Analysis Of Adolf Hitler Speeches
The decade after WWI was a very difficult time for Germany. There were economic hardships not only because of the financial costs of war, but also because of the reparations Germany agreed to pay in the Versailles Treaty. In addition to the financial penalties, the Versailles Treaty also cost Germany thirteen percent of its land (Castillo). Because the country was in such deep debt, and no other country would agree to lend them money, the German central bank printed money and loaned it to the government. This resulted in huge inflation. The German currency became almost worthless during this time (Kenney).
Many of the Germans believed they got a raw deal with the signing of the Versailles Treaty. In addition to the reparations to France and England, and the surrendering of land, by signing the treaty Germany agreed to be held solely responsible for WWI (Castillo). The anger and resentment felt by German citizens, as well as the hardships they were enduring, created a situation where many felt that a change in leadership and direction needed to be made for the good of the country. They not only wanted to feel safe economically and otherwise, but also wanted to have some influence among the European powers.
During these years of economic struggles, Adolf Hitler was beginning to make a name for himself as he traveled around Germany giving speeches promoting the views of the National Socialist German Workers Party. This exposure, and the experiences he gained, eventually helped propel him to become the leader of the German Nazi party.
Adolf Hitler was born in 1889, in Austria-Hungary. He was the fourth of six children born to Alois and Klara Hitler. As a child he was relatively happy although there was some serious conflict with his father. During his school years, Hitler was the target of bullies which caused him to withdraw and become self-conscious (“Adolf Hitler”). As a young adult he enlisted in the Bavarian army, where he was wounded and decorated. By the time he reached his twenties, both of his parents had died. He was out of money, living in homeless shelters, and working odd jobs when he was able. During this time he became interested in pursuing art, and often sold his paintings for extra money. Another interest he developed and pursues was reading.
Specifically, he enjoyed reading the works of philosophers and developed an interest in the German nationalist papers. He became more and more attracted to the nationalist viewpoints, deciding that they matched very closely to his own beliefs (“Adolf Hitler”). He joined the National Socialist German Workers Party, which introduced him to anti-Semitic views, and traveled around the country giving speeches criticizing Marxists, Jews, and the Weimar Republic (Germany’s ruling government from 1919-1933). He gathered a large following because of his public speaking abilities (“Nazi Party”).
In 1923 he was arrested for attempting to overthrow the Bavarian government and served one year in prison, after which he was pardoned by the Bavarian court. Immediately after being released, Hitler wrote a manifesto entitled Mein Kampf, which told of his plans to change Germany into a one race country (“Adolf Hitler”). This manifesto was eventually embraced by many Germans and aided in Hitler’s rise to power within the German government.
One of Hitler’s speeches came during the Nuremberg Rally in 1927. The speech was a direct attempt to target those German citizens that were upset about the Versailles Treaty – specifically, the loss of land to surrounding countries. He centers the speech on the idea of acquiring land for Germany – not only new land but also the land that was taken away by the Treaty. He speaks of how a country can obtain the power necessary to accomplish their goals. Mainly, he calls the citizens to join together as a whole which will make them better and stronger. Also, he proposes the idea of eliminating other races from the country in order to sustain the country’s power (Cleary).
Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States was a decision that many thought foolish. However, in his speech to the Germans, he outlined his reasons and made a compelling case. As Germany was experiencing setbacks in its attempt to overtake the Russian capital of Moscow, and a harsh winter was hurting the German soldiers, Hitler needed something to boost morale and persuade Germans to unite. He centered his rhetoric on a country joining together to accomplish a mission. He blamed US President Roosevelt for the conflict, insinuating that he was attempting to cover up the United States’ economic problems by entering into war (Weinberg). Nationalism, power, and a one-race society were again included in this speech and were usually well received by the German people.
A closer look at the Nuremberg Rally speech and the Declaration of War shows a pattern of manipulating the audience by using words that bring about strong emotions – those of pride and patriotism when speaking of Germany, and those of anger and fear when speaking of the opposition.
