Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945)


Figure 1.--Mrs. Magda Ritschel Qiandt dicorced her first husband, a wealthy industrialist in 1929. She married Joseph Goebbels in 1931. Here we see the couple on their wedding day. The boy in the Hitler Youth uniform is Magda's 10 year-old son Harold. Hitler seen behind them took a personal interest in their marriage. Harald took an interest in Indian nationjalist Subhash Chandra Bose. He served in the Luftwaffe during the War. He was wounded in Italy, but unlike the other Goebbels children survived the War.

Joseph Goebels was reportedly raised by a weak father and domineering mother who idolized him. He apparently had few friends as a boy and was an object of redicule by other boys because of hos clubfoot. This childhood disability kept him out of World War I. Goebbels joined the NAZI Party after meeting Hitler in 1924. The rise of the NAZIs and his relationship with Hitler lifted him from obscurity to the highest ranks of the NAZI state leadership. Hitler appointed him Gauleiter, or party governor, in Berlin. He founded the Party magazine Der Angriff (The Attack). After HItler sized power he made Goebbels Minister of Propaganda and National Enligtenment (1933), a newly created ministry. Goebbels was not pleased with the appointment, he wanted a more prestigious post. Hitler was a keen judge of talent. It was the perfect vehicle for Goebbels talent and an important cog in the NAZI dictarorship. Goebbels served in that position until killing his children and himself in Hitler's Berlin bunker (1945). He was the only important NAZI leader to die with their Führer in the bunker. In Goebbels case he scarificed his wife and childrn as well.

Parents

Joseph was reportedly raised by a weak father and domineering mother who idolized him. His father Friedrich Goebbels was an accountant. His mother was Maria (née Oldenhausen. They were both strict Catholics.

Siblings

The Goebbels had seven childen, three boys and three girls. The children were Josef, Konrad, Hans, Maria (who died in infancy), Paul, Elizabeth and Maria.

Childhood

Joseph was born at Rheydt in the Rhineland (1897). He grew up there. He was short and as an adult only 5 ft 6 in. He was also handicapped. As a child he contractedv osteomyelitis. As a result he had a club foot and had to wear a brace. An opersation to treat it left him with a noticeable limp. He apparently had few friends as a boy. He was teased and rediculed by his healthy peers. (This is interesting both because of the impact on his personality, but because handicapped children became a target of the NAZIs. This included both the T-4 euthenasia campaign and forced sterilizations. I'm not sure how Goebbels viewed this. We do not notice referencescin his diaries.) Most authors have viewed these childhood experiences as explaining his amorality and lack of empathy with other people. As a child, he withdrew from personal relations and buried himself in books.

Childhood Clothing


Education

Joseph was an excellent student who exceled in his school work. He pursued his education during World War I. He was rejected by the German Army because of his limp. He won a Catholic scholarship. He graduated from from the University of Heidelberg with a Phd. (1921). His degree was in German literature. He worked on his doctorate under Friedrich Gundolf, a noted Jewish literary historian. His degree made him the best educated NAZI leader. He was addressed as Dr. Goebbels. This was helpful in the NAZI's early years by providing a cultured, educated front to Storm Trooper thugery, The Germans greatly respected universiy degrees.

World War I

Goebbels volunteered during World war I, but was rejected for military service because of his club foot. After the War, tto explain his limp, he claimed that he had been wounded at Verdun.

Journalism and Writing

After university, Goebbbels began a journalistic career. He also wrote novels, plays and poems, but failed to get any of his work published. He would later claim discrimination. He became the secretary of Gregor Strasser. The political turmoil in Germany and Strasser led him to the fledgling NAZI party.

NAZI Party

Goebbels joined the NAZI Party after meeting Hitler (1924). He described one of his first meetings with Adolf Hitler in the his diaries he kept, "Shakes my hand. Like an old friend. And those big blue eyes. Like stars. He is glad to see me. I am in heaven. That man has everything to be king." Hitler was impressed his media savy. He appointed Goebels Gauleiter, or party governor, in Berlin. He founded the Party magazine Der Angriff (The Attack). Hitler appointed him Director of Party Propaganda (1928). He proved extremely effective and in marketing Hitler and the NAZI party, especially after the advent of the Depression. Goebbels developed an esspired media campaign, arguably the first modern media campaign, using radio, film, and parades and processions. NAZI soup kitchens proved particularly effective. Goebbels was one of the increasing number of NAZIs elected to the Reichstag (1928). Goebbels skillful use of media played an important role in the NAZI seizure of power despite the esistence of a free press.

