GOEBBELS by Helmut Heiber


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After fulfilling the aspirations of his petit-bourgeois Rhenish family by earning a doctorate, Goebbels floundered in the '20's until he channeled his political radicalism and literary frustrations into ""selling National Socialism the way other people sell refrigerators."" As students of Nazism know, Goebbels was disposed toward the anti-capitalist wing of the movement but leaped to sacririce his preference at a nod from Hitler in the case of the S.A. purge; this personal allegiance to the Fuhrer culminated in their contiguous deaths. Among the interpretations offered by this industrious but pedestrian biography: Hitler, not Goebbels, was responsible for the propaganda triumphs of the rising Nazi Party and the Third Reich; and opportunism (as well as resentment of the Weimar editors who had turned clown his work) rather than deep-seated conviction prompted Goebbels' anti-Semitic efforts. Observing that he was as philistine as any of the opponents whom he loved to anathematize as Babbitts, Heiber concludes that Goebbels was far from mad or demonic. One who agrees that ""only the situation was demonic"" must protest that, precisely by preserving the metaphor of madness, Heiber deprives the Nazi movement of much of its specific historical-political content; and in suggesting that Nazis were ""emotional"" rather than ""rational"" he sustains the ""demonic"" line of explanation. And, though diligent in its efforts to sketch the context of bureaucratic rivalries and PR techniques, the book fails to give a sense of conditions beyond the ruling circles. First published in Germany in 1960, this is more biographical than Bramsted's Goebbels and National Socialist Propaganda (1965), but less informative.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1972
Publisher: Hawthorn