Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
Volume One - A Reckoning
Chapter VI: War Propaganda
EVER since I have been scrutinizing political events, I have
taken a tremendous interest in propagandist activity. I saw that the Socialist-Marxist
organizations mastered and applied this instrument with astounding skill.
And I soon realized that the correct use of propaganda is a true art which
has remained practically unknown to the bourgeois parties. Only the Christian-Social
movement, especially in Lueger's time, achieved a certain virtuosity on
this instrument, to which it owed many of its successes.
But it was not until the War that it became evident what immense
results could be obtained by a correct application of propaganda. Here again,
unfortunately, all our studying had to be done on the enemy side, for the
activity on our side was modest, to say the least. The total miscarriage
of the German 'enlightenment ' service stared every soldier in the face,
and this spurred me to take up the question of propaganda even more deeply
There was often more than enough time for thinking, and the
enemy offered practical instruction which, to our sorrow, was only too good.
For what we failed to do, the enemy did, with amazing skill
and really brilliant calculation. I, myself, learned enormously from this
enemy war propaganda. But time passed and left no trace in the minds of
all those who should have benefited; partly because they considered themselves
too clever to from the enemy, partly owing to lack of good will.
Did we have anything you could call propaganda?
I regret that I must answer in the negative. Everything that
actually was done in this field was so inadequate and wron
from the very start that it certainly did no good and sometimes did actual
The form was inadequate, the substance was psychologically wrong:
a careful examination of German war propaganda ca: lead to no other diagnosis.
There seems to have been no clarity on the very first question:
Is propaganda a means or an end?
It is a means and must therefore be judged with regard to its
end. It must consequently take a form calculated to support the aim which
it serves. It is also obvious that its aim can vary in importance from the
standpoint of general need, and that the inner value of the propaganda will
vary accordingly. The aim for which we were fighting the War was the loftiest,
the most overpowering, that man can conceive: it was the freedom and independence
of our nation, the security of our future food supply, and-our national
honor; a thing which, despite all contrary opinions prevailing today, nevertheless
exists, or rather should exist, since peoples without honor have sooner
or later lost their freedom and independence, which in turn is only the
result of a higher justice, since generations of rabble without honor deserve
no freedom. Any man who wants to be a cowardly slave can have no honor)
or honor itself would soon fall into general contempt.
The German nation was engaged in a struggle for a human existence,
and the purpose of war propaganda should have been to support this struggle;
its aim to help bring about victory.
When the nations on this planet fight for existence-when the
question of destiny, 'to be or not to be,' cries out for a solution-then
all considerations of humanitarianism or aesthetics crumble into nothingness;
for all these concepts do not float about in the ether, they arise from
man's imagination and are bound up with man. When he departs from this world,
these concepts are again dissolved into nothingness, for Nature does not
know them. And even among mankind, they belong only to a few nations or
rather races, and this in proportion as they emanate from the feeling of
the nation or race in question. Humanitarianism and aesthetics would vanish
even from a world inhabited by man if this world were to lose the races
that have created and upheld these concepts.
But all such concepts become secondary when a nation is fighting
for its existence; in fact, they become totally irrelevant to the forms
of the struggle as soon as a situation arises where they might paralyze
a struggling nation's power of selfpreservation. And that has always been
their only visible result.
As for humanitarianism, Moltke said years ago that in war it
lies in the brevity of the operation, and that means that the most aggressive
fighting technique is the most humane.
But when people try to approach these questions with drivel
about aesthetics, etc., really only one answer is possible: where the destiny
and existence of a people are at stake, all obligation toward beauty ceases.
The most unbeautiful thing there can be in human life is and remains the
yoke of slavery. Or do these Schwabing 2 decadents view the present lot
of the German people as 'aesthetic'? Certainly we don't have to discuss
these matters with the Jews, the most modern inventors of this cultural
perfume. Their whole existence is an embodied protest against the aesthetics
of the Lord's image.
And since these criteria of humanitarianism and beauty must
be eliminated from the struggle, they are also inapplicable to propaganda.
Propaganda in the War was a means to an end, and the end wvas
the struggle for the existence of the German people; consequently, propaganda
could only be considered in accordance with the principles that were valid
for this struggle. In this case the most cruel weapons were humane if they
brought about a quicker victory; and only those methods were beautiful which
helped the nation to safeguard the dignity of its freedom.
This was the only possible attitude toward war propaganda in
a life-and-death struggle like ours.
If the so-called responsible authorities had been clear on this
point, they would never have fallen into such uncertainty over the form
and application of this weapon: for even propaganda is no more than a weapon,
though a frightful one in the hand of an expert.
The second really decisive question was this: To whom should
propaganda be addressed? To the scientifically trained intelligentsia or
to the less educated masses?
It must be addressed always and exclusively to the masses.
