Fraudulent Nazi Quotations
By Mark Weber
Fraudulent quotations attributed to Hitler and other Third Reich leaders have been widely circulated for years. Such quotes are often used by polemicists -- of both the left and the right -- to discredit their ideological adversaries by showing that Nazis held similar views. This tactic works because people have been educated to believe that anything Hitler and other Nazi leaders thought or said was malevolent, wrong-headed or evil, and that no reasonable or ethical person could hold similar views.
Here's a look at a few of the many remarks falsely attributed to Hitler and other top Nazis.
Goebbels: 'Truth is the Enemy of the State'
Hitler's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, supposedly said:
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."
Rush Limbaugh, the popular American radio commentator, is just one of the many influential Americans who has cited this quotation. During a May 2007 radio broadcast he claimed that these remarks are "from Hitler's war room, the Nazi spinmeister-in-chief, Joseph Goebbels," who was "speaking for his cronies in the Nazi party." Limbaugh went on to claim that American "Democrat Party" leaders were using "a version" of Goebbels' technique to try to "repress dissent." And in January 2011 US Congressman Steve Cohen, a Democratic party politician of Tennessee, accused Republicans of propagating "a big lie, just like Goebbels" about a proposed national health care plan.
In fact, Goebbels' views were quite different than what this fraudulent quote suggests. He consistently held that propaganda should be accurate and truthful.
In an address given in September 1934 in Nuremberg, he said: "Good propaganda does not need to lie, indeed it may not lie. It has no reason to fear the truth. It is a mistake to believe that people cannot take the truth. They can. It is only a matter of presenting the truth to people in a way that they will be able to understand. A propaganda that lies proves that it has a bad cause. It cannot be successful in the long run."
In an article written in 1941, he cited examples of false British wartime claims, and went on to charge that British propagandists had adopted the "big lie" technique that Hitler had identified and condemned in his book Mein Kampf. Goebbels wrote: "The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous."
Hitler and Gun Control
In a speech, sometimes said to have been delivered in 1935, Hitler is supposed to have exclaimed: "This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!"
This quote has been popular with Americans who defend the constitutional right to "keep and bear arms." It's cited to discredit those who support restrictions on firearms ownership and use. It's also cited to support the often-made charge that Hitler and his government curtailed gun ownership in Germany, and confiscated weapons held by private citizens.
The truth is rather different. When Hitler and his National Socialist Party took power in early 1933, they inherited a somewhat restrictive firearms law that the liberal-democratic "Weimar" government had enacted five years earlier. In 1938 Hitler's government revised the earlier law by loosening those restrictions, thereby enhancing the rights of Germans to own weapons. The most thorough confiscation of firearms ever imposed on Germans was carried out at the end of the Second World War by the occupation forces of the United States and other victorious Allied powers.
Hitler on 'Law and Order'
Hitler is supposed to have said during a speech in 1932, shortly before he became Chancellor:
"The streets of our cities are in turmoil. The universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting. Communists are seeking to destroy our country. Russia is threatening us with her might and the Republic is in danger. Yes, danger from within and without. We need law and order! Yes, without law and order our nation cannot survive ... Elect us and we shall restore law and order. We shall, by law and order, be respected among the nations of the world. Without law and order our Republic shall fail."
This quotation, which is meant to embarrass and discredit those who support "law and order," was especially popular with younger Americans during the late 1960s and early 1970s. It appeared on posters and in the 1971 movie "Billy Jack."
In his many election campaign speeches in 1932 Hitler stressed the themes of justice, freedom, jobs and national unity -- not "law and order." German universities in 1932 were not "filled with students rebelling and rioting." In fact, German students were among the most fervent supporters of Hitler and his National Socialist movement.
Goering on Culture
Hermann Goering, a high-ranking Third Reich official, is often quoted as having said: "Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver." Reichsmarschall Goering (Göring), who was commander of Germany's air force, would never have said anything like this. Along with other high-level Third Reich leaders, he esteemed the arts, and prided himself on his appreciation of culture.
This quote is a distortion of a line by a character in the play Schlageter by German writer Hanns Johst. The original line (translated) is "When I hear [the word] culture ... I release the safety on my Browning!" A version of this quote is presented in a staged scene in "Why We Fight," a US government wartime propaganda film, to suggest that the typical "Nazi" was an uncultured thug.
