|First World War||Second World War||The Cold War|
Goebbels was under five feet tall with a bad limp caused by a bone operation as a child and in 1914 was rejected by the German Army. It was later claimed that he spent the next two days crying hysterically in his room.
Goebbels spent the next ten years writing novels, plays and poems. When he failed to find a publisher for his work he developed the theory that this was because the publishing companies were owned by Jews. He was also rejected as a reporter by the newspaper Berliner Tageblatt. Goebbels joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) in 1926. Goebbels described one of their first meetings with Adolf Hitler in his diary: "Shakes my hand. Like an old friend. And those big blue eyes. Like stars. He is glad to see me. I am in heaven. That man has everything to be king."
Hitler admired Goebbels' abilities as a writer and speaker. They shared an interest in propaganda and together they planned how the NSDAP would win the support of the German people. He edited Der Angriff (The Attack) and used the daily newspaper to promote the idea of German nationalism.
In 1928 Goebbels, Hermann Goering and ten other members of the Nazi Party were elected to the Reichstag. Soon afterwards Goebbels became the party's Propaganda Leader. Hitler was impressed by Goebbels work. He wrote in 1930: "Years ago I dispatched you, dear Dr. Goebbels, to the most difficult post in the Reich, in hopes that your energy and vigor would succeed in creating a tight, unified organization. You have fulfilled this task in such a way that you are assured of the movement's gratitude and my own highest recognition."
When Adolf Hitler became chancellor in January, 1933, he appointed Goebbels as Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Congenital birth defects was a disqualification for high office and so he told people his limp was the result of a wound suffered while fighting in the First World War.
H. Dobhenysk, A Pure-Blooded Aryan, Chicago Daily News (1937)
Albert Speer later commented on Goebbels relationship with Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering: "After 1933 there quickly formed various rival factions that held divergent views, spied on each other, and held each other in contempt. A mixture of scorn and dislike became the prevailing mood within the party. Each new dignitary rapidly gathered a circle of intimates around him. Thus Himmler associated almost exclusively with his SS following, from whom he could count on unqualified respect. Goering also had his band of uncritical admirers, consisting partly of members of his family, partly of his closest associates and adjutants. Goebbels felt at ease in the company of literary and movie people. Hess occupied himself with problems of homeopathic medicine, loved chamber music, and had screwy but interesting acquaintances. As an intellectual Goebbels looked down on the crude philistines of the leading group in Munich, who for their part made fun of the conceited academic's literary ambitions. Goering considered neither the Munich philistines nor Goebbels sufficiently aristocratic for him and therefore avoided all social relations with them; whereas Himmler, filled with the elitist missionary zeal of the SS felt far superior to all the others."
Ernst Hanfstaengel blamed Goebbels for being a bad influence on Adolf Hitler. "The evil genius of the second half of Hitler's career was Goebbels. I always likened this mocking, jealous, vicious, satanically gifted dwarf to the pilot-fish of the Hitler shark. It was he who finally turned Hitler fanatically against all established institutions and forms of authority. He was not only schizophrenic but schizopedic, and that was what made him so sinister."
During the Second World War Goebbels played an important role in building up hatred for the allies. He had little confidence in the abilities of other ministers in the government and made attempts to have Joachim von Ribbentrop dismissed from office.
Goebbels encouraged Hitler to invade the Soviet Union. He wrote in July 1941: "The Führer thinks that the action will take only 4 months; I think - even less. Bolshevism will collapse as a house of cards. We are facing an unprecedented victorious campaign. Cooperation with Russia was in fact a stain on our reputation. Now it is going to be washed out. The very thing we were struggling against for our whole lives, will now be destroyed. I tell this to the Führer and he agrees with me completely."
Goebbels also advocated terror bombing of Britain: "He (Hitler) said he would repeat these raids night after night until the English were sick and tired of terror attacks. He shares my opinion absolutely that cultural centres, health resorts and civilian resorts must be attacked now. There is no other way of bringing the English to their senses. They belong to a class of human beings with whom you can only talk after you have first knocked out their teeth."
When the Red Army made advances into Nazi Germany, Hitler invited Goebbels and his family to move into his Fuehrerbunker. On 1st May, 1945, Joseph Goebbels, his wife and six children, committed suicide.
