]

Once war began in September 1939, Goebbels began a steady process of extending his influence over domestic policy. After 1940, Hitler made few public appearances, and even his broadcasts became less frequent, so Goebbels increasingly became the face and the voice of the Nazi regime for the German people.[152] One American journalist wrote in 1941 that Goebbels and Himmler were "rivals in unpopularity", and that Goebbels "would be lucky to remain alive twenty-four hours after Hitler's protective hand was removed".[153] With Hitler preoccupied with the war, however, Himmler focusing on the "final solution to the Jewish question" in eastern Europe, and with Göring's position declining with the failure of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), Goebbels sensed a power vacuum in domestic policy and moved to fill it. Since civilian morale was his responsibility, he increasingly concerned himself with matters such as wages, rationing and housing, which affected morale and therefore productivity. He came to see the lethargic and demoralised Göring, still Germany's economic supremo as head of the Four Year Plan Ministry, as his main enemy. To undermine Göring, he forged an alliance with Himmler, although the SS chief remained wary of him. A more useful ally was Albert Speer, a Hitler favourite who was appointed Armaments Minister in February 1942. Goebbels and Speer worked through 1942 to persuade Hitler to dismiss Göring as economic head and allow the domestic economy to be run by a revived Cabinet headed by themselves.[citation needed]

In February 1943, the crushing German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad produced a crisis in the regime. Goebbels was forced to ally himself with Göring to thwart a bid for power by Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and Secretary to the Führer. Bormann exploited the disaster at Stalingrad, and his daily access to Hitler, to persuade him to create a three-man junta representing the State, the Army, and the Party, represented respectively by Hans Lammers, head of the Reich Chancellery, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of the OKW (armed forces high command), and Bormann, who controlled the Party and access to the Führer. This Committee of Three would exercise dictatorial powers over the home front. Goebbels, Speer, Göring and Himmler all saw this proposal as a power grab by Bormann and a threat to their power, and combined to block it.

The alliance was shaky at best, mainly because during this period Himmler was still cooperating with Bormann to gain more power at the expense of Göring and most of the traditional Reich administration; Göring's loss of power had resulted in an overindulgence in the trappings of power and his strained relations with Goebbels made it difficult for a unified coalition to be formed, despite the attempts of Speer and Göring's Luftwaffe deputy Field Marshal Erhard Milch, to reconcile the two Party comrades.[citation needed]

Goebbels instead tried to persuade Hitler to appoint Göring as head of the government. His proposal had a certain logic, as Göring – despite the failures of the Luftwaffe and his own corruption – was still very popular among the German people, whose morale was waning since Hitler barely appeared in public since the defeat at Stalingrad. This proposal was increasingly unworkable given Göring's increasing incapacity and, more importantly, Hitler's increasing contempt for him due to his blaming of Göring for Germany's defeats. This was a measure by Hitler designed to deflect criticism from himself.[citation needed]

The result was that nothing was done – the Committee of Three declined into irrelevance due to the loss of power by Keitel and Lammers and the ascension of Bormann and the situation continued to drift, with administrative chaos increasingly undermining the war effort. The ultimate responsibility for this lay with Hitler, as Goebbels well knew, referring in his diary to a "crisis of leadership," but Goebbels was too much under Hitler's spell ever to challenge his power.[154]

Goebbels launched a new offensive to place himself at the centre of policy-making. On 18 February, he delivered a passionate "Total War Speech" at the Sports Palace in Berlin. Goebbels demanded from his audience a commitment to "total war," the complete mobilisation of the German economy and German society for the war effort. To motivate the German people to continue the struggle, he cited three theses as the basis of this argument:

  1. If the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) were not in a position to break the danger from the Eastern front, then Nazi Germany would fall to Bolshevism, and all of Europe would fall shortly afterward;
  2. The German Armed Forces, the German people, and the Axis Powers alone had the strength to save Europe from this threat;
  3. Danger was a motivating force. Germany had to act quickly and decisively, or it would be too late.

Goebbels concluded that "Two thousand years of Western history are in danger," and he blamed Germany's failures on the Jews.

Goebbels hoped in this way to persuade Hitler to give him and his ally Speer control of domestic policy for a program of total commitment to arms production and full labour conscription, including women. But Hitler, supported by Göring, resisted these demands, which he feared would weaken civilian morale and lead to a repetition of the debacle of 1918, when the German army had been undermined (in Hitler's view) by a collapse of the home front. Nor was Hitler willing to allow Goebbels or anyone else to usurp his own power as the ultimate source of all decisions. Goebbels privately lamented "a complete lack of direction in German domestic policy," but of course he could not directly criticise Hitler or go against his wishes.[155]

Plenipotentiary for total war

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J31305, Auszeichnung des Hitlerjungen Willi Hübner.jpg
9 March 1945: Goebbels awards a 16-year old Hitler Youth, Willi Hübner, the Iron Cross for the defence of Lauban[156]

Goebbels struggled in 1943 and 1944 to rally the German people behind a regime that faced increasingly obvious military defeat. The German people's faith in Hitler was shaken by the disaster at Stalingrad, and never fully recovered.[157] During 1943, as the Soviet armies advanced towards the borders of the Reich, the western Allies developed the ability to launch devastating air raids on most German cities, including Berlin. At the same time, there were increasingly critical shortages of food, raw materials, fuel and housing. Goebbels and Speer were among the few Nazi leaders who were under no illusions about Germany's dire situation. Their solution was to seize control of the home front from the indecisive Hitler and the incompetent Göring. This was the agenda of Goebbels's "total war" speech of February 1943. But they were thwarted by their inability to challenge Hitler, who could neither make decisions himself nor trust anyone else to do so.

