Joseph Goebbels: Hitler’s ‘little doctor’ was devoted unto death

According to Peter Longerich’s biography, the Nazi party’s propaganda minister and evil genius only once fell out with his Führer — over a woman

9 May 2015

9:00 AM

9 May 2015

9:00 AM

Goebbels Peter Longerich

Bodley Head, pp.964, £30, ISBN: 97818407920317

It is ironic that this weighty biography of Hitler’s evil genius of a propaganda minister is published on the day of a general election filled with Joseph Goebbels’s hallmarks: mendacity, media manipulation and the big lie.

Seventy years after the spectacular suicide of Goebbels and his wife Magda, and their murder of their six children, in the Berlin bunker, the ‘little doctor’ is still a byword for the black arts of political spin and politicians regularly accuse each other of telling fibs ‘worthy of Goebbels’.

The Nazi specialist Peter Longerich, Professor of History at Royal Holloway, University of London, offers a compelling chronicle not because he writes with sparkle — German historians rarely do that and no fewer than three translators don’t help the plodding style — but because his book is based on Goebbels’s own caustic words. For, evil and twisted though he was, Goebbels is our most important eyewitness to the Nazi era from the early days of the party’s struggle for power to the final Götterdämmerung in burning Berlin. His daily diaries — filleted and analysed by Longerich — give us an intimate, candid and cynical inside view of the Third Reich from its second chief creator.

Longerich’s central thesis is psychological rather than political. Goebbels had a narcissistic personality disorder — call him the ‘Nasty Nazi Narcissist’ — causing him to identify Hitler as the one who could help him achieve his deep and dark desire for power and acclaim ahead of any considerations of morality.

His unswerving adoration of Hitler, rather than his marriage or his numerous affairs, was the leitmotif of his life. Indeed, Longerich reveals that there were three people in the Goebbels ménage: the couple themselves, and the Führer — who was a permanent guest in their home, doted on their children and chastely loved Magda.

Goebbels had a hard upbringing. The child of a poor but respectable Rhineland Catholic family, he was born with a club foot which gave him a permanent limp. This disability, coupled with high intelligence, driving ambition, voracious sexuality and relative poverty, provided a rich cocktail of bitter complexes and hang-ups as he started to write his revealing journals.

A wannabe writer, Goebbels gained a doctorate in literature. His youth was marked by a chronic shortage of money and a succession of tormented love affairs withvarious girlfriends. In the wake of the first world war, he became a fervent German nationalist and a vicious anti-Semite.

According to Longerich, the young Goebbels was always in search of a Messiah-like father figure to fulfil his nagging need for attention and applause. As a journalist he joined the rising Nazi party in the early 1920s. At first, he opposed Hitler as a Bavarian reactionary. Goebbels took the ‘socialist’ aspects of the Nazi programme seriously, and even called for Hitler’s expulsion from the party. But after actually meeting Hitler, and falling under his spell, his conversion was instant and complete. From that moment on he became a devoted disciple, and would not waver in his loyalty until they died together in the bunker as their Reich crashed in flames around them.

When Hitler was appointed German Chancellor in 1933, Goebbels was already on the inside track of Nazi power, and constantly at Hitler’s side. He remained minister for propaganda and public enlightenment until the very end.

No mean media manipulator himself, Hitler recognised the debt he owed to the little doctor who had carefully crafted his image and stage-managed his public appearances and who ran his elections with such original stunts as flying the Führer from rally to rally across Germany. (It was the first time a modern politician had taken to the air to conduct his campaign.)

Once in office, Goebbels used his unlimited power to create an empire beyond the dreams of his pale spin-doctor imitators today. He acquired total control of Germany’s press, publishing, broadcasting, theatre and film industries. He dictated the daily ‘line’ to be taken by a state-run media; he placed cheap radio sets in every home to ensure that everyone heard the message; and he commissioned the movies (and bedded the actresses) which sugared the Nazi propaganda pill.

