Joseph Goebbels
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1968-101-20A, Joseph Goebbels.jpg
Official Portrait of Goebbels
Minister of Enlightenment and Propaganda
Führer Adolf Hitler
Personal Information
Born October 29, 1897
Rheydt, German Empire
Birth name Paul Joseph Goebbels
Nationality German
Political party Nazi Party (NSDAP)
Alma mater University of Bonn

University of Würzburg

University of Freiburg

University of Heidelberg

Occupation Politician

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Paul Joseph Goebbels was the first Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment of the German Reich.

Early Life

Paul Joseph Goebbels was born on 29 October 1897 in Rheydt, an industrial town south of Mönchengladbach near Düsseldorf. Both of his parents were Catholics and from humble beginnings. His father Fritz was a factory clerk; his mother Katharina was ethnically Dutch. Goebbels had five siblings: Konrad (1893–1947), Hans (1895–1949), Maria (1896–1896), Elisabeth (1901–1915), and Maria (1910–1949), who married the German filmmaker Max W. Kimmich in 1938.

During childhood, Goebbels suffered from ill health which included a long bout of inflammation of the lungs. He had a deformed right foot which turned inwards, due to a congenital deformity. It was thicker and shorter than his left foot. He underwent a failed operation to correct it just prior to starting grammar school. Goebbels wore a metal brace and special shoe because of his shortened leg, and walked with a limp. He was rejected for military service in World War I due to his deformity.

Goebbels was educated at a Christian Gymnasium, where he completed his Abitur (university entrance examination) in 1917. He was the top student of his class and was given the traditional honor to speak at the awards ceremony. His parents initially hoped that he would become a Catholic priest, and Goebbels seriously considered it. He studied literature and history at the universities of Bonn, Würzburg, Freiburg, and Munich. By this time Goebbels had begun to distance himself from the church.

At Freiburg, he met and fell in love with Anka Stalherm, who was three years his senior. She went on to Würzburg to continue school, as did Goebbels. In 1921 he wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Michael, a three-part work of which only Parts I and III have survived. Goebbels felt he was writing his "own story". Antisemitic content and material about a charismatic leader may have been added by Goebbels shortly before the book was published in 1929 by Eher-Verlag, the publishing house of the Nazi Party (National Socialist German Workers' Party; NSDAP). By 1920, the relationship with Anka was over. The break-up filled Goebbels with thoughts of suicide.

At the University of Heidelberg, Goebbels wrote his doctoral thesis on Wilhelm von Schütz, a minor 19th century romantic dramatist. He had hoped to write his thesis under the supervision of Friedrich Gundolf, who at that time was a well known literary historian. It did not seem to bother Goebbels that Gundolf was Jewish. However, Gundolf was no longer performing teaching duties, so he directed Goebbels to associate professor Max Freiherr von Waldberg. Waldberg was also Jewish. It was Waldberg who recommended Goebbels write his thesis on Wilhelm von Schütz. After submitting the thesis and passing his oral examination, Goebbels earned his PhD in 1921.

Goebbels then returned home and worked as a private tutor. He also found work as a journalist and was published in the local newspaper. His writing during that time reflected his growing antisemitism and dislike for modern culture. In the summer of 1922, he met and began a love affair with Else Janke, a schoolteacher. After she revealed to him that she was half-Jewish, Goebbels stated the "enchantment [was] ruined". Nevertheless, he continued to see her on and off until 1927.

He continued for several years to try to become a published author. His diaries, which he began in 1923 and continued for the rest of his life, provided an outlet for his desire to write. The lack of income from his literary works (he wrote two plays in 1923, neither of which sold) forced him to take jobs as a caller on the stock exchange and as a bank clerk in Cologne, a job which he detested. He was dismissed from the bank in August 1923 and returned to Rheydt. During this period, he read avidly and was influenced by the works of Oswald Spengler, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the British-born German writer whose book The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899) was one of the standard works of the extreme right in Germany. He also began to study the "social question", and read the works of Marx and Engels. According to biographer Peter Longerich, Goebbels' diary entries from late 1923 to early 1924 reflected the writings of a man who was isolated, preoccupied by "religious-philosophical" issues, and lacked a sense of direction. Diary entries of mid-December 1923 forward show Goebbels was moving towards the völkisch nationalist movement.

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