After Stalingrad, Hitler increasingly withdrew from public view, almost never appearing in public and rarely even broadcasting. By July, Goebbels was lamenting that Hitler had cut himself off from the people – it was noted, for example, that he never visited the bomb-ravaged cities of the Ruhr. "One can't neglect the people too long," he wrote. "They are the heart of our war effort."[158] Goebbels became the public voice of the Nazi regime, both in his regular broadcasts and his weekly editorials in Das Reich.

In public, Goebbels remained confident of German victory: "We live at the most critical period in the history of the Occident," he wrote in Das Reich in February 1943. "Any weakening of the spiritual and military defensive strength of our continent in its struggle with eastern Bolshevism brings with it the danger of a rapidly nearing decline in its will to resist ... Our soldiers in the East will do their part. They will stop the storm from the steppes, and ultimately break it. They fight under unimaginable conditions. But they are fighting a good fight. They are fighting not only for our own security, but also for Europe's future."[159]

In private, he was discouraged by the failure of his and Speer's campaign to gain control of the home front. In 1944 he made a now infamous list with "irreplaceable artists" called the Gottbegnadeten list with people such as Arno Breker, Richard Strauss and Johannes Heesters.

Goebbels remained preoccupied with the annihilation of the Jews, which was now reaching its climax in the extermination camps of eastern Poland. As in 1942, he was more outspoken about what was happening than Himmler would have liked: "Our state's security requires that we take whatever measures seem necessary to protect the German community from [the Jewish] threat," he wrote in May. "That leads to some difficult decisions, but they are unavoidable if we are to deal with the threat ... None of the Führer‍ '​s prophetic words has come so inevitably true as his prediction that if Jewry succeeded in provoking a second world war, the result would be not the destruction of the Aryan race, but rather the wiping out of the Jewish race. This process is of vast importance."[160]

Following the Allied invasion of Italy and the fall of Benito Mussolini in September, he and Joachim von Ribbentrop raised with Hitler the possibility of secretly approaching Joseph Stalin and negotiating a separate peace behind the backs of the western Allies. Hitler, surprisingly, did not reject the idea of a separate peace with either side, but he told Goebbels that he should not negotiate from a position of weakness. A great German victory must occur before any negotiations should be undertaken, he reasoned.[161] The German defeat at Kursk in July had ended any possibility of this.

As Germany's military and economic situation grew steadily worse during 1944, Goebbels renewed his push, in alliance with Speer, to wrest control of the home front away from Göring. In July, following the Allied landings in France and the huge Soviet advances in Belarus, Hitler finally agreed to grant both of them increased powers. Speer took control of all economic and production matters away from Göring, and Goebbels took the title Reich Plenipotentiary for "Total War" (Reichsbevollmächtigter für den totalen Kriegseinsatz an der Heimatfront). At the same time, Himmler took over the Interior Ministry.

This trio – Goebbels, Himmler and Speer – became the real centre of German government in the last year of the war, although Bormann used his privileged access to Hitler to thwart them when he could. In this Bormann was very successful, as the party gauleiters gained more and more powers, becoming Reich Defense Commissars (Reichsverteidigungskommissare) in their respective districts and overseeing all civilian administration. The fact that Himmler was Interior Minister only increased the power of Bormann, as the Gauleiters feared that Himmler, who was General Plenipotentiary for the Administration of the Reich, would curb their power and set up his higher SS and police leaders as their replacement.

Goebbels saw Himmler as a potential ally against Bormann and in 1944 is supposed to have voiced the opinion that if the Reichsführer-SS was granted control over the Wehrmacht and he, Goebbels, granted control over the domestic politics, the war would soon be ended in a victorious manner. However, the inability of Himmler to persuade Hitler to cease his support of Bormann, the defection of SS generals such as Obergruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the Chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt and his powerful subordinate Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, head of the Gestapo, to Bormann, soon persuaded Goebbels to align himself with the Secretary to the Führer at the end of 1944, thus accepting his subordinate position.

