The theory of propaganda and the example of Nazis



Propaganda is the transmission of a message, information, news, theory etc in such a way that becomes believable without verification or with a view to be accepted by the public. Based on propaganda is a particular way of communication among the population with which the propagandist transmits his beliefs. Propaganda influences intensely the public, because it changes the attitude of the public as long as changes their perceptions, and this because satisfies their needs, when these are not conscious in the beginning. These needs are not those that are reported in the special propaganda message, but they have deep roots in the personality of individual. For instance, the need of safety, to not feel anyone isolated or ignored. By this way the public becomes ally of propagandist and accepts from him his message with unprincipled alleviation. The effectiveness of propaganda is determined by the faculty of propagandists and by their organization, that certain times requires higher economic and technical means and uses complex and scientifically organized methods, trying to avoid for example the probability of results opposite from those that are sought (the boomerang phenomenon). (Propaganda, Jackall, R., p.13-25, Age of Propaganda: The Everyday use and abuse of persuasion, Pratkanis A., Aronson E., p.10-11)

Characteristic examples of ideological propaganda are its use from totalitarian

Joseph Paul Goebbels

regimes, such as Nazi Germany where the propaganda “machine” that was under the control of Joseph Paul Goebbels used the cinematographic picture and the repetition of racist stereotypes in order to achieve their objectives. Furthermore the totalitarian regimes used radio stations in an attempt to have direct contact with the population in order to arouse them and make them fanatics of the national ideal. (Propaganda, Jackall, R., p.194-195)





Nazi propaganda especially was shaping in such way in order to project the unity of nation. The massive concentrations of the National-Socialist Party in sport stadiums

with a huge crowd it was a great example of Nazi propaganda because these concentrations as essential part of Nazi propaganda had as an aim to show the public solidarity and that the people were supporter of the Nazi regime. So sport events were considered as the massive concentrations and displays that served the Nazi propaganda. Because of the fact that the massive concentrations and displays constituted important part of Nazi propaganda, the athletic places and stadiums were ideal for the promotion of Nazi ideology but also for the prospect of bigger public solidarity.   (Propaganda and persuasion, Jowett, G.S., O’Donnell V., p.185-195)



Propaganda and the mass media


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Propaganda is presentation of a message with specific way in order to satisfy specific goals. Exactly the goal of propaganda is not to inform the people for something but the goal is to change the views and feelings of others in order to follow the rules of the ideology. An easy way for the fascist regimes to do propaganda was the absolute control of the mass media. Through the mass media the fascist governments were able to communicate with people and convince them for their ideology. They were able to present their messages. A dictator had all the powers so mass media have not the right of freedom of expression. Because of this fact, mass media transmitted the messages of the fascist government and their ideology. Mass media always show the sports and especially the sports that attract the interest of the majority. When mass media was under the absolute control of the dictatorships, the sport facts within the country were showed with propagandist way in order to promote the regime that exists in the country. Sport facts were usually carried out in stadiums that were full by sports fans. So there was gathered a crowd and the dictator had found the chance in order to speak to the audience as the person who took the power in order to save his nation and transmit his propaganda message. (Propaganda and persuasion, Jowett, G.S., O’Donnell V., p.185-195)

Real Madrid in the decade of 1950

Success in sports was appeared as a national success and at extension success of the regime. In Spain for example the football successes of Real Madrid in European Champions Cup in the mid and late of 1950’s projected by the mass media as football supremacy of Spain in Europe and as Franco’s success.

