Creating the Third Reich through film, press, and pageantry (1933-1934) : a myth-ritual analysis / by Sherland Ernest Jackson.
The most common defense for Nazi perpetrators at the postwar Nuremberg tribunals was that they had simply been following orders, that they, too, had been victims of a powerful regime with an omnipotent dictator at its head. The metaphor of Hitler as hypnotic spellbinder, whose will, speech, and gaze were essentially impossible to resist, became a trope in pioneering studies of National Socialism. In sharp contradistinction to the spellbinding-dictator model was the thesis widely promulgated by Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners (1996), which argues that Hitler served merely as catalyst to release pent up forces already existing in German culture and society. Goldhagen's thesis, even if accepted, lacks explanatory power as to the mechanisms through which these pent up forces were constructed. This dissertation is an attempt to, at least partially, fill that void.An enduring model of communication theory (Shannon, Weaver, Lasswell, et al.) posits that effective propaganda functions in a top-down manner, through which powerful senders are able to transmit messages directly into passive minds of recipients. This study questions such theory. Building upon work of Eliade, Ellul, Barthes, Benjamin, Sontag, Reichel, et al., this dissertation develops an alternative model in which propaganda finds its power not in transmission of message, but in ritualistic repetition of myth. The dissertation suggests that a myth-ritual model (as well as the transmission model) was widely employed in the propagandistic construction of the Third Reich. Texts analyzed in demonstrating the contrast between the two models include three films produced in 1933: SA Mann Brand, Hitlerjunge Quex, and Hans Westmar; newspaper articles from the New York Times and the Völkischer Beobachter covering the 1933 and 1934 mass rallies held in Nuremberg; and Leni Riefenstahl's film treatment of the same events in Sieg des Glaubens (Victory of Faith) and Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will). An epilogue further demonstrates the contrast between the alternative communications models in two anti-Semitic films of 1940: Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew) and Jud Süss (Jew Süss). In conclusion, the 1945 film Kolberg suggests that the Nazi elite fell victim to their own propagandizing and myth making.
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