When elements of the army leadership tried to assassinate Hitler in the July 20 plot shortly thereafter, it was this trio that rallied the resistance to the plotters. It was Goebbels, besieged in his Berlin flat with Speer and secretary Wilfred von Oven beside him but with his phone lines intact, who brought Otto Ernst Remer, the wavering commander of the Berlin garrison, to the phone to speak to Hitler in East Prussia, thus demonstrating that the Führer was alive and that the garrison should oppose the attempted coup.[162]

Goebbels promised Hitler that he could raise a million new soldiers by means of a reorganisation of the Army, transferring personnel from the Navy and Luftwaffe, and purging the bloated Reich Ministries, which satraps like Göring had hitherto protected. As it turned out, the inertia of the state bureaucracy was too great even for the energetic Goebbels to overcome. Bormann and his puppet Lammers, keen to retain their control over the Party and State administrations respectively, placed endless obstacles in Goebbels's way.[163] Another problem was that although Speer and Goebbels were allies, their agendas conflicted: Speer wanted absolute priority in the allocation of labour to be given to arms production, while Goebbels sought to press every able-bodied male into the army. Speer, allied with Fritz Sauckel, the General Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labour from 1942, generally won these battles.[164]

By July 1944, it was in any case too late for Goebbels and Speer's internal coup to make any real difference to the outcome of the war. The combined economic and military power of the western Allies and the Soviet Union, now fully mobilised, was too great for Germany to overcome. A crucial economic indicator, the ratio of steel output, was running at 4.5:1 against Germany. The final blow was the loss of the Romanian oil fields as the Soviet Army advanced through the Balkans in September. This, combined with the allied air campaign against Germany's synthetic oil production, finally broke the back of the German economy and thus its capacity for further resistance.[165] By this time, the best Goebbels could do to reassure the German people that victory was still possible was to make vague promises that "miracle weapons" such as the Me 262 jet aircraft, the Type XXI U-boat, and the V-2 rocket could somehow retrieve the military situation.

Defeat and death

In the last months of the war, Goebbels' speeches and articles took on an increasingly apocalyptic tone:

"Rarely in history has a brave people struggling for its life faced such terrible tests as the German people have in this war," he wrote towards the end. "The misery that results for us all, the never ending chain of sorrows, fears, and spiritual torture does not need to be described in detail. We are bearing a heavy fate because we are fighting for a good cause, and are called to bravely endure the battle to achieve greatness."[166]

By the beginning of 1945, with the Soviets on the Oder and the Western Allies preparing to cross the Rhine, Goebbels could no longer disguise the fact that defeat was inevitable. In his diaries, he expressed the belief that German diplomacy should find a way to exploit the emerging tensions between Stalin and the West, but he proclaimed foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, whom Hitler would not abandon, incapable of such a feat.[167]

When other Nazi leaders urged Hitler to leave Berlin and establish a new centre of resistance in the National Redoubt in Bavaria, Goebbels opposed this, arguing for a last stand in the ruins of Berlin.

By this time, Goebbels had gained the position he had wanted so long – at the side of Hitler, albeit only because of his subservience to Bormann, who was the Führer‍ '​s de facto deputy. Göring was utterly discredited, though Hitler refused to dismiss him until 25 April. Himmler, whose appointment as commander of Army Group Vistula had led to disaster on the Oder, was also in disgrace, and Hitler rightly suspected that he was secretly trying to negotiate with the western Allies. Only Goebbels and Bormann remained totally loyal to Hitler.[168] Goebbels knew how to play on Hitler's fantasies, encouraging him to see the hand of providence in the death of United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 12 April.[169] On 22 April, largely as a result of Goebbels' influence, Hitler announced that he would not leave Berlin, but would stay and fight, and if necessary die, in defence of the capital.[170]

On 23 April, Goebbels made the following proclamation to the people of Berlin:

I call on you to fight for your city. Fight with everything you have got, for the sake of your wives and your children, your mothers and your parents. Your arms are defending everything we have ever held dear, and all the generations that will come after us. Be proud and courageous! Be inventive and cunning! Your Gauleiter is amongst you. He and his colleagues will remain in your midst. His wife and children are here as well. He, who once captured the city with 200 men, will now use every means to galvanize the defense of the capital. The battle for Berlin must become the signal for the whole nation to rise up in battle ..."[171]

Unlike many other leading Nazis at this juncture, Goebbels proved to have strong convictions, moving himself and his family into the Vorbunker, that was connected to the lower Führerbunker under the Reich Chancellery garden in central Berlin.[172] He told Vice-Admiral Hans-Erich Voss that he would not entertain the idea of either surrender or escape: "I was the Reich Minister of Propaganda and led the fiercest activity against the Soviet Union, for which they would never pardon me," Voss quoted him as saying. "He couldn't escape also because he was Berlin's Defence Commissioner and he considered it would be disgraceful for him to abandon his post," Voss added.[173]

After midnight on 29 April,[174] with the Soviets advancing ever closer to the bunker complex, Hitler dictated his last will and testament. Goebbels was one of four witnesses. In the mid-afternoon of 30 April, Hitler shot himself.[175] Of Hitler's death, Goebbels commented: "The heart of Germany has ceased to beat. The Führer is dead."

