From its beginnings, academics abroad, and for a time within Germany, attacked the Nazi regime’s appeal to the uneducated, ignorant, and mindless as a reflection of those who peopled Hitler’s dictatorship in general and his inner circle in particular. This had a basis in reality, for among Heinrich Himmler, Martin Bormann, Herman Goering, it was only the former who had some type of post-secondary education. But Himmler’s was the equivalent of what is called today “a trade school,” as his chief focus was on agronomy, which he did not receive a degree for. Apart from Albert Speer, who attended graduate school to continue his architectural studies, the one PhD among the lot was Joseph Goebbels. As both an undergraduate and graduate school student, he attended four universities where he focused on history and literature.
It was at the University of Heidelberg that Goebbels received his doctorate. There, he wrote his PhD thesis on a low-level 19th century romantic writer and playwright named Wilhelm von Schutz. Ironically, given his later bellowing anti-Semitism, Goebbels sought out a German-Jewish professor and famed historian of literature named Friedrich Gundolf to oversee his dissertation. By this time, Gundolf had retired from teaching, and pointed Goebbels to another Jewish professor, Max Freiherr von Waldberg, who was the student’s graduate school adviser.
Whatever one says of Goebbels, his academic performance was exemplary. As an undergraduate, he was the equivalent of a valedictorian. Goebbels was even chosen to speak at his class’s graduation ceremony. His secondary school performance earned him a University scholarship. And his performance during his oral exams before German professors who still subscribed to academic rigor (keep in mind that this was the 1920s, a full decade before Nazis mutated universities into degree mills for students whose performance was gauged solely on them regurgitating anti-Semitic tropes and the godhood status of Hitler) was deemed worthy enough of a PhD.
But Goebbels’ post-graduate performance as a writer trying to get into print in 1920’s Germany was less impressive. His sole literary output in this period was two unpublished plays.
It was only his membership in Hitler’s budding National Socialist Party in the 1920’s–motivated by what he saw as Hitler’s shared belief in a racist version of the survival of the fittest philosophy–that got him published.
He wrote for the hyper-racist newspaper, the Nationaler Sozialist, whose editorial line reflected the journalist’s belief that the Nazi Party needed to become more socialist; a position that put him at variance with Hitler, who denounced socialism as a “Jewish creation,” and supported the concept of private property.
But impressed with Hitler’s charisma, exhibited at a private meeting with Goebbels, the pedigreed academic pledged himself to the Nazi leader for the rest of his life. From there as Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Goebbels used all forms of media to whip the German people into an anti-Semitic, anti-democratic frenzy, and pioneering the use of radio and film was his one claim to posterity.
In 1945, after a decade of advocating violence against the Jews (Goebbels’s diary showed an awareness of and support for the Final Solution), Goebbels, with the Soviet army mere kilometers away, had his six children poisoned, and shot his wife and then himself in Hitler’s bunker. This was the epitaph of the one upper echeloned Nazi with an admittedly earned doctorate.
But Goebbels has had an after-life not exclusive to latter day Nazis and white supremacists, but present in leftist academia today. For with their frequent outbursts of racism (of the reverse variety) and anti-Semitism, all merged with their socialist beliefs, professors have become the mirror image of the Nazi.