Goebbels by Eisenstaedt


Hitler’s Minister  of Culture Dr. Joseph Goebbels glowering as he sits in the garden of the Carlton Hotel to attend the League of Nations. In September 1933, Goebbels was in Geneva for his first trip abroad. On 29th September, he gave his peace speech, defending the Nazi’s seizure of power. An extraordinary orator, he won the respect of dipomats with his speech An Appeal to the Nations, and the appraisal of international journalists in the subsequent press conference. One, a correspondent of the Paris “Journal” wrote then, “Dr. Goebbels combines German mysticism with Latin logic.”

The photo was taken in 1933 by LIFE magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. One of his most memorable pictures, the portrait still casts its evil spell more than 70 years later. “The fierce arrogance of power, normally covered with false grace of good humor, shone through miraculously into Eisenstaedt’s film,” later wrote LIFE magazine. A Jew, Eisenstaedt himself remembered: “He looked at me with hateful eyes and waited for me to wither. But I didn’t wither. If I have a camera in my hand, I don’t know fear.”

Dark haired, club-footed and physically diminutive, Goebbels was not the symbol of healthy tall, blond, Nordic master-race he defended. This ‘unbleached shrucken Teuton’ (as the Nazi inner circle called him) occupies only a small amount of space in the photo, yet as a man of power and notoriety, he dominates the photo with his fierce personality and penetrating eyes.

The man trying to hand Goebbels a note was Nazi Chief Interpreter Dr. Paul Schmidt. Schmidt was present throughout Nazi’s rise to power, and witnessed such pivotal occasions as the Munich Agreement and Hitler meeting Petain in 1940. In the latter occasion, Schmidt was the person photographed between Hitler and Petain.

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