(1) Joseph Goebbels, diary entry (24th March, 1933)
The Leader (Adolf Hitler) delivers an address to the German Reichstag. He is in good form. His speech is that of an expert statesman. Many in the House see him for the first time, and are much impressed by his demeanour. The leader of the Socialists, Wels, actually returns a reply which is one long woeful tale of one who arrives too late. All we have accomplished the Social Democrats had wanted to do. Now they complain of terrorism and injustice. When Wels ends, the Leader mounts the platform and demolishes him. Never before has anyone been so thoroughly defeated. The Leader speaks freely and well. The House in in an uproar of applause, laughter, and enthusiasm. An incredible success!
The Zentrum (Centre Party) and even the Party of the State (Staatspartei), affirm the law of authorization. It is valid for four years and guarantees freedom of action to the Government. It is accepted by a majority of four to five; only the Socialists vote against it. Now we are also constitutionally masters of the Reich.
(2) Joseph Goebbels, diary entry (1st April, 1933)
The boycott against the international atrocity propaganda has burst forth in full force in Berlin and the whole Reich. I drive along the Tauentzien Street in order to observe the situation. All Jewish businesses are closed. SA men are posted outside their entrances. The public has everywhere proclaimed its solidarity. The discipline is exemplary. An imposing performance! It all takes place in complete quiet; in the Reich too.
In the afternoon 150,000 Berlin workers marched to the Lustgarten, to join us in the protest against the incitement abroad. There is indescribable excitement in the air. The press is already operating in total unanimity. The boycott is a great moral victory for Germany. We have shown the world abroad that we can call up the entire nation without thereby causing the least turbulence or excesses. The Fuhrer has once more struck the right note. At midnight the boycott will be broken off by our own decision. We are now waiting for the resultant echo in the foreign press and propaganda.
(3) Ernst Hanfstaengel, Hitler: The Missing Years (1957)
The evil genius of the second half of Hitler's career was Goebbels. I always likened this mocking, jealous, vicious, satanically gifted dwarf to the pilot-fish of the Hitler shark. It was he who finally turned Hitler fanatically against all established institutions and forms of authority. He was not only schizophrenic but schizopedic, and that was what made him so sinister.
Even Magda, whom he led a dog's life, was not spared his complexes. He had a private cinema-show in his house one time, and just as he was on his way out, up some highly polished wooden steps, to stand and greet his guests as they left, he slipped on his club foot and all but fell down. Magna managed to save him and pull him up beside her. After a moment to recover and before the whole company, he gripped her by the back of the neck and forced her right down to his knee and said, with that sort of mad laughter, "So, you saved my life that time. That seems to please you a lot." Anyone who did not witness the scene would never believe it, but those who did caught their breath at the depth of character depravity it revealed.
(4) Adolf Hitler, letter to Joseph Goebbels (30th April, 1930)
Years ago I dispatched you, dear Dr. Goebbels, to the most difficult post in the Reich, in hopes that your energy and vigor would succeed in creating a tight, unified organization. You have fulfilled this task in such a way that you are assured of the movement's gratitude and my own highest recognition. Today I must ask you, in pursuit of this same task, to carry out the most ruthless purge of the party. You have behind you the entire organization of the movement, the entire leadership staff, the entire SA and SS, all representatives of the party and against you a half dozen professional malcontents and literary types!
(5) In March 1945 Joseph Goebbels wrote about the decision to kill Ernst Roehm in 1934.
I point out to the Führer at length that in 1934 we unfortunately failed to reform the Wehrmacht when we had an opportunity of doing so. What Roehm wanted was, of course, right in itself but in practice it could not be carried through by a homosexual and an anarchist. Had Roehm been an upright solid personality, in all probability some hundred generals rather than some hundred SA leaders would have been shot on 30 June. The whole course of events was profoundly tragic and today we are feeling its effects. In that year the time was ripe to revolutionise the Reichswehr. As things were the Führer was unable to seize the opportunity. It is questionable whether today we can ever make good what we missed doing at that time. I am very doubtful of it. Nevertheless the attempt must be made.
(6) Conference on the Jewish Question between Hermann Goering, Reinhard Heydrich and Joseph Goebbels (12th November 1938)
Reinhard Heydreich: In almost all German cities synagogues are burned. New, various possibilities exist to utilize the space where the synagogues stood. Some cities want to build parks in their place, others want to put up new buildings.
