MALS 4470: Art/Culture: History & Context
University of Denver University College
Instructor: Leigh Holden
Thesis: The Third Reich’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, which was led by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, successfully mastered the art of using propaganda films to promote anti-Semitism during the reign of the
Nazi Party in Germany.
Many societies have used both positive and negative propaganda as a way of distributing ideas, facts, or allegations to further their cause.
However, it was the Fürher (leader) of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler, and one of his closest associates and devout followers, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, who turned it into a true art form. Like Hitler, Goebbels was known for his rousing speeches and hatred of the Jews, but the films he created through the Ministry for Enlightenment and Propaganda are what he is most known for these days. Officially dubbed the “Reich Minister of Propaganda”
(Grunberger, 1970) from 1933 to 1945, Goebbels’ rewriting of historical events -- the 1943 version of Titanic -- and negative views of the Jews -- the
1940 film The Eternal Jew -- were successful in promoting anti-Semitism.
Using research on the Ministry for Enlightenment and Propaganda, the
Nazis, Goebbels, and Hitler, plus reviews of two films, The Eternal Jew and
Jud Süss, the thesis of “the Third Reich’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, which was led by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, successfully mastered the art of using propaganda films to promote anti-Semitism during the reign of the Nazi Party in Germany” will be proven. Two definitions, which must be understood, are anti-Semitism is discrimination against or prejudice or hostility toward Jews, and success is quantitative proof using the number of films released, the number of employees, and the budget of
the Third Reich’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, along with the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
Vladimir Lenin said “A lie told often enough becomes the truth,” and
Goebbels told plenty of lies to assist with the racist ideology where Jews were seen as “parasitic vermin worthy only of eradication” (United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2013). Without remorse or question Goebbels assisted his Fürher and the other Nazi leaders as Jews were slated for destruction: the sick, the healthy, the rich, the poor, the religiously orthodox, converts to Christianity, the aged, the young . . . and even infants. Using the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Goebbels along with directors such as Leni Riefenstahl (one of the most famous female directors in history), Fritz Hippler, and Veit Harlan, made film propaganda that promoted Hitler as a leader who embraced and enjoyed his role as he was worshiped by the citizens of Germany and the countries he enslaved, while at the same time promoting anti-Semitic beliefs of “the Reich”
(Carruthers, 2012). The films created to promote anti-Semitic feelings have been considered by many like Holloman Air Force Base (NM) Historian James
Burrett to be “some of the most disgusting and repulsive films designed for no other use than to create hatred and eradicate a race of people from the face of the earth”.
Through the Nazi years in Germany, film propaganda had the highest priority for Hitler and Goebbels--even under the severe conditions of the last few years of World War II (Albuquerque, 2007). The cinema was so important to the Nazi war effort that they continued to operate until the end of the German war effort. In Berlin during the last days of the Third Reich, anti-aircraft units were reported to have been posted with orders to protect the local cinemas (Burrett, 2013). At the time of the rise of the Third Reich, the German film