This section of the website is dedicated to propaganda in Film and Radio during the second world war in Germany. It is a very brief synopsis of the work by Nicholas Reeves and K.R.M. Short and takes a look at how propaganda affected audiences through the film industry, and how radio was used to manipulate German troupes in their own land.

 Propaganda in Film

The power of film Propaganda by Nicholas Reeves

Film and Radio Propaganda in World War II by K.R.M. Short

Propaganda in WW2

Pre-war films in what was to become Nazi Germany were greatly influential on the mass audiences, more so than during the war itself. One of the main companies founded in 1917 in order to undertake “planned and energetic measures” for influencing the masses was called Universum Film AG (UFA).

The UFA was responsible for bringing together a number of production, distribution and exhibition companies. Public and private financing along with vertical integration held direct effect to the company’s growth and influential position. (Nicholas Reeves p.92-3))

            By 1924,  all films that were produced by the German film industry were unique. The industry was able to produce as many films as main stream Hollywood companies could, and almost all films that brought in a profit were guaranteed some form of success. The UFA had created standards with such technical and aesthetic qualities that it rivaled the very best man kind had ever seen in the international world of film. However these standards became problematic to the striving producers and directors; they became overconfident and committed themselves to ambitious and expensive films. These factors led to a drastic downfall in the industry (Nicholas Reeves p.94).

            In order to regain confidence, the film industry devised a new plan which would redefine the level of German post-war reparations and would eventually help to underpin the new economic stability; this plan was called  the Dawes Plan. The plan consisted of a massive reduction in Germany’s exports and allowed great import of international (mostly western) films. It is only imaginable that Hollywood took great advantage of this new plan and started to flood the German markets.

            The UFA and smaller independent film industries were saved by western industries: Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s studios. The agreement they had set up was to exchange money for access to the studios, personnel, and their cinema’s in order to project their films. As a result, many of  Germany’s film personnel moved to Hollywood to have better chances in the industry.

            It is at this time that Alfred Hugenberg, a renowned publisher and CEO of a cross Media Empire with big interests in advertising, the press and cinema came to the UFA to set up a loan with them in exchange of becoming chairman of the company. He also became the Nationalist leader of Germany’s National people’s party which meant in simple terms that the he now reigned one of the most powerful companies in the German film industry and became committed to an extreme nationalist agenda (as written by Nicholas Reeves). As a consequence, the Nazi movement achieved a new prominence with the UFA newsreels. This meant that if and when they took power, many within the German film industry would be favorably disposed towards them. By 1932, the German film industry split into two main groups: the Spitzenorganization der Deutschen Filmindustrie otherwise known as (SPIO) and the German Cinema owners. The Nazi’s were given green light in helping with the restructuring of the film industry, according to Paul Joseph Goebbels. (Nicholas Reeves p.95-7)

Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reichsminister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. His main roles included public enlightenment and propaganda within the Nazi regime. He joined with SPIO and by 1936, the market was dominated by 4 main firms: UFA, Tobis, Bavaria, Terra (UFA and Tobis, owned more than 60% of the production houses). Goebbels then created amateur films which focused largely on the activities of the regime and made films specifically targeting his political party. It wasn’t long before he had complete control over the party’s work and was therefore able to concentrate on the more important tasks of extending the control to the German film industry as a whole. (Reeves p. 97)

The Reich Cinema Law was instated by February 1934. This law imposed stricter censorship and control at every stage of the production process. Proposals would have to be approved before scripts could be written, scripts where then scrutinized andonly after script approval could the production take place. Even then the producers where strict supervision. As stated by Reeves, most of the viewers were unaware of the censorship that was implemented; they were however subjected to a new wave of film which was to make the audience aware of a sudden change initiated by this period. This change would force the exclusion of Jews from the industry, although there wasn’t enough power to “ban” them from the industry, the audience was to be persuaded that the exclusion of them was positive and recommended. Filmmakers who wanted to get ahead in their industry would declare their commitment to the National Socialism and would declare anyone whose culture/race seemed suspect.

Jud Suss

A film called Jud Süss was released by Goebbels in order to help restore peace with the Fuehrer. The film was created to ostracize the Rothschild house, a family (often referred to simply as the Rothschilds) was an international dynasty of German Jewish origin that established worldwide banking and finance operations and was “ennobled” by Austria and the United Kingdom. However this film failed miserably and was taken out of the industry within 2 months of the premiere. The film was re-issued just 12 months later under a different name and proved very successful as an anti-Semitic film. According to the Strasbourg Security Police, during the screenings, audience members would shout out profanities against the Jews in the film and clapped when they were killed. During pre–production of the Rothschild trilogy, it proved difficult to find people to play the Jews in the film because of the strict laws imposed by the Reich Cinema Law (no one wished to be associated as a Jew) (Nicholas Reeves p.104-24).