What the intelligentsia-or those who today unfortunately often
go by that name-what they need is not propaganda but scientific instruction.
The content of propaganda is not science any more than the object represented
in a poster is art. The art of the poster lies in the designer's ability
to attract the attention of the crowd by form and color. A poster advertising
an art exhibit must direct the attention of the public to the art being
exhibited; the better it succeeds in this, the greater is the art of the
poster itself. The poster should give the masses an idea of the significance
of the exhibition, it should not be a substitute for the art on display.
Anyone who wants to concern himself with the art itself must do more than
study the poster; and it will not be enough for him just to saunter through
the exhibition. We may expect him to examine and immerse himself in the
individual works, and thus little by little form a fair opinion.
A similar situation prevails with what we today call propaganda.
The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training
of the individual, but in calling the masses' attention to certain facts,
processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time
placed within their field of vision.
The whole art consists in doing this so skillfully that everyone
will be convinced that the fact is real, the process necessary, the necessity
correct, etc. But since propaganda is not and cannot be the necessity in
itself, since its function, like the poster, consists in attracting the
attention of the crowd, and not in educating those who are already educated
or who are striving after education and knowledge, its effect for the most
part must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at
the so-called intellect.
All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must
be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed
to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower
its purely intellectual level will have to be. But if, as in propaganda
for sticking out a war, the aim is to influence a whole people, we must
avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public, and too much caution
cannot be exerted in this direction.
The more modest its intellectual ballast, the more exclusively
it takes into consideration the emotions of the masses, the more effective
it will be. And this is the best proof of the soundness or unsoundness of
a propaganda campaign, and not success in pleasing a few scholars or young
The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas
of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form,
the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses. The
fact that our bright boys do not understand this merely shows how mentally
lazy and conceited they are.
Once we understand how necessary it is for propaganda to be adjusted to the broad mass, the following rule results:
It is a mistake to make propaganda many-sided, like scientific instruction,
The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence
is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these
facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and
must harp on these in sloans until the last member of the public understands
what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice
this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the
crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered. In this way the
result is weakened and in the end entirely cancelled out.
Thus we see that propaganda must follow a simple line and correspondingly the basic tactics must be psychologically sound.
For instance, it was absolutely wrong to make the enemy ridiculous, as the Austrian and German comic papers did. It was absolutely wrong because actual contact with an enemy soldier was bound to arouse an entirely different conviction, and the results were devastating; for now the German soldier, under the direct impression of the enemy's resistance, felt himself swindled by his propaganda service. His desire to fight, or even to stand film, was not strengthened, but the opposite occurred. His courage flagged.
By contrast, the war propaganda of the English and Americans
was psychologically sound. By representing the Germans to their own people
as barbarians and Huns, they prepared the individual soldier for the terrors
of war, and thus helped to preserve him from disappointments. After this,
the most terrible weapon that was used against him seemed only to confirm
what his propagandists had told him; it likewise reinforced his faith in
the truth of his government's assertions, while on the other hand it increased
his rage and hatred against the vile enemy For the cruel effects of the
weapon, whose use by the enemy he now came to know, gradually came to confirm
for him the 'Hunnish' brutality of the barbarous enemy, which he had heard
all about; and it never dawned on him for a moment that his own weapons
possibly, if not probably, might be even more terrible in their effects.
And so the English soldier could never feel that he had been
misinformed by his own countrymen, as unhappily was so much the case with
the German soldier that in the end he rejected everything coming from this
source as 'swindles' and 'bunk.' All this resulted from the idea that any
old simpleton (or even somebody who was intelligent ' in other things ')
could be assigned to propaganda work, and the failure to realize that the
most brilliant psychologists would have been none too good.
And so the German war propaganda offered an unparalleled example
of an 'enlightenment' service working in reverse, since any correct psychology
was totally lacking.
There was no end to what could be learned from the enemy by
a man who kept his eyes open, refused to let his perceptions be ossified,
and for four and a half years privately turned the stormflood of enemy propaganda
over in his brain.
What our authorities least of all understood was the very first
axiom of all propagandist activity: to wit, the basically subjective and
one-sided attitude it must take toward every question it deals with. In
this connection, from the very beginning of the War and from top to bottom,
such sins were committed that we were entitled to doubt whether so much
absurdity could really be attributed to pure stupidity alone.
What, for example, would we say about a poster that was supposed
to advertise a new soap and that described other soaps as 'good'?
We would only shake our heads.
Exactly the same applies to political advertising.
The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and
ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the
one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an
objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then
set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our
own right, always and unflinchingly.
It was absolutely wrong to discuss war-guilt from the standpoint
that Germany alone could not be held responsible for the outbreak of the
catastrophe; it would have been correct to load every bit of the blame on
the shoulders of the enemy, even if this had not really corresponded to
the true facts, as it actually did.
And what was the consequence of this halfheartedness?
