A strong belief in propaganda’s power to sway and influence a population remained central to the Nazis’ strategies both at home and abroad. It was important for Nazi officials to find ways to influence foreign perceptions regarding National Socialism and Germany’s economic and military strength. Attempts to manipulate foreign populations would be more challenging than efforts within Germany, because the inability to control the flow of information abroad meant that German propaganda faced competing counter-narratives. To undermine these alternative influences, the Nazis developed a strategy for deploying foreign propaganda, outlined in this protocol.

During the war, the importance of propaganda only intensified. The aim was to simultaneously maintain the loyalty of one’s own population while demoralizing the “will to victory” of one’s enemy. Of note here especially is the timing of this decree so early in the war (just days after war had been declared), which indicates the extent to which the regime prepared its propaganda infrastructure and strategies in anticipation of war. The elaborate system established a very clear hierarchy, which was intended to create a consistent, efficient way to design and deploy propaganda and influence foreign perceptions.

Hitler’s Decree Outlining Competencies in “External Propaganda” (September 8, 1939)


1) Propaganda is an important instrument of leadership for promoting and fortifying one’s own will to victory and destroying the enemy’s will to victory and morale. In war there are no competency conflicts. What matters is that the instrument of propaganda is wielded effectively. All other questions are irrelevant by comparison.

2) The propaganda apparatus of the Ministry of Propaganda built up over the course of years is the central institution for the practical implementation of propaganda. Its destruction in war would be similar to the destruction of certain parts of the Wehrmacht.

3) In so far as parallel manifestations with the same tasks have emerged in an area as a result of practical developments, these institutions must be subject to coordination and accomplish these identical tasks through practical collaboration.

4) The conduct of propaganda internally, that is, its intellectual orientation, is the responsibility of the agencies charged with domestic politics, provided I do not reserve the right to give personal directives. Coordination of these guidelines with respect to their practical propagandistic implications lies with the Minister of Propaganda.

5) In the area of external propaganda, that is, propaganda that is directly or indirectly aimed abroad, the Reich Foreign Minister issues the general guidelines and directives, in so far as I do not find cause to issue personal orders. The entire propaganda apparatus of the Reich Ministry of Propaganda is available for the practical implementation of these directives. To the extent that the Foreign Ministry already possesses similar institutions, their effectiveness shall not be impeded. However, their further expansion is undesirable; rather, the goal should be to assess the value of the now existing central propaganda institutions under all circumstances and to put them to work on the given propaganda tasks.

6) In order to ensure the uniform orientation of external propaganda in pamphlets, films, radio, the press, and so on, the Reich Foreign Minister—if at all possible in person—informs the Reich Propaganda Minister of his wishes and directives. Propaganda articles, pamphlets, radio speeches, and so on, signed by him or his representative, should be adopted unchanged and used by the apparatus of the Ministry of Propaganda—where the Foreign Office itself does not provide the necessary distribution through its channels.

7) To ensure the practical collaboration in this sense, the Foreign Minister is to delegate, from his apparatus of the Foreign Ministry, necessary and competent officials as liaisons to the Ministry of Propaganda. Conflicts that arise in the practical implementation are to be clarified and resolved exclusively between the Reich Foreign Minister and the Reich Propaganda Minister. I forbid once and forever in the future that such differences of opinion or disagreements be brought to me personally, without these two gentlemen reporting jointly for the discussion. Likewise, I forbid directives from being presented to me with a request for my signature, unless they were previously discussed and I am being informed about the points on which there are differences of opinion. To that end, I will no longer sign such submitted directives if they were not previously countersigned by these two men. Their submission will be done by Reich Minister Lammers, who is instructed in this sense. The Reich Foreign Minister and the Reich Minister of Propaganda will draw the consequences arising from this and will report to me by 9 September 1939, 9 o’clock in the evening, the practical agreement about the implementation of this directive.


Source: Martin Moll, Führer-Erlasse, 19391945. Edition sämtlicher überlieferter, nicht im Reichsgesetzblatt abgedruckter, von Hitler während des Zweiten Weltkrieges schriftlich erteilter Direktiven aus den Bereichen Staat, Partei, Wirtschaft, Besatzungspolitik und Militärverwaltung. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1997, S. 91f; reprinted in Bernd Sösemann (in collaboration with Marius Lange), Propaganda: Medien und Öffentlichkeit in der NS-Diktatur: eine Dokumentation und Edition von Gesetzen, Führerbefehlen und sonstigen Anordnungen sowie propagandistischen Bild- und Textüberlieferungen im kommunikationshistorischen Kontext und in der Wahrnehmung des Publikums. Volume 1. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2011, pp. 568–69.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap