Adolf Hitler on 'War Propaganda'

Continuing with passages from Mein Kampf, 2017 Thomas Dalton translation. See here.

Chapter Six is titled WAR PROPAGANDA. It contains the young Hitler's thoughts on Germany's failure to use effective propaganda against the enemy in the Great War, and compares it to the successful propaganda against Germany by the English in particular. This relatively short chapter contains great lessons for us in the fight against any enemy.


Germany was waging war for its very existence. The purpose of its war propaganda should have been to strengthen the fighting spirit in that struggle, and to help bring about victory.

But when nations are fighting for their existence on this earth, when the fateful question of “to be or not to be” must be answered, then all humane and aesthetic considerations must be set aside. These ideals don't float about in the air, but are the product of man's creative imagination; they disappear when he disappears. Nature knows nothing of them. Moreover, they are characteristic of only a small number of nations—or rather, of races—and their value depends on the degree to which they spring from the national or racial feeling. Humane and aesthetic ideals will disappear from the inhabited earth when those races that created and upheld them disappear.


Moltke [Helmuth von, 1800-1891, Prussian military chief of staff] stated that in time of war, one must reach the quickest decision, and that the most ruthless methods of fighting are also the most humane.

When people attempt to answer this reasoning with nonsense about aesthetics and so on, only one answer can be given: that the vital questions involved in the struggle of a nation for its existence must not be subordinated to aesthetic considerations. The yoke of slavery is and always will remain the most unpleasant experience that mankind can endure.


During the war, propaganda was a means to an end. And this end was the struggle for existence of the German nation. Propaganda, therefore, should have been regarded from the standpoint of its usefulness for that purpose. […] And only those methods were good and beautiful that helped secure the dignity and freedom of the nation. […] If those so-called responsible authorities had realized this, there would have been no uncertainty about the form and use of war propaganda as a weapon; it is nothing but a weapon, and indeed a most terrifying weapon in the hands of those who know how to use it.



The purpose of propaganda is not the personal instruction of the individual, but rather to attract public attention to certain things—the importance of which can be impressed upon the masses only by this means.

The art of propaganda consists in putting a matter so clearly and forcibly that it creates a general conviction regarding the reality, necessity, and justice of a certain essential thing. […] It must appeal to the feelings of the public rather than to their so-called rationality. […] When it's a question of bringing a whole nation within the circle of its influence—as in the case of war propaganda—then great care must be taken to avoid a high level, which presupposes a relatively high degree of intelligence among the public.



The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, an effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials, and those must be expressed in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forth.


It was, for example a fundamental mistake to riducule the value of the enemy, as the Austrian and German comic papers did. The very principle here is a mistaken one. When they came face to face with the enemy, our soldiers had quite a different impression. Therefore, the mistake had disastrous results. Once the German soldier realized what a tough enemy he had to fight, he felt that he had been deceived by the makers of his information. Instead of strengthening and stimulating his fighting spirit, this information had quite the opposite effect. Finally he lost heart.

On the other hand, British and American war propaganda was psychologically efficient. By representing the Germans to their own people as barbarians and Huns, they were preparing their soldiers for the horrors of war, and safeguarding them against illusions. The most terrible weapons that those soldiers encountered in the field merely confirmed the information that they had already received, and their belief in the truth of the assertions made by their governments was accordingly reinforced. And their rage and hatred against the vile enemy was increased. The terrible havoc caused by the German weapons of war was only another illustration of the 'Hunnish' brutality of the barbarians; and their soldiers had no time to consider the fact that their own weapons were capable of an equal degree of terror.


All this was the result of the idea that any old simpleton—or anyone who was intelligent about 'other things'—could be entrusted with propaganda work.


[…] Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, insofar as it is favorable to the other side, present it according to the academic fairness; it must present only that which is favorable to its own side.

It was a fundamental mistake to discuss the question of who was responsible for the outbreak of the war, and to declare that the sole responsibility could not be attributed to Germany. Sole responsibility should have been laid squarely on the shoulders of the enemy, without any discussion as to whether this was true or not.

[…] The broad masses … are a vacillating, child-like crowd who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. […] The masses are in no position to discern where the enemy's injustice ends and where ours begins. In such a case, they become hesitant and distrustful, especially when the enemy doesn't make the same mistake, but heaps all the blame on the other side.

Could there be any clearer proof than the fact that our own people believed the enemy's propaganda, which was uniform and consistent, rather than its own? And that, of course, was increased by the German mania for objectivity! Everybody became so careful about doing an injustice to the enemy, even at the cost of seriously injuring or ruining his own people and state.


Propaganda must be limited to a few simple themes, and these must be represented again and again. Here, as in many other cases, perseverance is the first and most important condition for success.


Mein Kampf, MKVolI


Mein Kampf