Goebbels, Dr Joseph, 1897-1945

The son of a clerk, Goebbels was an educated man with literary pretensions who joined the Nazi Party in 1924. He was soon mesmerized by HITLER’s leadership and became the Gauleiter of the Berlin Nazi Party. During the Nazi struggle for power Goebbels was in charge of publicity and edited Der Angriff in which he attacked the Jews, the Communists and the big capitalists. With Hitler in power Goebbels became Minister of Propaganda and he controlled all aspects of communications through his Ministry— press, radio, publishing, theater and cinema. He was completely cynical and a compulsive liar: at various times he attributed his limp to World War I or to a spell in prison; however it was much more likely to have been caused by infantile paralysis. In the first years of the war Goebbels reported Hitler’s successes but he always stressed that the USSR was not an easy country to conquer. After the surrender of the Sixth Army at Stalingrad, Goebbels took the step of making a speech about defeat and using a question and answer technique, pledged Germany’s desire to continue fighting the war wholeheartedly. Goebbels also had to keep the nation’s morale going in the face of the bombing of the cities and his constant theme was that if Germany surrendered she would be at the mercy of the USSR and her Allies. Goebbels was appointed Plenipotentiary for Total War in 1944 and he extended working hours, conscripted women, cut entertainment and education. He did not hide from the Germans the fact that things were bad but he never let them give up hope, especially through his last invention, the ‘National Redoubt,’ where the Nazis would fight to the last. Even the Allies believed him and feared a last stand in Bavaria. Goebbels retained Hitler’s trust until the end and was nominated his successor as chancellor. He witnessed Hitler’s marriage in the Fuhrerbunker and was present at Hitler’s suicide. Goebbels shot himself and his wife on 1 May 1945 after poisoning their six children.

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