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Why Can't We Be Friends?

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Isabel Seiden

on 2 December 2013

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Transcript of Why Can't We Be Friends?

Why Can't We Be Friends?
How were the Nazis able to garner support for two dramatically different foreign policy programs towards the Soviet Union without delegitimizing their regime?
Utilitarian Policies
The German people were made to believe that there were logical reasons to support both of the governments policies towards the Soviet Union.
The Propaganda Machine Was Too Effective
The highly developed Nazi propaganda machine stopped people from questioning the government's choices.
People Were Too Afraid to Speak Out
The German people saw the massive contradictions within Hitler's regime. However, the threat of retribution kept people from speaking out.
Charismatic Leadership
Hitler was such a powerful and iconic leader that people trusted the things that he said in his speeches because he was the one saying them.
All government successes were attributed to Hitler, and all government failures were depicted as things that Hitler must not have had any knowledge of.
The German government was able to convince the people that the current policy towards the Soviet Union was the most beneficial to Germany.
Hating the Soviet Union was central to the original Nazi Party platform
Prior to 1939, "Judeo-Bolshevism" was presented in Nazi propaganda as one of the greatest international threats to Germany.
Suddenly, in 1939, Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.
Despite the fact that this was a complete contradiction of the Nazis' own platform, and even though the regime was still consolidating power, there was no massive outcry against this action. Somehow, the German government was able to gain popular support for a policy that went against everything that they'd ever said about the Soviet Union.
The German government assembled a massive anti-Bolshevist exhibition in 1937.
The Great Anti-Bolshevist Exhibition traveled to major cities across Germany. An overarching theme of the exhibition was the idea of a Jewish conspiracy which constituted a clear and present danger to German safety.
Following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union was depicted very differently.
German magazines were instructed by the government to depict ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union as oppressed peoples trying to end the communist regime.
Germany and the Soviet Union also became trading partners. Germany was able to supply the Soviet Union with manufactured goods and machinery (including weapons and armaments), while the Soviet Union sent raw materials and foodstuffs to Germany.
In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union.
Just like the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Operation Barbarossa should have been a massive shock to the German people. However, just like the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the invasion caused little organized dissent
So now we can be friends, right?
After 1939, the Soviet Union was depicted as an ally.
Just like these slides, there was no coherent transition between the two massively contradictory policies.
This gets even stranger when you look at the larger foreign policy picture in Germany.
Hitler did not fully give up on an alliance with Great Britain until late 1941.

He believed that Germany and Great Britain should come together around their mutual dislike of communism.

Great Britain disagreed.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact explicitly banned Germany from allying itself with Japan.

Meanwhile, Germany had already begun to ally itself with Japan through the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936, and continued to do so through the Three Power Treaty in 1940.
Theory #1
Theory #4
Theory #2
Furthermore, because citizens of Nazi Germany reported on each other to the SS, people were afraid to speak out even in private. This stopped meaningful dissent movements from taking hold.
Theory #3
These logical appeals differed for each Nazi policy.
To gain support for the alliance with the Soviet Union, the Nazis appealed to their value as a trade partner. In order to become a stronger industrial power, Germany needed steady access to raw materials, which the Soviet Union could provide.
The idea of Lebensraum played into the logical appeal of going to war with the Soviet Union. Germany needed room to expand in order to support its growing population, and the East was the most logical place to expand.
For the sake of time, we're going to focus on one document.
Primary Source Analysis
Nazi Advice to Speakers on the Attack of the Soviet Union
This is a statement released by Hitler's government shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Because it is an official statement meant to coordinate the media surrounding the invasion, it can be viewed as a valid representation of the governments plans and intentions surrounding the invasion.
Which Theories are Present in this Text?
Charismatic Leadership: Hitler is described as the element which pulled Germany out of the "time of struggle" which the Soviet Union is currently experiencing.
Propaganda: As a statement meant to coordinate official representations of the invasion, it can be seen as planning propaganda. It also contains hints of the rhetoric of bringing developments and modernization to the Soviet Union, and freeing the people from the oppressive Bolshevik government.
To view this theory as plausible, you must regard the German people as rational actors.
Therefore, with this as our sample...
From this text we can see that organized and well-coordinated propaganda was a large component of gaining popular opinion for the invasion of the Soviet Union. This propaganda focused on the relative glory of Germany, presenting the Germans as liberators in the Soviet Union, freeing the people from the oppression of communism.

While the importance of Hitler as a national savior is brought up in this text, it is of secondary importance to the multi-faceted propaganda argument.
Assumptions cannot necessarily be made based on this text to explain public support for the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. However, analysis of this text does demonstrate the power, as well as the coordination and depth, of the German propaganda machine. This alone provides a warning for contemporary politics that an independent press is vital for responsible democracy.
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