Shortly after this new law was imposed, the Weimar Republic, also had films scrutinized under two independent Censorship offices. Everything media related had to be looked over and had to pass regulations to be shown to the public. They implemented a new rating system whereby children under the age of 6 could only watch films approved by Goebbels himself, and where anyone would fail to comply too the new system would be subject to imprisonment.

Censorship was implemented to regulate social, religious, ethical or ideological tendencies. It also helped to protect Germany from endangering public orders and safety and from anything that could endanger Germany’s image or the relationship that was established between it and foreign states. (Nicholas Reeves p.97-8)


4 main reasons for the “raison d’être” of the transformation in ideology

  1. The attempt to construct representations of Adolf Hitler as the supreme, all-powerful, all wise, God-like Leader.
  2. The attempt to mobilize a virulent, fanatical, anti-Semitism among the audience, which would give its active support to ever-more radical anti-Semitic policies
  3. The attempt to change attitudes towards what the Nazi’s euphemistically called their program of Euthanasia’s action
  4. An attempt to construct a particular representation of war both before and during the war.

(as quoted by Reeves p.104)


An interesting Radio Clip of Britain’s Neville Chamberlain Claiming War on Germany 1939.

            Radio Luxembourg was the most powerful radio station to penetrate a large part of Europe. It had one of the continents most powerful transmitters and had more broadcasting capabilities than any other American station.

            In 1940’s Germany armies, took possession of the station and planned to use it for the next 4 years. Allie troops moving in from the east wanted to take claim the station but were afraid of the condition they would find it in. The evacuating German’s failed to detonate the bombs they had placed around the broadcasting station as they left the grounds. The German troupes wanted to blow up the transmitter tubes, encouraged by the Radio Luxembourg’s head engineer. This plan was to divert the Germans from more catastrophic destruction. As the German’s left, the head engineer dug out a duplicate set of transmitters and handed them to the American troupes.

            Hans Habe, a Hungarian prominent Journalist was captured by German troupes. He escaped gracefully and headed down to Vichy where he enrolled with the American troupes. He became involved with psychological warfare and became key strategist at Radio Luxembourg. During the daytime and evenings they broadcasted to the German’s in their language with a heavy American accent, one of the more “popular” shows aired was called Briefe Die Sie Nicht Erreichten (Letters that Didn’t reach them) the shows consisted of reading letters that went undelivered to German troupes. This act of “kindness” appealed the public and helped the station gain popularity with its citizens.
Radio Luxembourg also broadcasted prisoners of war trapped by the Americans to be able to tell their loved ones that they were still alive. This tactic was carefully supervised by Habe and employed as a spur to desertions from German forces. 

            The station also aired a grim trial of two German civilians capture on an “espionage” mission. They were asked if they knew the consequences of their actions. The two civilians answered they were not sure and they were both shot live on air.

            Corporal Tom Jones segments were also introduced on air, the show was basically comic relief, he would talk about things he did in his childhood and would tell slightly humorous jokes they had heard from German prisoners as well as anti-Nazi jokes.  (Short: Propaganda at Radio Luxembourg p.192-7)

This segment was carefully plotted by Habe, the aim was to suggest “an extreme personal freedom”. Some of the jokes circulating went as follows:

             -They used to say ‘No enemy aircraft over the Reich!” They will say it but differently. Now they say, ‘No Reich under the enemy aircraft!”

            -In the Old days, it used to be that you’d go to the railways station, and the train was gone. Now you go for a train, and the station is gone.

Orsen Welles War of the Worlds was a radio show that was broadcasted in 1938. Many people thought that the show as an actual broadcast and that the world was comming to an end.

The following links are of movies about WWII all created during of before, I thought they would be an interesting addition to this section.

Charlie Chaplin in “The Great Dictator” Globe Scene

Soviet Propaganda “What Hitler Wants”

The Eternal Jew Directed by Fritz Hippler

What to Do in a Gas Attack

Propaganda in WW2

While browsing advertisements, we came across this add that resembles the previous one What to Do in a Gas Attack and thought the parallels between the two were interesting.


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