Joseph Goebbels, in full Paul Joseph Goebbels, (born October 29, 1897, Rheydt, Germany—died May 1, 1945, Berlin), minister of propaganda for the German Third Reich under Adolf Hitler. A master orator and propagandist, he is generally accounted responsible for presenting a favourable image of the Nazi regime to the German people. Following Hitler’s suicide, Goebbels served as chancellor of Germany for a single day before he and his wife, Magda Goebbels, poisoned their six children and took their own lives.
Goebbels was the third of five children of Friedrich Goebbels, a pious Roman Catholic factory clerk, and Katharina Maria Odenhausen. His parents provided him with a high school education and also helped support him during the five years of his undergraduate studies. He was exempted from military service during World War I because of his clubfoot (presumably a result of having contracted polio as a child), which later enabled his enemies to draw a parallel with the cloven hoof and limp of the Devil. This defect played a disastrous role in his life by engendering in Goebbels a strong desire to be compensated for his misfortune.
After graduating from Heidelberg University in 1922 with a doctorate in German philology, Goebbels pursued literary, dramatic, and journalistic efforts, writing an Expressionist novel in diary form in the 1920s. Although not yet involved in politics, Goebbels, in common with most of his contemporaries, was imbued with a nationalistic fervour made more intense by the frustrating outcome of the war. During his university days, a friend also introduced him to socialist and communist ideas. Antibourgeois from his youth, Goebbels remained so despite his later upper-class affectations. On the other hand, initially he was not anti-Semitic. The high school teachers he valued most were Jews, and he was at one time engaged to a half-Jewish girl. As a young man his options remained wide open as he contemplated political involvement. Indeed, it was an accident that determined the party he was to join.
In the autumn of 1924 Goebbels made friends with a group of National Socialists. A gifted speaker, he became the district administrator of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP; National Socialist German Workers’ Party) in Elberfeld and editor of a biweekly National Socialist magazine. In November 1926 Hitler appointed him district leader in Berlin. The NSDAP, or Nazi Party, had been founded and developed in Bavaria, and, up to that time, there had been practically no party organization in Berlin, the German capital...