Joseph Goebbels

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-0821-502, Joseph Goebbels.jpg
Joseph Goebbels, Official Portrait

Paul Joseph Goebbels 29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945 German politician, Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany 1933 – 1945. He was one of Hitler’s closest associates and most devoted followers, known for his skills in public speaking and propaganda, and his virulent antisemitism, advocated the extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust.

Goebbels, earned a PhD in German Philology in 1921. In 1924 he joined the Nazi Party and after becoming district leader) for Berlin in 1926, he began to use propaganda to promote the party. After the 1933 Nazi seizure of power, Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry took control of all German news media, arts, and information and turned them to  propaganda purposes. Common topics included antisemitism, attacks on Christian churches, and shaping war morale. In 1943 he pressured Hitler to introduce “total war” – ending all business and activities not committed to the war effort. By war’s end, he and wife Magda had joined Hitler in the Berlin underground Vorbunker, where they followed Hitler into suicide after poisoning their six children with cyanide.

Don’t miss our blog series’:
The Nine Principles of Propaganda – begins with The Big Lie
The Nine Principles of Counterpropaganda – begins with Truth
Trump – Our Psychopathic President – Introduction
And our extensive examination of 25 years of propaganda war against Hillary Clinton – Death by Propaganda

Joseph Goebbels on Propaganda
Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated
are confident they are acting on their own free will.[1]

…the rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious.[1]

Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.[1]

This is the secret of propaganda: Those who are to be persuaded by it should be completely immersed in the ideas of the propaganda, without ever noticing that they are being immersed in it.[1]

The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.[1]

Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.[1]

Not every item of news should be published. Rather must those who control news policies endeavor to make every item of news serve a certain purpose.[1]

…the rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious.[1]

It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.[1]

The truth is the greatest enemy of the State.[1]

The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it.[1]

It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.[1]

There is no need for propaganda to be rich in intellectual content.[1]

Propaganda is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. If the means achieves the end then the means is good… the new Ministry has no other aim than to unite the nation behind the ideal of the national revolution.[1]

To attract people, to win over people to that which I have realized as being true, that is called propaganda.[1]

Good propaganda does not need to lie, indeed it may not lie. It has no reason to fear the truth. It is a mistake to believe that people cannot take the truth. They can. It is only a matter of presenting the truth to people in a way that they will be able to understand. A propaganda that lies proves that it has a bad cause. It cannot be successful in the long run.[1]

It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.[1]

That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result. It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.[1]

We have made the Reich by propaganda.[1]

Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda from his diaries

After World War II, U.S. personnel discovered diaries dictated by Goebbels which included his principles of propaganda. Louis Lochner, Associated Press war correspondent who reported from within Germany throughout the war, translated the diaries. The diaries were published as: Goebbels, Joseph. (1948). The Goebbels Diaries, 1942-1943. Translated by Lochner, Louis. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. A list of nineteen principles of propaganda were extracted by Leonard Doob, and published in 1950 as part of the following journal article: Doob, Leonard W. (1950). Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda. Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 14, Issue 3, Fall 1950, 419-442 Doob’s article is accessible through a paywall. These principles are reproduced widely on the web. Retrieved 8-21-18 from:

When reading these propaganda principles, keep in mind that they were applied in wartime (WWII) and involve issues that don’t arise otherwise. It’s a long list, but Goebbels was dealing with the complexity of an all-out war. While reading them you may realize that some of the principles are generally applicable and not limited to wartime. Some might be quite familiar today. It is interesting to note that Goebbels’ principles derive from Hitler’s own ideas of propaganda.

  1. Propagandists must have access to intelligence concerning events and public opinion.
  2. Propaganda must be planned and executed by only one authority.
    1. It must issue all the propaganda directives.
    2. It must explain propaganda directives to important officials and maintain their morale.
    3. It must oversee other agencies’ activities which have propaganda consequences.
  3. The Propaganda consequences of an action must be considered in planning that action.
  4. Propaganda must affect the enemy’s policy and actions.
    1. By suppressing propagandistically desirable material which can provide the enemy with useful intelligence.
    2. By openly disseminating propaganda whose contents or tone causes the enemy to draw the desired conclusions.
    3. By goading the enemy into revealing vital information about himself.
    4. By making no reference to a desired enemy activity when any reference would discredit that activity.
  5. Declassified, operational information must be available to implement a propaganda campaign.
  6. To be perceived, propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting medium.
  7. Credibility alone must determine whether propaganda output should be true or false.
  8. The purpose, content, and effectiveness of enemy propaganda; the strength and effects of an expose’; and the nature of current propaganda campaigns determine whether enemy propaganda should be ignored or refuted.
  9. Credibility, intelligence, and the possible effects of communicating determine whether propaganda materials should be censored.
  10. Material from enemy propaganda may be utilized in operations when it helps diminish that enemy’s prestige or lends support to the propagandist’s own objective.
  11. Black rather than white propaganda must be employed when the latter is less credible or produces undesirable effects.
  12. Propaganda may be facilitated by leaders with prestige.
  13. Propaganda must be carefully timed.
    1. The communication must reach the audience ahead of competing propaganda.
    2. A propaganda campaign must begin at the optimum moment.
    3. A propaganda theme must be repeated, but not beyond some point of diminishing effectiveness.
  14. Propaganda must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.
    1. They must evoke responses which the audience previously possesses.
    2. They must be capable of being easily learned.
    3. They must be utilized again and again, but only in appropriate situations.
    4. They must be boomerang-proof.
  15. Propaganda to the home front must prevent the raising of false hopes which can be blasted by future events.
  16. Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level.
    1. Propaganda must reinforce anxiety concerning the consequences of defeat.
    2. Propaganda must diminish anxiety (other than that concerning the consequences of defeat) which is too high and cannot be reduced by people themselves.
  17. Propaganda to the home front must diminish the impact of frustration.
    1. Inevitable frustrations must be anticipated.
    2. Inevitable frustrations must be placed in perspective.
  18. Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.
  19. Propaganda cannot immediately affect strong counter-tendencies; instead it must offer some form of action or diversion, or both.

These would be principles guiding the conduct of propaganda operations.

Quotation Sources and Links
1. Propaganda :