Lest We Forget:
   World War II













Nazi Uses of Technology in Their Rise to Power
by Stephen Payne

During their rise to power in Germany, the Nazis made extensive use of modern technology in various ways. The first, and most useful, technique that they employed was the use of the radio to reach mass audiences. Secondly, Hitler was the first major leader of any time to commute by airplane. He used this as a sort of propaganda, and also to get his message across to more people. The third and final way in which the Nazis used technology was during the famous party rallies.

Hitler was "a leader whose greatest asset was his ability as a speaker." [Hitler, 67] He was well aware of this, and also aware of the fact that "the broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force." [Hitler, 38] Clearly, a man who realizes the power of the spoken word, and who is also a great orator, will try to reach as many people as possible with his speeches. Hitler did just that, by using the modern mass media, especially radio.

His powerful, emotional, speeches reached not only the people at the rallies, but reached the average German sitting in the beergarden as well. Normally, this would be a beneficial side effect for a leader. But because Hitler's speeches were so overwhelmingly powerful, and listeners were "caught in the spell of powerful emotions of hatred and exaltation," [Hitler, 38] the radio was a tremendous ally for the Nazis in their struggle for power. .

The second facet of modern technology employed by the Nazis was the use of the airplane. The greatest help the airplane provided was allowing Hitler to move quickly between cities, thus again allowing him to reach a greater audience, which allowed him to reel in more supporters. While the use of the airplane as a mode of transportation was useful, the propaganda use was even greater. In "Triumph of the Will", a film by Leni Riefenstalen, nearly two minutes of the opening is devoted to showing Hitler descending through the clouds in his plane.

With such a massive amount of screen time used to show this, it is obvious that Hitler wanted the viewer to come away with some impressions of him. By descending through the clouds, with the sun burning brightly, Hitler creates a visual simile, comparing himself to an angel or some sort of heavenly being. The angel, of course, is coming down to meet his adoring followers, and to pull Germany from the ruins of post-WW I. The airplane was a great aid to Hitler, not just as a means of transportation, but as a propaganda tool as well. Since Hitler knew the power of propaganda, he used any bit of it that he could find to its fullest extent. "Propaganda did as much in its own right to lend substance to National Socialism as it did to transmit the substance of ideology and policy to potential supporters." [Rise, 60] .

The third and final way in which the Nazis employed technology was at their huge party rallies. These rallies were designed to increase the dedication of members, bring them closer together, and also to attract new members. At these rallies, Hitler made extensive use of various technological devices, such as broadcast systems and lighting effects. The microphone was a new invention, and Hitler utilized it to its fullest. Twenty years earlier, when Lenin had made speeches, only those people within hearing range could get the message that he was conveying. When Hitler spoke into the microphone, he could reach thousands, instead of hundreds, of people. Because of the microphone, Hitler's message reached more people. The second technological device the Nazis used at the rallies was the spotlight. The multi-thousand candlepower spotlights were pointed upward, giving the illusion of great columns surrounding the rally. These columns created a sense of unity, and a sense of power. While certainly not instrumental in the rise of the Nazis, it certainly contributed to their ever-increasing popularity in pre-war Germany.

By making use of radio, the airplane, and other modern technological devices, the Nazis were able to strengthen and speed their rise to power. Without technology, the Nazis would have come to power later in time, and possibly may not have ever ascended to power. By embracing relatively new devices and exploting the advantages gained through them, Hitler and the Nazis were able to sieze power and begin the Third Reich.
Works Cited

Bullock, Alan, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Harper Perennial, New York 1991 [Hitler]

Conan, Fischer, The Rise of the Nazis, Manchester University Press, Manchester, England 1995 [Rise]

Copyright © 1994-2005 Stephen Payne