Sunday 20 March 2016

We Will Not Capitulate: Nazi Propaganda Shapes National Opinion

"We will not capitulate -- no never!  We may be destroyed, but if we are, we shall drag a world with us -- a world in flames." (Adolf Hitler)

Nazi rally in Nuremburg circa 1935 courtesy

The world knows about the role of Nazi propaganda in pre-war Germany where Hitler would hold mass rallies in giant stadiums, his arm outstretched, his lips spouting rhetoric in a clipped fashion, his audience mesmorized (see  We are familiar with the Hitler Youth, the group the Nazis used to indoctrinate the next generation. Most of us have heard of the Berlin Book Burning of 1933 where a stack of literature was destroyed, everything from H. G. Wells to Helen Keller, all because it did not embrace Nazi ideology (see Propaganda played a prominent role in 1930's Germany.

Wehrmacht soldiers remove Polish insignia circa 1939 courtesy

When the Second World War started, Nazi propaganda continued to play a major role in Germany and Europe.  The Nazis sent out a daily radio broadcast , the Wehrmachtbericht, to keep civilians apprised of what was happening on the battlefront.  In occupied countries, signs would be posted at the entrances to parks, cafes and cinemas announcing ""Nur fur Deutsche" (Only for Germans).  When the Allies questioned Hitler on the conditions of his concentration camps, he invited the Red Cross to inspect one, controlling every aspect of the visit like a master puppeteer.

The Red Cross visits a "beautified" Theriensenstadt circa 1944 courtesy

Yet even at the end of the war, Nazi propaganda played a large role.  The signs were there that Germany was losing the war, that East Prussia would be the first casualty.  The British Air Force dropped over 1000 tonnes of bombs on Koenigsberg in August of 1944.  That was their first clue.  Then the Red Army temporarily broke through the defense line at Nemmersdorf -- their second clue.  In late 1944, German commanders pleaded with Hitler to order an evacuation of East Prussia, but to no avail.  As late as early January of 1945, when the Red Army was at the gates of East Prussia, the official line was:  "Hold tight.  We will not capitulate."   It was said with such confidence that East Prussians believed it.  Rob's Oma was even told by her brother, an officer in the Kriegsmarine, that Germany would not lose the war.

In the end, while Hitler furrowed into his foxhole, the East Prussians -- the women, the children, the elderly -- faced the wrath of the Red Army.

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