The same happened when Spanish national team won the European Nations’ Cup in 1964 in Santiago Bernabeu Stadium against the Soviet Union. This national victory projected by the Spanish media as Franco’s regime victory against the Communist Soviet Union. In tournament of 1960 Franco had not permitted to the Spanish national team to play against the later champion USSR. In 1964 however Franco allowed to national team to play against the Soviets in Madrid’s final and thus he was vindicated with a glorious victory against the Communists. (BBC Documentary: The history of football)

Television, newspapers and radio were tools in hands of the dictatorships and always had said only what the dictator had wanted. So the mass media promoted the propaganda of these totalitarian regimes within and out of the national borders. People are convinced by the regime and via the tool which called mass media; the fascist regimes used certain methods as nationally ideals, pride for the glorious past of nation and superiority than other nations in order to persuade. By these methods people become supporter of the regime. The goal of Fascist propaganda was to persuade every citizen about the image of powerful and proud nation faithfully following its deified leader. (Propaganda and persuasion, Jowett, G.S., O’Donnell V., p.185-195)

The three main European states where fascism appeared were Italy, Germany and Spain. The three dictators, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco had as a common purpose the obedience of people towards their face, the face of the absolute leader. They had also as purpose the propaganda via massive concentrations where they would be projected the national identity and ideals. These three dictators believed that were the persons that were most capable to bring unity among people and lead the nation in new glorious days something that the previous non-fascist governments failed to achieve. The rise of Fascism in Europe appeared as something new with aim to revive the nationalism; to shape national identity and national vision.

Italy challenged English hegemony in football


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During the decade of 1930 Italy appeared as a new superpower in European football challenged the English supremacy. Until 1930’s the English had considered themselves as motherland of football and as the best “football” nation. During 1930’s football matches between England and Italy were matches between the two leading football powers. The conflict in international politics between two different political systems or ideologies transferred in football field. The Fascist Italy challenged the hegemony of the Liberal Democratic England in football and the successes during 1930’s in international level was success of Fascism against the Liberal Democracy at the time when rise of Fascism constituted threat for Liberal Democratic states in Europe. That was like a political football and football stadium was another battleground between them. Also political football continued in club level, when the Italian club Bologna won the English club Chelsea in the 1937 Paris Exhibition tournament and was considered as a fascist victory over Liberal Democracy. (Europe, Sport World: Shaping Global Societies, p.246-248)

The growth of national prestige for Italian football in 1930’s


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1930’s was the glorious decade for Italian football. Successes of the national team increased the prestige of the fascist regime. During this period, football superiority exploited by the fascist government in order to fanaticize the masses that Italy was supreme nation. Through successes of the Italian national team, the citizens shared a sense of single national identity regardless their different forms of identification like region in the case of Italy with the rivalry between the industrialized North and underdeveloped South. Because of this rivalry within Italian nation-state, Fascist government wanted to intervene in sports with aim the promoting of national identity and unity. All the Italians connected under this emotional sense of unity and success and made them to say “we are as nation” (Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies, p.452-453).

Italy hosted and won the 1934 World Cup. Some players of Argentina and Uruguay who played in 1928 Olympics and 1930 World Cup were born from Italian emigrants. The fascists gave to these players Italian citizenship in order to be able to play in Italian national team in the next world cup of 1934. Mussolini characterized these players as repatriates. This attempt was realized in order to maximize the opportunities of national team to win the World Cup of 1934 in Italy. After 1934 Italian national team continued to have successes and maximize more the prestige of fascist regime when two years later won the football tournament in 1936 Berlin Olympics with players from Universities, something that proved the nation’s international football supremacy. Four years later in 1938, Europe was one year before the start of the Second World War. Italy as World Champion defended the title in France and won again the World Cup. So the 1930’s was the Italian decade of successes in football and also the decade when football abroad promoted as fascist game. The successes of Italy in international level indicated the correct organization of the fascist state and that Fascism succeeded to regenerate the Italian nation. During the 1930’s victories in international football was a result of regeneration of Italians based on the discipline that Fascism learned to them. (Football and Fascism: The national game under Mussolini, Martin S., p.194-197)

Influence of Italian Fascism towards football clubs


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A club that was founded during the Fascist era in Italy was Fiorentina. Football teams of Florence city had failed until this time to make people to feel unity under one and strong Florence team. So based on Fascists policy to create a strong football team in each Italian city AC Fiorentina was founded in 26 of August 1926. The merger of the two principal Florentine teams achieved the sport renaissance in Florence city. The creation of single identity via strong football team revitalized the city and put Florence on the Italian sporting map. Calcio fiorentino or Florentine football transformed and Florence achieved to have a football club that was able to compete the other Italian teams in a new national league. (Football and Fascism: The national game under Mussolini, Martin S., p.141-142)

