Wednesday Oct 27, 1897 to Tuesday May 1, 1945
GermanyPaul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. He was one of Adolf Hitler's closest and most devoted associates and was known for his skills in public speaking and his deeply virulent antisemitism, which was evident in his publicly voiced views. He advocated progressively harsher discrimination, including the extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust.
Goebbels was educated at a Gymnasium, where he completed his Abitur (university entrance examination) in 1917. He was the top student in his class and was given the traditional honor to speak at the awards ceremony. He studied literature and history at the universities of Bonn, Würzburg, Freiburg, and Munich, aided by a scholarship from the Albertus Magnus Society.
Goebbels returned home and worked as a private tutor. He also found work as a journalist and was published in the local newspaper. His writing during that time reflected his growing antisemitism and dislike for modern culture. In the summer of 1922, Goebbels met and began a love affair with Else Janke, a schoolteacher. After she revealed to him that she was half-Jewish, Goebbels stated the "enchantment [was] ruined." Nevertheless, he continued to see her on and off until 1927.
During this period, he read avidly and was influenced by the works of Oswald Spengler, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the British-born German writer whose book The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899) was one of the standard works of the extreme right in Germany. He also began to study the "social question" and read the works of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Rosa Luxemburg, August Bebel, and Gustav Noske. According to German historian Peter Longerich, Goebbels's diary entries from late 1923 to early 1924 reflected the writings of a man who was isolated, preoccupied with "religious-philosophical" issues, and lacked a sense of direction. Diary entries of mid-December 1923 forward show Goebbels was moving towards the Völkisch nationalist movement.
Goebbels first took an interest in Adolf Hitler and Nazism in 1924. Goebbels was drawn to the NSDAP mostly because of Hitler's charisma and commitment to his beliefs. He joined the NSDAP around this time, becoming member number 8762.
In late 1924, Goebbels offered his services to Karl Kaufmann, who was Gauleiter (NSDAP district leader) for the Rhine-Ruhr District. Kaufmann put him in touch with Gregor Strasser, a leading Nazi organizer in northern Germany, who hired him to work on their weekly newspaper and undertake secretarial work for the regional party offices.
Members of Strasser's northern branch of the NSDAP, including Goebbels, had a more socialist outlook than the rival Hitler group in Munich. Strasser disagreed with Hitler on many parts of the party platform, and in November 1926 began working on a revision.
Goebbels used the death of Horst Wessel (pictured) in 1930 as a propaganda tool against "Communist subhuman". By 1930 Berlin was the party's second-strongest base of support after Munich. That year the violence between the Nazis and communists led to local SA troop leader Horst Wessel being shot by two members of the Communist Party of Germany. He later died in hospital. Exploiting Wessel's death, Goebbels turned him into a martyr for the Nazi movement. He officially declared Wessel's march Die Fahne Hoch (Raise the flag), renamed as the Horst-Wessel-Lied, to be the NSDAP anthem.
The Reichstag changed the immunity regulations in February 1931, and Goebbels was forced to pay fines for libelous material he had placed in Der Angriff over the course of the previous year. Goebbels continued to be elected to the Reichstag at every subsequent election during the Weimar and Nazi regimes.
Support for the party continued to grow, but neither of these elections led to a majority government. In an effort to stabilize the country and improve economic conditions, Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Reich chancellor on 30 January 1933. Goebbels was disappointed not to be given a post in Hitler's new cabinet. Bernhard Rust was appointed as Minister of Culture, the post that Goebbels was expecting to receive. Like other NSDAP officials, Goebbels had to deal with Hitler's leadership style of giving contradictory orders to his subordinates, while placing them into positions where their duties and responsibilities overlapped.
On 5 March, yet another Reichstag election took place, the last to be held before the defeat of the Nazis at the end of the Second World War. While the NSDAP increased their number of seats and percentage of the vote.
Goebbels finally received Hitler's appointment to the cabinet, officially becoming head of the newly created Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda on 14 March.
At the end of June 1934, top officials of the SA and opponents of the regime, including Gregor Strasser, were arrested and killed in a purge later called the Night of Long Knives. Goebbels was present at the arrest of SA leader Ernst Röhm in Munich.
On 2 August 1934, President von Hindenburg died. In a radio broadcast, Goebbels announced that the offices of president and chancellor had been combined, and Hitler had been formally named as Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor).
At the 1935 Nazi party congress rally at Nuremberg, Goebbels declared that "Bolshevism is the declaration of war by Jewish-led international subhumans against culture itself.
The situation was further inflamed by a speech Goebbels gave at a party meeting on the night of 8 November, where he obliquely called for party members to incite further violence against Jews while making it appear to be a spontaneous series of acts by the German people.
In 1938, Goebbels soon redirected his propaganda machine against Poland. From May onwards, he orchestrated a campaign against Poland, fabricating stories about atrocities against ethnic Germans in Danzig and other cities. Even so, he was unable to persuade the majority of Germans to welcome the prospect of war.
On 2 September 1939 (the day after the start of the war), Goebbels and the Council of Ministers proclaimed it illegal to listen to foreign radio stations. Disseminating news from foreign broadcasts could result in the death penalty.
On 16 November 1942 Goebbels, like all Gauleiters, was appointed the Reich Defense Commissioner for his Gau. This enabled him to issue direct instructions to authorities within his jurisdiction in matters concerning the civilian war effort.
Goebbels pressured Hitler to introduce measures that would produce "total war", including closing businesses not essential to the war effort, conscripting women into the labor force, and enlisting men in previously exempt occupations into the Wehrmacht.
On 15 January 1943, Hitler appointed Goebbels as head of the newly created Air Raid Damage committee, which meant Goebbels was nominally in charge of nationwide civil air defenses and shelters as well as the assessment and repair of damaged buildings.
Goebbels's next speech, the Sportpalast speech of 18 February 1943, was a passionate demand for his audience to commit to total war, which he presented as the only way to stop the Bolshevik onslaught and save the German people from destruction. The speech also had a strong antisemitic element and hinted at the extermination of the Jewish people that was already underway.
Goebbels was appointed on 23 July as Reich Plenipotentiary for Total War, charged with maximizing the manpower for the Wehrmacht and the armaments industry at the expense of sectors of the economy not critical to the war effort.
On 23 April, Goebbels made the following proclamation to the people of Berlin: I call on you to fight for your city. Fight with everything you have got, for the sake of your wives and your children, your mothers, and your parents. Your arms are defending everything we have ever held dear, and all the generations that will come after us. Be proud and courageous! Be inventive and cunning! Your Gauleiter is amongst you. He and his colleagues will remain in your midst. His wife and children are here as well. He, who once captured the city with 200 men, will now use every means to galvanize the defense of the capital. The battle for Berlin must become the signal for the whole nation to rise up in battle ...".
Later on 1 May, Vice-Admiral Voss saw Goebbels for the last time: "... While saying goodbye I asked Goebbels to join us. But he replied: 'The captain must not leave his sinking ship. I have thought about it all and decided to stay here. I have nowhere to go because with little children I will not be able to make it, especially with a leg like mine.
Goebbels carried out his sole official act as Chancellor. He dictated a letter to General Vasily Chuikov and ordered German General Hans Krebs to deliver it under a white flag. Goebbels' letter informed Chuikov of Hitler's death and requested a ceasefire. After this was rejected, Goebbels decided that further efforts were futile.
On the evening of 1 May, Goebbels arranged for an SS dentist, Helmut Kunz, to inject his six children with morphine so that when they were unconscious, an ampule of cyanide could be then crushed in each of their mouths.