9 October, 1941: Nazi press conference announces imminent victory (Nazi propaganda and the war in the East)

The following was taken from the book “Germany and the Second World War”, volume IX/II, by Jörg Echternkamp:

The way propaganda dealt with the war in the East during the first phase from June to December 1941 had negative consequences for the Nazis. For the sake of a short-lived triumph, it sacrificed its long-term credibility.

Until October 1941 the propaganda was full of premature reports of ‘total’ victory and annihilation of the enemy; the result was scepticism.

Paul-Heinz Wantzen, who as a journalist watched both the press bulletins and the reactions of the reading public, recorded on 29 August 1941 ‘a general dismay’. Wantzen noted that ‘people are looking up past OKW reports about the Russian campaign, in which, weeks ago, the campaign in the East was said to be close to final victory, the Soviet army was said to be falling apart, and the like’.

Earlier newspapers revealed the contradictions: ‘More and more people are found looking up the newspaper files, for instance to note down extracts from past speeches by the Führer and Göring’.

For Wantzen the outcome was obvious: ‘talking big’ had ‘to some extent shaken’ the earlier ‘rock-solid’ trust.

On Thursday 9 October 1941, at a special press conference, Otto Dietrich, official press secretary for the Nazi regime in general and Hitler in particular, announced to the world the sensational news that the last remnant of the Red Army was encircled at the gates of Moscow and heading fast for annihilation.

Attendees to this press conference were, amongst many others, the Swedish journalist Arvid Fredborg, the American radio journalist Howard Smith and William Shirer, later to be author of a book on the rise and fall of the Third Reich.

American radio journalist Howard Smith described that day as a watershed in the history of the Nazi regime. Up to then, most of the press correspondents had worked on the assumption that on verifiable military details Hitler [and his acolytes] would stick close to the truth, since publishing news that people could easily verify to be wrong would harm the credibility of the regime.

Now, the end of the war was supposedly in sight, rumour spread that Stalin had asked for a ceasefire and bookshops filled their window displays with language books for the future colonial rulers to learn Russian. The awakening was all the ruder: after this press conference ‘the German people’s morale sank so fast that nothing in the world could restore it but the war ending in complete, final and decisive victory’.

On that Thursday, Smith believed, ‘the propaganda destroyed itself’.

Final victory did not materialize as imminently as the regime had claimed, and a degree of scepticism started to set in.

Later, towards the end of November, reports that Wehrmacht troops had reached the outskirts of Moscow seemed to [once again] confirm the first impression that victory was [indeed] imminent. By mid-December, however, the propaganda already seemed less certain of victory.

Hitler’s declaration of war on the USA on 11 December 1941 presented propaganda with new challenges, it was forced to admit, in regards to the Eastern Front, that the adverse weather conditions were having an effect, and any talk of imminent victory was avoided [for the time being].

The bad-weather argument was seen by the public as an indirect admission of a setback, a transparent euphemism employed to hide the disparity between the [actual] military situation and [wishful thinking] ‘ersatz reality’.

In January 1942, when the Winter Relief campaign was in full swing, the reports of ongoing Soviet counter-attacks were in glaring conflict with earlier talk of the enemy’s collapse. Goebbels now spoke openly of a ‘silent, dogged battle’ facing the German people in the future.

The 9 October 1941 press conference by Hitler’s press secretary Otto Dietrich followed on the backs of Hitler’s proclamation to the troops on 1 October 1941 (which Indy covered in the weekly episode) and Hitler’s speech in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on 3 October 1941, where he announced that the ‘Soviet Army is beaten… the Bolshevik dragon is slain’ and that Germany was on the brink of winning 'the greatest battle in the history of the world.

During the press conference, Dietrich declared that ‘the last remnants of the Red Army are trapped in two steel vices which were tightening daily’. Moscow would soon undergo ‘swift merciless annihilation’ and between Germany and the complete conquest of the untold riches of Russia there remained only ‘the time it takes man and machine to cover the given distance’. ‘The Eastern Continent’, Dietrich continued, ‘lay like a limp virgin in the mighty arms of the lustful German Mars’.