Hermann Goering: How many synagogues were actually burned?
Reinhard Heydreich: Altogether there are 101 synagogues destroyed by fire, 76 synagogues demolished, and 7,500 stores ruined in the Reich.
Hermann Goering: What do you mean "destroyed by fire"?
Reinhard Heydreich: Partly they are razed, and partly gutted.
Joseph Goebbels: I am of the opinion that this is our chance to dissolve the synagogues. All those not completely intact shall be razed by the Jews. The Jews shall pay for it. There in Berlin, the Jews are ready to do that. The synagogues which burned in Berlin are being leveled by the Jews themselves. We shall build parking lots in their places or new buildings. That ought to be the criterion for the whole country, the Jews shall have to remove the damaged or burned synagogues, and shall have to provide us with ready free space. I deem it necessary to issue a decree forbidding the Jews to enter German theaters, movie houses and circuses. I have already issued such a decree under the authority of the law of the chamber for culture. Considering the present situation of the theaters, I believe we can afford that. Our theaters are overcrowded, we have hardly any room. I am of the opinion that it is not possible to have Jews sitting next to Germans in varieties, movies and theaters. One might consider, later on, to let the Jews have one or two movie houses here in Berlin, where they may see Jewish movies. But in German theaters they have no business anymore. Furthermore, I advocate that the Jews be eliminated from all positions in public life in which they may prove to be provocative. It is still possible today that a Jew shares a compartment in a sleeping car with a German. Therefore, we need a decree by the Reich Ministry for Communications stating that separate compartments for Jews shall be available; in cases where compartments are filled up, Jews cannot claim a seat. They shall be given a separate compartment only after all Germans have secured seats. They shall not mix with Germans, and if there is no more room, they shall have to stand in the corridor.
Hermann Goering: In that case, I think it would make more sense to give them separate compartments.
Joseph Goebbels: Not if the train is overcrowded!
Hermann Goering: Just a moment. There'll be only one Jewish coach. If that is filled up, the other Jews will have to stay at home.
Joseph Goebbels: Furthermore, there ought to be a decree barring Jews from German beaches and resorts. Last summer.
Hermann Goering: Particularly here in the Admiralspalast very disgusting things have happened lately.
Joseph Goebbels: Also at the Wannsee beach. A law which definitely forbids the Jews to visit German resorts.
Hermann Goering: We could give them their own.
Joseph Goebbels: It would have to be considered whether we'd give them their own or whether we should turn a few German resorts over to them, but not the finest and the best, so we cannot say the Jews go there for recreation. It'll also have to be considered if it might not become necessary to forbid the Jews to enter the German forest. In the Grunewald, whole herds of them are running around. It is a constant provocation and we are having incidents all the time. The behavior of the Jews is so inciting and provocative that brawls are a daily routine.
Hermann Goering: We shall give the Jews a certain part of the forest, and the Alpers shall take care of it that various animals that look damned much like Jews -the elk has such a crooked nose - get there also and become acclimated.
(7) In his diary Joseph Goebbels recorded how he expected a quick victory in the Soviet Union (July 1941)
The Führer thinks that the action will take only 4 months; I think - even less. Bolshevism will collapse as a house of cards. We are facing an unprecedented victorious campaign.
Cooperation with Russia was in fact a stain on our reputation. Now it is going to be washed out. The very thing we were struggling against for our whole lives, will now be destroyed. I tell this to the Führer and he agrees with me completely.
(8) In his diary Joseph Goebbels recorded how Adolf Hitler had decided to increase the terror bombing attacks on Britain (25th April, 1942)
He said he would repeat these raids night after night until the English were sick and tired of terror attacks. He shares my opinion absolutely that cultural centres, health resorts and civilian resorts must be attacked now. There is no other way of bringing the English to their senses. They belong to a class of human beings with whom you can only talk after you have first knocked out their teeth.