The only time that the devoted disciple had a serious rift with his Führer (though he occasionally criticised Hitler in the privacy of his diaries) was when his affair with the beautiful Czech actress Lída Baarová caused Magda — unfaithful herself — to demand a divorce. Hitler intervened on Magda’s side, giving Goebbels the choice between giving up Baarová and losing his post. Reluctantly he obeyed. His mistress was expelled from Germany and the couple were (at least publicly) reconciled.

As the fortunes of war turned against Germany, Goebbels truly came into his own, demanding a fanatical commitment to ‘total war’, tirelessly touring bombed-out areas and issuing apocalyptic warnings about the consequences of German defeat. Alone of the top Nazi leaders, he remained with Hitler — faithful unto death to his idol and his love object.

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  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Interestingly, the only Nazi excommunicated was Joseph Goebbels. Not as you might suppose for his involvement in killing millions of people (mainly Jews), but because he married a Protestant woman.
    “You see, we do have our standards.”

    • Barba Rossa

      The Jews were just a side line to the real killing in the USSR.

      • seamus2

        This is the crassest and least worthy comment of the day.

        • Tom Dollard

          Crass? no, it also happens to be factual. He & his gang lost & now get nothing but bad press. Goebbels really WAS good at his job but he certainly had nothing on the propagandists who now run American foreign policy. If you smell what I’m cookin’,. “There’s NOOOO…. business like SHOAH business…..” BTW, the did reach their goal, a peaceful & united Europe run by Berlin, funny, they’d never have expected that ‘dolf’s succesor would be a dowdy hausfrau!

          • Harry

            Look at the racist and his conspiracy theories.

            His hatred of Jews and the way he tries to use humour to spread it.


        • MrLouKnee

          spend 5 minutes researching this subject on the net and you soon realize the holocaust is a holohoax

          Ronald Reagan never fell for the lies

          • Harry

            Pathetic, the way these Jew obsessives are still at it, banging away at their conspiracy theories about Jews.

            70 years later and they’re still at it.

          • MrLouKnee

            youre an idiot. The nazis were evil and killed lots of people, more Polish roman catholics died than jews. The amount of soviet citizens that were murdered by the nazis dwarfs that of the jews

            But answer me this question, do u know how many brits died in ww2? how about how many americans? How about the French? I guarantee you dont know, but for some strange reason everyone knows that 6 million jews apparently died. Whys that?

          • froggie

            Your an idiot who needs to do real research and stop believing the propaganda lies that are still being used today. The ones controlling history ,media, money Blah blah blah are the same nazis, jesuits, elite, bankers that have continue to this day to bring this New World Order. Try reading about Carl Marx three world wars and Pawns in the Game by Guy Carr. Who do you think is running Amerika ? It’s not Obama. He’s just a puppet on a string bending over for his masters. I bet your just a racist, mind controlled nazi troll who need to get lost!!

        • Verbatim

          You don’t know anything. Stalin killed more Russians than the Nazis did Jews. Do some reading.

      • Verbatim

        Yes, I think there’s a good deal of truth to this.

        • Harry

          If you’re a pathetic racist with a Jew obsession – then yes it certainly does.

      • yogi9644

        A sideline for HItler? Well, maybe…but Hitler slaughter almost 50% of all Jews on the planet—that, friend, is certainly no historical sideline.

        And now–Muslims, Vichy French, Neo-Nazi Germans, Poles, Austrians, Swedes, Hungarians, et. al, are looking to finish the job. I have never believed in God–but if the eternally embattled Jews (we can thank Catholicism and, then, Muslims and Protestants, too) can survive the new lslamically-inspired global anti-Judaism, anti-Zionism,and pro-Hamastinian hate aimed their way, then I will be forced to reconsider the existence of a higher power and to conclude that “chosen people” means those people courageous enough to repudiate all false prophets and willing to remain true to truth rather than to be swallowed up by the prophet-manias of metaphysics and mysticism

        • Tom Dollard

          Not true made up, promulgated perfectly but the wheel, it turns.. Your ascendance is an historic anomaly, a blip soon to become a dusty footnote.

    • LyovMyshkin

      Actually, Himmler was automatically excommunicated at University because he was a member of a dueling fraternity called Apollo. It’s a mortal sin to participate in a duel (even as a second or doctor).