In 1927, a rally for the National Socialist German Worker’s Party was hosted in Nuremberg, Germany. Adolf Hitler, as well as others, spoke at the rally feeding the crowd Nationalistic propaganda. This was in the years after WWI, when the country was in the midst of severe economic hardship. Members of the National Socialist German Workers Party, and specifically Hitler, had plans as to how Germany could re-establish itself as a prosperous country while also making itself into a world power.
Hitler had already established himself as a credible speaker over the course of several years as he traveled around Germany and spoke about his ideas to improve the country. By this point in time, he was the president of the National Socialist Workers Party and well respected among the group (cite). While not all attendees of the rally knew about Adolf Hitler, they could immediately tell from his speaking that he was passionate and knowledgeable about the topic.
The speech at the Nuremberg Rally was Hitler’s attempt to persuade the audience to join him and the National Socialist German Workers Party to bring about change within the country, specifically within the German government. The main idea Hitler presented is that Germany will never become a powerful nation again without first finding the methods to obtain power. Hitler claims that there are three requirements needed to regain Germany’s power, and as he explores each one, he uses Pathos to influence the listener. He begins by stating that in order for a country to have power, it first must examine the numerical size of its population. Hitler says that “62 million people…are no longer a power factor in a world in which groups with 400 million are increasingly active”, suggesting that there aren’t enough people in Germany to compete in industry or in battle.
The second point he makes is that a country must consider the size of its territory. He thinks Germany is far too small to support its population, giving the statement that it is “laughable that one can fly across our German territory in a mere four hours”. The third point Hitler makes is that a country must rely on the inner strength of its people in order to be a power and to prosper. “A nation can do astounding things when it carries this power in its own internal values”, Hitler says. By this point, the premise of his speech is laid out and he begins to expand on his ideas. As he does so, his use of Pathos becomes evident, using three main emotions to affect the listener.
One of the emotions Hitler tries to bring out from the listener is that of fear, using it while making his three points about power. As he lists each point, he ends by commenting that Germany does not possess that particular trait, using this as a way to bring fear and uncertainty to the listener. There are multiple instances where his word choice is designed to stoke fear within the listener. Some of the words he uses are as follows: horror, poison, infect, weaken, attack, bloody, terror.
Another emotion Hitler attempts to evoke from the listener is that of anger and revenge. Hitler takes an angry, aggressive tone throughout the speech. It is known that he and other Germans are angry about the treaty signed at the end of WWI which officially blamed the Germans for the war, made them pay reparations to neighboring countries, and brought about economic hardship for the country (cite). Also, the National Socialist German Workers party is not satisfied with the current ruling party in the German government, the Weimar Republic, which is another reason for them to be angry. He tries to relate this to the listener through his actions, body language, and Pathos.
A third emotion that Hitler uses, especially near the conclusion of the speech, is that of patriotism. Some of the words and phrases he uses related to this are: salvation, alive, freedom, patriotism, “national strength and power”, “purity of blood”, “men who grew through struggle, who matured in it”. As Hitler brings attention to the fact that Germany currently has no national flag, he proposes a new flag that the people can rally around. He states, “and that is why we have chosen a new flag that is the symbol of the coming new German Reich: a symbol of national strength and power joined with the purity of the blood”. This is a call to patriotism, unity, and loyalty.
In reference to Logos, Hitler does not bother to emphasize facts in his speech. While he does mention three separate times that the population of Germany is 62 million people, and discusses the fact that the existing German flag was taken away at the end of WWI in 1918, almost the entirety of his speech is opinion and ideas. Hitler uses his expertise in public speaking and knowledge of word choices to connect with the audience and emphasize his points.
