Unsuccessful in his desired literary career, Goebbels temporarily worked in a bank. In 1924, he formed a close association with Adolf Hitler. After spreading Nazi propaganda as the editor of the Voelkische Freiheit (people's freedom) at Elberfeld, "the Little Doctor," as he came to be called, moved up in the Nazi Party hierarchy. Hitler recognized his abilities and appointed him Gauleiter (leader) of Berlin in November 1926, charging him with rebuilding the party organization there. From 1927 to 1935, Goebbels edited the weekly newspaper Der Angriff ( The Attack), which eventually became a daily and a financial success. Goebbels displayed considerable organizational skill and ability as a motivational speaker. He also ordered the Sturmabteilungen (Storm Troops, SA) to use physical force in the streets against the leftist opposition. In 1928, Goebbels won election to the Reichstag, and in 1929 he took charge of Nazi Party propaganda, playing an important role in building Nazi political strength throughout Germany.
Goebbels successfully used American advertising tools, psychology, and modern propaganda techniques to spread the message of Nazism. He made Horst Wessel, a thug who was killed in a barroom brawl, into a Nazi martyr, and he pushed the use of the Nazi salute and of "Heil Hitler" as a mandatory greeting. He also advanced new slogans and myths, including the Führermythos, that Hitler was the one savior of the German nation. He engaged in gross anti-Semitism.
Hitler rewarded Goebbels in March 1933 by appointing him to the cabinet as minister of propaganda. Goebbels exercised complete control over mass communication—the press, films, theater, radio, and sports—organizing all of it to work for the Nazi cause and later the war effort. He lived up to his own slogan, "Propaganda has nothing to do with truth." Throughout the war, Goebbels worked to buoy the confidence of the German people. He trumpeted the claim of a "final victory" and in a speech in February 1943 invoked "total war." Appointed plenipotentiary for total war in July 1944, Goebbels called on the German people for more and more sacrifices, imposing longer working hours and reducing benefits. He also proclaimed the advent of German "miracle weapons" that would win the war.
At war's end, Goebbels and his family joined Hitler in the Führerbunker in Berlin. On 1 May 1945, a day after Hitler's suicide, Goebbels and his wife Magda also committed suicide after first having poisoned their six small children. Goebbels's diaries are an important source of information about the National Socialist regime.
A. J. L. Waskey
Goebbels, Joseph. The Goebbels Diaries, 1942–1943. Edited and trans. Louis P. Lochner. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1948.; Goebbels, Joseph. Final Entries, 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels. Edited by Hugh Trevor Roper. Translated by Richard Barry. New York: Putnam, 1978.; Goebbels, Joseph. The Goebbels Diaries, 1939–1941. Ed. and trans. Fred Taylor. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1983.; Heiber, Helmut. Goebbels. New York: DaCapo Press, 1983.; Herzstein, Robert E. The War That Hitler Won: Goebbels and the Nazi Media Campaign. New York: Paragon House Publishers, 1987.; Reuth, Ralf Georg. Goebbels. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1993.; Roberts, Jeremy. Joseph Goebbels: Nazi Propaganda Minister. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2000.