Background: The Nazis said enough repugnant things to provide all sorts of quotations, but there are some quotations that people have invented. This page discusses six quotations at the moment that I think are fabricated. More examples may follow as I discover them.
False Nazi Quotations
1. “Truth is the greatest enemy of the state” (Goebbels)
This is the most popular forged quotation. The full version:
Last I checked (December 2011), this shows up on 500,000 web pages and twenty published books (most of which are vanity press productions, evidence for the value of publishers who still believe in editors). It is attributed to Joseph Goebbels. No one ever gives a citation to the source. A fair number of web citations are to “Joseph M. Goebbels.” That wasn't his middle initial. One book credits it to “Joseph Goebbel.”
There are several hundred pages in German that cite the statement, but none give a source, and one site (perhaps the earliest) notes that is “retranslated from English.”
Goebbels wouldn’t have said that in public. He always maintained that propaganda had to be truthful. That doesn't mean he didn’t lie, but it would be a pretty poor propagandist who publicly proclaimed that he was going to lie. I know of no evidence that he actually said it. I haven’t read everything Goebbels wrote, but I have been through a lot of it.
Goebbels actually accused others of using the technique. In a 1941 article titled “ Churchill’s Lie Factory,” he wrote:
He accuses the English of the “big lie,” and suggests that, were he to use such a technique, he would not publicly announce it.
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:
Hitler is accusing the Jews 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 the future!”
However, Hitler never said it, even though fabricated sources are sometimes provided. Guns weren’t that much of a problem in the Nazi era (at least within the country...). In fact, the Nazis liked guns, and started training kids early on in their use.
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:
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 Revolvers
Goering is often quoted as having said:
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.
Go to the 1933-1945 Page.
Go to the German Propaganda Home Page.