However the Roman club S.S. Lazio had Fascist origin and close relationships with the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. Societá sportiva (S.S.) Lazio was founded in 1900 by Italian army officers, so the club had militaristic ideals and when Fascists came to power gave assistance for militarization of society. The club fans the Irriducibili express their racist and anti-Semitic feelings that indicate the fascist beliefs of Roman club. When Lazio plays against clubs with left-wing beliefs they shout fascist slogans and until today they use flags with Nazi’s swastika and fascist symbolisms. Also some connected the name of club S.S. (which means societá sportiva) with the Nazis S.S. as a result of the club’s fascist beliefs. Beliefs that are strongly connected with a kind of clear Italian race and exclusion of blacks and Jews players from the team. The Lazio ultras Irriducibili had the fear that Italians will become a mixing race like in England with other races in future. The former International French player Liliam Thuram pointed out the racist behavior of Lazio’s fans. When he was player of Parma, he refused to transfer in Lazio because of the Irriducibili’s racist behavior against the blacks. The fans when the opponent club belongs to left-wing ideology, they say right-wing military songs and they remember the days of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Also they shout Mussolini’s title Duce in order to provoke the fans of opponent club. Irriducibili ultras are against Negros and Jews as Mussolini and Hitler when at the era of their power they were official against the “sub-humans” Negros and Jews. So this racist and anti-Semitic behavior has its origin back to the era of Fascist Italy that the Lazio’s fans feel nostalgia. (Irriducibili | BBC Documentary | Lazio Ultras, Casuals, Football Hooligans).

Fascist Youth in Italy and sport infrastructure


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When Mussolini took the power in Italy, one of his priorities was the education of the country’s youth according to Fascist ideals. Sports constituted the ground through which the young Italians would be able to take the physical and political education. By this way Italy was able to produce great athletes who will achieve great sport successes for the nation and Fascism.

In 1923 the minister of Fascist government Giovanni Gentile started the reorganization of Italian education that should have kept pace with the ideals and beliefs of fascist ideology. The education of the new Italians from their birth was very important because they grow up as the new fascists and patriots who can to maintain the Italian fascist nation. So the Italian youth became members of Fascist youth organizations through which they gain such education that help them to become the successors of Italian fascism. Mobilization of masses through sports was a key element in Fascist decision-making in an attempt to create fascist consciousness. The physical education of youth should based on a specific programme through which they would have the ability to grow up as real patriots, as real Fascists because as the Fascists had believed if you are Fascist you are Patriot. (Militarism, sport, Europe: War without weapons, Mangan J.A., p.166-170)

Mussolini’s regime faced the issue of sport infrastructure as an important issue for the creation of Fascist civilization. Building of new football stadiums would be symbols of Fascist power and operate as Fascist theatres. Like the Giovanni Berta stadium in Florence also the stadiums of Bologna, Turin and Rome were significant sports projects of Fascist Architecture. Some of the priorities of the regime were to invest in sport infrastructure. The Fascists wanted to build sport stadiums that seemed like the Roman amphitheatres. As a result of this infrastructure policy were built some of the best stadiums in Europe. Bologna was the first city in Italy that came under fascist control. As a result the Fascist regime took into consideration the significant position of city within Italian territory and they started to promote sport constructions.

Leandro Arpinati was the creator of a modern stadium in Bologna. This stadium was built in order to give the chance to the youth to learn the ways towards healthy and morality and educated based on national, fascist ideals. When the Fascists took the power in Italy, Bologna was in the centre of fascist interest for the establishment via sports the healthy national identity. The modern Bologna stadium was also used for international events that improved the image of Italy and its regime abroad. (Football and Fascism: The national game under Mussolini, Martin S., p.79-116)  Generally during this era the Fascists built modern football stadiums that influenced by the Roman architecture in order to project the glorious historical past of Italian race. Mussolini and his followers had as objective to put their stigma in building of monuments that later would remind to the next generations that Fascist era sometimes existed.

