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Joseph Goebbels

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Paul Joseph Goebbels

Order: 25th Chancellor of Germany
Term of Office: April 30 - May 1, 1945
Predecessor: Adolf Hitler
Successor: Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk
Date of Birth: October 29, 1897
Date of Death: May 1, 1945
Political Party: NSDAP
Profession: journalist

Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitler's Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. He also served as Chancellor for one day, following Hitler's death. He was a prominent figure of the regime, known for his skilled rhetoric and zealous oratory.

He was born to accountant Friedrich Goebbels and his wife Marian (née Oldenhausen) in Rheydt (now Mönchengladbach), a Catholic area in the Rhineland. Because of a club foot, he was rejected when he volunteered for military service at the beginning of World War I. After earning a Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 1921, he worked as a journalist and wrote some literature. Joining the Nazi Party in 1924 (his later statement to have joined the party in 1922 belongs to his early lies), he initially opposed Hitler's leadership, but later changed sides to support him. His diary shows many instances of great admiration for Hitler.

In December 1931, he married divorcee Magda Quandt, whose son, Harald (from her previous marriage to a doctor), accompanied them beneath the raised arms of an SS honour guard (Harald, who served as a non-com in the Luftwaffe, was the only one of Magda's seven children to survive World War II). Adolf Hitler was the principal witness at the ceremony.

He played a large role in helping the Nazis achieve and retain power by creating propaganda to present the Nazi ideology to the German people in a favourable light. He was also a committed anti-Semite, being involved with Kristallnacht in 1938, and later connected with the Nazi Endlösung (Final Solution) to the Judenfrage ("Jewish Question"), especially the deportation of Jews from Berlin.

Goebbels' technique, also known as argumentum ad nauseam, is the name given to the policy of repeating a lie until it is taken to be the truth (see Big Lie). For example, when Goebbels took ownership of the Der Angriff (lit., "The Assault") newspaper, he attacked Berlin Police President Bernhard Weiss, calling him "Isidor" Weiss. Isidor is, to German ears, an insulting name with strong anti-Jewish connotations. This was done to such an extent that the public believed Isidor to be his real name, and he therefore became a figure of fun and ridicule.

On February 18, 1943, he delivered the Sportpalast speech, or Total War speech, a prominent speech to motivate the German people to continue the struggle when the tide of World War II was turning against Germany, even if, by then, the Nazi grip on German society was such that nobody dared openly disagree with such a speech, even if, given the circumstances, it could only have meant that Germany was on its way to irrevocable defeat, not victory.

During the final stages of the war in the spring of 1945, before his suicide, Hitler split the offices of Reichskanzler (Chancellor of the Reich) and Reichspräsident (President of the Reich), both of which he had held as Führer since the death of Hindenburg in August 1934. He appointed Goebbels Chancellor of Germany in his will (with Grand-Admiral Karl Dönitz, the commander-in-chief of the Kriegsmarine, as President—the Führer title was not granted in the will). The post-Hitler government, which lasted only a few weeks, was, however, not recognised by the Allied powers, who declared it illegal towards the end of May 1945 at Flensburg, replacing it with its own government.

However, shortly after Hitler had committed suicide at about 3.30 p.m. (Berlin time) on April 30, 1945, Goebbels added these lines to the "Political Testament" of his beloved "Führer":

Der Führer hat mir den Befehl gegeben, im Falle des Zusammenbruchs der Verteidigung der Reichshauptstadt Berlin zu verlassen und als führendes Mitglied an einer von ihm ernannten Regierung teilzunehmen. Zum erstenmal in meinem Leben muß ich mich kategorisch weigern, einem Befehl des Führers Folge zu leisten. Meine Frau und meine Kinder schließen sich dieser Weigerung an. Im anderen Falle würde ich mir selbst (...) für mein ganzes ferneres Leben als ein ehrloser Abtrünnling und gemeiner Schuft vorkommen, der mit der Achtung vor sich selbst auch die Achtung seines Volkes verlöre, die die Voraussetzung eines weiteren Dienstes meiner Person an der Zukunftsgestaltung der Deutschen Nation und des Deutschen Reiches bilden müßte.
The Führer has given orders for me to leave Berlin in case of a breakdown of defense of the Capital of the Reich and to participate as a leading member in a government appointed by him. For the first time in my life, I must categorically refuse to obey a command of the Führer. My wife and my children agree with this refusal. In any other case, I would feel myself (...) a dishonorable renegade and vile scoundrel for my entire further life, who would lose the esteem of himself along with the esteem of his people, both of which would have to form the requirement for further duty of my person in designing the future of the German Nation and the German Reich.


Suicide

On May 1, 1945, Goebbels and his wife killed themselves - reportedly in the open courtyard next to the Führerbunker and with the help of SS bodyguards. The previous evening Magda Goebbels had murdered all six of their children in their sleep (by poisoning with cyanide) to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Red army. Joseph Goebbels' personal role in the murders has remained unclear.

Missing image
Goebbels02.jpg
Joseph Goebbels and his family, pictured around October 1942 when Heide, the youngest child (seen here between her parents), had just turned two years old. The man in the Luftwaffe uniform in the back row is Harald Quandt, Magda Goebbels' son by her first marriage. He was the only one in the group to survive World War II.
  • Helga Susanne (born, September 1, 1932 † aged 12)
  • Hildegard (Hilde) Traudel (born April 13, 1934 † aged 11)
  • Helmut Christian (born October 2, 1935 † aged 9)
  • Hedwig (Hedda) Johanna (born February 19, 1937 † aged 8)
  • Holdine (Holde) Kathrin (born May 1, 1938 † the day before what would have been her 7th birthday)
  • Heidrun (Heide) Elisabeth (born October 20, 1940 † aged 4)

(Each had been given a name starting with an H for Hitler. Magda and her ex-husband Dr. Quandt had also given their son a name beginning with the same letter)

While some accounts say they were shot by SS bodyguards at their own request, others claim Goebbels shot Magda and himself afterwards (as shown in the 2004 film, Der Untergang, where Goebbels was portrayed by actor Ulrich Matthes). Their bodies were partially burned, left unburied and quickly found by Soviet troops. The children's bodies were found still in the two-tiered bunk beds they were murdered in. A photograph of Goebbels' incinerated face was widely published. The bodies of the Goebbels family, along with those of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were secretly buried and reburied together by the Soviets. In April 1970 all the remains were reburned and scattered in the Elbe river.

Goebbels in popular culture

In George Orwell's Animal Farm, the pig named Squealer is quite possibly intended to be a direct analogue of Goebbels. Squealer consistently and skillfully misleads the animals of the farm as to the true nature of the corrupt pigs' activities through propaganda and rhetoric.

See also

Herschel Grynszpan, a political assassin mentioned in an entry on 5 April 1942 in Goebbels' diaries.



Preceded by:
Adolf Hitler
Reichskanzler / Chancellor of Germany
April 30 - May 1, 1945
Succeeded by:
Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk

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