Berlin Gaulitier

Joseph Goebbels is best known as Hitler's Propganda Minister. He had another important post, Hitler appointed him to the Berlin Gauliter (1926). He began by making Jewish police chief Bernhard Weiss a target. Essentially after the NAZI seizure of power, he becme the mayor of Berlin. Berlin with the outbreak of World War II became seen as the black heart of the NAZI beast. Actually Berlin was before the Hitler seized power, theleast NAZI ofall German cities. The large working-class populated supported the Socialists and Communist and were hostile to the NAZIs. It was Goebbel's assignment to Nazify Berlin. And he took to its with the same energy that he gave to the Propaganda Ministry. This led to what Goebbels called the Battle for Berlin, it would prove to be the first battle. Goebbels has left us a detailed account of that first battle, t least the beginning of it. He paints a sanitized acount of courageous young idealists fighting for a rightious cause--the future of Germany. And he describes how they took on the Communists, including violent clashes. [Goebbels] Among his many undertakings was to deport Berlin's substabtial Jewish population to the Ghettoes and death camps established in Poland.

Minister of Propaganda

After HItler sized power he made Goebbels Minister of Propaganda and National Enligtenment (1933). Many newspapers, magazines, publishers, and movie studios were privately owned. NAZI directives and the possibility of arrest and confiment in concentration camps established by Himmler's SS soon gave him virtually complete control over all all German media outlets. One of the first actions he organized was the ritual book burnings across Germany (May 1933). It is starling to think that an academic with a PhD. in Germam literature oversaw the book burning campaign. Goebbels was also responsible for regimenting German culture and bringing it into conformity with NAZI ideology. Goebbels effectively used his control of German media to perpetuate NAZI idelology. Hitler was pictured as a virtually infalable leader. Goebbels also carfully tailored German media to promulgate NAZI ideas such as the need to regain lost territory, Lebensraum, and protect the Aryan race. The Germans were told that Aryan German would rule the world and its inferior races. NAZI propaganda today sounds to us brutish, evil, and ignorant. Many Germans, however, accepted it. Those that did not soon learned that it was dangerous to express disenting opinions. Some educated older Germans recognized Goebbels' propagaganda for what it was. It was the young people that were most suspectable. They had little of the education and experiences that enabled some older Germans to question NAZI propaganda. An important element of the Hitler Youth was Goebbel's prpaganda. An example here is the experience of one of our German readers--Hans. He was not old enough to join the Hitler Youth, but his grandparents who were critical of the War did not dare be seen as discouraging him from participating.

Oratory

A question I have had for some time concerns Hitler's and Goebbels' oratory. I can understand how the content might appeal to many Germans, especially the nationalistic content--recoverng lost territory, uniting Germans, the humiliation of Versailles ect. The racism and Jew baiting probably had a more limited appeal, but it also resonated with many Germans. What I fail to appreciate is how Germans saw him as a hypnotic speaker. Many writers have used the term "hypnotic" or similar terms to describe Hitler as an orator. Granted I don't speak German, but listening to him I do not see why people wre so drawn to him and Goebbels. This is especially stiking given the fact neither Hitler or Goebbels were the blond Aryan supermen so lionized by the NAZIs. Goebbels was even handicpped. A German speaking Dutch reader writes, "Yes, it was very strange that Hitler and Goebbels both were terrific orators. I had heard them many times during the war when their speeches were broadcasted all over Europe. Hitler had never lost his Austrian accent although he often screamed like a Prussian drill sergeant. Goebbels was more sophisticated. He had a flawless command of the German language and knew how to raise and lower his voice.He after all studied history and literature at the University of Heidelberg. His favorite professor at that time was Friedrich Gundolf, a Jewish historian and German literature scholar!" [Coati]

