Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897 – May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitler's Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. He also served as Chancellor for one day, following Hitler's death. He was a prominent figure of the regime, known for his skilled rhetoric and zealous oratory.
He was born to the accountant Friedrich Goebbels and his wife Marian (née Oldenhausen) in Rheydt (now Mönchengladbach) in a Catholic area in the Rhineland. Because of a club foot he was rejected when he volunteered for military service at the beginning of World War I. After earning a Ph.D from the University of Heidelberg in 1921, he worked as a journalist and wrote some literature. Joining the Nazi Party in 1924 (his later statement to have joined the party in 1922 belongs to his early lies), he initially opposed Hitler's leadership, but later changed sides to support him. His diary shows many instances of great admiration for Hitler.
He played a large role in helping the Nazis achieve and retain power by creating propaganda to present the Nazi ideology to the German people in a favourable light. He was also a committed anti-Semite, being involved with Kristallnacht in 1938, and later connected with the Nazi Final Solution, especially the deportation of Jews from Berlin.
On February 18, 1943, he delivered the Sportpalast speech, or Total War speech, a prominent speech to motivate the German people to continue the struggle when the tide of World War II was turning against Germany.
During the final stages of the war, before his suicide, Hitler appointed Goebbels Chancellor of Germany in his will (with Karl Dönitz as President—the Führer title was not granted in the will). His government, which lasted only a few hours, was not recognised by the Allied powers. But, shortly after Hitler had committed suicide, Goebbels added these lines to the "Politic Testament" of his beloved "Führer":
- Der Führer hat mir den Befehl gegeben, im Falle des Zusammenbruchs der Verteidigung der Reichshauptstadt Berlin zu verlassen und als führendes Mitglied an einer von ihm ernannten Regierung teilzunehmen. Zum erstenmal in meinem Leben muß ich mich kategorisch weigern, einem Befehl des Führers Folge zu leisten. Meine Frau und meine Kinder schließen sich dieser Weigerung an. Im anderen Falle würde ich mir selbst (...) für mein ganzes ferneres Leben als ein ehrloser Abtrünnling und gemeiner Schuft vorkommen, der mit der Achtung vor sich selbst auch die Achtung seines Volkes verlöre, die die Voraussetzung eines weiteren Dienstes meiner Person an der Zukunftsgestaltung der Deutschen Nation und des Deutschen Reiches bilden müßte.
- The Führer has given orders for me to leave Berlin in case of a breakdown of defense of the Capital of the Reich 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.
On May 1, 1945, Goebbels and his wife killed themselves with the help of SS bodyguards, as well as their six children whom they had given names starting with an 'H' from Hitler:
- Helga Susanne (born, Sep 1 1932 † 12)
- Hildegard (Hilde) Traudel (born Apr 13, 1934 † 11)
- Helmut Christian (born Oct 2 1935 † 9)
- Hedwig (Hedda) Johanna (born Feb 19, 1937 † 8)
- Holdine (Holde) Kathrin (born May 1, 1938 † 7) and
- Heidrun (Heide) Elisabeth (born Oct 20, 1940 † 4)
Like Hitler's final moments, the details of the death of the Goebbels family remain unclear. While it is assumed that they were all poisoned with cyanide, some contend that he shot his wife Magda Goebbels and himself afterwards; however, when their bodies were found by the Soviets, they were apparently too charred to discern whether this was true.
Goebbels' technique, also known as argumentum ad nauseam, is the name given to the policy of repeating a lie until it is taken to be the truth (see Big Lie). For example when Goebbels took ownership of the "Der Angriff" newspaper he attacked a man called Weiss calling him Isidor Weiss. Isidor is to German ears an insulting name with strong anti-Jewish connotation. This was done to such an extent that the public believed Isidor to be his real name and he became a figure of fun and ridicule.
Goebbels in popular culture
In popular culture Goebbels is often seen as the personification of misleading, harmful propaganda, and contemporary ideologues in the popular media are often compared to him, such as Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore in the United States. .
In George Orwell's "Animal Farm", the pig named Squealer is quite possibly intended to be a direct analog of Goebbels. Squealer consistently and skillfully misleads the animals of the farm as to the true nature of the corrupt pigs' activities through propaganda and rhetoric.
Last updated: 08-17-2005 14:01:32