Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous orations and deep and virulent antisemitism, which led him to support the extermination of the Jews and to be one of the mentors of the Final Solution.
Goebbels earned a PhD from Heidelberg University in 1921, writing his doctoral thesis on 19th century romantic drama; he then went on to work as a journalist and later a bank clerk and caller on the stock exchange. He also wrote novels and plays, which were rejected by publishers. Goebbels came into contact with the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NSDAP) or Nazi Party in 1923 during the French occupation of the Ruhr and became a member in 1924. He was appointed Gauleiter (regional party leader) of Berlin. In this position, he put his propaganda skills to full use, combating the Social Democratic Party of Germany and Communist Party of Germany and seeking to gain their working class supporters. Goebbels despised capitalism, viewing it as having Jews at its core, and he stressed the need for the Nazis to emphasize both a proletarian and national character. By 1928, he had risen in the party ranks to become one of its most prominent members.
Goebbels rose to power in 1933 along with Hitler and the Nazi Party and he was appointed Propaganda Minister. One of his first acts was the burning of books. Goebbels exerted totalitarian control over the media, arts and information in Germany. He used modern propaganda techniques to ideologically prepare the German people for aggressive warfare.
From the beginning of his tenure, Goebbels organized attacks on German Jews, commencing with the one-day boycott of Jewish businessmen, doctors, and lawyers on 1 April 1933. His attacks on the Jewish population culminated in the Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) assault of 1938, an open and unrestrained pogrom unleashed by the Nazis across Germany, in which scores of synagogues were burned and hundreds of Jews were assaulted and murdered. Further, he produced a series of antisemitic films (most notably Jud Süß).
During World War II, Goebbels increased his power and influence through shifting alliances with other Nazi leaders. By late 1943, the tide of the war was turning against the Axis powers, but this only spurred Goebbels to intensify the propaganda by urging the Germans to accept the idea of total war and mobilization. Goebbels remained with Hitler in Berlin to the end. After Hitler’s suicide, Goebbels succeeded him as Chancellor. Goebbels along with his wife Magda killed their six young children, and then committed suicide. The couple’s bodies were burned in a shell crater, but owing to the lack of petrol, the burning was only partly effective.
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