(9) Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (1970)
After 1933 there quickly formed various rival factions that held divergent views, spied on each other, and held each other in contempt. A mixture of scorn and dislike became the prevailing mood within the party. Each new dignitary rapidly gathered a circle of intimates around him. Thus Himmler associated almost exclusively with his SS following, from whom he could count on unqualified respect. Goering also had his band of uncritical admirers, consisting partly of members of his family, partly of his closest associates and adjutants. Goebbels felt at ease in the company of literary and movie people. Hess occupied himself with problems of homeopathic medicine, loved chamber music, and had screwy but interesting acquaintances.
As an intellectual Goebbels looked down on the crude philistines of the leading group in Munich, who for their part made fun of the conceited academic's literary ambitions. Goering considered neither the Munich philistines nor Goebbels sufficiently aristocratic for him and therefore avoided all social relations with them; whereas Himmler, filled with the elitist missionary zeal of the SS felt far superior to all the others. Hitler, too, had his retinue, which went everywhere with him. Its membership, consisting of chauffeurs, the photographer, his pilot, and secretaries, remained always the same.
(10) Joseph Goebbels, diary (7th March, 1945)
Himmler has had a bad attack of angina but is now on the mend. He gives me a slightly frail impression. Nevertheless we were able to have a long talk about all outstanding questions. In general Himmler's attitude is good. He is one of our strongest personalities. During our two-hour discussion I established that we are in complete agreement in our estimate of the general situation so that I need hardly refer to that. He used strong language about Goring and Ribbentrop, whom he regards as the two main sources of error in our general conduct of the war, and in this he is absolutely right. But he has no more idea than I how to persuade the Führer to cut loose from them both and replace them with fresh strong personalities. I told him of my last interview but one with the Führer, whose attention I had drawn to the fact that retention of Goring in particular is threatening to lead to a crisis of state, if it has not already done so. Himmler enquired in detail how the Führer had reacted to these remarks. The Führer was indeed much impressed but for the moment he has not drawn the consequences.
As far as the front is concerned Himmler is extremely worried, particularly about developments in Pomerania and the West. At present, however, he is even more worried about the food situation, the outlook for which is pretty gloomy over the next few months. The morale of the troops has undoubtedly been affected. This Himmler admits on the basis of his experience with Army Group Vistula. Another factor is that neither in the military nor the civilian sector have we strong central leadership because everything has to be referred to the Führer and that can only be done in a small number of cases.
In every field Goring and Ribbentrop are obstacles to successful conduct of the war. But what can one do? One cannot, after all, actually force the Führer to divorce himself from them. Himmler summarises the situation correctly when he says that his mind tells him that we have little hope of winning the war militarily but instinct tells him that sooner or later some political opening will emerge to swing it in our favour. Himmler thinks this more likely in the West than the East. He thinks that England will come to her senses, which I rather doubt. As his remarks show, Himmler is entirely Western-oriented; from the East he expects nothing whatsoever. I still think that something is more likely to be achieved in the East since Stalin seems to me more realistic than the trigger-happy Anglo-American (Roosevelt).
(11) Joseph Goebbels, diary (13th March, 1945)
This evening's Mosquito raid was particularly disastrous for me because our Ministry was hit. The whole lovely building on the Wilhelmstrasse was totally destroyed by a bomb. The throne-room, the Blue Gallery and my newly rebuilt theatre hall are nothing but a heap of ruins. I drove straight to the Ministry to see the devastation for myself. One's heart aches to see so unique a product of the architect's art, such as this building was, totally flattened in a second. What trouble we have taken to reconstruct the theatre hall, the throne-room and the Blue Gallery in the old style! With what care have we chosen every fresco on the walls and every piece of furniture! And now it has all been given over to destruction. In addition fire has now broken out in the ruins, bringing with it an even greater risk since 500 bazooka missiles are stored underneath the burning wreckage. I do my utmost to get the fire brigade to the scene as quickly and in as great strength as possible, so as at least to prevent the bazooka missiles exploding.
As I do all this I am overcome with sadness. It is 12 years to the day - 13 March - since I entered this Ministry as Minister. It is the worst conceivable omen for the next twelve years.
The Führer telephones me immediately after the raid on the Ministry. He too is very sad that it has now hit me. So far we have been lucky even during the heaviest raids on Berlin. Now, however, we have lost not only a possession but an anxiety. In future I need no longer tremble for the Ministry.
All those present at the fire voiced only scorn and hatred for Goring. All were asking repeatedly why the Führer does not at last do something definite about him and the Luftwaffe.
