First Draft KDF and Volkswagen
The Strength through joy propaganda campaign failed to successfully promote the Volkswagen in Germany during the period of 1934-1939
The Nazi Regime was a time dominated by strict organization, control and mass indoctrination, but it was also a time of progress and modernization. Between 1933 and 1938 Hitler (setzen auf sogenannte) ” Volksprodukte” (products for the German people) that would improve the lifestyle of the population and at the same time serve as an instrument of control ( more info). Consumerism in the Third Reich was (Zitat -Buch) according to …. Next to the Volksempfanger (the german radio)- info book one of Hitler’s biggest projects was the Volkswagen, which was supposed to (Zitat Hitler ueber Volkswagen). It was a way of showing Germany’s ability to compete with the western automobile industry, especially after the huge success of Herny Ford’s Model T, and at the same time put emphasis on the innovativity and modern ideas of the new rule under Hitler. To be able to compete with the already existing models on the market, the car had to be unique. With the support of the DAF (Deutsche Arbeitsfront) in 1937 the automobile was quickly put in the main focus of the “Strength through joy” propaganda campaign, and issued on various media, from newspapers, posters, magazines and post it stamps. But did this really contribute to the ultimate success of the Volkswagen “Beetle” as we call it today? Or was the whole marketing only a cleverly thought out plan to heighten the Nazi’s power even more.
The KDF was a suborganisation of the German Labour front, where around 80% of their profit was due to the touristic department for “travel, hike and vacation” The idea was to create a people’s community that offered activities and consumer goods within the reach of ordinary citizens. Next to products such as the “peoples radio” and the “people’s refrigerator” the Volkswagen was also part of the scheme. Germany was one of the “least motorized societies in Europe” before 1939 with only 118 thousand cars being produced in the country in 1933. This was not a lot in comparison with the production of almost 2 million vehicles in the USA. For Hitler, the car was part of his “technological vision” of the nations future, where he imagined “car ownership at universal scale” The Volkswagen was supposed to be the starting point of this mass motorization process as demonstrated by Henry Ford and at the same time “break down the bourgeoise privileges surrounding motorized leisure”. However, the German Automobile Industry was unsure how to carry out “Hitler’s Volkswagen wishes” and the project therefore relied on the DAF’s/KDF’s support to turn its concept into reality.
As Nazi Germany’s largest tour operator with .. mio members, the KDF was ideal for launching a propaganda campaign to promote the Volkswagen and show its possibilities and potential for the population.
The majority of the activities that the KDF organised were daily excursions or short trips to cities such as (examples)Oversea trips and cruises only made up 2% of all KDF activities. The success and popularity of the activities can be attributed to the low prices that “did not cost much less than in the Weimarer republic”. On the other hand Robert Ley, appointed head of the DAF, continuously advertised the quality of the organisation (QUOTE) which convinced the Volk, especially the workers of the lower and middle class to take part in the programme. The KDF used its positive image to attract citizens to the “peoples products”, where the Volkswagen was also part of.Even though the KDF expanded travel options for people “who had never travelled before” there were also deeper intentions behind the seemingly. Because of its size, the DAF was crucial to ensure the citizens trust and support of the regime and served as the “main instrument for obtaining their adherence to the Nazi Party and its fight for totalitarian control” By targeting at employees “of limited means” there was less chance of opposition against the government and the offerings of leisure were merely a distractive illusion to give something beneficial back to the people.(source). The KDF used the Volk for their own interests, while coordinatively implying the “Sozialismus der Tat” i.e. “Socialism of deed” This meant that “prestige and desirable consumer goods should be reduced so much in price through mass production that they can trigger the breakthrough of mass consummation” Henry Ford focused on this idea specifically and warned that Through this, the car became a “source of recreational pleasure” and was used for the trips and excursions the KDF organised.
Through this new definition of leisure, the KDF launched an “extensive” propaganda campaign that was meant to heighten the interest of the German Volk about the vehicle even more. As a result, the Volkswagen was featured in many posters and newspapers, and prototypes were presented at every “public/social” event. The repeated presence of the car was supposed to (interesse wecken und die Leute uberzeuegen- google books quote).
