"Christ demands a response of infinite passion, either of hatred or of love."

- Soren Kierkegaard
Goebbels' Quote: Did He Really Say That?

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. ~ Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda
I saw this quote as the heading of an editorial a while back... and since we also have it in our quote rotation here at thinklings, it got me thinking, "Did Goebbels really say that? And if so,what did he mean?"

So here's what I found out from some internet research. It is listed at a quote website although I don't know if you can even trust websites anymore. It bugs me to run into quotes without a reference to when it was said or where it was written. (Though I've been guilty of just listing the author without saying where I found it myself.) I wish that everyone would say where and when a quote came from. In this day and age where anyone can say anything on the internet or in an email, it is all the more important. I'm a real stickler for authenticity and I try never to attribute a quote to someone unless I can personally verify it.

And so the quotes website I link to above may be just proliferating a myth. I never found an actual citation for this quote. I did however learn from wikiquote, if that can be trusted, that a similar quote is often misattributed.

Misattributed
* But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success. -o Actually from "War Propaganda", in volume 1, chapter 6 of Mein Kampf (1925), by Adolf Hitler.

* (multiple alternatives) If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. // If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. // If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. // If you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes truth. // If you repeat a lie many times, people are bound to start believing it.
o no reliable source; probably misquotations of the Big Lie idea
The "Big Lie" idea was not Goebbels revealing some secret of Nazi propaganda. (At least not willingly.) His point in context was that it is the British who are lying. Oh the irony, that this quote has been repeated so often and attributed to Goebbels that it doesn't seem to be questioned anymore.

The following is an authentic Goebbels quote. Or at least I think it is, becomes it comes from wikiquote and the actual original source is cited.

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one's secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

* "Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik" ("Churchill's Lie Factory"), 12 January 1941, Die Zeit ohne Beispiel (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP., 1941), pp. 364-369
* This and similar lines in Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf about what he claimed to be a strategem of Jewish lies using "the principle & which is quite true in itself & that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily," are often misquoted or paraphrased as: "The bigger the lie, the more it will be believed."


Here's my conclusion: It looks like Goebbels never said what is attributed to him at the top of this post, or the more common, "If you tell a lie often enough (or big enough) it will be believed."

And if he did say that or something like it, I don't think he meant it as it appears - Like the inside secret confession of a Nazi propagandist...though that implication makes it rather delicious for the modern day propagandist...er opinion writer. Drawing a conclusion from the actually verifiable quotes and speeches of Goebbels, if he did say anything like this, he most likely meant it as a criticism of what his enemies were doing. (i.e. claiming that Jews and the Allies were the liars.) He was not admitting that he was a purveyor of lies. (Although you and I know he was an evil liar, that's probably not what he meant.)

Here's a pretty good selection of Goebbels speeches and articles.

So doubting that he said it in the first place, and believing that if he did, he was actually criticizing Jews or the English, I will never use that quote again. That's my take.

If there's one thing I hate more than a made-up or misattributed quote, it's a quote taken out of context. Imagine how shocked I was when I learned that when Mark Twain said, "It's not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that trouble me, it's the ones that I do understand." He meant something entirely different than how many pastors and books had quoted it to me. I had heard it quoted as meaning that rather than Christians spending too much time on the difficult passages, we should spend more time dealing with the parts we do understand. i.e. we should spend more time obeying, and less time worrying about who the sons of God were that married the daughters of men.

So in researching the quote for something I was working on to make sure it was authentic, I found out that Twain was actually criticizing the Bible! When he said that the parts he understood troubled him, he was talking about God commanding the Israelites to slaughter men, women and children. He was explaining why he didn't believe the Bible was the word of God, and criticizing how awful it was.

So how about you? Can you shed light on the authenticity and meaning of the Goebbels quote?

Is there another quote that people use all the time that is wrong, misattributed or out of context?

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1. timexiv.com - 03/20/2014 1:30 pm CDT

The Thinklings

Comments on "Goebbels' Quote: Did He Really Say That?":
1. Jason_73 - 01/19/2010 5:27 pm CST

Interesting post. Something my friend and I were talking about just today at lunch. It also fits in with Tall Skinny Kiwi's recent one of a similar vein concerning Pat Robertson's comments on Haiti and it supposed "pact with the Devil".


2. Jonathan W. - 01/19/2010 7:46 pm CST

Good work! Another suggestion: Don't believe any quotation attributed to the Founders, ever, unless you see it attributed to a specific book or a specific collection of papers. The same goes for American statesmen generally, in fact.