The Führer than asks me over for a short visit. During the interview I have with him he is very impressed by my account of things. I give him a description of the devastation which is being wrought and tell him particularly of the increasing fury of the Mosquito raids which take place every evening. I cannot prevent myself voicing sharp criticism of Goring and the Luftwaffe. But it is always the same story when one talks to the Fuhrer on this subject. He explains the reasons for the decay of the Luftwaffe, but he cannot make up his mind to draw the consequences therefrom. He tells me that after the recent interviews he had with him Goring was a broken man. But what is the good of that! I can have no sympathy with him. If he did lose his nerve somewhat after his recent clash with the Führer, that is but a small punishment for the frightful misery he has brought and is still bringing on the German people.
I beg the Führer yet again to take action at last, since things cannot go on like this. We ought not, after all, to send our people to their doom because we do not possess the strength of decision to root out the cause of our misfortune. The Führer tells me that new fighters and bombers are now under construction, of which he has certain hopes. But we have heard it so often before that we can no longer bring ourselves to place much hope in such statements. In any case it is now plenty late - not to say too late - to anticipate any decisive effect from such measures.
(12) Joseph Goebbels, diary (30th March, 1945)
It is truly saddening to me to see the Führer in such a bad physical state. He tells me that he is hardly sleeping at all, is continually plunged in his work and that he is being totally worn down in the long run by continually having to prop up his feeble characterless staff. I can imagine that this must be a worrying laborious process. I am really sorry for the Führer when I see him in his present physical and mental state. Nevertheless I cannot abandon my demand that he speak to the people as soon as possible. He must call off one or two conferences for a day or two. The most important thing is that he should reconsolidate the people; I can do the rest.
(13) Joseph Goebbels, guidelines issued to German newspapers on 3rd April, 1933.
(1) The entire German news and propaganda policy must now be devoted exclusively to re-establishing and increasing the power of resistance, the war effort and fighting morale both at the front and at home. To achieve this aim all resources must be harnessed to produce a direct and indirect impact on readers and audiences. Anything which can be detrimental to this aim or runs counter to it, even only passively, can have no place in press or radio in these decisive days of our fateful struggle. Anything which contributes to the achievement of this great purpose should be expressly promoted and henceforth be a central feature of our newscasting.
(2) The main task of the press and radio is to make clear to the German people that our Western enemies are pursuing the same infamous purposes and the same devilish annihilation plans against the German people as are our Eastern enemies; the West is using ostensibly more civilised methods only to deceive the German people and entrap the feeble-minded. The brutal Anglo-American air war is sufficient proof of our Western enemies' bestiality and shows that all their ostensibly conciliatory phrases are mere camouflage designed to paralyse the German people in their stubborn defence of their right to exist. Our task is to point out again and again that Churchill and Roosevelt are just as merciless as Stalin and will ruthlessly carry out their plans for annihilation should the German people ever give way and submit to the enemy yoke.
(3) Deeds of heroism at the front and at home should be given priority and embellished with comment. They should not be presented as isolated examples but should act as a stimulus for everybody and a challenge to the whole nation to emulate these shining examples of the struggle for our freedom.
(4) The cultural section of our newspapers is not to become a little bourgeois refuge for war-weary brothers. These columns too must use every method to assist in reinforcing our national resistance and our war morale. The particular job of the cultural editor is to express in lofty varied language what has been said in the political section on the military and political struggle of the day. In these weeks superficial intellectual vapourings, divorced from the war as if it was "far away in Turkey", have no justification for appearance. A plethora of tasks and multifarious possibilities are now open to the cultural editor. Discussion of Clausewitz' writings, descriptions of the Second Punic War, comments on Mommsen's Roman History, dissertations on Frederick the Great's letters and writings, the careers of great warlike geniuses all through human history - these are only a few indications of the new tasks which will do more to promote our purpose than innocent entertaining anecdotes without political or moral content.
(5) The local sections of our newspapers must subordinate themselves to these requirements. No measures of communal or local significance issuing from Party, State or Wehrmacht should be presented to the reader without simultaneously impressing upon him forcibly that our struggle for existence requires the mobilisation of all forces and the expenditure of all reserves of manpower and morale. Any sacrifice in the interests of the war, however small and mundane, serves to concentrate our forces and increase our capacity for resistance and must be explained to thereader in this sense.
