Joseph Goebbels

Goebbels, Joseph (Paul Joseph Goebbels)poul yōˈzĕf göbˈəls, 1897–1945, German National Socialist propagandist. He was kept out of the service in World War I by a clubfoot. After graduating from the Univ. of Heidelberg (Ph.D., 1921), be began a journalistic career and wrote some unsuccessful novels. He joined the National Socialist, or Nazi, party and worked with Gregor Strasser, who controlled the party in N Germany. As the split between Hitler and Strasser developed, he switched his loyalty to Hitler and was appointed (1926) district party leader in Berlin, where he founded a new organ for party propaganda, Der Angriff [ Attack ]. By exploiting mob emotions and by employing all modern methods of propaganda he helped Hitler into power. In 1928, Goebbels was elected to the Reichstag, and when Hitler seized power in 1933 he made Goebbels propaganda minister. This position gave him complete control over radio, press, cinema, and theater; later he also regimented all German culture. Goebbels placed his undeniable intelligence and his brilliant insight into mass psychology entirely at the service of his party. His most virulent propaganda was against the Jews. As a hypnotic orator he was second only to Hitler, and in his staging of mass meetings and parades he was unsurpassed. Utterly cynical, he seems to have believed only in the self-justification of power. He remained loyal to Hitler until the end; in Apr., 1945, he killed his family and himself while Berlin was falling to Soviet troops.

See The Early Goebbels Diaries 1925–1926, ed. by H. Heiber (1963); The Goebbels Diaries, 1942–43, ed. and tr. by L. P. Lochner (1948, repr. 1970); The Secret Conferences of Dr. Goebbels: The Nazi Propaganda War, 1939–43, ed. by W. A. Boelcke (tr. 1970); biographies by R. Manvell and H. Fraenkel (1960), H. Heiber (tr. 1972), and R. G. Reuth (tr. 1993); studies by E. K. Bramsted (1965), R. Lemmons (1994), and F. Moeller (tr. 2000); L. Hachmeister, dir., The Goebbels Experiment (documentary film, 2005).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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