Propaganda during World War 1

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Updated: Apr 16, 2022
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In the age of national socialism, and the rise of Hitler, media and the creation of art was controlled by the government in order to prevent anti-government propaganda from reaching the public sphere. By preventing artists and journalists from having the creative freedom to express their opinions the media became one sided. Everyone was fed the same anti-Semitic, pro hitler, pro-government news so that they would be brainwashed into believing that their government was protecting them and fixing Germany. Propaganda played a large role in the brainwashing of German citizens.

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The national socialist party bombarded the german media with hitler’s “amazing” plan to correct all of Germanys social and financial issues.

Due to Germany being broken and left in ruin from World war 1 people were eager to turn to anyone who could help. There were many means used by the Nazis to control culture. Proppoganda played a big role in the idolization of hitler, and what people were allowed to do in their social as well as their private lives. If one was to create art or write it had to portray nazi values. The goal of national socialism was to create a strong national government, and to create a homogenous society, that inforced the nazi ideology. The citizens were strongly encouraged to live by the “german values” of duty, discipline and order. To accomplish such a restrictive totalitarian society, the government began to restrict any sort of creative freedom or individualism that would go against these values. Opinions that differed were prohibited, and the creation of artwork or broadcasts that went against the national socialist idealism was not allowed. Taking away all of the rights and opinions of the people allowed Hitler to create such a strong and powerful government.

Those who spoke out against the Nazi regime were exiled or arrested and Jewish artists and journalists were fired and replaced with those who upheld the views of the Nazi party so they could push anti-semitic propaganda. Propaganda played a large role in the brainwashing of the German citizens. The national socialist party bombarded the news with anti-semitism, and how Hitler was going to fix all of Germany’s financial and social issues. Since the Nazi regime took away all creative freedom from those with alternate opinions, people were only seeing the ‘good’ being done, rather than the horrific crimes being committed by their government. The creation of art inside concentration camps was banned because artistic freedom could lead to the empowerment of the prisoners inside of these camps. By taking away all freedoms including self-expression they were able to make sure all prisoners were stripped of their rights and were entirely the same. If they wanted to write or draw the prisoners would have to steal from the Nazi officers which was incredibly risky. Many would perform secret cabarets and plays usually at night when everyone at the camps were asleep. Most of their artistic manifestation was done in secret except for one camp, Terezin. Terezin was the only place prisoners were encouraged to be creative, because it was a ploy to convince outsiders that concentration camps weren’t bad. Art in concentration camps was a means of coping with the horrors the prisoners were facing. Most creativity was a way for those to escape their reality and not go insane being imprisoned.

The major themes focused on in the paintings or skits included death and starvation and hope for better days. It was risky to be expressing your emotions in such an environment because it was likely, if caught, they would be exiled. The remains of the artwork created gave those imprisoned hope, that one-day things would go back to normal. Being critical of the nazi regime through art and media was a very risky game to play. As artists many, created in secrecy in order to avoid being persecuted. Without being able to freely practice their passion, it took a deep toll on artists because it took away their humanity and individualism. Two examples of artists who continued to write under the nazi regime are Paul Celan and Wolfgang Borchert. Paul Celan was born into a German-speaking Jewish family in Romania. He was raised in Bukovina under the Austro-Hungarian empire. His family was forced into ghettos and later concentration camps under Hitler’s rule. While imprisoned he began to write poetry, and translate literature, it was his way to work through his emotions after having everything ripped away from him by the Nazis. He was separated from his parents and later learned that they had died from sickness and execution.

The Soviet army liberated his camp from, which is how he survived concentration camp.Celan discusses his experiences during the Holocaust through his poem ‘Deathfugue.’ Death fugue discusses the inhumane ways in which prisoners were being treated and exiled. He uses the black milk to symbolize how they were working every day towards their deaths and the un-nourishing conditions they were forced to endure. His purpose for writing the poem was to show that under Hitler, death was Germany’s master. Wolfgang Borchert was a German author and playwright during the Weimar Republic. Growing up during the rise of Hitler, he was able to see Germany’s transition after WW1 and into WW2. Before being drafted into the second world war Borchert was an aspiring actor, where he traveled to perform, and wrote plays, claiming these were the greatest times of his life. He was not supportive of the Nazi regime, yet he was forced to serve on the eastern front.

During his time serving, he suffered many serious illnesses such as frostbite, jaundice, and liver degeneration forcing him to leave his service soon after he arrived. Being against what Germany was fighting for, he was outspoken about his beliefs causing him to be arrested 3 times and having to face trials for betraying his nations idealism.Some of the themes included in Borcherts piece The Man Outside discussed the hopelessness, trauma, and suicidal thoughts of soldiers post-war. The country fell apart after the war, many not having homes to go back to or families to care for them. It was a post-apocalyptic era, no aid was sent to help the people in need due to the world seeing Germany as an evil nation. Many soldiers were wounded, people were displaced and unable to go back to their normal life. During hitlers reign from 1933-1945, all rights, freedoms, creativity and individualism was stripped from the german people. The nazi regime used cultural control as a means of making the media, and what people were viewing, entirely supportive of the anti-semetic, and extreme nationalism that socialistic Germany was perpetuating. Those who were critical of the nazi regime were exiled, as well as those who did fit into to hitlers idealistic society. Nazi Germany was a time of great struggle for artists, and creative individuals.

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Propaganda During World War 1. (2022, Apr 16). Retrieved from