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3. Joseph Goebbels's speech February 18, 1943 in Berlin, Sportpalast, addressed to members of the Nazi Party


Joseph Goebbels (1897 - 1945) since 1930 managed the Nazi propaganda. As a result of his suggestions, Adolf Hitler began to use the title of Führer. After the take over of power by A. Hitler in 1933, he was appointed minister of propaganda, public enlightenment and informa-tion. He was a great speaker. The ministry he headed spread Nazi ideology and created and later strengthened the totalitarian state by means of provocation, lies, carefully staged parades and rallies. J. Goebbels was making A. Hitler the commander, building a cult of personality around him. For this purpose he used radio and film, and thanks to the monopoly of informa-tion he had an opportunity to shape social attitudes. After the defeat at Stalingrad he was pre-paring the German nation for “total war”. Since 1944, he was the Reich plenipotentiary for the total mobilization and the Commissioner for Berlin defence, thus becaming the third most important official in the Third Reich, after A. Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. For several hours after the death of A. Hitler on 30th April 1945 formally held the office of the Chancellor of the Reich.

Sportpalast – built in 1910 and demolished in 1973, was a multi-purpose winter sport venue and meeting hall located in the Schöneberg district of Berlin. It could accommodate 14,000 people. Sportpalast was the site of two historic speeches. In 1938, A. Hitler spoke of the Czech crisis. The second and most famous was the speech of J. Goebbels of 18th February, 1943, in which he urged the German people to participate in a total war.


  1. Why was it necessary at the beginning of 1943 to mobilize the German people?
  2. What arguments were used by J. Goebbels urging Germans to wage a total war?
  3. How did the members of the Nazi party gathered in the hall react to the speech of the propa-ganda minister ?

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Description and Analysis

  1. From 17th July 1942 to 2nd February 1943 one of the largest and most important battles in the history of World War II, the Battle of Stalingrad, took place. The aim of the Germans was to occupy the city because of the further plans to occupy the Caucasus and the Kuban. The battle ended with defeat of the Germans and huge losses on both sides. It is consid-ered a turning point in the military activities on the Eastern Front. Since then Germans started to lose the initiative and defend themselves. This was the first major German de-feat on the Eastern Front. After the defeat at Stalingrad the Germany for the first time lost faith in the Führer.
  2. J. Goebbels called on Germans to make preparations for a total war - a war waged despite all legal and moral constraints, in order to destroy enemy forces and the entire na-tion. He referred to emotional arguments. Defeat at Stalingrad was called ”the great alarm call of destiny”, the symbol of heroic struggle against the “storm from the steppes”. He carefully built image of a threat to the German nation. He spoke of the Wehrmacht fighting against the enemy and the threat. He emphasised the fact that no one in the Third Reich considered a compromise. He insisted that the entire German nation was ready for a tough war, because the incoming threat was huge. Therefore, to overcome this threat re-quired enormous effort. He asked the Germans rhetolically whether they wanted to follow the Führer, to support the army, and bear the burden of the war until victory. He stressed that the enemies should have no delusions because the Germans were really determined.
  3. NSDAP members gathered in Sportpalast responded enthusiastically to the speech of J. Goebbels. they applauded and expressed their support for his words. They cheered "Sieg heil!" ("Hail victory!", "Long live victory"). It was a propaganda slogan chanted during the speeches of Adolf Hitler and other dignitaries of the Third Reich. It was also used as an alternative to the "Heil Hitler" greeting.

Geographical/Historical Context

The Battle of Stalingrad was one of the biggest battles of World War II. It took place during the period from 17th July 1942 to 2nd February 1943. The German aim was to occupy Stalin-grad (now Volgograd) on the Volga, which was important because of plans to occupy the Kuban and the Caucasus. In the region of Stalingrad on 23rd November 1942 the Soviet Army cut off and surrounded the 6th Army of the Gen. Friedrich Paulus, part of 4th Panzer Army and Romanian units (a total of about 260-270 thousand soldiers, including 9,590 Romanians and 20,300 so-called Hilfswillige - former prisoners of war from the Red Army and Soviet civil-ians in the service of the German Army). Attempts to break the Stalingrad encirclement failed. 6th Army Command rejected the proposal to surrender. The battle ended in defeat of the Germans. It is considered a turning point in military activities on the Eastern Front. By losing the battle on the Volga Germans irretrievably lost the force they had at the beginning of the war with the Soviet Union. The death toll on both sides was tragic. About 2/3 of soldiers and noncommissioned officers and half German officers of a total of 364,000 people were killed, froze or died of starvation and exhaustion. The Russians took 108,000 German soldiers prisoner, but on the way to prison camps and later in captivity about 102,000 of them died. On the battlefield 46,700 Soviet soldiers and officers were killed. Air raids and fighting claimed the lives of 42,750 civilian inhabitants of Stalingrad and refugees. As a result of German repressions 3,345 Russian civillians were killed, and Germans deported 64,220 Russians as forced labourers.