    • greencoat

      That is just a story. Is there anyone who personally knows a Catholic who has been excommunicated for marrying a Protestant?

    • rj

      Catholic/Protestant marriages have not been anything of note for the last few generations.

      Jack is projecting his own prejudice.

  • stephen

    Surely his total war speech after Stalingrad was a pretty direct criticism of the war effort and thus his hero

  • porly worly

    Literature? Didn’t he get a Doctorate in Philosophy?

    • William G. Smith

      I think he had the Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) in Psychology. PhD always means ‘Doctor of Philosophy’. ‘Science’, which meant (systematic) ‘knowledge’ <L. 'scire' ('to know'), was called "natural philosophy" when it meant chemistry or physics. Goebbels was a demagogue, not a philosopher, but he did use applied psychology.

    • Stogumber

      “Philosophiae Doctor” was the comprehensive term for all doctorates in a field of liberal arts and humanities. Goebbels wrote indeed his thesis about a Catholic author in the early 19th century.

  • Terry Field

    This article lies! Goebbels is not dead – he is alive, was a double agent for Stalin, and now is in charge of the British National Propaganda Broadcaster. In reality the Berlin Bullshit Corporation.
    Known these days as the BBC

  • No doubt Hitler had wonderful charm to attract entire German nation that why his ardent devotees sacrificed their life on causes of ambition of Hitler ,Real challenge for .historian to find out what is unique charm of his character people madly run behind him.I don’t till read accurate secrete of success his life

    • Allegra Az

      O, the secret LOL! Aryanize Jewish businesses, give them to the Christian Germans, purge universities of their Jewish professors give their jobs to their Aryan colleagues, same in all walks of life- no Jewish judges, no Jewish doctors for Aryans, in other word, eliminate the competition, give Jewish apartments, household goods to the needy, take over banks belonging to the Jews, rob the Jews, use that the money to create jobs in the armaments industry. And viola! You are their Saviour! Nothing mysterious. Also Hitler promised Lebesraum in the East. Any German will have the right to the huge estates in Ukraine, Russia with thousands of slaves, isn’t it swell, just because you are born of pure German stock you have the right to lord over Slaves, making them work their land, for you. To charm people promising them booty is an old trick.

      • Hegelman

        They believed their own racial mythology, in short. They were so powerful they took themselves for gods.

        Only the most smashing defeat woke them up.

      • Oscarthe4th

        Actually, that’s not quite enough to explain his following.
        Like the greatest demagogues, Hitler masked the horrible with decent aspirations. People wanted a stable society after over a decade of dislocations and false hopes. They wanted to see their work rewarded. They wanted their pride back, and they wanted to feel like the next day had hope.
        Hitler’s government provided that to a number of Germans, before the war began. WE look back and see the falsehoods, they looked back and saw a hell from which the were emerging.
        At a high cost of course. The disintegration of rights; the growing emphasis on indoctrination in the Hitler Youth and other Nazi organizations; the ever greater consciousness of not uttering the wrong word in public.
        And Jews. Yes some Germans profited directly from their dispossession. But for most they were scapegoats, symbols of the corruption of the 1920s. And they were warnings, reminders of what could happen even to good Germans (as many Jews had been): loss of property, shame for the family, an indefinite sentence in a concentration camp.
        Does that mean the German majority were innocents? Of course not. Most knew what they were giving up in terms of freedom. Most understood the indecency of the actions not simply toward Jews but toward many people who were somehow outside the proper norm. They hid their fears and hardened their hearts and held on all the more tightly to the hopes that Hitler had come to symbolize.

        And after the war began, many indeed became “willing executioners,” their consciences cocooned by individual combinations of discipline, routine, ideology, fear, greed, and bloodlust.

        • LyovMyshkin

          Goldhagen is the worst kind of demagogue to steal your term. His book is not worth the paper it’s written on. Be careful that in attempting to understand the work of one demagogue that you don’t fall prey to another.

          • Harry

            Hitler certainly is a fascinating character, but he was an expression of German psychosis. In England he would have been laughed at.

