The British people are like children

Pages of Joseph Goebbels’ diary, 1926. 
Joseph Goebbels Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Few people were as close to Adolf Hitler as Joseph Goebbels. As the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, he played a crucial role in shaping the image and message of the Third Reich, manipulating public opinion and orchestrating a vast machinery of lies and deception. Goebbels began keeping an almost-daily diary in 1923, and continued throughout World War II—right up to his suicide in May of 1945. When he wrote this entry in April 1942, Germany were making significant advancements in Europe while the British remained a tenacious adversary in the west. But recent plans to drop 3,000 commandos into Bayonne in Operation Myrmidon had been cancelled, leading Goebbels to question Churchill’s tactics in his diary.

The Diary Entry

April 24, 1942

It is clear that Churchill is once again playing an extraordinarily insolent and impudent game. He can dare play it only with the English population. We would have to beware of doing anything like it to the German people. For instance, if in the autumn of 1940 we had advertised an invasion of the British Isles with so much noise and publicity even though it was not planned and could not be executed, without afterward starting it, that would have been nothing short of disastrous for our propaganda. The British can do a thing like that. The British people are like children and in addition have the limitless patience of sheep. They stand for having the invasion theme played again and again without compelling Churchill to make good.

Unfortunately we were somewhat behind the times in connection with the English undertaking at Boulogne1. The reason, of course, was because the motorcycle rider who was to bring the report to the Army Group command point had an accident. As a result the English had a few hours’ handicap, and experience shows that whoever speaks the first word to the world is always right. . .

The Führer telephoned me from GHQ. He has now at last decided to deliver a speech, already planned for some time, before the Reichstag concerning the situation and all the conclusions which he must draw from it. We deliberate as to which day would be most suitable for this session of the Reichstag and agree that it is to be called for 3 P.M. next Sunday.

I immediately made the necessary preparations and am very happy that the Führer is now to come to Berlin for a few days. He gave me an exceptionally optimistic picture of the situation along the various fronts. He himself is in the best of health. Naturally we cannot go into details over the telephone because there is always the danger of someone listening in. I am always happy when the Führer is in Berlin because I can then have several long talks with him.

The evening brought me a lot of work accumulated during the afternoon. All you need to do is to leave your desk a few hours and when you return you find it snowed under. I hope at the end of the coming week to be able to go to Lanke to relax for a short time. That is absolutely necessary. The condition of my health leaves much to be desired at present, and I believe I shall need health more than anything else during the difficult months ahead.

Further Reading

Most of Goebbels’ original diaries are now held at the Russian State Military Archives in Moscow. However, The Hoover Institution has his handwritten diaries for the period 1925–26 (pictured above) after they were given to Herbert Hoover in 1946. In German language, the diaries have been published in 29 volumes; in English, less so, but Wikipedia has a detailed page on its publication history should you wish to know more. The entry above is taken from an English language edition that was translated by Louis P. Lochner and published in 1948. That’s now in the public domain, and you can find a copy over at the Internet Archive.

  1. Separate to Operation Myrmidon, on April 21/22, British and Canadian troops carried out a reconnaissance raid in Boulogne.

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