Joseph Goebbels: Propaganda Methods

Figure 1.--.

While Goebbels turned his brillance to sinister purposes, there is no doubt that he had a keen understanding of mass psychology. He was an effective orator. It is difficult for non-Germans to understand the almost hypnotic affect that Hitler had on German audiences. Listening to Hitler he doies not seem at all appealing. He of couse was to the Germans and in the NAZI hyerarchy Goebels as an orator was second only to Hitler. Not only did Goebbels had absolute control over German media, but he had an undeniable flare foir showmanship. His staging of mass meetings and parades was rotinely flawless. Goebbels may well have been the master propagandist of all time. Expers have studies his methods to assess why he was so effective. While much of his effectveness flowed from NAZI control of all media outlets, it must be remembered that he helped the NAZIs compete effectively in the Weimar Republic in which freedom of expression florished.

Need for Intelligence

Propagandists be well informed concerning both issues and events as well as public opinion. Propagandists should have access to the most sensitive information. An intimate knowledge of public opinion is also necessary. Goebbells operated in an environment before methods of public opinion polling had been well developed. Modern politicans and propagandists have the ability to obtain very accurate readings of public opinion.

Unified Approach

Effective propaganda has to be controlled by one central source. Even within a tightly knit group orpolitical party there can be a range of opinions and goals. Only central control will prevent the regime proaganda from being weakened through conflicting messages. The central authority must issue directives to media outlets and guide party officials in their public statements

Public Relations Consequences

Decession makers must assess the public relations consequences of actions and policies.

Impact on Enemies

Effective propaganda can impact and weaken the targeted oposition. Propagnda can supress informatin that might be useful to opponents. Propaganda can prevent the enemy from taking orvnot taking certain actions or adopting policies. Here the best example is the Munich Conference. The fear of war, especially the well-publicized new Luftwaffe, disuaded Britain and France from hoinoring treaty obligations to Czechoslovakia. Propaganda campaigns can also cause the opponent to reveal sensitive information.

Tailored Messages

Effective propaganda must grab the interest of a targeted group and must be delivered through an effective through a communications effort that attracts attention.


The propagandist much be creditable. Propaganda need not necessarily be true, but it must be creditable. Repeating a lie over and over again can give it creditability, especially if endorsed by important ifficials and major media. This is the principle of the big lie.

Enemy Propaganda

Not all enemy propaganda need be refuted. The decession here must bevmade on an individual basis. The propagandist needs to assess the purpose and impact of enemy propaganda. He neds to assess the impact of refuting the ememy proaganda which will invariably increase the public awarness of the enemy charges. The propagandist should consider using enemy propaganda if it can be used to impair an adversary's prestige or further a regime's objectives.


A range of issuyes need to be considerd before inititing any censorship eddort. Here credibility and intelligence are important factirs,

Black Propaganda

There is a role for "black" propaganda. It can be used in paticular when the propaganda is not very credible or there are potentially unpopular results.

Leadership Role

Popular or prestigious figures are a great assett in a propaganda campign.


Timing is an important factor in a propaganda campaign. It is important to begin a propaganda campaign before opponents begin their campaign. A range of factors must be considered in timing a campaign.


Propaganda themes should be repeated over and over. Goebbels wrote, "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over." In his diaries he wrote, "The Fuhrer attaches great importance to a powerful anti-Semitic propaganda. He, too, regards success as depending upon constant repetition. He is immensely pleased with our sharpening up the anti-Semitic propaganda in the press and in the radio." {Goebbels] Goebbels realized, however, that there are limits and a point of diminishing effectiveness.

Slimpicity aand Sloganeering

The public as a whole is unable to comprehend complicated issues. It is thus important to create catchy slogans and phrases that are easy to remember and put your position in the most favorable terms. Goebbels wrote, "...the rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious." In modern times Al Qaeda's referebce to Americans as crusaders is an example. In American poltics the terms "death tax" and "guns don't kill, people do".

Glitering Generalities

Future Consequences

Propaganda must be careful not to raise false hopes that the enemy can publically and observably destroy.

Fear of Defeat

Propaganda must create a fearful impage of the consequences of defeat. Many observers were stunded at the continued German resistance in tge face of the allied strastegic bombing campaign. Here Goebbels propaganda aimed especially at the consequences of a Soviet defeat and occupatin of Germany was an important factor in getting the Germans to resist to the last. Such a propaganda campaign must be careful not to cause the populaion to give up in dispair.

Targeted Enemy Groups

Propaganda should help define targeted enemies upon who the public can focus their agression and hated. Goebbels from thebeginning focuded on the Jews, but there were other targets, including Communists, Slavs, Czechs, Poles, and others. The timing and intensity of the campaign varied with the political situation.

Public Opinion

Propaganda must take into account public opinion, especially strongly heald attitudes. Thus the regime must carefully consider policies and accompanying propaganda campaigns. The opropagandists must carefully consider the timing and approach. Here diversions can be useful.


Doob, Leonard W. "Goebbbels' Principles of Propaganda"," Public Opinion and Propaganda (The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues).

Goebbels, Joseph. Diaries.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main Goebbels page]
[Return to the Main biography G-L page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossary] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: March 12, 2004
Last updated: March 12, 2004