10/22/07 - "I want to know nothing"

In today's excerpt - the propaganda of Joseph Goebbels after the Nazis ascend to power in 1933. The German people, far from being compliant masses under the sway of Goebbels' propaganda, are instead discontent—and the Nazi party must eliminate elections and move increasingly to force to carry out its agenda:

"The simplistic cliche, which sees the Germans as having been won over to Hitler's regime by the triumphs of work creation, is simply not borne out by the evidence. ... There were still millions of unemployed, many of whom had known nothing other than poverty for years. ... The apparent inability of the [Nazi] regime to guarantee either stable prices or a regular supply of daily necessities, including food and clothing, was deeply disconcerting. According to Gestapo reports, the popular mood in the autumn of 1934 was apathetic and gloomy. ... As one report commented: 'The housewives in the markets still hold their tongues. But if one of them protests—which happens quite often—nobody contradicts her.' ... Even if the Nazi recovery did bring some jobs and relief from dire poverty, it was still some way from the return to 'normality' for which the Germans really yearned. ...

"By the end of 1934, Joseph Goebbels, the Minister for Propaganda, who is commonly credited with an almost magical degree of control over the German population, was deeply frustrated by the public mood. The national campaign against 'critics and rubbishers', which he had launched with his anti-Semitic tirade of 1934, had not gone well. In many parts of the country, meetings were so ill-attended that the whole programme had to be quietly shelved. In other areas, local government complained that Goebbels' super-heated rhetoric actually served to agitate the population, alerting them to the full extent of the currency crisis. ... In the first of a series of Reich Press Days on November 18, 1934, Goebbels gave a remarkably frank assessment of his strategy in response to this new mood of apathy and depression. The Minister was clearly fed up with the never-ending obsession with the petty inconveniences of everyday life. What was needed was not grumbling, but a resolute focus on the higher ambitions of the regime. It was the task of the regime to cast the mundane difficulties of everyday life in the golden glow of the higher ideal. Goebbels himself wanted no more reports on the gloomy state of public opinion. 'I want to hear nothing, I want to see nothing, I want to know nothing. ... I know what is going, on but you don't need to tell me about it. Don't ruin my nerves. I need my confidence to be able to work.' "


Adam Tooze


The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy


Penguin Books


Copyright 2006 by Adam Tooze


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