Goebbels, Joseph

(1897-1945)
   journalist and politician; led the NSDAP s propaganda operation from 1930. Born in the Rhine industrial town of Rheydt, he was raised in a Catholic,* working-class family. Although finances forced older brothers to leave school early, Joseph s parents ensured that he completed Gymnasium and had the opportunity to attend university. His char-acter was impacted by a childhood illness that crippled his foot (he later claimed that his limp resulted from war wounds). Disqualified for military service, he used the war years for broad university studies. In 1922, the year he first joined the NSDAP, he took a doctorate in German language and literature. His motto, Wissen ist Macht (knowledge is power), was mirrored by the scope of his stud-ies. Hoping initially to become a dramatist or stage director, he wrote several poems and completed a play about Christ; however, when none of his work was published, he despaired that his life would be a failure. His immature and ver-bose novel Michael, vaguely autobiographical, was published only after his rise to prominence.
   Three years after receiving his doctorate Goebbels was still dabbling in minor positions—a job in a bank, a caller at the stock exchange. Resentful of a world dominated by Jews* and capitalists, he reentered the NSDAP in early 1925 and soon attracted the notice of Gregor Strasser.* He joined the north German Nazis and helped found the newspaper* NS-Briefe, for which Strasser served as pub-lisher. Anti-Western and pro-Soviet in this period, his ideas verged on National Bolshevism.* While serving as Strasser s business manager, he wrote that it would be "better [to] go down with Bolshevism than live in eternal capitalist servitude ; and in an open letter to "My Friend on the Left, he chronicled each of the attitudes that he held in common with the KPD. After an important Party meeting in January 1926, he labeled Hitler* "petty bourgeois and called for his expulsion from the movement. With reason, many in the rabidly nation-alistic Munich-based organization violently opposed his views. Within three months, however, Goebbels was transformed. On 9 April 1926, his conversion complete, he penned the following in his diary: "I love [Hitler]. ...I bow before the greater man, the political genius." Animated by Hitler's personal embrace, he overturned many of his positions and abandoned the Stras-ser brothers. He had once written, "The greater and more towering I make God, the greater and more towering I am myself. In November 1926 Hitler made him Gauleiter (district leader) of Berlin.* When he established Der Angriff,* he used the newspaper to attack the Strassers. In 1928 he was among twelve Nazis elected to the Reichstag. With a bodyguard he used to organize street brawls, he was soon Berlin s most feared radical. But his strength rested on his ability to manipulate minds. When he was challenged about the accuracy of an essay in Der Angriff, he responded that "propaganda has absolutely nothing to do with truth!"
   Hitler s estimate of der kleine Doktor grew immeasurably after 1926. His propaganda and speaking skills were second only to Hitler s. Named Party Pro-pagandaleiter early in 1930, he aimed at advancing the person of Hitler; indeed, no one did more to establish the Führer cult. His reward came on 14 March 1933 when Hitler appointed him Propaganda Minister. Dutiful to the end, the "poisoned dwarf, as he was cautiously called on the streets, took his life and the lives of his entire family the day after Hitler s own suicide.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Fest, Face of the Third Reich; Lemmons, Goebbels; NDB, vol. 6; Reuth, Goebbels.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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