The creation of new Fascist society started from the city of Bologna that was the centre of sport events. Bologna Football club appeared during the Fascist era as the regime’s team and the authorities did everything to maintain club in the top of Italian style of football. (Football and Fascism: The national game under Mussolini, Martin S., p.130-140)

The control of media in Fascist Italy


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An important element for the Italian fascist regime was the promotion of the victories in football by the media as vindication of the regime. The control of media by the Fascists ensured that victories in football would project as victories of unity and Italian national identity. Football successes had considered as vindication for the Fascism and that only Fascism would able to lead Italian nation towards glory. The press and radio became tools of the Fascist propaganda and during the era of Fascism in Italy they established a national broadcasting company. Newspapers were at this time the primary tools of the regime that were expressing the ideals of fascism and they were promoting the single national identity. The expressive body of Fascist regime was the “Gazzetta dello Sport” In this newspaper was written exactly what the regime wanted, based on regime’s militaristic beliefs and fascist ideals. In 1938 France hosted World Cup and when the national team won the second successive title, “Gazzetta dello Sport” and generally the media compared this victory with military conquest and that this second World Cup was the confirmation of fascist supremacy in international level. (Article: Football and Fascism – The creation of Italy’s Serie A by Andrew Lawless, August 2005)

The organization of Italian football in 1920’s



At the beginning of 1920’s when Fascist Party came to power, they understood that football should come to the regime’s attention. The intervention of Fascism into Italian football was significant issue for the spread of fascist propaganda into the masses. Football was the most practical choice for communicating with the masses. Football stadiums when they were full by the crowd were seemed like Fascist theatres, a theatre for the masses, a theatre where the absolute leader would be able to project himself and promote successfully the fascist ideology. The Fascists realized that every weekend there were approximately 200,000 people going to see football matches and because of this the regime should spend more money for propaganda into football stadiums and create a sense of collective consciousness or national identity. Mussolini wanted to use sports in order to express the collective emotions of Italians about himself and his regime. Football team was a representative of a collection of people that had the ability to bring individuals together and established an emotional unity among them for the benefit of nation. So football should be put under the control of fascist government through which the mechanisms of propaganda would apply into this sport that enjoyed by the masses and make them to feel as a unique or single people. Football as sport of masses could be considered as “a perfect forum for constructing identity” (Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies, Annemarie Jutel, 2002, p.453), something that the Fascists wanted to achieve. Some of football stadiums in the modern era were built during Mussolini’s governance and also the Fascists at this time introduced programmes of physical education. Through these specific programmes, Fascists aimed in the fascist education of Italians from young age via sports creating thus appreciable athletes but also patriots ready to fight for the ideals of fascism. (Sport, Culture and the Media, p.22-24, Article: Football and Fascism-The creation of Italy’s Serie A by Andrew Lawless, Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies p.451-453)

The Italian national league Serie A established by the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini in 1930. Through the creation of national league the aim was a cultivation of sense of national identity. The national league should promote the unity of Italian nation and concretely a single national image abroad via national football league. However before was exist another national league in the 1928-29 season when it was two divisions north and south and the Champion decided through a play-off. So Serie A was the first single national league that would represent the single national identity of the whole Italy north and south. Mussolini’s attempt was the transformation of Italian football in order to promote the unity of Italian nation abroad. Also the Fascists understood that to have a single national league, the small clubs of cities should have linked themselves into stronger clubs that represent successfully their cities. For instance in the capital Rome a number of sides got merged into one to form AS Roma which had as leader the fascist Italo Foschi. Arpinati the head of football federation said to the clubs that if they wanted to participate in the national league they should to unite their powers, come together in order to form one club to represent the city. A unifying identity played significant role for the fascist government in order to shape sense of belonging to the nation. The regime was against the tendency towards local identity that was associated more with the middle Ages and the era of the city-states. The position of fascist government for this issue was that the localism has no place in Italian society. (Article: Football and Fascism – The creation of Italy’s Serie A by Andrew Lawless, August 2005)