In the days following Japan’s bombing of the American naval base, Pearl Harbor, the United States, as expected, declared war on Japan. What was not completely expected was Hitler declaring war on the United States immediately afterwards. Germany had been at war with neighboring European countries for several years, and their troops were thin and tired from the fighting. There has been disagreement about why he chose to declare war at that time, but what is not in question was Hitler’s determination to eventually confront the United States in battle (Laurence). On December 11, 1941, five days after the Pearl Harbor bombing, and three days after the United States declared war on japan, Hitler gave an address to the German citizens declaring his intentions to go to war with the United States.
Hitler establishes his Ethos because of his position as the leader, or Fuhrer, of the Nazi party, the ruling party in Germany. By 1941, he had been in power for nearly seven years and had made many decisions that benefitted Germany, specifically ones that resulted in economic recovery for the country. German citizens had come to believe that he was a good leader and trusted his judgement (“The German Economy Under Hitler”).
Hitler made his declaration of war speech at an assembly of the Nazi party leaders, however, he also used the speech to inform the German people about the progress in the war up to that point. Although he does speak of hardships encountered during the battles, Hitler is mostly positive and encouraging with his words. At one point, after listing various military achievements, he says, “For behind those figures are hidden the achievements, the sacrifices, the privations, the everlasting heroic courage and the readiness to die of millions of the best men of our own nation and of the States allied to us”. This is a good example of the words he uses to promote pride for the German citizens.
The first half of the speech is a history, and sometimes a storytelling, of the ongoing war as well as a progress report. It’s not until nearly half-way through the speech did Hitler first mentions the United States, and when he finally does, he blames President Roosevelt for all of Germany’s, and the world’s, misfortunes. This is when the tone of the speech changes. Speaking of Roosevelt, he says, “First he incites war then falsifies the causes, then odiously wraps himself in a cloak of Christian hypocrisy and slowly but surely leads mankind to war”. His tone has now become defiant and angry.
Hitler starts the second half of the speech by stating that Germany has had no issues with the United States. He reminds the audience that Germany has never been “politically unfriendly” towards America, has never taken “part in any war against the U. S. A. ”, and has never “had a colony in either North or South America”. He wants the audience to know that there are no extenuating circumstances that should cause animosity between the two countries. He does acknowledge the differences in political philosophy, a democratic nation versus a socialist country, but otherwise ignores the reasons that make the United States, and other countries, concerned for what might happen with Hitler and the Nazi party in power.
Hitler uses Logos throughout the speech, especially as he tells the stories of past and ongoing battles, gives casualty reports, and lists the accomplishments of the German troops. He is quick to provide detailed statistics on the number of enemy prisoners taken, and the number of Soviet and British tanks, airplanes, and ships that have been destroyed.
In addition to Logos, Hitler uses Pathos in the speech to influence the listener one way or the other. As an example, he constantly “bad mouths” President Roosevelt, using words to describe him such as: clumsy, authoritative, squandering, and spiteful. In the same way, when speaking of the United States and its allies, he scatters in words like: illegal, guilty, “socially backward”, “thirst for revenge”, sabotage, and hypocritical. These words can have an impact on the audience, bringing out anger or fear which plays right into the message Hitler wants to convey. Dealing with the emotion of fear specifically, Hitler uses these words and phrases in relation to the United States: “unrestricted world domination”, attack, “illegal arming and repairing”, “against international law”, incitement, threatened. Hearing these words, it’s easy to understand why Germans would support a war against this type of country.
Conversely, he uses different words to encourage the German citizens and bring about emotions of pride and patriotism. While speaking of German achievements, and possible future military engagements, he utilizes inspiring words: “thrived astoundingly”, united, sacrifices, proud, “allied with strong peoples”, and “greatness of our duty”. He ends his speech by declaring that the German people should thank God because they have the opportunity to be “entered with honour into the ever-lasting book of German history”.
Analyzing two of Adolf Hitler’s speeches shows that he is an effective, and often inspiring, speaker. While Hitler is universally detested because of the atrocities he directed while leader of Germany, there is no doubt he knew how to utilize his speeches to promote certain thoughts and ideas. His use of Logos and Pathos demonstrate his ability to inspire and influence an audience.
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