Family

Goebbels married Magda Friedlander Quandt (December 1931). Magda's maiden name was Behrend, but her mother married a Jewish man named Richard Friedlander and Magda took his name. (Herstepfather was arrested (1938) and died in Buchenwald (1939). She married an industrialist Guenther Quadnt and they had a son Harald. Magda while seeing Giebbels was also seeing a Jewish man Victor Chaim Arlosoroff. The Goebbels had marital difficulties. Goebbels saw himself as a Casanova. He had little succces with women, but after his appointment as Reich Minister for Propaganda his ability to sway women improve. He used his position to virtually force film starlets to acceed to his advances. His wife had her own affairs. Despite their marital problems, the Goebbels had six children, five girls and one boy. The family was presented in NAZI movie newsreels as the ideal German family. The family were frequent visitors to Berchtesgarden and the children referred to Hitler as "Uncle Adolf" and "Uncle Führer". Hitler had to personally interceed to keep Goebbels and his wife together, at Magda's personal request. Hitler was especially appauled by Goebbels affair with Czech film star Lida Baarova, both because she threatened the highly publicized ideal German family, but because she was a Slav. The children of course are best known because The Goebbels brought them to Hitler's Berlin bunker at the end of the War and poisoned them before commiting suiside themselves.

Personl Life

A biographer describes him as a man driven by a narcisstic desire for recognition. He found this with Hitler and the NAZI Party. The biographer also describes a mawkish sentimentality, manipulative nature, ans immense sexual appetite. [Longerich] The later led to a break with his wif that Hitler had to intervente to prevent a divirce. His manipulative nature was best seen in his ability to get what he wanted from Hitler. Only Boreman was more adept. What is largely unknown about Goebbels is to what he extent he personally believes in actions like the Holocaust or how they were morea way of securing his relation with Hitler. He was the only handicapped person in the NAZI ledership. The NAZI T4 program of killing handicpped children oes not seem to have been a problem with him.

The Holocaust

Goebbels showed no evidence of being anti-Semitic before joining the NAZI Party, at least that we know of. Perhaps readerwill know more and can help with understanding him. He even liked some German authors like Heinrich Heine. Our preliminary assessment is that he was not a convinced anti-Semite and did not believe in the need to persecute Jews. This changed after joining the Party. Perhaps his associatiins changd his mind. There is no doubt that his position and career required him to promote Hitler's anti-semtic campaign. And he played a najor role in Hitler's campaigns against the Jews after Hitler was appointed Chancellor (January1933). He organized the book burnings that launched the NAZI campaign to elimate Jewish influence in German cultural life. And as Propaganda Minister he had command of the German press and media with which to conduct this campaign. He became adept in hate filled attacks on Jews and supervised the production of viciously anti-Semitic films. His propaganda campaign helped popularize NAZI ideology and created public attitudes necessary for Himmler and Heydrich to launch the Holocaust. Goebbels diaries show that he was fully aware of mass killings of Jews. I'm not sure to what extent he was aware of the full extent of the Holocaust or if he ever discussed it with Hitler. Terms such as "evacuated eastward" suggest that he was familar with what was happening. [Goebbels] And as Gauliter of Berlin, he oversaw the seizure of Jewish property, inclusing businesses, stores, shops, apartments, and homes (along with their contents) and finally the transport of Berlin Jews to the murderous ghettoes and death camps estanlihed by the NAZIs in occupied Poland.

World War II

NAZI propaganda was never as effective outside Germany as within because Goebbels coul not monopolize media around the world. Even in occupied countries there was the BBC. Before the War, Hitler appointed him to his cabinet council. After Stalingrad and the increasing effectiveness of the Allied strategic bombing campaign, Hitler completely disappeared from public view. Goebbels became the principal top official that becanme the public face of NAZI Germany. This was probably because of Hitler's desire to absorb himself in directing and with the War going badly not wh=ishing to have to acceot resomsibility for the developing disstr. Also Hitler's health and physical apperance was declining. In perhaps his most famous apperance, Goebbels appeared at the Sportsplatz (February 18, 1943). He asked the carefully selected crowd (wounded war veterans in the front row) if they wanted total war. Many in the audience were ell aware of the NAZI attrocities committed in the name of the German people, but somehow feverishly endorsed Goebbels demand for total war. Few at the time appreciate that Germany's ability to wage total war were declining and those of the Allies signifcantly increasing. Goebbels concluded with, "Now, people rise up, and let the storm break loose!” (It was phrase he had used earlier.) Speer described the scene and Goebbels' assessment. "Except for Hitler’s most successful public meetings, I had never seen an audience so effectively roused to fanaticism. Back in his home, Goebbels astonished me by analyzing what had seemed to be a purely emotional outburst in terms of its psychological effect — much as an experienced actor might have done. He was also satisfied with his audience that evening. 'Did you notice? They reacted to the smallest nuance and applauded at just the right moments. It was the politically best-trained audience you can find in Germany.'” [Speer] Goebbels was the only high-ranking NAZI who conducted visits of bomb destroyed cities which were shown in NAZI newsreels. He expressed his concerns and promised Government relief as well as vengence against the Allies. In the closing months of the War, Hitler placed Goebbels in charge of what was called total mobilization.