3. Jonathan W. - 01/19/2010 7:55 pm CST

OK, here's a classic: Alexis de Tocqueville's supposed statement that "America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." He didn't write that.

4. Sherry Early - 01/19/2010 11:58 pm CST

Often misattributed to G.K. Chesterton: When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.

See http://chesterton.org/qmeister2/any-everything.htm

5. G. Frederick - 01/20/2010 2:11 am CST

The one that bugs me the most is the one where people say that the Bible says, "God helps those that help themselves". Of course the Bible says nothing like that and in fact says quite the opposite.

6. The Ancient Mariner - 01/20/2010 8:47 pm CST

Well, here's a start to be on with . . . (Read the discussion page, too.)

7. john book - 01/21/2010 1:52 pm CST

Johnathan W. If Tocqueville didn't say that quote about America, who did? I always kinda liked that quote and would like to known it's source.

8. Olen - 05/21/2010 11:13 am CDT

This is one of those quotes that is, apparently, a meld of many others. But, in itself, it is the truth: The bigger the lie, the more it is repeated, and the more adamant are those spreading it that it is truth...the more likely is it to be accepted as the truth. It will not only be accepted as truth. It will be claimed that it was always the truth. After all, we good and innocent people find it impossible to believe that anyone would have the gall to blatantly put forth something as the truth, knowing all along that it was a lie. Of course, the reality is that it happens all the time, and we never learn from that.

9. John M - 02/19/2011 11:20 am CST

....I don't suppose Philip could be spreading his own big lie, could he......? What is his own context, after all?

10. Shrode - 02/20/2011 11:12 pm CST

Hey John M,

You caught me. :-)

I guess we could all be like DesCartes...doubt everyone. :-)

11. Peter S - 03/09/2011 11:53 am CST

"The trouble with repeating quotes you saw on the Internet is that you never know if they are genuine." - Abraham Lincoln
---------------
I like the original article and analysis.
I love the internet, but hate how much people trust it.

12. Shrode - 03/09/2011 2:24 pm CST

Thanks Peter S!

(If that is your real name...)

:-)

13. Jim - 12/27/2011 8:20 pm CST

It's supposed to come from a book by Walter Charles Langer: The Mind of Adolf Hitler. A psycologicol profile written about Hitler during WWII.

14. solkorset - 03/19/2012 7:14 pm CDT

Thanks for the honest analysis. The english speaking world is saturated with lies about the "nazis". It's quite incredible to me that so many of you believe them, but you cleverly observe that it's an application of the big lie principle itself!

I can confirm that the quotation with source from wikiquote is correct. The german original runs thus:

Das ist natürlich für die Betroffenen mehr als peinlich. Man soll im allgemeinen seine Führungsgeheimnisse nicht verraten, zumal man nicht weiß, ob und wann man sie noch einmal gut gebrauchen kann. Das hauptsächlichste englische Führungsgeheimnis ist nun nicht so sehr in einer besonders hervorstechenden Intelligenz als vielmehr in einer manchmal geradezu penetrant wirkenden dummdreisten Dickfelligkeit zu finden. Die Engländer gehen nach dem Prinzip vor, wenn du lügst, dann lüge gründlich, und vor allem bleibe bei dem, was du gelogen hast! Sie bleiben also bei ihren Schwindeleien, selbst auf die Gefahr hin, sich damit lächerlich zu machen.

The translation you brought was:

That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one's secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

This translation is all right. If you can't read the german original you could take it to Google translate and see what comes out.

15. Les - 03/20/2012 2:57 am CDT

An interesting article entitled Fraudulent Nazi Quotations is located here www.ihr.org/other/weber2011fakequotations.html

16. Alan Bickley - 04/26/2012 11:49 am CDT

Another phrase/prediction attributed to Hitler is that of the "thousand-year Reich." I have found but two citations of the origin of this locution, each contradicting the other, and both rather fuzzy as to place and time. On the other hand, I have read a critique whose author holds that this was a misinterpretation of Hitler's rather casual observation that the German nation, the Reich, had from the time of Charlemagne lasted a thousand years. The author was one of the writers usually denounced as Holocaust deniers and therefore not deserving serious attention. I do not read German, so I am hobbled in pursuing this citation to its origins, if, indeed, they exist.

