This post looks at the role and techniques of Hitler’s powers of speech in his rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. It also discusses the purpose of Nazi rallies.
Hitler’s rise to power
Before the Nazis Party’s rapid ascent on the world stage in 1930s, Hitler’s party was largely unknown. It won just 3% of votes in Germany’s 1924 elections.
In order to compete with the established parties and make waves in German politics, he knew that he needed to travel the length and breadth of Germany and get his message to as many ‘ordinary people’ as possible. This meant speaking to people directly.
He started off small-scale, targeting working class venue in working class towns, such as beer halls. People frequenting these types of places would respond best to his populist message.
Eventually, after many speeches and many beers, this would mobilise an entire political movement which would translate to votes further down the line. The result would impact the world for generations to come.
The power of speech when talking about Hitler can not be underestimated. In his own words, taken from Mein Kampf, Hitler himeslf provides his view on the importance of the spoken word:
“I know that men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to great orators and not to great writers.”
He would be proven right in this assertion. Eight years after the Nazi party’s dyer performance in the 1924 election, the Nazis were the largest party in the Reichstag. Ten years later in 1934, Hitler, his party, and his political agenda were totally in charge and leading the German government.
Hitler’s speech technique
Hitler didn’t rely or trust anyone else with the important task of writing his speeches. He was known to write them for days at a time, editing them up to five times.
Time wasn’t important when it came to writing. He would work all hours of the day and often into the early hours of the morning, for several nights in a row. Numerous members of staff would work alongside him, taking notes and his dictation and typing it straight into typewriters. He would then carefully correct the drafts until they were perfect.
As an interesting aside, Hitler’s counterpart in the war, Winston Churchill also trusted no-one else to write his speeches.
Hitler’s trigger words
Hitler frequently used trigger words throughout his speeches to convey strength and power to whip up a reaction from the crowds. These words included “sword”, “fire”, and “blood”. Likewise, he also relied on symbolism, with metaphors such as the eagle and swastika featuring heavily. These would only be used in relation to Germany –
On the other hand, when Hitler spoke about ‘enemies’, Jews and Marxists, words that conveyed weakness were used. One of his favourites was ‘pacifist’. He used this term when speaking about anything he disagreed with. To Hitler, pacifism was the ultimate sign of weakness.
Hitler’s persuasive techniques
Hitler’s persuasive method was built upon the foundation of treating the German people as a group, rather than as individuals.
He also kept his speeches fairly simple, preferring to focus on a single point rather than complex speeches that covered a lot of ground. In his opinion multiple points and speeches that covered multiple topics diluted his central populist message.
Evidence of this can be seen in another quote from Mein Kampf:
“… all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away”
Another technique Hitler employed in his speeches was the “either-or” fallacy. This is achieved by creating a false dilemma in the mind of his audience. He was able to convince them that although something was unethical, it was the only option.
Either Germany lie down and accept the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, accept their fate of being ‘second class’
or they could take back their dignity, ignore the Treaty of Versailles and re-arm and work to build up their lost territories.
At Nazi party rallies, Hitler would often start off quietly – barely audible at times – and appear shy and reserved. As the speech wore on he would become more and more animated. He would grow to become enraged, yelling at the top of his voice and waving his arms frantically. The impression left on listeners was one of passion and dedication to the fight, something that again reinforced Hitler as ‘not another politician’ and someone that would fight for the everyday man.
The final tactic Hitler used to persuade the Volk through his speeches was convincing his audience that the rest of the world thought of Germany as inferior, second-class citizens. This angered the crowd, who had been comprehensively indoctrinated to believe that they were the master race. Hitler offered up as evidence the Treaty of Versailles, which he believed treated the Germans as subhuman.
What was the purpose of the Nuremberg Rally?
One of the most overt ways that Hitler conveyed a sense of strength and power was through his speeches at rallies. like the famous ones at Nuremberg where upwards of 700,000 Nazi members would listen and watch.
Ultimately Nazis displayed strength through demonstrations of military might. Nowhere was this more prevalent than Nazi rallies.
Treaty of Versailles backlash
All this being said, the main thrust of Hitler’s speech and persuasive techniques ultimately relied on convincing his audience that the rest of the world thought of Germany as inferior and its people second-class citizens.
This angered the crowd, who had all lived though and seen the change in Germany following the conclusion of WW1 and it was the Treaty of Versailles that Hitler often referred to as evidence for Germans as being treated as subhuman.