In his last will and testament, Hitler named no successor as Führer or leader of the Nazi Party. Instead, Hitler appointed Goebbels Reich Chancellor; Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, who was at Flensburg near the Danish border, Reich President; and Martin Bormann, Hitler's long-time chief of staff, Party Minister. Goebbels knew that his was an empty title. Even if he was willing and able to escape Berlin and reach the north, it was unlikely that Dönitz, whose only concern was to negotiate a settlement with the western Allies that would save Germany from Soviet occupation, would want such a notorious figure as Goebbels heading his government.

As it was, Goebbels had no intention of trying to escape. Voss later recounted: "When Goebbels learned that Hitler had committed suicide, he was very depressed and said: 'It is a great pity that such a man is not with us any longer. But there is nothing to be done. For us, everything is lost now and the only way left for us is the one which Hitler chose. I shall follow his example'."[176]

On 1 May, Goebbels completed his sole official act as Chancellor. He dictated a letter and ordered German General Hans Krebs, under a white flag, to meet with General Vasily Chuikov and to deliver his letter. Chuikov, as commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, commanded the Soviet forces in central Berlin. Goebbels' letter informed Chuikov of Hitler's death and requested a ceasefire, hinting that the establishment of a National Socialist government hostile to Western plutocracy would be beneficial to the Soviet Union, as the betrayal of Himmler and Göring indicated that otherwise anti-Soviet National Socialist elements might align themselves with the West. When this was rejected, Goebbels decided that further efforts were futile.[177] Shortly afterward he dictated a postscript to Hitler's testament:

The Führer has given orders for me, in case of a breakdown of defense of the Capital of the Reich, to leave Berlin and to participate as a leading member in a government appointed by him. For the first time in my life, I must categorically refuse to obey a command of the Führer. My wife and my children agree with this refusal. In any other case, I would feel myself ... a dishonorable renegade and vile scoundrel for my entire further life, who would lose the esteem of himself along with the esteem of his people, both of which would have to form the requirement for further duty of my person in designing the future of the German Nation and the German Reich.[178]

Later on 1 May, Vice-Admiral Hans-Erich Voss saw Goebbels for the last time: "Before the breakout [from the bunker] began, about ten generals and officers, including myself, went down individually to Goebbels's shelter to say goodbye. While saying goodbye I asked Goebbels to join us. But he replied: 'The captain must not leave his sinking ship. I have thought about it all and decided to stay here. I have nowhere to go because with little children I will not be able to make it'."[176]

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1978-086-03, Joseph Goebbels mit Familie.jpg
The Goebbels family. In this vintage manipulated image, Goebbels' stepson Harald Quandt (who was absent due to military duty) was added to the group portrait.

At 8 pm on 1 May, Goebbels arranged for an SS dentist, Helmut Kunz, to kill his six children by injecting them with morphine and then, when they were unconscious, crushing an ampoule of cyanide in each of their mouths.[179] According to Kunz's testimony, he gave the children morphine injections but it was Magda Goebbels and Stumpfegger, Hitler's personal doctor, who then administered the cyanide.[180] Shortly afterward, Goebbels and his wife went up to the garden of the Chancellery, where they killed themselves. The details of their suicides are uncertain. According to one account, Joseph Goebbels shot his wife, then himself. Another account was that they each bit on a cyanide ampule and were given a coup de grâce immediately afterwards by SS adjutant Günther Schwägermann.[181] Schwägermann testified in 1948 that at around 2030 hours the couple walked ahead of him up the bunker's emergency exit stairs and out into the garden. He waited in the stairwell and heard the "shots" sound.[182] Schwägermann then walked up the remaining stairs and outside where he saw the lifeless bodies of the couple. Following Joseph Goebbels' prior order, Schwägermann told an SS soldier to make sure Goebbels was dead. The soldier fired into Goebbels' body, which did not move.[182]

The bodies were then doused with petrol, but the remains were only partially burned and not buried.[181] A few days later, Voss was brought back to the bunker by the Soviets to identify the partly burned bodies of Joseph and Magda Goebbels and the bodies of their children. "Vice-Admiral Voss, being asked how he identified the people as Goebbels, his wife and children, explained that he recognised the burnt body of the man as former Reichsminister Goebbels by the following signs: the shape of the head, the line of the mouth, the metal brace that Goebbels had on his right leg, his gold NSDAP badge and the burnt remains of his party uniform."[183] The remains of the Goebbels family were repeatedly buried and exhumed, along with the remains of Hitler, Eva Braun, General Hans Krebs and Hitler's dogs.[184] The last burial was at the SMERSH facility in Magdeburg on 21 February 1946. In 1970, KGB director Yuri Andropov authorised an operation to destroy the remains.[185] On 4 April 1970, a Soviet KGB team with detailed burial charts secretly exhumed five wooden boxes. The remains from the boxes were thoroughly burned and crushed, after which the ashes were thrown into the Biederitz river, a tributary of the nearby Elbe.[186]


From 1933 onwards, Goebbels was bracketed with Julius Streicher among the regime's most virulent antisemites.[187] "Some people think," he told a Berlin rally in June 1935, "that we haven't noticed how the Jews are trying once again to spread themselves over all our streets. The Jews ought to please observe the laws of hospitality and not behave as if they were the same as us."

