a speciﬁc political agenda. Hitler and the Nazis were known for their ability to createextensive and varied forms of propaganda, with words and images carefully chosen anddeliberately used to give life to old antisemitic prejudices, elicit opportunistic tendencies,quench dissent, and turn neighbor against neighbor. In
, Hitler wrote,“[F]rom the child’s primer down to the last newspaper, every theater and every moviehouse, every advertising pillar and every billboard must be pressed into the service sub- jected of this one great mission. . . .”
By establishing the Ministry of PublicEnlightenment and Propaganda as one of his ﬁrst acts as chancellor, Hitler demonstratedhis belief that controlling information was as important as controlling the military andthe economy. He appointed Josef Goebbels to direct this department. Goebbels’s strategy as Propaganda Minister was guided by the maxim, “If you tell a lie big enough and keeprepeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
He penetrated virtually every sec-tor of German society, from ﬁlm, radio, posters, and rallies to school textbooks with Nazipropaganda about the dominance of the Aryan people and the threat posed by the Jews.Hitler is known for saying, “What good fortune for governments that people do notthink,”
and his policies were based on the premise that most individuals are conformists who do not think for themselves. Hitler and Nazi ofﬁcials believed it was possible tomanipulate public opinion by using propaganda techniques including euphemisms,name-calling, fear, and “bandwagon” (you are either for us or against us). For example,the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda changed the words used in thearmy, replacing the word “work” with “service to Führer and folk” and “worker” with“soldier of labor.” Writer Max von der Grün recalls the impact these euphemisms had onhim during his service in the German army:
It is easy to understand that if, for whatever reasons, these words are hammered into aperson’s brain every day, they soon become a part of his language, and he does notnecessarily stop and think about where they come from and why they were coined inthe first place.
The scenario described by Max von der Grün exempliﬁes how the Nazis’ effective use of propaganda shut down Germans’ capacity for thoughtful deliberation about the informa-tion around them. Demonstrating his commitment to shutting down critical thinking inGermany, Hitler instructed Nazi Party ofﬁcials to hold rallies in the evening, warning,“Never try to convert a crowd to your point of view in the morning sun. Instead the dimlights are useful—especially the evening when people are tired, their powers of resistanceare low, and their complete ‘emotional capitulation’ is easy to achieve.”
Horst Kruegeradmitted that many residents of his town of Eichkamp were skeptical of Hitler when heﬁrst came to power. But he remembers how even those who were not able to attend ral-lies in the big cities were eventually caught up in the spirit they evoked, explaining, “thecitizens of Eichkamp were eager to give themselves over to intoxication and rapture. They were weaponless.”
The Nazis’ distribution of antisemitic ﬁlms, newspaper cartoons, andeven children’s books roused centuries-old prejudices against Jews and presented new ideas about the racial impurity of Jews. Therefore, when the Nazis began implementingpolicies against Jews, from the Nuremberg laws which stripped them of citizenship rightsto isolating Jews into ghettos, many in the German public were already predisposedagainst this group of people and thus unlikely to stand up for the rights of their formerneighbors.