The truth is always stronger than the lie.
Goebbels actually accused others of using the technique.
In a 1941 article titled “Churchill’s
Lie Factory,” he wrote:
should not as a rule reveal one’s secrets, since one does not know
if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership
secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends
on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle
that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep
up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”
He accuses the English of the “big lie,” and
suggests that, were he to use such a technique, he would not publicly
The quotation usually seems to be used by those on the
political left and right, who find it helpful in to associating those
they don't like with the Nazis. Since this is so common, my colleague
Quentin Schultze and I have begun a blog titled Goebbels
Didn’t Say It to follow its spread and, we
perhaps too optimistically hope, to reduce its use.
It is related to the next quotation, which is usually quoted
accurately, but taken out of context.
2. Hitler and the “Big Lie”
The false Goebbels quotation above is actually a take-off
on Hitler's familiar statement in Mein Kampf, which is
often misunderstood. Hitler stated:
“In this they [the Jews] proceeded on the sound
principle that the magnitude of a lie always contains a certain factor
of credibility, since the great masses of the people in the very bottom
of their hearts tend to be corrupted rather than consciously and purposely
evil, and that, therefore, in view of the primitive simplicity of their
minds, they more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a little one,
since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of
lies that were too big. Such a falsehood will never enter their heads,
and they will not be able to believe in the possibility of such monstrous
effrontery and infamous misrepresentation in others.…” (p.
231 of the Manheim translation)
Hitler is accusing the Jews in the Vienna press of
this strategy. It is often taken as evidence that Hitler advocated the
“Big Lie.” He is, in fact, accusing his enemies of lying.
Now, Hitler was entirely willing to lie — but in
public he insisted that he and his propaganda were truthful.
3. Hitler: "What Luck for Rulers
that Men Do Not Think"
This alleged quotation by Adolf Hitler is on over 1,700,000
web pages. I think it is a fabrication, but am still investigating. It
is not in Mein Kampf, nor in the Domarus edition of Hitler’s
speeches. None of the pages that cite it gives a reliable source. Several
cite a book that has it, but said book provides no reference to
an original source.
4. Hitler and Gun Control
The following quotation shows up about a 665,000 times
on the Internet last I checked (21 April 2012):
“This year will go down in history! For the first time,
a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer,
our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into
However, Hitler never said it, even though fabricated sources
are sometimes provided. In fact, the Nazis liked guns,
and greatly reduced German restrictions on their ownership.
5. Hitler and “Law and Order”
The following statement is cited less often today than
it was during the 1960s, as news of its falsity has gotten around, but
it still shows up on a number of web sites:
“The streets of our cities are in turmoil. The
universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting. Communists
are seeking to destroy our country. Russia is threatening us with her
might and the Republic is in danger. Yes, danger from within and without.
We need law and order! Yes, without law and order our nation cannot
survive. . . . Elect us and we shall restore law and order. We shall,
by law and order, be respected among the nations of the world. Without
law and order our Republic shall fail.”
There are lot of things wrong with this statement, beginning
with the fact that Hitler wanted the Republic to fail, and was open about
it. It had its origins in a communist newspaper, and popped up in the
movie Billy Jack (1971). For full details, see that most useful
book by Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George, They Never Said It:
A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (New
York: Oxford, 1989), pp. 45-46.
6. Hermann Goering on Culture and
Goering is often quoted as having said:
“Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for
This one is also dealt with in They Never Said It. (p.
36). It actually comes from a play by the prominent Nazi writer Hanns
Johst titled Schlageter, which deals with the life of a Nazi
“martyr.” It’s also an unlikely thing for Goering to have
said, since he prided himself on his artistic knowledge.
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