Nationalism, fascism and football


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Nationalism connected with Fascism especially after the end of the First World War when the result of war signaled the break-up of four empires of Europe, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Ottoman and German. The new states that created included powerful minorities within their territories, something that in the future would cause instability and elation of nationalism. (Documentary: The rise of Nationalism inEurope) The relationship between Nationalism and Fascism was very close because the lack of stability and peace after the end of the First World War caused the appearance of fascist movements and regimes in 1920’s and 1930’s particularly in Italy and Germany and then Spain. (Documentary: The bloody history of fascism)  The dictatorial fascist regimes that appeared during this time included nationalism in their policy. The dictatorships used nationalism in order to awaken the population and make them feel proud again. For the fascist regimes nationalism was very important element for the continuation of the nation’s glorious past. Concretely fascism is the violent side of nationalism because fascist regimes tried through violence to impose the national superiority towards the other nations. So the fascist regimes used violence through militarism in order to impose their national beliefs and superiority. (Communism, Fascism, and Democracy: The theoretical foundations, Cohen C., p.340-343)

When the National Socialist Party became the governor party in Germany its leader Adolph Hitler as chancellor started to apply the dream of the establishment of the Third Reich Empire. He used the nationalist feelings of the Germans in order to convince them that are the Aryan race, the superior nation than all the others. The other nations would be supposed to accept the German superiority. National Socialism was mainly the political movement that expressed the nationalism among the Germans. The Jews of Germany became the goal of extermination by the Nazis who put immediately in force the plan of Jewish extermination. The German Jews considered by the Nazis as non-Aryan people. (Nationalism, Alter P., p. 50-54) They were not Germans and the Nazi regime started to exterminate them as well as to exclude them from any activity within the German society. As a result the Nazis banned Jews from any sport activity because sports were only for the Aryan Germans. So the Jews had not the right of participation in sports within the national society of Germans except probably the concentrations camps that during the Nazis era became the ‘house’ of Jews where they could to have sport activity as captives. (Deutschland über Alles: discrimination in German football, p.755, Soccer & Society Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2009, 754–765)

Also in Italy after the predominance of Benito Mussolini in the power, the Italian dictator attempted to raise the national beliefs of Italians trying to revive the myth of the glorious Roman Empire. Mussolini tried to compare himself with Roman Emperor. Fascism in Italy was a dictatorial political system with racist, nationalistic beliefs and militaristic tendencies. Also this political system had absolute character that seek the absolute subjugation of the mass and also individuals under the leader and state in order to succeed the national objectives. So finally, Nationalism and Fascism are connected each other mostly at the case of racism, militarism, totalitarianism and supremacy where used the nationalist ideals in order to imposed to other nations. (Communism, Fascism, and Democracy: The theoretical foundations, Cohen C., p.332-339)

Sports and particularly football contributed in the strengthening and promotion of national identity. Via sports it could be projected the nation and successes would bring glory but also the vindication for the regime. Also athletes via sports could to become discipline athletes with aim to succeed and make proud their nation. Fascist regimes wanted discipline citizens towards their leaders and national ideals. Thus sports had the ability to promote the image of discipline nation, ready for new successes. Fascist regime also wanted strong and healthy men ready to fight for their nation. Sports were the ideal place where men could to gain healthy, strength and to be ready to protect their country.  In football an international success was considered as a result of strength and discipline to the nation and leader of the country. The fascist regime and people could to feel nationally proud from possible successes and trophies in football.  (Militarism, sport,Europe: War without weapons, Mangan J.A., p.166-175)


The German national football team during the era of Nazis and the story of Austrian player Matthias Sindelar


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The German national team in World Cup of 1938 in France