The sarcastic humour of Goebbels' speeches did not conceal the reality of his threat to the Jews. In his capacity as Gauleiter of Berlin, and thus as de facto ruler of the capital (although there was still officially an Oberbürgermeister and city council), Goebbels maintained constant pressure on the city's large Jewish community, forcing them out of business and professional life and placing obstacles in the way of their being able to live normal lives, such as banning them from public transport and city facilities. There was some respite during 1936, while Berlin hosted the Olympic Games,[188] but from 1937 the intensity of his antisemitic words and actions began to increase again. "The Jews must get out of Germany, indeed out of Europe altogether," he wrote in his diary in November 1937. "That will take some time, but it must and will happen."[189] By mid-1938 Goebbels was investigating the possibility of requiring all Jews to wear an identifying mark and of confining them to a ghetto, but these were ideas whose time had not yet come. "Aim – drive the Jews out of Berlin," he wrote in his diary in June 1938, "and without any sentimentality."[190]

In November 1938, Goebbels got the chance to take decisive action against the Jews when a Jewish youth, Herschel Grynszpan, shot a German diplomat in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, in revenge for the deportation of his family to Poland and the persecution of German Jews generally.[191] On 9 November, the evening vom Rath died of his wounds, Goebbels was at the Bürgerbräu Keller in Munich with Hitler, celebrating the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch with a large crowd of veteran Nazis. Goebbels told Hitler that "spontaneous" anti-Jewish violence had already broken out in German cities. When Hitler said he approved of what was happening, Goebbels took this as authorisation to organise a nationwide pogrom against the Jews. He wrote in his diary:

[Hitler] decides: demonstrations should be allowed to continue. The police should be withdrawn. For once the Jews should get the feel of popular anger ... I immediately gave the necessary instructions to the police and the Party. Then I briefly spoke in that vein to the Party leadership. Stormy applause. All are instantly at the phones. Now people will act.[192]

The result of Goebbels' incitement was Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," during which the S.A. and Nazi Party went on a rampage of anti-Jewish violence and destruction, killing at least 90 and maybe as many as 200 people, destroying over a thousand synagogues and hundreds of Jewish businesses and homes, and dragging some 30,000 Jews off to concentration camps, where at least another thousand died before the remainder were released after several months of brutal treatment. The longer-term effect was to drive 80,000 Jews to emigrate, most leaving behind all their property in their desperation to escape. Foreign opinion reacted with horror, bringing to a sudden end the climate of appeasement of Nazi Germany in the western democracies. Goebbels' pogrom thus moved Germany significantly closer to war, at a time when rearmament was still far from complete. Göring and some other Nazi leaders were furious at Goebbels' actions, about which they had not been consulted.[193] Goebbels, however, was delighted. "As was to be expected, the entire nation is in uproar," he wrote. "This is one dead man who is costing the Jews dear. Our darling Jews will think twice in future before gunning down German diplomats."[194]

Goebbels and the Holocaust

Heinrich Himmler, one of the main architects of the Holocaust, preferred that the matter not be discussed in public. Despite this, in an editorial in his newspaper Das Reich in November 1941 Goebbels quoted Hitler's 1939 "prophecy" that the Jews would be the loser in the coming world war.[195] Now, he said, Hitler's prophecy was coming true: "Jewry," he said, "is now suffering the gradual process of annihilation which it intended for us ... It now perishes according to its own precept of 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'!"[196]

In 1939, in a speech to the Reichstag, Hitler had said:

If international finance Jewry in and outside Europe should succeed in thrusting the nations once again into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevisation of the earth and with it the victory of Jewry, but the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe.[197]

The view of most historians is that the decision to proceed with the extermination of the Jews was taken at some point in late 1941.[198]

The decision in principle to deport the German and Austrian Jews to unspecified destinations "in the east" was made in September. Goebbels immediately pressed for the Berlin Jews to be deported first. He travelled to Hitler's headquarters on the eastern front, meeting both Hitler and Reinhard Heydrich to lobby for his demands. He got the assurances he wanted: "The Führer is of the opinion," he wrote, "that the Jews eventually have to be removed from the whole of Germany. The first cities to be made Jew-free are Berlin, Vienna, and Prague. Berlin is first in the queue, and I have the hope that we'll succeed in the course of this year."[199]

Deportations of Berlin Jews to the Łódź ghetto began in October, but transport and other difficulties made the process much slower than Goebbels desired. His November article in Das Reich was part of his campaign to have the pace of deportation accelerated.

