Joseph Goebbels

Joseph Goebbels served as minister of propaganda for the German Third Reich under Adolf Hitler—a position from which he spread the Nazi message.


Born on October 29, 1897, in Rheydt, Germany, Joseph Goebbels served as minister of propaganda for the Nazi German government of the Third Reich, and is generally held responsible for presenting a favorable image of the Nazi regime to the Germans. Following Adolf Hitler's suicide, Goebbels served as chancellor of Germany for a single day before he and his wife, Magda Goebbels, poisoned their six children and took their own lives.

Early Life

Infamous Nazi Paul Joseph Goebbels was born on October 29, 1897, in Rheydt, Germany, the third of five children. Goebbels graduated from a Roman Catholic high school and spent five years in undergraduate study at the University of Heidelberg, where he focused on history (he had a clubfoot, and the defect kept him out of the military during World War I).

Goebbels graduated from Heidelberg in 1922 with a doctorate in German philosophy, after which he pursued a career in writing, even having written an expressionist novel called Michael: ein Deutsches Schicksal in Tagebuchblattern. He was also getting caught up in the nationalistic tide sweeping through the country on the heels of the war.

The Nazi Party

In the fall of 1924, Goebbels became district administrator of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP; National Socialist German Workers' Party, or the Nazi Party), and two years later, Adolf Hitler made him district leader in Berlin. In 1927, Goebbels founded Der Angriff ("The Attack"), a weekly national Socialist newspaper, and the following year, Hitler appointed him to the post of national director of propaganda for the Nazis.

Once installed, Goebbels began creating the Führer myth around Hitler, punctuating it with huge rallies geared toward converting the German people to Nazism. His day-to-day activities also included designing posters, publishing propaganda pieces, using his bodyguards to incite street battles and generally increasing political agitation.

His control of the propaganda machine stretched over all media of the time—newspapers, radio, films, theater, literature, music and the arts—and he became a figure to be feared, especially by Jews, who were now in the crosshairs of the Nazi Party.

In 1932, at Hitler's command, Goebbels organized a boycott of Jewish businesses. The following year, he led the burning of books deemed "not German enough," which chiefly targeted Jews once again. "The era of extreme Jewish intellectualism is at an end," Goebbels declared. During World War II, Goebbels's skill with propaganda was on full display: He turned battlefield losses into victories and raised morale with each speaking engagement.

Total War

With Germany's back to the wall in 1943, and the Allies demanding complete surrender, Goebbels began espousing theories of "total war," which would have mobilized the military, national resources and the general population to their fullest extent in the war effort—in essence, initiating a stance of accepting only victory or total destruction.

By 1944, Germany had adopted Goebbels's war plan, and in July of that year, Goebbels was appointed general plenipotentiary for total war. However, by late April 1945, Germany had lost the war and Hitler was dictating his last will and testament to Goebbels, which appointed Goebbels chancellor of the Reich. The following day—May 1, 1945—instead of taking command, Goebbels had his six children poisoned, and he and his wife, Magda, committed suicide in Hitler's "bunker" in Berlin.

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