Bending Spines: The Propagandas of Nazi Germany and the German Democratic Republic

by Neil Stevens on August 6, 2013

On my way to the 2013 RedState Gathering in New Orleans, I had an opportunity to read Bending Spines: The Propagandas of Nazi Germany and the German Democratic Republic by Randall Bytwerk. Given how deeply the post-war west has drunk of the Stalinist Flavor Aid, which declared that Fascism and National Socialism stood in opposition to Socialist ideas, rather than competing for the same base, it’s rare to see an academic treatment of the NSDAP and the SED as similar parties. So when I saw the book, I knew I had to read it.

While the author’s treatment of the Nazi and Communist regimes is unequal in depth, due to the author having traveled in the German Democratic Republic in the 80s, his use of primary sources adds enough depth to the Nazi side of the story to make it a good read. Just be prepared to hear a lot about the diaries of Joseph Goebbels.

To be clear, this is an academic work. Many, many footnotes let you know where the author’s getting his facts. The tone matches, as well. It’s rare that the author gets sidetracked in a desire to denounce the Nazis and the Communists, instead staying focused on their goals, methods, and messages of propaganda and agitation.

So don’t expect the German version of Liberal Fascism. You’re not going to get a laugh a page here. But you are going to get a good look at how the Socialist Unity Party and the National Socialist German Workers Party may have had different techniques, they were both driven by totalitarian ideologies that made it their mission to destroy, not defeat, any independent thought. Even when that thought agreed with them, as in one story about the Communists breaking up with arrests an anti-NATO demonstration.

It’s also just short and just light enough to read casually over a busy weekend of travel. I recommend it.

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