In December, he was present when Hitler addressed a meeting of Gauleiters and other senior Nazis, discussing among other things the "Jewish question." He wrote in his diary afterward:

With regard to the Jewish Question, the Führer is determined to make a clean sweep of it. He prophesied that, if they brought about another world war, they would experience their annihilation. That was no empty talk. The world war is here [this was the week Germany declared war on the United States]. The annihilation of Jewry must be the necessary consequence. The question is to be viewed without any sentimentality. We're not there to have sympathy with the Jews, but only sympathy with our own German people. If the German people has again now sacrificed around 160,000 dead in the eastern campaign, the originators of this bloody conflict will have to pay for it with their lives.[200]

During 1942,[201] Goebbels continued to press for the "final solution to the Jewish question" to be carried forward as quickly as possible now that Germany had occupied a huge swathe of Soviet territory into which all the Jews of German-controlled Europe could be deported. There they could be worked into extinction in accordance with the plan agreed on at the Wannsee Conference convened by Heydrich in January. It was a constant annoyance to Goebbels that, at a time when Germany was fighting for its life on the eastern front, there were still 40,000 Jews in Berlin.[202] They should be "carted off to Russia," he wrote in his diary. "It would be best to kill them altogether."[203] Although the Propaganda Ministry was not invited to the Wannsee Conference, Goebbels knew by March what had been decided there.[204] He wrote:

The Jews are now being deported to the east. A fairly barbaric procedure, not to be described in any greater detail, is being used here, and not much more remains of the Jews themselves. In general, it can probably be established that 60 percent of them must be liquidated, while only 40 percent can be put to work ... A judgment is being carried out on the Jews which is barbaric, but fully deserved.[205]

Family life

File:Bogensee 25.jpg
Goebbels' villa on Bogensee (2008)

Goebbels remained one of Hitler's intimates. Since his offices were close to the Chancellery, he was a frequent guest for lunch, during which he became adept at listening to Hitler's monologues and agreeing with his opinions. In the months leading up to the war, his influence began to increase again. He ranked along with Joachim von Ribbentrop, Göring, Himmler, and Martin Bormann as the senior Nazi with the most access to Hitler, which in an autocratic regime meant access to power. The fact that Hitler was fond of Magda Goebbels and the children also gave Goebbels entrée to Hitler's inner circle. The Goebbels family regularly visited Hitler's Bavarian mountain retreat, the Berghof. He owned a villa on Schwanenwerder island and another at Bogensee near Wandlitz in Brandenburg, which he spent 2.3 million Reichsmarks refurbishing. The tax office, as it did for all the Nazi leaders, gave him generous exemptions.[206]

In 1937, Goebbels began an intense affair with the Czech actress Lída Baarová, causing the break-up of her marriage. When Magda Goebbels learned of this in October 1938, she complained to Hitler, a prude in sexual matters, who was fond of Magda and the Goebbels' young children. He ordered Goebbels to break off his affair, whereupon Goebbels offered his resignation, which Hitler refused. On 15 October, Goebbels attempted suicide. A furious Hitler then ordered Himmler to remove Baarová from Germany, and she was deported to Czechoslovakia, from where she later left for Italy. These events damaged Goebbels' standing with Hitler, and his zeal in furthering Hitler's antisemitic agenda was in part an effort to restore his reputation.[207] The Baarová affair did nothing to dampen Goebbels' enthusiasm for womanising. As late as 1943, the Hitler Youth leader Artur Axmann was ingratiating himself with Goebbels by procuring young women for him.[208]

See also


  1. ^ Among Goebbels' school papers offered for auction in 2012 were more than 100 love letters written between Goebbels and Stalherm.[21]


