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Propaganda Film: "Radio in War"

Propaganda film radio.

Radio was still a relatively new technology at the time the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933. The first regular radio broadcasts in Germany began only a decade earlier during the years of the Weimar Republic. Radio receivers were luxury items when they were first introduced, and only a small percentage of Germans had them in their homes. But home radio ownership was growing by the time that the Nazi Party rose to power, and broadcast radio became the leading form of mass communication during the years of Nazi rule.1

When Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was appointed German Chancellor in January 1933, the Nazi regime immediately began consolidating its power and reshaping German society in a process known as Gleichschaltung" (German for “coordination”). Nazi leaders saw the control of Germany’s radio broadcasting networks as a crucial part of these efforts to transform Germany. The regime used radio to spread Nazi propaganda and create a sense of shared culture and community among members of the Nazis' so-called "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft").2

The featured clip from the 1944 propaganda film Radio in War shows how Nazi leaders thought radio could be used to connect and unite the members of the Nazi "national community" during World War II. The film takes viewers behind the scenes of a radio station and shows the production of different programming—including anti-Jewish propaganda, news about the war, and music. Popular Sunday programming in Nazi Germany featured songs that were requested for loved ones serving on the front as well as personal announcements such as births or engagements.3 These personal details were included to produce emotional responses in listeners. Nazi propagandists hoped to create the feeling that the members of the "national community" all belonged to one gigantic, extended national family that was united by a stream of words and music.

The regime also tried using radio to connect civilians with the experiences of those serving in the German military by broadcasting news and propaganda from the front. The featured clip begins with members of the German military reporting from the frontlines as battle scenes play behind them. The film suggests that listening to the radio could connect loved ones separated by war through shared experiences. Nazi leaders imagined that radio would act like a “magical bond” uniting Germans on the homefront with soldiers on the frontlines.4 The final scenes of the film show Germans from different walks of life—including workers, mothers, and soldiers—all listening to the radio as part of their daily routines. 

To increase the size of the listening audience for Nazi radio broadcasts, the regime started production of the so-called “People’s Receiver” (Volksempfänger)5 in May 1933. These basic and affordable radio sets enabled the regime to broadcast Nazi propaganda directly into listeners’ homes. They were intended to show that the Nazi regime was improving Germans’ quality of life and erasing class differences among members of the "national community."6 “People’s Receivers” were designed to pick up local German stations only, but listeners could sometimes pick up foreign broadcasts. Listening to foreign radio broadcasts became a punishable offense after the outbreak of World War II. Many Germans risked tuning in anyway. During World War II, Nazi authorities began registering the names and addresses of anyone who bought new radios and confiscated radios owned by Jewish people.

To learn more about the development of German radio in the early 1930s, see Adelheid von Saldern, "Volk and Heimat Culture in Radio Broadcasting during the Period of Transition from Weimar to Nazi Germany," The Journal of Modern History 76, no. 2 (June 2004): 312–46.

For more on the Nazi regime's attempts to build support for Nazi rule through the use of seemingly positive propaganda, see the Experiencing History collection, Nazi Propaganda and National Unity.

This program—Wunschkonzert für die Wehrmacht ("Request Concert for the Armed Forces")—became one of the most popular radio programs in Nazi Germany during World War II. It first began in 1936 to benefit the Winter Relief Fund (Winterhilfswerk). To learn more about this annual Nazi charity drive, see the related Experiencing History item, Propaganda Film on Community Welfare

This phrase comes from a Nazi-era plot summary of the 1940 propaganda film Wunschkonzert (Request Concert), which was about how the popular Sunday radio program of the same name connected Germans separated by the war. To learn more about Wunschkonzert, see David Bathrick, "Making a National Family with the Radio: The Nazi Wunschkonzert," Modernism/modernity 4, no. 1 (January 1997): 115-127; and Brian Currid, A National Acoustics: Music and Mass Publicity in Weimar and Nazi Germany (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), 54-8.

The Volksempfänger 301 sold for roughly half the price of comparable radio sets. The "301" in its name was a reference to the thirtieth day of January 1933—the day that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was appointed German Chancellor. To learn more about the Nazi "People's Receiver," see H. J. P. Bergmeier, Hitler's Airwaves: The Inside Story of Nazi Radio Broadcasting and Propaganda Swing (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 8-9.

For more on affordable consumer products promoted by Nazi propaganda as "People’s Products" ("Volksprodukte"), see the related Experiencing History item, Photograph of a "Strength through Joy" Car.

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Sie hörten Frontberichte der Propagandakompanien.

You have heard front-line reports from the [Wehrmacht] propaganda companies.

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Accession Number 2005.64.1
RG Number RG-60.4233
Source Number 2767
Date Created
Duration 00:01:43
Sound Yes
Moving Image Type Newsreel
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