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Reviewed by:
  • Goebbels und die Juden
  • Jeffrey Herf
Goebbels und die Juden, Christian T. Barth (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2003), 315 pp., €31.90.

Goebbels und die Juden is a revised dissertation completed at the University of Mainz. Christian Barth reports that while working on the project he encountered skepticism that there was anything more to say either about Goebbels or his antisemitism. His careful research proves the skeptics wrong. He has made a valuable addition to previous works on Goebbels by Jay Baird, Ernst Bramsted, Richard Herzstein, and Ralf Reuth by focusing on the continuity and depth of Goebbels' hatred of the Jews and his key role in infusing Nazi propaganda with antisemitism. Barth examines Goebbels' role from the mid-1920s, when his antisemitism was fully crystallized, through the Holocaust. He relies heavily on the over twenty volumes of the Goebbels diaries published since 1987, while making rather less use of Goebbels' readily available published texts.

We read again about the evolution of the young doctoral student at the University of Heidelberg; his entry into the Nazi Party in 1924; his connection to Hitler; his leadership of the Berlin Nazi Party in 1926; his assumption of the editorship of Der Angriff in 1927; his antisemitic campaigns in Berlin; his antisemitic tirades and threats; his advocacy of violence against Jews, critical journalists, liberals, and leftists when he was a member of the Reichstag; and his appointment as the Nazi Party director of propaganda in 1930. For the period of 1933 to 1939, Barth offers equally detailed accounts of the construction of the Nazi propaganda apparatus and the importance Goebbels attributed to antisemitism within it. He recalls his subject's central role in driving Jews out of German cultural and intellectual life, the link between antisemitism and anti-Bolshevism in the mid- and late 1930s, Goebbels' radicalism and the energy he devoted to driving the Jews out of Berlin, and his now famous role in the pogrom of November 1938. Throughout, Barth underscores Goebbels' close and enduring connection with Hitler and the identity of their views on Jewish matters. Goebbels had power and influence because of this similarity of views and because Hitler could trust him to understand and implement the Führer's wishes.

In the war years, Goebbels as Propaganda Minister developed antisemitic propaganda when he edited the weekly newsreels the Wochenschau; supported production of the classic antisemitic film Der ewige Jude; and published in Das Reich weekly editorials that were then read over the radio on Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. He played a central role in formulating propaganda campaigns against France, Britain, the Soviet Union, and then the United States. In all of these he and [End Page 317] his growing staff of propagandists introduced antisemitic themes. As Gauleiter of Berlin, Goebbels pushed for having the Jews deported as early as possible. Diary entries indicate that he believed the Jews were the driving force behind the foreign policies of the enemy powers. Relying mostly on the diaries, Barth documents the fact that Goebbels, as Hitler, believed antisemitism was central to the Nazi view of the origins and goals of World War II.

As good as it is, Barth's work reproduces an odd scholarly neglect of Goebbels' most important texts, namely the published materials read and heard by millions, as well as the propaganda campaigns and directives that emerged from the huge staff he led at the Propaganda Ministry. He examines only a few of the Propaganda Minister's most notorious public speeches, such as Die Juden sind Schuld (The Jews Are Guilty) of fall 1941, and "Wollen Sie den totalen Krieg?" (Do You Want Total War?) of February 1943. The focus of his analysis rests on the diary entries, texts that no one read or heard during their author's lifetime. To be sure, Goebbels, like Hitler, could combine ideological fanaticism with the calculated use of antisemitic propaganda as a tool to defeat enemies foreign and domestic. In both the diary entries that Barth examines, and in the speeches and articles conveyed to a mass audience, Goebbels employed antisemitic propaganda as a tool for splitting the anti-Nazi coalition and facilitating German occupation policy in Europe...


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pp. 317-319
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