|Dr. Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945)|
Minister Dr. Joseph Goebbels was arguably the most brilliant, fanatical
figure in the Third Reich. He got off to a modest start in 1925 when Heinrich
Himmler resigned as Otto Strasser's secretary to spend more of his time
raising chickens. Strasser hired Goebbels to replace Himmler, and thus altered
the course of history.
Paul Joseph Goebbels was born on October 29, 1897 into the devout Christian home of Katharina and Fritz Göbbels (this original spelling of the family name appears on Paul Joseph's birth certificate). At the time, the Göbbels family inhabited 186 Odenkirchener Strasse in the Lower Rhineland town of Rheydt, Germany.
Though his parents hoped that he would become a priest, Joseph decided instead to be a writer. He concentrated his studies on philosophy, history, art and literature at the Universities of Bonn, Freiburg, Würzburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin before finally receiving his Ph.D. in Drama from Heidelberg. He was to be one of the only Nazi leaders to have received a college education.
Yet even after extensive training at the finest German institutions, Goebbels did not fare well as a writer. Publishers rejected his autobiographical novel, Michael, and the two plays that he wrote were not picked up by producers. Goebbels submitted dozens of pieces to the well-known liberal newspaper Berliner Tageblatt, yet none were run. His application for a reporter's position there was also denied. Yet his stilted, pompous, overdone style- the very traits that caused him to fail as a writer- made him particularly well suited to writings of a propagandistic nature.
Many who knew him felt that Goebbels was an embittered cynic with a repulsive personality. When he was seven years old, he suffered an inflammation of the bone marrow (osteomyelitis). A subsequent operation on his thigh proved unsuccessful. It resulted in a club foot that crippled Goebbels, making one leg a full two inches (5 cm) shorter than the other. He weighed little more than 100 pounds and stood at 5'4" (163 cm). This unimposing physical stature, coupled with his handicap and a disproportionately large head was the target of much mocking and jeering from his schoolmates. The experience left him scarred. While at University Goebbels passed off the club foot as a war injury to prevent embarrassment, yet his status as a cripple prevented him from fighting in World War I.
In 1922, young Joseph Goebbels was mesmerized by one of Adolf Hitler's public speeches in Munich. Goebbels obtained membership in the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP or Nazi Party). Three years later, in 1925, Gregor Strasser heard Goebbels speak and was awed by his impassioned oratory. At the time, Strasser led the Northern branch of the Nazi Party. He believed firmly in the "Socialism" part of National Socialism, and both Goebbels and Strasser wished to build the Party on the proletariat. Due to this mutual belief and Goebbel's emerging talent, Strasser hired Goebbels as his secretary.
In sympathizing with the Bolsheviks, the duo naturally faced confrontation with Hitler.
The inevitable showdown came when the Communists and Socialists proposed a plan to seize the wealth of the royalty and hand it over to the Republic. Gregor Strasser's northern branch came out in favor of this measure while Hitler denounced it. Many of those former rulers had contributed money to the Party, and Hitler feared that his sources of income would dry up. The conflict became so heated that at one meeting, Goebbels stood up and proclaimed, "I demand that the petty bourgeois Adolf Hitler be expelled from the Nazi Party!"
After a time, Hitler called a meeting of his own. He deliberately scheduled a day when many northern Party leaders were unable to attend: only Strasser and Goebbels showed up. They were vastly outnumbered by Hitler's majority and were forced to abandon their program. Shortly thereafter, Goebbels wrote in his diary: "April 13. Hitler spoke for three hours. Brilliantly. He can make you doubt your own views I am now at ease about him I bow to the greater man, to the political genius." At this moment, Joseph Goebbels became the Führer's most trusted friend and ally. Goebbels remained at his side until his dying day.
In November of 1926, Hitler sent Goebbels to Berlin. The capital was largely Communist, and Goebbels saw to it that that was changed. Goebbels was made Minister of Propaganda in 1928, and in 1933- once Hitler became Chancellor- Goebbels began his notorious campaign against artistic expression. He banished Jewish writers, journalists, and artists from the German cultural scene and placed the news media under government control. Thereafter, the news was always presented with a bias towards Nazi ideology. Through films, print, posters, speeches, and rallies, Dr. Goebbels influenced the German masses with Nazi ideas.
Some of Joseph Goebbels' propaganda schemes were more brutal. On November 9, 1938, a teenage Jewish demonstrator killed a German diplomat traveling in France. That night, Goebbels ordered the SS to stage "spontaneous demonstrations" that specifically targeted Jews. The pogrom that followed became known as Kristallnacht, or "Night of Broken Glass". During the night, about 7,000 Jewish-owned shops were looted and vandalized, 91 Jews were killed, 30,000 were sent to concentration camps, and more than 900 synagogues were destroyed or burned to the ground. Many see Goebbels' Kristallnacht as having marked the beginning of the Holocaust in which six million Jews were systematically executed, as well as eight million dissenters, homosexuals, handicapped, and Roma ("gypsies").
Minister of Propaganda Goebbels did much during the war (1939-1945) to boost morale among the German people. To read an excerpt of Goebbel's thoughts on propaganda circa 1931, click here. This piece, from the magazine "Will and Way", offers insight into the propaganda that Dr. Goebbels employed.
Goebbels was with Hitler to the very end. On April 30, 1945, Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann waited outside of a room in Hitler's dark Berlin bunker. They heard one gunshot. Then silence. Waiting a few minutes, they tentatively approached the room and saw Hitler's bloodstained body sprawled on a couch. Near him was his newly wedded bride Eva Braun, who swallowed a vial of poison. Goebbels and Bormann had Hitler's body carried outside and burned amid the hail of shells from the advancing Red Army. As one of his last acts, Goebbels notified Grand Admiral Doenitz that Doenitz had succeeded Hitler as Führer.
In the evening on May 1, Goebbels had his six children executed by a lethal injection. At 8:30 he had an SS orderly shoot both himself and his wife Magda in the back of the head. When the Russians entered the bunker, the charred remains of Dr. Goebbels were quickly identified as those of the Propaganda Minister.
Dr. Joseph Goebbels convinced a whole nation to abandon their ideals and embark on a frivolous conquest through Europe. He led millions to their destruction. He made a people believe in their Leader up to the bitter end. In short, Dr. Goebbels was a dark genius.