Paul Joseph Goebbels (29 October 1897 – 1 May 1945) was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism. He played a hand in the Kristallnacht attack on the German Jews, which many historians consider to be the beginning of the Final Solution, leading to the Holocaust.
Goebbels earned a Ph. D. from Heidelberg University in 1921, writing his doctoral thesis on 19th century romantic drama; he then went on to work as a journalist and later a bank clerk and caller on the stock exchange.
He also wrote novels and plays, but they were rejected by publishers. Goebbels came into contact with the Nazi Party in 1923 during the French occupation of the Ruhr and became a member in 1924. He was appointed Gauleiter (regional party leader) of Berlin.
In this position, he put his propaganda skills to full use, combating the local socialist and communist parties with the help of Nazi papers and the paramilitary Stormtroopers, aka, Brownshirts, SA.
By 1928, he had risen in the party ranks to become one of its most prominent members. Goebbels rose to power in 1933 along with Hitler and the Nazi Party and he was appointed Propaganda Minister. One of his first acts was the burning of books rejected by the Nazis. He exerted totalitarian control over the media, arts and information in Germany.
From the beginning of his tenure, Goebbels organized attacks on German Jews, commencing with the one-day boycott of Jewish businessmen, doctors, and lawyers on April 1, 1933. His attacks on the Jewish population culminated in the Kristallnacht assault of 1938, an open and unrestrained pogrom unleashed by the Nazis all across Germany, in which scores of synagogues were burned and hundreds of Jews were assaulted and murdered. Further, he produced a series of anti-Semitic films. Goebbels used modern propaganda techniques to psychologically prepare the German people for aggressive warfare.
During World War II, Goebbels increased his power and influence through shifting alliances with other Nazi leaders. By late 1943, the tide of the war was turning against the Axis powers, but this only spurred Goebbels to intensify the propaganda by urging the Germans to accept the idea of total war and mobilization. Goebbels remained with Hitler in Berlin to the end; just hours after Hitler’s suicide, Goebbels and his wife Magda killed their six young children and then committed suicide.