            Though having said that, with the influx of 3-6 million people from non-democratic 3rd world failed states, this may no longer be true.

          • LyovMyshkin

            I don’t think you’re being that fair to Germany. Revolution was sweeping Europe, the horrors of the Bolsheviks were slowly working their ways to the ears of those who would listen (not the Western intelligentsia of course). Failed Soviet coups in Bavaria (of which we know Hitler was present), ridiculously punitive Versailles measures; massive unemployment and national dissolution.

            As hard as it is for people to imagine, I think National Socialism and Hitlerism is a rational response to broader European trends.

          • stephen

            Most of these European trends were over well before 1933.As for rational the triumph of Aryan blood was a ridiculous notion conceived by a nut case who thought Germany lost ww1 because boxing wasnt taught in schools.And of course ww2 really made sense from a german perspective.

      • What Hitler did is not my question.My question is why most instinctual people were worshiped him?What kind of Charm Hitler was possessed ?Hating Jews had long history from ancient times Christians wholeheartedly hated them.

        • Bernecky

          Nothing about Hitler was charming.

          Simply, the Master Race was too lazy to learn math, so as to teach math to its offspring, so as to be on a more equal footing with its bookkeeper, the Jew.

          Had there been a pill for what ailed Germany, nobody would’ve heard of Hitler.

          If the Master Race dispersed, it’s still uncoordinated. Lacking in grace. Seething about another slight, which is also of its own making.

          • Why Hitler is so popular all over the world mainly in youngsters?Recently I published his autobiography MY STRUGGLE in Marathi one of the leading language of India.I sold more than 200000 copies within month.,really speaking his book is extremely boring why youngster purchasing it.Next year his book will publish in three volumes in Germany, publisher announced that trillion copy will sold within year.Can you explain why he is till popular world over?

          • Bernecky

            You choose to attribute some mystical, approaching-the-divine quality to Hitler, when the alternative is to say that every one of his millions of enablers was a loser.

            I have no choice but to conclude that you believe yourself to be part of, representative of, some Minor Race.

          • Those who don’t see the reality and blindly believed what others say how can one discuss with him?

          • Oscarthe4th

            Sometimes the human heart is a scary place.

        • Nipple Ointment

          Hitler had a great political gift of being a lowbrow everyman, with a decent conventional esthetic sense, incredibly strong inflexible willpower and he was a manipulative psychopath – he could connect with German people on deeply emotional, irrational level. As his secretary Traudl Junge confirmed, he was a pleasant boss, and cultivated his admirers. He had a way with tone of voice and gaze of his eyes, it was not what he said but how he said it. Junge’s husband (young SS officer having a posh job as a military aide) rather volunteered himself to a front because he realized he was being brainwashed and could not stand it no more. Also, intelligent urbane but ambitious person like Albert Speer was totally won over as a student, by meeting with Hitler even though Speer was never antisemite and could not care lees about Nazi propaganda.

          On the other hand, many leading European politicians were not impressed with Hitler, and they underestimated him, and fooled themselves that he was only some kind of puppet serving German industrialists. And they never called his bluffs, beginning with rapid repudiation of all terms of Versailles (remilitarization of German-French border, ending WWI reparation payments, violating the limits on German armaments and ships ). You need to understand that Hitler was very successful in rebuilding Germany, even as he run up incredible deficits, and Germany could afford to pay its bills only by confiscating Jewish capital and by false accounting through MEFO bonds – this could not go on much longer and made it necessary to invade and rob Austria, Czechoslovakia, then Poland…

  • Charlie in NY

    The extermination of the Jewish People was a war aim of the Third Reich. Alone among Nazi Germany’s perceived enemies, Jews were viewed as enemies of mankind not merely of the Germans. That is why the resources devoted to their annihilation took precedence over war requirements even after Germany’s ultimate defeat was assured.
    Therefore, it is quite false to minimize what Hitler was up to in the Bloodlands, among other places, by airily suggestion it was a side show. It was a priority and therefore qualitatively different from other slaughters.
    There is tragic irony in all this. During the Holocaust, a central German focus, underpinning its leaders’ essential world view, was Jewish extermination – even to the detriment of the Nazi war machine’s needs. Today, the focus is on “contextualizing” the Holocaust and pretending there was nothing special about it or that other things were worse, lest Jewish suffering somehow be given some special significance or status. In a sense, this modern sensibility, born of various motives by its proponents, is a repeat of the Armenians’ experience – with the exception that Germany has long since admitted its responsibility for its genocide against the Jewish People while Turkey continues to deny its own toward its Christian minority.