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Goebbels
  2. ^ "Boycott of Jews to Commence on April 1.". The Sydney Morning Herald. 30 March 1933. 
  3. ^ "Boycott of Jews Enforced for One Day". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 April 1933. 
  4. ^ "Kristall" refers to the broken glass spread on the streets, as the Nazis smashed the windows of thousands of Jewish businesses. Evans (2006)
  5. ^ a b c d Longerich 2015, p. 5.
  6. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 2.
  7. ^ Hull 1969, p. 149.
  8. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 6.
  9. ^ a b Longerich 2015, p. 14.
  10. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 7.
  11. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 10.
  12. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 6.
  13. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 10–11, 14.
  14. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 14.
  15. ^ Evans 2003, p. 204.
  16. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 164.
  17. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 12, 13.
  18. ^ a b Longerich 2015, p. 16.
  19. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 19, 26.
  20. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 20, 21.
  21. ^ The Telegraph 2012.
  22. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 17.
  23. ^ a b Longerich 2015, p. 21.
  24. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 21, 22.
  25. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 22–25.
  26. ^ a b Longerich 2015, p. 24.
  27. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 32–33.
  28. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 3.
  29. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 32.
  30. ^ a b Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 33.
  31. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 25–26.
  32. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 27.
  33. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 24–26.
  34. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 28, 33, 34.
  35. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 33.
  36. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 36.
  37. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 127–131.
  38. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 133-135.
  39. ^ Longerich 2015.
  40. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 36, 37.
  41. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 40–41.
  42. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 46.
  43. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 167.
  44. ^ a b Kershaw 2008, p. 169.
  45. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 168–169.
  46. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 170.
  47. ^ a b Longerich 2015, p. 67.
  48. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 68.
  49. ^ a b Kershaw 2008, p. 171.
  50. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 61, 64.
  51. ^ Thacker 2010, p. 94.
  52. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 62.
  53. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 71, 72.
  54. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 75.
  55. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 75.
  56. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 75–77.
  57. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 81.
  58. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 76, 80.
  59. ^ a b c d Longerich 2015, p. 82.
  60. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 75–79.
  61. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 79.
  62. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 93, 94.
  63. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 84.
  64. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 89.
  65. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 82.
  66. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 80–81.
  67. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 95, 98.
  68. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 108–112.
  69. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 99–100.
  70. ^ a b c Evans 2003, p. 209.
  71. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 94.
  72. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 147–148.
  73. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 100–101.
  74. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 189.
  75. ^ Evans 2003, pp. 209, 211.
  76. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 116.
  77. ^ a b Longerich 2015, p. 124.
  78. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 123.
  79. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 127.
  80. ^ a b Longerich 2015, pp. 125, 126.
  81. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 200.
  82. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 128.
  83. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 129.
  84. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 130.
  85. ^ Evans 2003, pp. 249–250.
  86. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 199.
  87. ^ a b c Kershaw 2008, p. 202.
  88. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 151–152.
  89. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 94.
  90. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 167.
  91. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 227.
  92. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 172, 173, 184.
  93. ^ Thacker 2010, p. 125.
  94. ^ Evans 2003, pp. 290–291.
  95. ^ Evans 2003, p. 293.
  96. ^ Evans 2003, p. 307.
  97. ^ Evans 2003, pp. 310–311.
  98. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 206.
  99. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 131.
  100. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 323.
  101. ^ Evans 2003, pp. 332–333.
  102. ^ Evans 2003, p. 339.
  103. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 212.
  104. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 121.
  105. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 212–213.
  106. ^ Evans 2005, p. 121.
  107. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 214.
  108. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 218.
  109. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 221.
  110. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 128–129.
  111. ^ Evans 2003, p. 358.
  112. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 224.
  113. ^ a b Longerich 2010, p. 40.
  114. ^ Evans 2003, p. 344.
  115. ^ Evans 2005, p. 14.
  116. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 132–134.
  117. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 137.
  118. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 140–141.
  119. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 370.
  120. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 224–225.
  121. ^ Thacker 2010, p. 157.
  122. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 142.
  123. ^ Evans 2005, p. 138.
  124. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, pp. 142-143.
  125. ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 140.
  126. ^ Goebbels 1933.
  127. ^ a b Manvell & Fraenkel 2010, p. 127.
  128. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 226.
  129. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 434.
  130. ^ Snell 1959, p. 7.
  131. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 292–293.
  132. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 122–123.
  133. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 123–127.