(14) Joseph Goebbels, diary (8th April, 1945)
The first use of our suicide fighters has not produced the success hoped for. The reason given is that the enemy bomber formations did not fly concentrated so that they had to be attacked individually. In addition our suicide fighters encountered such heavy defensive fire from enemy fighters that only in a few cases were they able to ram. But we must not lose courage as a result. This is only an initial trial which is to be repeated in the next few days, hopefully with better results.
The situation at the front has never been so bad. We have to all intents and purposes lost Vienna. The enemy has penetrated deep into Konigsberg. The Anglo-Americans are not far from Braunschweig and Bremen. In short, on the map the Reich looks like a small strip running from Norway to Lake Comacchio. We have lost the most important areas of food supply and arms potential. The Führer must now launch our offensive in Thuringia as quickly as possible to give us room to breathe. In any case, with the potential available to us, we shall not be able to breathe much longer.
(15) Joseph Goebbels, letter to his stepson Harald Quandt (28th April, 1945)
We are now confined to the Führer's bunker in the Reich Chancellery and are fighting for our lives and our honour. God alone knows what the outcome of this battle will be. I know, however, that we shall only come out of it, dead or alive, with honour and glory. I hardly think that we shall see each other again. Probably, therefore, these are the last lines you will ever receive from me. I expect from you that, should you survive this war, you will do nothing but honour your mother and me. It is not essential that we remain alive in order to continue to influence our people. You may well be the only one able to continue our family tradition. Always act in such a way that we need not be ashamed of it.
Germany will survive this fearful war but only if examples are set to our people enabling them to stand on their feet again. We wish to set such an example. You may be proud of having such a mother as yours. Yesterday the Führer gave her the Golden Party Badge which he has worn on his tunic for years and she deserved it. You should have only one duty in future: to show yourself worthy of the supreme sacrifice which we are ready and determined to make. I know that you will do it. Do not let yourself be disconcerted by the worldwide clamour which will now begin. One day the lies will crumble away of themselves and truth will triumph once more. That will be the moment when we shall tower over all, clean and spotless, as we have always striven to be and believed ourselves to be.
Farewell, my dear Harald. Whether we shall ever see each other again is in the lap of the gods. If we do not, may you always be proud of having belonged to a family which, even in misfortune, remained loyal to the very end to the Führer and his pure sacred cause.
(16) Ralf Georg Reuth, Goebbels (1993)
It was Magda who saw to the murder of her own children. She had already conferred several times with the SS doctors Ludwig Stumpfegger and Helmut Gustav Kunz of the Reich Chancellery staff about how the children could be killed quickly and painlessly. Now, on the afternoon of 1st May, she had Kunz sent to her in the bunker. The decision had been made, she told him, and Goebbels thanked him for helping his wife "put the children to sleep." Around 8:40 p.m. Kunz gave the children morphine injections. He left the room with the three sets of bunk beds and waited with Magda Goebbels until the children were asleep. Then she asked him to give them the poison. Kunz refused, however, and was then sent by Magda Goebbels to fetch Stumpfegger. When Kunz came back with him, Magda was already in the children's room. Stumpfegger joined her there, and came back out with her after four or five minutes. In all likelihood she herself had broken the glass cyanide capsules, which she had received from Dr. Morell, in the mouths of Helga, Hilde, Helmut, Holde, Hedda, and Heide.
Filled with fear of death, Goebbels was chain-smoking, his face covered with red blotches. Apparently still hoping for a miracle, he kept asking about the military situation. When time ran short, and the Soviets could be expected to storm the bunker at any moment, he made his adjutant Schwagermann promise to cremate both his and his wife's bodies. Then he took leave of those remaining in the bunker. He was clearly struggling to maintain his composure, which he tried to demonstrate with all sorts of bathetic flourishes. "Tell Donitz," he is reported to have instructed the chief pilot of Hitler's squadron, "that we understood not only how to live and to fight but also how to die."
The last details regarding the deaths of Joseph and Magda Goebbels will probably always remain unclear. It is certain that they poisoned themselves with cyanide, but it is not known whether Goebbels also shot himself in the head. Nor do we know whether they died in the bunker or outside at the emergency exit, where the Soviets found their bodies.