17. Alan Bickley - 04/26/2012 11:49 am CDT

Another phrase/prediction attributed to Hitler is that of the "thousand-year Reich." I have found but two citations of the origin of this locution, each contradicting the other, and both rather fuzzy as to place and time. On the other hand, I have read a critique whose author holds that this was a misinterpretation of Hitler's rather casual observation that the German nation, the Reich, had from the time of Charlemagne lasted a thousand years. The author was one of the writers usually denounced as Holocaust deniers and therefore not deserving serious attention. I do not read German, so I am hobbled in pursuing this citation to its origins, if, indeed, they exist.

18. g - 08/26/2012 1:28 pm CDT

Here is the GOEBBELS quote in context:
http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/goebbels.html

19. Robert Salcedo - 07/11/2013 2:56 pm CDT

The quote originally referred to above runs:

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas in disguise.

Propaganda has only one object, to conquer the masses. Every means that furthers that aim is good; every means that hinders it is bad … You can make a man believe anything if you tell it to him in the right way … Nothing is easier than leading the people on a leash. I just hold up a dazzling campaign poster and they jump through it…

The people must begin to think as one unit, react as such, and put themselves at the disposal of the government wholeheartedly…To belabour the people so long until they succumb to us."

It is contained in the 1948 publication, "The Goebbels Diaries" collected by Ludwig "Louis" Paul Lochner from remaining diary volumes in Goebbels' own handwriting at the Reich Chancellery immediately after the war. The English version of this book was quite popular, even being offered as a Book of the Month Club Selection in the late forties. It was reprinted in 1970.

Ludwig Paul "Louis" Lochner (February 22, 1887 – January 8, 1975) was an American political activist, journalist, and author. During World War I, Lochner was a leading figure in the American and international anti-war movement. Later, Lochner served for many years as head the Berlin bureau of the Associated Press. He is best remembered for his work there as a foreign correspondent. Lochner was awarded the 1939 Pulitzer Prize for correspondence for his wartime reporting from Nazi Germany. In December 1941 Lochner was interned by the Nazis and later released in a prisoner exchange. (Wikipedia citation - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_P._Lochner)

Whether the infamous quote appears in the official German version, "Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels", made from original glass plate microfilm copies, discovered in Moscow by Elke Fröhlich in 1992, having been commissioned by Goebbels himself in 1944 I don't know. Access to official copies of these originals is not easily acquired outside of Germany.

20. Robert Salcedo - 07/11/2013 9:30 pm CDT

The whole set of diaries can be purchased from some German publishing house for quite a bit of money (also online access for $3600.00). Some 16,800 plus pages 1923 - 1945. Goebbels wrote a lot and left it for posterity - typically German Nazi bent to document everything.

21. danny - 07/19/2013 11:45 pm CDT

goebbels said this statement in refer to churchil

22. Randall Bytwerk - 09/13/2013 5:57 pm CDT

Mr.Salcedo, do you have a page reference for that quotation? I can't find it.

23. A History Student - 09/15/2013 1:05 pm CDT

I watched an interveiw with an ex hitler youth member who said "If you repeat the lie often enough, it's accepted." when he was referring to the propoganda that was fed to the German people about their racial superiority during Nazi reign.

It didn't seem like he was quoting anyone, at least not intentionally.

It was a very old documentary that my history teacher has on VHS so perhaps the quote was simply a misquote of this gentleman? Who knows.

24. will - 09/26/2013 7:39 am CDT

Interesting article that it self is full of lies and propaganda. Blame the good guys. See John 8:44
44 "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your lies... When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Pilot asked Jesus"What it truth?"

25. LogophileBSN - 10/09/2013 12:14 am CDT

I say we attribute it to Turd Blossom (Herr Karl Rove) out of respect for his ancestry and, uh...to put it kindly, political acumen and mastery of propaganda. He certainly mastered the big lie theory throughout the GW Bush campaign and throughout his presidency, most especially during the lead-up to the Iraq war. Heck a LOT of people still believe it was Iraq that attacked us on 9/11, and like the man or not, that was brilliant use of the repeated big lie, and it worked.

26. Rob Campbell - 02/11/2014 4:30 pm CST


Half the lies they tell about me aren't true.
Yogi BerraHwx

27. Matthias Schreiber - 04/14/2014 8:26 am CDT

Awesome post. I commend you for investigating this. I too am just as yourself, a man that searches for the definitive, and as yourself I only say things that are 90% certain of; Meaning I do much research and only say something that I have a data source too.

28. Rob Campbell - 04/14/2014 8:50 am CDT

Yogi Berra has many witty quotes attributed to him. My fave is this one;

"I didn't really say everything I said."

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