The sentence “a car for everyone” was used as the main slogan for the vehicle (details)
The first major public display of the car next to the international motor shows in the years following 1934, was the opening of the Volkswagen production plant in Fallersleben (lower-Saxony) on the 26th of May 1938. The plant was a “showcase for Nazism’s fusion of productivism and disciplined consumption”. Numerous local newspapers covered the grand event and illustrated it on the cover page, thus highlighting the grand influence of mass motorization and the heightened interest in the car. The Teltower Kreisblatt for example reported that Hitler “layed the foundation for the biggest motor-vehicle plant on earth”. Reichsamtsleiter Dr. Lafferentz further emphasized the strength and capacity of the car that was “ready for production by all means” and equal to a “small technical miracle.”(Footnote) The article’s repeated use of adjectives and synonyms of the word “big” and the exaggerations relate to Hitler’s vision of ” QUOTE-modern and innovativeness(or similar) . The new production plant in Fallersleben should demonstrate the nations greatness and eagerness to “drive motorization forward”(look up quote).
Similarly the same convincing style is used in the “Briefentaler Bote” another newspaper that also documented the opening of the Volkswagenwerk. After emphasizing that the car should be named after the organisation that “has made the greatest effort to fill the broadest masses of our people with joy and strength.”(FOOTNOTE) the Fuhrer was handed the hammer and he “officially carried out the act, while ten thousands raised their arms for the german salute.” This is also the first time that the vehicle becomes known as the “KDF Wagen.”
The historical “foundation stone” led to a lot of talking about the car “among all classes of population” The newspaper contributed a big part in the distribution of Volkswagen propaganda and was the most popular source of information. Other media such as posters also played a role in constantly confronting the society with the new KDF car.
Posters were important because they gave an even more visual depiction of the car. “Uniformed SS-officers were sent into the 42 Reichs districts with the car to be cheered on by the crowd” but the citizens were never able to test drive.Therefore, other sources of propaganda were used so that the….(SOURCE) In a poster from 1936, the car almost makes a comical impression, where the dark colour is marked by white highlights on the surface that accentuate the sleek, yet simple design of the car. The slogan is also kept short, with no further details on the vehicle so that the main focus stays on the picture.Two parents occupy the front seat and two children the back, where one has its face pressed against the window, waving happily towards the intended audience. The presence of a family was a typical image of Nazi propaganda and the poster displays the same image by pointing out the worker’s possibility to “take his family on a weekend excursion to the country”. Furthermore, the car is driving on a fresh motorway, with another “People’s car” on the oncoming lane and on top of a bridge located left of the page. This hints at another project that connects to the motorization of German, namely the Reichsautobahn. In combination with the striking green scenery on the side of the road and the snow covered mountains in the back, the roads should “open up to Germans the wide areas of their homeland of which hitherto they had known practically nothing” and “it educates them to see!”
A second poster from 1939 includes more detail and advertises the car as “Dein KDF-Wagen”, which translates to “Your KDF-car.” On one hand this connotation hints at the more “individualistic part” of the regime’s ideology that shifts away from the idea of a Volksgemeinschaft, where the “communal character” is promoted. On the other, the sentence should evoke a personal feeling in the citizen and make him/her more connected to the car. Apart from the words that are spread across the page, the picture shows a man driving the vehicle, while the woman is standing up and stretching her left arm out of the roof. Both characters mimic happiness and joy in midst of a blue sky and the silhouette of mountains. Although the main focus lies on the car, the woman also shows typical characteristics of the German Aryan race. The blond hair and the casual clothing make her the perfect model for promoting the “Volkswagen” and at the same time “spreading the nationalistic racial theory visually”
Generally, the means of propaganda were not only used to stress the cars efficiency and spacious design, but the many other themes that were incorporated also focusedThe abundance of the new, modern car indirectly requests the german people to purchase a KDF Wagen.
Wishes were evoked, even if they could not be fulfilled