Hitler’s Rhetoric [in progress]

By Ryan Skinnell

Hitler’s Rhetoric examines the rhetorical practices and resources that Adolf Hitler used to persuade millions of Germans and non-Germans to support, or at least acquiesce to, Nazi governance. Historians and rhetoricians alike recognize Hitler as “one of the great orators of history, perhaps the greatest in the twentieth century” and “an ideal example of the evil power of evil rhetoric.” Hitler was a powerful speaker and innovator, pioneering mass media tactics that are still in wide use. He roused and radicalized fanatical supporters through his speeches throughout the first decade and a half of his career.

Beyond his personal persuasive power, Hitler and the Nazis also built a sprawling network of rhetorical resources, including a correspondence school for aspiring orators, a speakers’ bureau, and a series of media assets (i.e., newspapers, journals, and rhetoric handbooks) for teaching persuasive speech. This network allowed him to recruit fanatics and spread his message throughout Germany. Hitler and the Nazis were thoroughly rhetorical actors, and not by accident. Unfortunately, understanding Hitler’s rhetorical success remains vitally important in the 21st century. Hitler’s rhetoric—both his rhetorical strategies and versions of his rhetorical network—are pervasive in contemporary cultures around the world. Accordingly, understanding Hitler’s rhetoric is a regrettable necessity for anyone who would recognize and resist imitators and like-minded innovators.

I am in the process of researching and writing Hitler’s Rhetoric. My goal is to have a full draft by Spring 2022.

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