Can the use of propaganda be justified?

Media war

Throughout history, propaganda has been used in connection with the war by politicians and the military.

The photographer commissioned by the English king, Robert Fenton, followed his orders in the Crimean War (1853–56) only to record those sides of the war that were free from acts of war, suffering and death. (& copy Library of Congress, Washington D.C.)
Propaganda has been used as a means of influencing opinion in war since ancient times, for example in the form of speeches or songs. However, with the advent of modern mass media such as radio, film and television, as well as the Internet, through which large numbers of people can be reached in a very short time, the importance of propaganda and its scope has expanded enormously. Since the First World War, media have been used as a means of propaganda in a targeted and comprehensive manner in all major armed conflicts. Based on seven wars in the 20th and 21st centuries, the role and use of propaganda in war will be shown.

First World War



During World War I, propaganda was first used on a large scale as a means of waging war. She played a crucial role in mobilizing the population for war. In addition to leaflets, postcards and posters, numerous photographers captured the events on the battlefields. The film was also used as a means of reporting on what was happening at the front. Compared to photography and newspapers, however, film, which was only invented in 1895, was of little importance. Just 141 feature and news films about the war were produced in Great Britain, in Germany there were significantly fewer. The films that were made were strongly patriotic. They should serve to convince the population of their own superiority and the rightness of the war.

Both Germany and the Allied Nations had set up state authorities specifically for the purpose of targeted dissemination of propaganda. In the German Reich this was the Image and Film Office, or BUFA for short. These authorities sent photographers and cameramen to the front, and employees checked and censored the recordings.
German propaganda postcard depicting wounded and ragged soldiers of the Triple Entente. (& copy German Historical Museum, Berlin)
The suffering and misery of the war was played down enormously in the media presentations approved by the BUFA. The German soldiers were portrayed as certain of victory and heroic. Propaganda materials were also published by private publishers. They often made fun of the opponents of the war and portrayed them as weaklings and losers.

Second World War

Shortly after Hitler came to power in 1933, the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda was founded under the direction of Joseph Goebbels. Radio, the press and the film industry were deprived of their freedoms. They came under state control and had to follow the National Socialist ideology. During the Second World War, cameramen and photographers were systematically deployed at the front in so-called propaganda companies. Each recording was carefully checked for its potential impact on morale before publication.

War propaganda films such as the documentary "Die Feuertaufe" (1939/1940) were made from the film recordings. Above all, they were supposed to demonstrate the superiority of the German armed forces. The images of the war were also used in the "Wochenschau", a report regularly presented in cinemas with a high proportion of downplaying war reports. The "Wochenschau" showed neither fighting soldiers nor dead people. The approximately 1,150 films produced glorified the German Empire without questioning what was happening. In anti-Semitic films like "Jud Suss" (1940) or "Der Ewige Jude" (1940) the Jews were portrayed as inferior, malicious and as a threat.

The radio was also used for the first time as a means of propaganda. Joseph Goebbels considered radio to be the "most modern and [...] most important instrument for influencing the masses". In a speech to the director of the Reichsrundfunk in 1933, for example, he formulated: "To saturate the people with this certainty and this attitude down to the last fiber - to hammer, file and chisel people until they fall for us:
Joseph Goebbels' microphone room in the Reich Ministry of Propaganda, taken in August 1933. (& copy Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1991-0204-503 / Photographer: o. Ang.)
this is one of the main tasks of German radio! "To achieve this, the state ensured that German households could buy radio equipment cheaply. Hitler's propagandistic speeches reached the population via the so-called" people's receivers ". These speeches were characteristic of these speeches Memorable slogans and catchphrases that were repeated over and over again and reproduced in a strongly emotional way

In addition to films, the Allied armed forces also used radio as a medium. Their main concern was to reassure the population and mobilize young men for the war. There was daily reports from the front both on the radio and with film and photo material. Our own reports of success and the atrocities of the Axis powers were in the foreground. The German Wehrmacht and especially Adolf Hitler were often ridiculed on posters. Other representations attempted to illustrate the dangerousness and brutality of the enemy in symbolic form: They show, for example, the destruction of positive patriotic symbols such as the Statue of Liberty or the American flag by the Axis powers.