All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to." Thus wrote Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, while serving a prison sentence in the Bavarian capital of Munich following an aborted coup that he had attempted in the fall of 1923 -- known in history as the "The Beer Hall Putsch." Another decade was to pass before the former corporal and failed artist was to capture power and become the unchallenged dictator of Germany but the blueprint of his ideology and modus operandi were already defined at that early stage of his political career. Although the failure of the coup attempt by Hitler and a handful of his supporters had at the time looked like the end of the political career of the "Austrian upstart," Hitler's clever use of propaganda at his public trial made the failure the start of his ascent to power. This paper examines Hitler's ideology and the use of propaganda employed by him and the Nazis for the fulfillment of their objectives with particular reference to the events surrounding the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.
Hitler outlined his political ideology in his political autobiography, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) that was dictated to his secretary Rudolf Hess while serving a five-year sentence in a Bavarian prison in 1924. It was based on the concept (or myth) of the racial superiority of the German race, a form of social Darwinism in which a superior German / Aryan race was destined to rule over the inferior races, namely the Jews, the Slavic and the Gypsies; the concept of Lebensraum (living space) that the German race needed for expansion in the East, and the mobilization and creation of racial awareness among the masses through propaganda. The ideology also called for the rule of a strong, all-powerful dictator and the use of force for conquering the vast territories required for the German expansion.
The Nazi Racial Theory
Hitler believed that the whole history of mankind was a story of a struggle between races ("All that is not race in this world is trash." 406) and stated that mankind can be divided into three types of races: culture-founders, culture-bearers, and the culture-destroyers. (Hitler 398) He considered the Aryan race to be the most superior: "Everything that today we admire on this earth -- science and art, technique and inventions -- is only the creative product of a few peoples and perhaps originally of one race [the Aryans]." (Ibid. 396) Hitler placed races such as the Japanese and other Asiatic races in the category of "culture-bearers" who in his view were dependant on the creative inventions of the "culture-bearers" for their development. He put the Jews in the last category of "culture-destroyers" and directed all his hatred towards them, considering them sub-human and worthy only of subjugation or even extermination. According to Hitler the inferior races actually benefited from being conquered and coming in contact with the superior Aryan race, but the Jews prevented the Aryans from assuming their rightful place as the "master race" and the rulers of the world through a worldwide conspiracy. He believed that the "Jews form the strongest contrast to Aryans" (Ibid. 412) and held them responsible for hatching conspiracies to prevent the Aryan race from recognizing itself as the master race by introducing theories of equality and liberalism. Nazi propaganda dug out various Jews from history and attributed all theories and actions that the Nazi ideology abhorred to them. For example, St. Paul (in Nazi literature he is called "the Jew Paul") is held responsible for spreading the concept of "equality" among the Christians to benefit the "sub-human Jews"; the Portuguese Jew Ricardo, the "father of classical national economics," is termed "the prophet of the liberal economic theory of free trade and economic piracy." Hitler's hatred of the Jews is more than just anti-Semitism. He used his vicious propaganda campaign against the Jews to paint them as scapegoats for all the misfortunes of his country. It was a psychological ploy to channel the energies of the German people and to "unite them in hatred." The Jewish question was also used as an issue by Hitler to instill a sense of superiority in the German people, believing it to be necessary for its "reawakening." The campaign against Jews was also the implementation of Hitler's theory that the masses must not have two or more enemies put before them, to avoid the "dissipation of their fighting strength"; they needed to focus their attention on a single major enemy -- the parasitic Jew. However, Hitler's poisonous propaganda against the Jews was no mere theorizing, as the holocaust and mass extermination during the war proves.
The second major part of the Nazi ideology was the demand for Lebensraum or the need for living room for the future of the Volk. In the Nazi Party program, adopted in1920, the third point states: "We demand land and territory for the nourishment of our people and for settling our surplus population." (Quoted by Bullock 316) The demand went far beyond the uniting of German territory to pre-World War I levels. One of the reasons for Hitler's desire for the eastern expansion of the German border was his obsession to re-unite Austria (the place of his birth) with Germany. The other was the need to find room for increasing German population that had undergone rapid expansion in the second half of 19th century. Hitler argues in Mein Kampf that there were four possible answers to the problem of the expanding population: population control, the intensified development of Germany's existing territories, commercial expansion overseas on the model of England, or the continental policy of territorial expansion eastwards, seeking "living room" for Germany in Eastern Europe and the rich plains of Poland, Ukraine, and Russia. Hitler categorically rejected the first two as "defeatist" while he considered the third option as being against the genius of the German people. That left him with the option of Lebensraum through conquering of the Eastern Europe. In his determination to pursue the option of expansion, Hitler was following up on an old German dream of "civilizing" the people living to the East and the continuation of the ancient German struggle against the Slavs. (Bullock 317) It is remarkable (and perhaps a reflection of Hitler's fanaticism) that he carried out most of ideological theories outlined in Mein Kampf to a "T" when he got into power. His all out attack on Russia in the summer of 1941, looking for the "living space" for the Germans in the east that he had always advocated, is a prime example of his tenacious resolve as well as his sheer audacity.
Propaganda: the Means to an End
Propaganda was a major part of Hitler's ideology. He always considered it an essential part of politics and the Nazi's effective use of propaganda as a "means to an end" took it to levels that approached an art form. Many people give credit for Nazi propaganda to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, for starting the Nazi propaganda. Although it is true that Goebbels did a brilliant job of organizing propaganda for the party at a later stage, it was Hitler himself who had been convinced about the importance of propaganda at an early stage of the movement, even before Goebbels had joined the Nazi Party. Hitler has devoted two whole chapters to the subject of propaganda in "Mein Kampf." In fact, while most of Hitler's political ideology is unoriginal having been picked up from the radical, Pan-German gutter politics and the anti-Semitic press that he had come across as a youth in Vienna, his views on how to create a mass-movement by employing propaganda are far more original, even brilliant. (Ibid. 44)
Moving the Masses
Hitler understood that to become a leader one had to "move the masses." He observes in Mein Kempf: "Whoever wishes to win over the masses must know the key that will open the door to their hearts. It is not objectivity, which is a feckless attitude, but a determined will, backed up by power where necessary." (283) Hitler realized very early on in his political career that the best way to influence the masses was through the use of propaganda. Again, writing in Mein Kampf he acknowledges: "After my joining the German Workers' Party, I immediately took over the management of the propaganda. I considered this section by far the most important.
Propaganda had to precede far in advance of the organization." (846)
Hitler also had a fair idea on how to go about imparting propaganda:
The great masses' receptive ability is only very limited, their understanding is small, but their forgetfulness is great. As a consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda has to limit itself only to a very few points and to use them like slogans until even the very last man is able to imagine what is intended by such…