Berlin (1945)

By an accident of history, Gobbels as Gauleiter would also play a role in the climatic second battle for Berlin. Goebbels in the final year of the War played an important part in the war effort beyond just propaganda. Hitler awarded Goebbels the title of Reich Plenipotentiary for Total War (July 1944). This was essentially the same time when the war reached the coundaries of the Reich. And inexorably the fighting moved on all sides towaed Berlin. One might have expected Goebbels to to use his position to build up Berlin's defenses. He did not. We are not entirely sure why, but probbly relates to Hitler's assessment that Berlin as not the major target. Dissmissing the advise of his generals, Hitler sent SS Panzer forces to defend Budapest rather than Berlin. Gobbels did not want to dispute Hitler's military assessment. As it became clear that Hitler as usual was dead wrong, Goebbels made no effort to save tne civilian population of Berlin. He did not want to give the impressiin of defeatism. Incredably, serious preparations for the defense of he city did not begin until the Soviets reached the Oder (March 1945). [Ryan, p. 380.] To the end, Goebbels primary goal was to maintain his reltionship with Hitler. And at the end, he was a rare voice among Hitler's adviers who opposed to the idea of abandoning Berlin to establish an Alpine redoubt. Goebells insisted that the final battle should be fought in Berlin. It is unclear how important this was on Hitler's decision to remain in Berlin. We suspect that at the end, Hitler's primary concern was that he not be captured alive.

Diaries

Dr. Goebels has provided us a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the Third Reich through the diaries he kept. The fact that the diaries survived the War in extemely fortuitous. The Soviets who captured Berlin were not very desrimnating in their search for documents. They shipped large quantities of documents back to Moscow, but in some cases the people involved in this operation emptied out filing cainents and shipped the cabinents to Moscow. When the Western Allies arrived in Berlin, there were documents scattered every where in the public buoildings. Amateur junk dealers managed to salvage Goebeks diaries and other documents related to him. At first only some of the pages were found. The first published version of his World war II era diaries begin 6 weeks after Pear Harbor in February 1941 and continue through to the Stalingrad crisis (December 1943) Later disciveries take ys through to the last days in the Führer Bunker. Substantial gaps have since been filled in. And the pages before and after the NAZI take over have also been found. The one question that is difficult to answer is just who he was writing for. We suspect that he was writing for prosperity. He, Hitler, and other top NAZIs were convinced they were creating a new world--the New Order. They were extremely proud of what they were doing. Goebels is extremely frank, indeed brutally frank about every one around him. He of course never criticized the Führer, but everyone else war fair game. He had his favorites such as step Dietrich, a fanatical SS commander. And ironically, Admiral Canaris--who proved to be the greatest traitor to the NAZIs of the War. He of course spins events as best he can and while often very wrong, he provides us a picture as to how he and the Führer saw the war unfolding.

Loyalty

Goebbels was the most loyal of all the top NAZI acoyltes. He demonstrated his loyalty at the end of the war. Goebbels was one of the few NAZI bigwigs that remained loyal to Hitler. He remained with Hitler in Berlin until the end. Goebbels moved into the Berlin Bunker with his family while it was still possible to flee Berlin. Once Hitler and Eva Braun committed suiside, he and his committed suiside in Hitler's Berlin bunker (May 1, 1945). His wife did not have to do this, but chose to do so. [Longerich] Not only did they commit suiside, but they sacrified their children as well on what can only be described as the buring altar of NAZIsim.

Sources

Coati, Rudi. E-mail message, March 12, 2004.

Goebbels, Joseph. ed, Louis B. Lochner, The Goebbels Diaries, 1942-1943 (Doubleday: New York, 1948), p. 566.

Goebbels, Joseph. Kampf um Berlin (Munich: Verlag Franz Eher, 1934), be

Longerich, Peter. Goebbels: A Biograpjy (2015), 992p.

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle (Simon andSchuster: New York, 1966), 571p.

Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich (Avon, New York, 1970), 734p.






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Created: March 11, 2004
Last updated: 3:42 PM 7/16/2015