Audiences of Nazism: Media Effects and Responses, 1923-1945

Audiences of Nazism: Media Effects and Responses, 1923-1945

Thursday, 24 May 2018 - 9:00am to Friday, 25 May 2018 - 5:45pm
Seminar Room, European Studies Centre, 70 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HR
Professor Ulrike Weckel (Richard Von Weizsacker Fellow, European Studies Centre, St Antony's College)

Image: Telefunken receiver 1933


European Studies Centre Weizsäcker Conference 2018

Since the end of the war, the Nazis' success in turning their fringe party into a mass movement and, once in power, securing the support of a large majority of the German population has often been explained as the result of their effective propaganda communicated through all of the modern mass media then available. For example, in his final statement at the Nuremberg trial, Albert Speer characterized the Nazi regime as the first dictatorship to make complete use of all technical means in a manner perfect for the domination of its own nation, that is, for preventing independent thinking. This explanation came in handy for those Germans who had applauded the regime or even actively supported it. They could point out that the Nazis had established a ministry of propaganda whose head, Joseph Goebbels, had often pitched himself as the cunning mastermind behind its well orchestrated propaganda, much of which consisted in images of enthusiastic masses. Theories of totalitarianism have also identified the supposed power of mass media to indoctrinate and manipulate audiences as a key factor of totalitarian rule. But such broad claims about the power of media have long been questioned. It is well known by now that audiences tend to look for confirmation of their views and how hard it is to get them to change their minds. Goebbels's grandiloquent claims have been challenged. And we know that the Nazis’ stagings of overwhelming mass support were intended to convey the message that non-supporters were outsiders. However, historical research into the details of audience reception is still rare. It is true that primary sources are not so easy to find, but it is definitely worth the effort. Participants of this conference will present a variety of case studies and discuss the possibilities and limitations of studying audience reception under the Nazi dictatorship.

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