The broad mass of a nation does not consist of diplomats, or
even professors of political law, or even individuals capable of forming
a rational opinion; it consists of plain mortals, wavering and inclined
to doubt and uncertainty. As soon as our own propaganda admits so much as
a glimmer of right on the other side, the foundation for doubt in our own
right has been laid. The masses are then in no position to distinguish where
foreign injustice ends and our own begins. In such a case they become uncertain
and suspicious, especially if the enemy refrains from going in for the same
nonsense, but unloads every bit of blame on his adversary. Isn't it perfectly
understandable that the whole country ends up by lending more credence to
enemy propaganda, which is more unified and coherent, than to its own? And
particularly a people that suffers from the mania of objectivity as much
as the Germans. For, after all this, everyone will take the greatest pains
to avoid doing the enemy any injustice, even at the peril of seriously besmirching
and even destroying his own people and country.
Of course, this was not the intent of the responsible authorities,
but the people never realize that.
The people in their overwhelming majority are so feminine by
nature and attitude that sober reasoning determines their thoughts and actions
far less than emotion and feeling. And this sentiment is not complicated,
but very simple and all of a piece. It does not have multiple shadings;
it has a positive and a negative; love or hate, right or wrong, truth or
lie never half this way and half that way, never partially, or that kind
English propagandists understood all this most brilliantly-and
acted accordingly. They made no half statements that might have given rise
Their brilliant knowledge of the primitive sentiments of the
broad masses is shown by their atrocity propaganda, which was adapted to
this condition. As ruthless as it was brilliant, it created the preconditions
for moral steadfastness at the front, even in the face of the greatest actual
defeats, and just as strikingly it pilloried the German enemy as the sole
guilty party for the outbreak of the War: the rabid, impudent bias and persistence
with which this lie was expressed took into account the emotional, always
extreme, attitude of the great masses and for this reason was believed.
How effective this type of propaganda was is most strikingly
shown by the fact that after four years of war it not only enabled the enemy
to stick to its guns, but even began to nibble at our own people.
It need not surprise us that our propaganda did not enjoy this
success. In its inner ambiguity alone, it bore the germ of ineffectualness.
And finally its content was such that it was very vunlikely to make the
necessary impression on the masses. Only our feather-brained 'statesmen'
could have dared to hope that this insipid pacifistic bilge could fire men's
spirits till they were willing to die.
As a result, their miserable stuff 1 was useless, even harmful
But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no
success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and
with unfiagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat
them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the
first and most important requirement for success.
Particularly in the field of propaganda, we must never let ourselves
be led by aesthetes or people who have grown blase: not by the former, because
the form and expression of our propaganda would soon, instead of being suitable
for the masses, have drawing power only for literary teas; and of the second
we must beware, because, lacking in any fresh emotion of their own, they
are always on the lookout for new stimulation. These people are quick to
weary of everything; they want variety, and they are never able to feel
or understand the needs of their fellow men who are not yet so callous.
They are always the first to criticize a propaganda campaign, or rather
its content, which seems to them too old-fashioned, too hackneyed, too out-of-date,
etc. They are always after novelty, in search of a change, and this makes
them mortal enemies of any effective political propaganda. For as soon as
the organization and the content of propaganda begin to suit their tastes,
it loses all cohesion and evaporates completely.
The purpose of propaganda is not to provide interesting distraction
for blase young gentlemen, but to convince, and what I mean is to convince
the masses. But the masses are slowmoving, and they always require a certain
time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and only after the simplest
ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses finally remember them.
When there is a change, it must not alter the content of what
the propaganda is driving at, but in the end must always say the same thing.
For instance, a slogan must be presented from different angles, but the
end of all remarks must always and immutably be the slogan itself. Only
in this way can the propaganda have a unified and complete effect.
This broadness of outline from which we must never depart, in
combination with steady, consistent emphasis, allows our final success to
mature. And then, to our amazement, we shall see what tremendous results
such perseverance leads to-to results that are almost beyond our understanding.
All advertising, whether in the field of business or politics,
achieves success through the continuity and sustained uniformity of its
Here, too, the example of enemy war propaganda was typical;
limited to a few points, devised exdusively for the masses, carried on with
indefatigable persistence. Once the basic ideas and methods of execution
were recognized as correct, they were applied throughout the whole War without
the slightest change. At first the claims of the propaganda were so impudent
that people thought it insane; later, it got on people's nerves; and in
the end, it was believed. After four and a half years, a revolution broke
out in Germany; and its slogans originated in the enemy's war propaganda.
And in England they understood one more thing: that this spiritual
weapon can succeed only if it is applied on a tremendous scale, but that success amply covers all costs.
There, propaganda was regarded as a weapon of the first order,
while in our country it was the last resort of unemployed politicians and
a comfortable haven for slackers.
And, as was to be expected, its results all in all were zero.
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