    • Doug Doakes

      Before Hitler, Jews controlled Germany, much as they control the United States today.

      • Verbatim

        Wash your mouth out with soap, you foul man. We can only thank the deity of choice that people like you control nothing more than their bowels.

        • Doug Doakes

          Thou protests too much, as in the prior post that, “It was a priority and therefore qualitatively different from other slaughters.” Senseless. Stupid!

        • Tom Dollard

          You allergic to the truth? Fast for 6 months, it’ll heal.

      • Harry

        Oh Dear Lord, has this site been taken over by the dregs of humanity – the racist Jew hater with a conspiracy theory?

        • Tom Dollard

          Half right.

    • Oscarthe4th

      On “contextualizing.”
      Of course historians (and other scholars) contextualize events. We contextualize Stalin’s atrocities, Japanese savagery in China, the US’s ethnic cleansing of Native Americans (which borders on the genocidal), the Armenian genocide, the Mongol expansion through much of Eurasia. That’s our job.

      There is something uniquely horrible about the Holocaust. Part of it is the magnitude, part of it is the combination of technocracy and slaughter, part of it is the savagery emerging out of German culture, which had seemed to so many one well-spring of European civilization. Part of it is that we have pictures of the dead and the survivors at the end of WWII.

      But understanding that uniqueness takes contextualizing, and it also requires understanding that horrors like this have similarities with other horrors, most lesser, some of like magnitude, some at least arguably greater.

      PS Possibly the Mongols were greater slaughterers If one considers the technology in the 1200s, the Mongols’ “accomplishments” stand tall.)

    • Tom Dollard

      BS. Buonanotte.

  • Hard Little Machine

    When the BBC found this out, they blamed it on the Jews.

    • Harry

      Its true Nipple Ointment (what a name) at the time Churchill was banned from the BBC which refused to report Kristallnacht and spent much of the pre-war years trying to persuade the British that Hitler wasn’t that bad and appeasement was the way.

      Thank God for the News of the World, which published Churchill’s articles, the Left took that paper out for obvious reasons.

      Today the BBC makes excuses for radical Islam, I fear it will have similar consequences, but I’m not sure we can win this time.

  • Bruce

    I’ve never had to sift through so much flowery prose only to find the actual point of interest muddled and absent.

    We’ve got Goebbel’s rectal temperature, descriptions of the shape of his teeth, what he had for midnight snacks, which of his two toilets in the house was his favorite, but not really so present in this story:

    “Ménage-à-trois with Hitler: the Goebbels’ marriage was a bit crowded”

    Write fiction, Nigel. Write fiction.

  • Nipple Ointment

    There was in fact a second time Goebbels had seriously infuriated Hitler: Right after Lida Baar affair, by speaking in the name of Fuhrer(in his absence) and launching Kristallnacht, Goebbels seriously overstepped his authority and the whole thing was a total propaganda fiasco – burning synagogues and murdering jewish shopkeepers made it very difficult to present Nazi Germany as an acceptable partner for Britain and France. Instead, UK and France ended up giving guarantees to Poland in hopes it would work as a deterrent, and Nazis were left with making a deal with Stalin, and the rest is the history…

  • Doug Doakes

    Is that an admission?

  • Infidelissima

    What’s with all the Nazis on this board today?
    Is it internet time in your asylum?

  • Bernecky

    How can one can be a Roman Catholic and rely upon suicide, a mortal sin, to save himself?

  • kathee

    I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would woncder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (
    ) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (

  • kathee

    I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes ancd questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school smate snatched my future husband away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (
    ) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (

  • Heinrich von Schlitz

    “Love object”? I think that might be pushing it a bit.