Teacher | Student
Originally produced in: Polska
Also available in: en


Propaganda is a deliberate action aimed at shaping attitudes and behavior in certain individu-als or communities through the imposition of specific content and the interpretation of them.

Propaganda often uses false arguments and refers to the emotions rather than reason. Propaganda uses film, print, photography, radio, television and now even the Internet. Its development coincided with the nineteenth century and was related to the formation of mass political movements, the development of parliamentary democracy and the necessity to struggle for election. Propaganda played unusually large role in totalitarian (the USSR and the Third Reich) and fascist (Italy and Spain) states. At the end of the twentieth century, with the spread of mass media (radio, television), propaganda took the form of advertising, linking up with mass culture. In everyday language propaganda is synonymous to lies and manipulation. The term’s negative connotations are also due to phenomena such as Goebbels’ propaganda, which dealt mainly with promoting the ideology of the Third Reich, and above all, racism, the theory of it being necessary to expand the lebensraum.

Already in “Mein Kampf” Adolf Hitler emphasized the role of propaganda as a means to gain power. Since 1930, the Nazi head of propaganda was Joseph Goebbels. After the takeover of power by Adolf Hitler in 1933, J. Goebbels was the minister of propaganda, public enlight-enment and information. Goebbels’ propaganda was based on lies and influenced people by means of mass media. To spread the ideology specially manufactured single-frequency radios were used. In the Third Reich cinema was used for propaganda purposes, especially sport films (with muscular, fair-haired Aryans). The Third Reich spread its ideas through the press and posters featuring caricatures and catchy slogans, mostly with anti-Semitic overtones.For the purposes of propaganda mass spectacles, parades, rallies and sports events were also orga-nized. A. Hitler, like other leaders of totalitarian and fascist countries, delivered rousing speeches the task of which was to influence the audience and force them to adopt the views propounded by him. Propaganda cultivated by J. Goebbels was directed rather at the educated public, or at those aspiring to be viewed as such. The much hated Jews were compared to pathogenic bacteria with terms such as "sterile", "infection", "hygiene", "bacillus" etc. used in order to humiliate the enemy. To the same aim the propaganda of Julius Streicher was used, though addressed at the uneducated population. He was an organizer of pogroms and boycotts of Jews and an editor, later a publisher, of a German magazine Der Stürmer waging a cam-paign against the Jews. J. Streicher used the most primitive instincts of man, mocking human frailty, diseases, failures, using vulgar language and even pornography.

Materials prepared for students allow them to see the impact of the methods of Nazi propa-ganda during World War II, both on the Polish and German society. These materials outline the main assumptions of Nazi ideology to students.

Conceptual Objectives

  • The student will be able to define the concept of propaganda.
  • The student will develop knowledge of the Nazi ideology.
  • The student will know the impact of measures and methods of Nazi propaganda on the Polish society during World War II.
  • The student will understand why the Goebbels’ propaganda also manipulated the Germans.
  • The student will know and understand when propaganda intensified.
  • The student will know who Joseph Goebbels was.

Methodological Objectives and Skills

  • The student will identify cause – effect relationship between the military and propa-ganda of the Third Reich.
  • Student characterize methods that used of German propaganda during World War II.
  • The student is able to assess the effectiveness of Nazi propaganda during World War II led to the Polish society.

Suggestion of Activities

Pupils are divided into three groups and search in the Internet, reference books and memoirs for materials showing methods and means of using totalitarian or fascist propaganda in their countries in the 1930s and 1940s. The first group would be looking for an iconography source, the second - a source text, and the third – an audiovisual source. Students should also be asked to tell about a given source. Students should answer a few questions: when was the source created, who was the author of it, why was it created, what was the role of it, what was it urging people to do. Students will thus face the questions that every historian asks. Skills that students should acquire during this exercise are the ability to find sources on a specific topic, to identify the cause and effect relationship and to present knowledge.

Suggestion of Evaluation

Taking into account the individual criteria and methods for evaluating students work for each teacher, in the case of the suggested exercise the things to be assessed are primarily:

  • Ability to link knowledge about German propaganda during the Second World War, with news about the Nazi ideology and the functioning of a totalitarian state.
  • Ability to make a statement.
  • Ability to recognize the connection between propaganda slogans and military and political activities during World War II.

Further Information and Interdisciplinarity

Third Reich propaganda film.

propaganda posters from the period of the Third Reich.