  134. ^ Thacker 2010, pp. 184, 201.
  135. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 171, 173.
  136. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 351.
  137. ^ Longerich 2015, pp. 346, 350.
  138. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 234–235.
  139. ^ a b Thacker 2010, p. 189.
  140. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 382.
  141. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 239–240.
  142. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 382.
  143. ^ Shirer 1960, pp. 234–235.
  144. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 241–243.
  145. ^ Evans 2005, p. 244.
  146. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 245–247.
  147. ^ Longerich 2015, p. 334.
  148. ^ Evans 2005, pp. 338–339.
  149. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 352, 353.
  150. ^ Evans, The Third Reich in Power, p 674
  151. ^ Evans, The Third Reich in Power, p 696
  152. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, p 565
  153. ^ Knickerbocker, H.R. (1941). Is Tomorrow Hitler's? 200 Questions On the Battle of Mankind. Reynal & Hitchcock. p. 15. 
  154. ^ The story of the Committee of Three is given by Kershaw, Hitler, II, pp 569–577.
  155. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, pp 561–563
  156. ^ "Bitwa o Lubań" (proof at 1:07) on YouTube
  157. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, pp 551, 598
  158. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, p 566
  159. ^ "The European Crisis", Das Reich, 28 February 1943
  160. ^ The War and the Jews," Das Reich, 9 May 1943
  161. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, p 601
  162. ^ Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler's Death: The German Resistance to Hitler 1933–1945, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1996, p 271
  163. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, p 709. Kershaw comments, "Nothing was ever quite what it seemed in the Third Reich."
  164. ^ Kater, Hitler Youth, p 218, discusses the conflicting demands of production and the army on young Germans.
  165. ^ Tooze, Wages of Destruction, p 639
  166. ^ "Fighters for the Eternal Reich Das Reich, 8 April 1945
  167. ^ "Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels" (English transl. by Richard Barry: New York, 1978), pp 312–313
  168. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, 787
  169. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, p 791
  170. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, p 810
  171. ^ Dollinger, Hans. The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 67-27047, p 231
  172. ^ Mollo, Andrew & Ramsey, Winston, ed. After the Battle, Number 61, Seymour Press Ltd., London, 1988, pp 28, 30
  173. ^ Vinogradov, V. K. Hitler's Death: Russia's Last Great Secret from the Files of the KGB, Chaucer Press, 2005, p 154. Goebbels had assumed the title Reichs Defence Commissioner for the Greater Berlin Gau in November 1942. He also made himself City President of Berlin in April 1943.
  174. ^ Hitler's last days: "Hitler's will and marriage" "In the small hours of 28–29 April ..."
  175. ^ Hitler's last days: "Preparations for death" "... 30 April ... During the afternoon Hitler shot himself ..."
  176. ^ a b Vinogradov, Hitler's Death, p 156
  177. ^ Vinogradov, Hitler's Death, p 324
  178. ^ Thacker, Toby, Joseph Goebbels: Life and Death (London: Palgrave, 2009), p 301
  179. ^ Transcript of the testimony of SS-Stürmbannführer Helmut Kunz in Soviet captivity, Vinogradov, Hitler's Death, p 56
  180. ^ Beevor, Antony (2002). "Chapter 25: Reich Chancellery and Reichstag". Berlin: The Downfall 1945. Viking-Penguin Books. p. 380. ISBN 0-670-88695-5. Kunz said that he could not face giving poison to the sleeping children. . . . Together with Stumpfegger, she [Magda Goebbels] opened the mouths of the sleeping children, put an ampule of poison between their teeth and forced their jaws together. 
  181. ^ a b Beevor 2002, p. 381.
  182. ^ a b Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 52.
  183. ^ Vinogradov, Hitler's Death, p 34
  184. ^ Vinogradov, Hitler's Death, pp 111, 333
  185. ^ Vinogradov, Hitler's Death, p 333
  186. ^ Vinogradov, Hitler's Death, pp. 335–336
  187. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, I, p 560
  188. ^ For Goebbels' role in organizing the Olympics, and for the temporary easing of antisemitic agitation during the Games, see Guy Walters, Berlin Games: How Hitler Stole the Olympic Dream, John Murray, 2006.
  189. ^ Evans, The Third Reich in Power, p 575
  190. ^ Evans, The Third Reich in Power, p 576
  191. ^ For Grynszpan, his actions and the motives for them, see Gerald Schwab, The Day the Holocaust Began: The Odyssey of Herschel Grynszpan, Praeger, 1990.
  192. ^ Martin Gilbert, Kristallnacht, HarperPress, 2006, p 29.
  193. ^ Adam Tooze, Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, Allen Lane, 2006, p 278. Göring estimated that Kristallnacht caused 220 million Reichsmarks of material damage. Himmler, Albert Speer and Rosenberg, for different reasons, were also highly critical of Goebbels (Kershaw, Hitler, II, p 149)
  194. ^ Gilbert, Kristallnacht, p 29
  195. ^ Goebbels founded Das Reich in 1940 as a "quality" newspaper in which he could set out his own views for an elite readership. By 1941, it had over a million readers.
  196. ^ Christopher R. Browing, The Origins of the Final Solution, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, p 391.
  197. ^ quoted in Richard Breitman, The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution, Pimlico, 2004, p 63
  198. ^ Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, p 371, says the decision was made in September. Others have argued for a date as late as mid December. (Christian Gerlach, "The Wannsee Conference, the Fate of German Jews, and Hitler's Decision in Principle to Exterminate All European Jews," Journal of Modern History, December 1998, pp 759–812).
  199. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, p 482
  200. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, p 490
  201. ^ Jewish Virtual Library
  202. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, p 519
  203. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, p 473
  204. ^ Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, p 415
  205. ^ Kershaw, Hitler, II, p 494
  206. ^ Evans, The Third Reich in Power, p 405
  207. ^ This account is taken from the Wikipedia article on Lída Baarová, which is sourced to her memoirs and other Czech-language sources. The connection between the Baarová affair and Goebbels' role in inciting Kristallnacht is made by Ian Kershaw, Hitler, Volume II, W. W. Norton, 2000, p 145.
  208. ^ Kater, Hitler Youth, p 58


Further reading

  • Miller, Michael D. and Schulz, Andreas (2012). Gauleiter: The Regional Leaders of the Nazi Party and Their Deputies, 1925–1945 (Herbert Albreacht-H. Wilhelm Huttmann)-Volume 1, R. James Bender Publishing. ISBN 978-1-932970-21-0

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Adolf Hitler
Chancellor of Germany
30 April-1 May 1945
Succeeded by
Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk
Preceded by
23x15px William Stephens
President of Organizing Committee for Winter Olympic Games
Succeeded by
23x16px Alfred Schläppi &
Heinrich Schläppi
Preceded by
23x15px George Bryant
President of Organizing Committee for Summer Olympic Games (with Karl Ritter von Halt)
Succeeded by
23x15px Lord Burghley

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