Interesting to note is that Dietrich, in his role as press secretary, competed with Goebbels for control of these press conferences. Goebbels tried again and again to sideline Dietrich, but despite his efforts and the aid of Martin Bormann, Goebbels was unable to wrest control of the regime’s press conferences from Dietrich until March 1945, when he managed to get Hitler to dismiss Dietrich. This overlapping of competences providing yet another example of the chaotic nature of Nazi rule. The struggle between Dietrich and Goebbels may also have contributed to Dietrich purposefully announcing the imminent victory in a case of one-upmanship. Goebbels severely criticized the announcement in his diary.

The next day, Friday, 10 October 1941, the Nazi newspaper ‘Der Völkischer Beobachter’ followed up Dietrich’s press conference with a grand proclamation.

DER FELDZUG IM OSTEN ENTSCHIEDEN! (the campaign in the East decided!)

Here is a link to the Viennese version of that newspaper, made available for research by the Austrian National Library:

Here is a translation of its main article:

The Military End of Bolshevism

A week ago on the evening of 1 October the Führer issued a proclamation to German soldiers on the Eastern Front, the text of which we carry at the bottom of this page. He ordered them “to give the final powerful blow that will shatter this enemy before the onset of winter,” calling for “the final decisive battle of this year.” There is hardly an order of such greatness and brilliance ever before in the history of war. Today, only one week later, the Front reports to the Führer and people that the order has been essentially obeyed, that the goal of this order has been achieved strategically. If ever there was an example of the idea of a Blitzkrieg, — here it is! Seven short fall days have sufficed to give the death blow to the largest war machine of all times, one from which it will never be able to recover.

This is the situation today:

  1. The northern military group commanded by Voroshilo has been surrounded for exactly one month in Leningrad — hopelessly surrounded! — and is awaiting its end.
  2. The southern military group under Budyonny has been defeated near the Sea of Azov and is disintegrating.
  3. In the center of the Bolshevist front, the strongest and most capable Army Group Timoschenko is surrounded by a deadly ring in the pockets of Vysamsa and Brjansk.

The Reich Press Secretary, just returned from the Führer’s headquarters in Berlin, informed the men of the German press that on the basis of the latest information, it is absolutely clear that the Eastern war has been finished; it is not simply a matter of a series of major victories. The Führer’s order to the soldiers on the Eastern Front made it clear that this time it was all or nothing. The new major operations that began on 2 October were the product of long-term comprehensive planning and preparation, not just the exploitation of the situation on the various sections of the front.

Timoschenko repeated the cardinal error of Bolshevist military leadership — an innate characteristic of Bolshevism — and can no longer repair the damage. This time his last remaining reserves for a major Bolshevist attack have been sacrificed. With the defeat of Army Group Timoschenko, Stalin’s last military pillar has been shattered and eliminated. The victorious and fully battle-ready German Eastern Front now faces only Red units that are no longer capable of major operations. Stalin has permanently lost his freedom of action and has not the least prospect of rebuilding a significant army over the winter. All of Germany knows the enormous effort and time it takes to build and equip an effective army even with National Socialist methods. The Bolshevist Soviet Union that has already lost its most important armaments centers is completely unable to heal its deadly wounds. Judgment has already fallen on them

Not only the Kremlin’s murderous bands have lost the decisive battle! What their defeat means to those who are the real guilty parties in London and their friends in Washington one can easily see when reading the messages that Churchill and Roosevelt have recently sent to Stalin. With the fall of the Soviet Union, England’s last and greatest “continental dagger” has shattered. Europe is free of the worst danger in a thousand years, the Bolshevist threat. Never again will filthy and sordid Anglo-American brains be able to carry out their business on the backs of the European peoples. That is the historic meaning of the victories of October 1941.

Suffice to say that the announcement was a little premature. In November 1942, Hitler proved he hadn’t learned anything from this particular episode when he announced in the annual speech to the ‘Old Guard’ that the battle for Stalingrad had been decided. Once again, there was a huge gap between Nazi wishful thinking and military reality, once again the Soviet colossus had been proclaimed dead and yet somehow managed to rise from its supposed grave to inflict another huge defeat on Germany.


Great to hear Indy mention the Völkischer Beobachter newspaper’s proclamation of victory in the East.