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Goebbels: psychological profile of the greatest manipulator in history

Goebbels: psychological profile of the greatest manipulator in history

April 2, 2024

The Second World War is one of the biggest conflicts in history in which there are reliable records, one of the most documented and the most recent and known by the population of much of the globe. The rise to power of Hitler, the expansion of fascism, the progression and escalation of the conflict to reach global levels and the Holocaust are aspects that most of us know.

But beyond Hitler himself, the important role that different Nazi commanders had in the conflict and the events that took place during the war may not be so well known. One of them, Joseph Goebbels, is considered one of the greatest manipulators in history being the task of expanding, inflaming and managing the Nazi ideology and information regarding the conflict as a propaganda minister of the regime.

In this article we present a brief psychological profile of Joseph Goebbels , this Nazi high command.

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Joseph Goebbels: who was it?

Joseph Goebbels is a figure of great importance within Nazism, considered one of the greatest manipulators in history due to the important role he had as "Minister of Popular Illustration and Propaganda" when using the media to offer biased information to the media that facilitated the control and control of the regime over the population of the different zones in which it was established, as well as encouraging fear and encouraging the population against specific groups. It was characterized by using various media, such as radio, newspapers or cinema .

Goebbels used diverse methods with which to manipulate the information that it provided to the citizens subjected to the Nazi regime, creating different principles or principles for it. Among them they emphasize the individualization and grouping of the adversaries under the idea that it is a unique enemy, the generation of invented but credible elements to confuse and focus attention on aspects unrelated to real news (such as when a battle was lost), the exaggeration of situations to transform them into threats and the silencing of those news that favor opinions contrary to the stipulated, the pretension to communicate the majority opinion to favor the assignment to the transmitted information or the adaptation of the information to the popular level.

It also used the repetition of the same story from different points of view to transform it and the continuous generation of news to generate a flow outside of which it was difficult to organize a check of each of them. Frequently the mistakes were attributed to the enemies themselves and it was to generate powerful emotions such as hatred towards sectors of the population (especially Jews) to promote the support and maintenance of the power of the regime.

The role of Goebbels in the Nazi leadership was very important, although some authors consider that their position has been overestimated and that it was not taken into account when making decisions. It is also discussed if its link with Hitler , whom he revered, was as close as he seemed to believe. In any case, their role and actions led and propitiated the maintenance of the power of Nazism, the spread of anti-Semitism and the persecution of this collective.

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Psychological profile of Goebbels: difficulties to establish a profile

Although Goebbels occupied an important position and there is evidence of many aspects of his life, it is not easy to make a completely valid or reliable psychological profile. Given that there is no record of any psychological evaluation of the subject and there is no possibility of performing it after the subject has died, it is not possible to make an accurate or adequate psychological profile.

In this way it is only from the existing data on their actions, the records of their activity and the statements of relatives that is possible extract the presence of possible personality factors .

Aspects inferred from their role, performance and statements

While it is not possible to establish a completely valid profile of Joseph Goebbels, below are some of the most notorious personality traits that reflect his actions and attitudes throughout his life.

Feelings of inferiority and self-loathing

Goebbels was a man who from childhood was noted for the existence of a malformation in the right foot caused by osteomyelitis that would make him lame throughout his life. He was also short in stature and weak in complexion.

Also throughout his education the family economic capacity was precarious, which had to depend on the charity of acquaintances and friends. All this contributed to Goebbels internalized a bad self image , being called in more than one disgusting occasion or poor devil.

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The aforementioned feelings of inferiority made him a resentful man, because he was often humiliated in childhood and already in adulthood will accumulate various failures such as not being accepted into the army because of his disability, love failures and failures in his aspirations as a writer.

This resentment would be enhanced by the defeat and conditions of Germany after the First World War, and would make it ascribe to the Nazi regime and subsequently spread hatred towards Jews and the expansion of the ideology of Hitler and his party .

Astuteness and intelligence

From a young Goebbels stood out for a high intelligence , and in adulthood he designed and applied a large number of propaganda mechanisms taking into account the different means at his disposal (using the media and the arts as a whole).

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High handling capacity

Goebbels did not arrive at the position of minister of propaganda by chance: it was characterized by channeling and transforming the emotions, attitudes and beliefs of the German population of the time and directing it. He was also a good connoisseur of human communication and its effects, as well as persuasion. It was common for him to misrepresent the facts in the face of that different catastrophes and massacres were understood by society as something necessary and positive , will relate to the enemy and hide different facts and information from the community.

Need for recognition and dependence

One of the most notorious characteristics of Goebbels was his need to be recognized, derived from his feeling of inferiority and his narcissism. This need for recognition is often observed in the self-denial and treatment of their leader, whom he would treat as if he were a messiah.


Another feature that seems to emerge from the Nazi propaganda minister is the existence of a high degree of meticulousness. This is perceptible in the fact that it took into account not only the most common media such as radio and the press, but also the whole of the arts when preparing their propaganda, as well as in the elaboration of a system that would allow keep the population controlled and directed towards the ideals and ideologies of Nazism.

Desire for power

Another aspect extrapolated from the behavior of Goebbels is the presence of a strong desire for power, linked to the need for recognition. This would lead him to rub shoulders with members of the German high society and his great involvement in the formation of an intricate propaganda apparatus that would enlighten Hitler and Nazism .


Goebbels manifested, both publicly and in his diaries, an exacerbated level of fanaticism towards Hitler and Nazism. Although on some occasion he did not agree with his decisions, he considered him a messiah and little less than a demigod, according to his diary. This fanaticism can be seen in his speeches , especially in those made during the last days of the war in which he requested or the victory or sacrifice of his people.


As with other Nazi leaders such as Hitler himself, Goebbels was able to resort to drama, both in his oratory and in his personal life. It can also be seen in the way to end his life, committing suicide with his wife after killing his children a day after his leader did the same (which in turn reflects his fanaticism towards his leader and towards the ideals of Nazism).

Lack of empathy and cruelty

The messages transmitted and the manipulation of the image of people and groups like the Jews or the Soviets make us think of a lack of empathy, throwing the population to hate part of the citizenship, justifying murders and killings, organizing riots or even stipulating during his stage as district chief of Berlin the deportation of all Jews from his district to Auswitch and other concentration camps.


According to Longerich, author of one of the last biographies of Goebbels and based largely on his diaries, Goebbels possessed narcissistic features . He tended to exaggerate his achievements, to consider himself an intellectual and to distort reality so that he would stick to his ideal. He also had a high need for recognition and frequently sought contact with the social elite. Also, it is characteristic his lack of empathy towards the Jewish people or the arrogance with which he referred to his enemies.

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Bibliographic references:

  • Doob, L.W. (1985). Goebbels and its propagandistic principles.In De Moragas, M. (ed.): Sociology of mass communication. Barcelona; Gustavo Gili
  • Longerich, P. (2012). Goebbels. A biography. RBA Books.
  • Thacker, T. (2010). Joseph Goebbels. Life and death. Navarra, Spain: Planet.

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