In his comments on the Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels attempted to redefine the role and scope of propaganda. Using his “knowledge of souls,” the chief propagandist asserted that he could influence the public. William Shirer witnessed the application of Goebbels’ work in his description of the Nazi Party Rally at Nuremberg. Noting the faces of the audience members when beholding Hitler, Shirer commented “they looked up at him as if he were a Messiah” (60). Goebbels deified Hitler, erasing any opportunity for criticism. In much the same way that the imagined power of the Gestapo reinforced its reach, the lionization of Hitler propelled him to godlike status in the view of some of his followers.
As Fritzsche posits, even Germans who may have disagreed with parts of National Socialism at first eventually warmed to the movement. While they may not have been hooked on the policies of the Nazis, its sense of spectacle was irresistible. Shirer describes the ritual involved in Nazi events in which a symphony orchestra played and the names of the dead were read aloud. In this sense, the rallies appealed to people through emotion rather than critical thought. Entranced by the demonstration, the average German’s hesitation disappeared and “every lie pronounced is accepted as high truth itself” (61). Similar to Albert Speer’s depiction of Hitler, Shirer’s illustration doesn’t focus on any of the content of the rallies, demonstrating that the spectacle was more important than the matter of the rally.
On the other hand, after seeing clips from Nazi rallies in class, Speer and Shirer’s descriptions seem exaggerated. Nazi events certainly were a spectacle; yet, attending a rally doesn’t seem like enough to cause “critical faculty to be swept away” (Shirer, 61). Instead, the exaggerated accounts of Nazi propaganda and Hitler’s abilities may originate from the desire to align them with the popular accounts of others. As ardent Nazi supporters told stories about how they were swept away by Hitler, perhaps the average German was eager to experience the same as well. Therefore, they may have convinced themselves that they were beholding an awe-inspiring spectacle and that they should not resist its influence.