The exit of Germany from the League of Nations in 1933 created a new situation around the projection of Germany in international level. So football appeared probably as only way that the nation could promote its image abroad. During the Nazi era national football team had the role of German Ambassador in International competitions of 1930’s, the 1934 World Cup and especially in 1938 World Cup when appeared in France the “Great German” national team after Anschluss. (Deutschland über Alles: discrimination in German football, p.755-756, Soccer & Society, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2009, 754–765)

The annexation of Austria on March of 1938 was something that gave a new opportunity for German football. Because of the annexation, the Nazis believed that the inclusion of several brilliant players who were the best of Austria’s national team until 1938 was a good chance for the German team to strengthen. The Austrian football Association stopped to exist and the Nazis started to think about a Great Germany team for the 1938 World Cup in France. But however the Germans failed again. The national team of Great Germany lost to Switzerland in two matches and was eliminated in the first round. Probably the reason for failure was the two completely different styles of play in one team. (The Hidden Social and Political History of the German Football Association (DFB), 1900-50, Udo  Merkel, p.184, Soccer and Society, Vol.1, No.2 (Summer 2000), pp.167-186)

Matthias Sindelar

An important fact after the annexation of Austria was the mysterious death of the Austrian international footballer Matthias Sindelar in 1939. Sindelar who was known as a “paper man” because he was very thin, he was the greatest player in Austria but he refused to play for the German national team in 1938 World Cup. Because of his refusal he became the greatest symbol of Austrian resistance to the Nazi invasion. The international player of FK Austria Vienna found the death in his house but they never discovered the reasons of his death. His refusal to play in German national team after the annexation of Austriain the Third Reich, they created the fames that the Nazis were hidden behind of his death. Some others said that probably Sindelar committed suicide because he didn’t want to live anymore under the Nazi tyranny. (Between Manipulation and Resistance: Viennese Football in the Nazi Era, Matthias Marschik, p.222, 224-225, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Apr., 1999), 215-229, BBC Documentary: The history of football)

At this time when fascist regimes took the power in European countries, international football matches between Germany and Democratic states had great ideological significance. Such case was the friendly match between Nazi Germany and Liberal Democratic England in May of 1938. Through this kind of matches had promoted the ideological differences of two states. A possible victory against democratic state meant also victory of ideology against the other. (German football: cultural history, Pyta W, p.6-7, Deutschland über Alles: discrimination in German football, p.756, Soccer & Society, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2009, 754–765)

Back to international competitions and World cups of 1930’s, the German national team did not achieve to prove the German superiority in international level than Fascist Italy of Benito Mussolini. Italian Fascism prevailed German National-Socialism because of the Italian national team’s victories in the decade of 1930. At the 1934 World Cup inItaly, the Germans reached in fourth place. At 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin despite that the German athletes won the most gold medals, the football team was defeated in the preliminary round by the football dwarf Norway. At 1938 World Cup inFrance, the post-Anschluss ‘Great German’ national team disgraced itself when failing to get past the first round after losing from Switzerland. So the Nazis failed via football to promote their superiority as the Aryan Race. Football was proved inadequate in the promotion and demonstration of racial superiority of Germans (German football: cultural history, Pyta W, p.6).

Perhaps one of the reasons that Germany failed in international tournaments was the intense interest of Hitler in other sports and mainly in boxing because he was convinced that this sport was more able than football to develop physical aggressiveness and to toughen the human body. Thus Hitler gave more emphasis in individual sports because his belief that the Germans could grow up with the ideals of National-Socialism through individual physical programs that toughen the human body. (The Hidden Social and Political History of the German Football Association (DFB), 1900-50, Udo Merkel,, p.181, Soccer and Society, Vol.1, No.2 (Summer 2000), pp.167-186 ) That’s why the Nazis established the German Reich’s Committee for Physical Exercises in 1934, to promote the strategic plan for the Reich’s sport. Football failed to promote the Aryan race superiority, so the Nazis turned their interest in other sports through which they were able to prove their supremacy as nation and prepare the nation for the Second World War. (The Hidden Social and Political History of the German Football Association (DFB), 1900-50, Udo  Merkel, p.182, Soccer and Society, Vol.1, No.2 (Summer 2000), pp.167-186)