Hitler and Conscience
"I am liberating man from the degrading chimera known as conscience," Hitler is supposed to have said. This widely repeated quote appears, for example, in The Great Quotations, a supposedly authoritative collection compiled by Jewish American journalist and author George Seldes. It's a version of a remark attributed to Hitler by Hermann Rauschning in his book, The Voice of Destruction (Conversations with Hitler), which is a source of many fraudulent quotations supposedly based on private talks with Hitler that, in fact, never took place.
The "original" text of this quote, as presented by Rauschning, is: "Providence has ordained that I should be the greatest liberator of humanity. I am freeing men from the restraints of an intelligence that has taken charge; from the dirty and degrading self-mortifications of a chimera called conscience and morality, and from the demands of a freedom and personal independence which only a very few can bear."
In fact, Hitler repeatedly emphasized the importance of acting conscientiously. For example, in at least three different public statements or speeches 1941 alone, he spoke about acting in accord with his conscience. Rudolf Hess, a close friend and trusted colleague, once said that his devotion to Hitler was based in large measure on his regard for Hitler's resolute conscience. In a 1934 speech Hess said: "The conscience of a moral personality is a far greater protection against the misuse of an office than is the supervision of parliament or the separation of powers. I know no one who has a stronger conscience, or is more true to his people, than Adolf Hitler ... The Führer's highest court is his conscience and his responsibility to his people and to history."
Hitler: 'Destroy By All Means'
The US government propaganda film, "Why We Fight," quotes Hitler as having said: "My motto is 'Destroy by all and any means. National Socialism will reshape the world'." This is a version of a remark attributed to Hitler by Hermann Rauschning in his influential book. The "original" text, as presented by Rauschning, is: "I want war. To me all means will be right ... My motto is not 'Don't, whatever you do, annoy the enemy!' My motto is 'Destroy him by all and any means.' I am the one who will wage the war!" Another version of this invented remark appears in the book Hitler and Nazism (1961), by historian Louis Leo Snyder, who was a professor at City College of New York.
Hitler on Terrorism
Hitler has often been quoted as saying: "Terrorism is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death." This quote is based on two invented remarks in Hermann Rauschning's mendacious book, The Voice of Destruction.
Hitler: 'We Are Barbarians'
Hitler has often been quoted as saying: "They refer to me as an uneducated barbarian. Yes, we are barbarians. We want to be barbarians, it is an honored title to us. We shall rejuvenate the world. This world is near its end."
This is another fraudulent Hitler quote from the fanciful work of Hermann Rauschning.
Hitler and 'Brutal Youth'
"A violently active, dominating, intrepid, brutal youth -- that is what I am after ... I want to see in its eyes the gleam of pride and independence, of prey. I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is the ruin of my young men." This widely cited remark is included, for example, in George Seldes' The Great Quotations. The source cited by Seldes is an item in The Nation by the popular American journalist and author John Gunther (1901-1970).
In fact, this is a version of a remark attributed to Hitler by Hermann Rauschning, whose imaginative work is a source of many phony "quotes." Another fraudulent Hitler remark in this same spirit and from this same source, likewise cited by the supposedly authoritative Seldes, is this: "Universal education is the most corroding and disintegrating poison that liberalism ever invented for its own destruction."
These remarks misrepresent Hitler's real views. In fact, National Socialist Germany was a world leader in science, learning, technology and medicine. Hitler was admired by some of the leading intellectuals of the age, including Knut Hamsun, Ezra Pound, Louis-Ferdinand Celine and Martin Heidegger.
References / For Further Reading
Randall Bytwerk, "False Nazi Quotations" (http://bytwerk.com/gpa/falsenaziquotations.htm)
Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (New York: Oxford, 1989).
Joseph Goebbels, "From Churchill's Factory of Lies," ("Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik"), January 1941. Reprinted in Zeit ohne Beispiel (http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/goeb29.htm) (1941)
Joseph Goebbels, "Propaganda" (Nuremberg: 1934)
William L. Pierce, Gun Control in Germany 1928-1945 (1994)
John Toland, Adolf Hitler (1976)
Mark Weber, "Goebbels and World War II Propaganda," 2011
Mark Weber, "Goebbels' Place in History," The Journal of Historical Review, 1995.
Mark Weber, "Hitler as 'Enlightenment Intellectual': The Enduring Allure of Hitlerism," 1997
Mark Weber, "Rauschning's Phony 'Conversations With Hitler': An Update," 1985