Goebbels, Joseph

Childhood and First World War


Josef Goebbels was born on October 29th, 1897 into a characteristic 19th century Biedermaier familiy (catholic, conservative and lower middle class) near Düsseldorf. The family was not wealthy, his father being the bookkeeper of a small enterprise. On top of that, Josef began to develop health problems. First he contracted polio and later on he suffered from a bone marrow inflammation in his right leg. He overcame it all but his right foot remained underdeveloped. Owing to this handicap and his small stature, Josef was a frequent victim of mockery by his classmates and childrer of his own age.

His body might not function too well; his brains did not desert him however. He was very intelligent. Moreover he made up for his physical handicap by working and studying extremely hard. As a result, young Goebbels graduated from grammar school in Rheydt with excellent marks.

In 1914, World War One broke out. Goebbels, being a good patriot, reported as volunteer but was rejected for military service because of his crippled foot. Therefore he turned to his university studies. Despite quite a few financial problems he earned his degree as doctor of philosophy and Germanistics. This title did not get him a job. After having wandered around for a few years, he ended up in Weimar and made contact with Friedrich Wiegershaus who made him join the Völkische Freiheitspartei (VFP, People’s Freedom Party) to write articles for the Völkische Beobacher (People’s Observer).
He also delivered his first speeches at political meetings. During one of these speeches, he was noted by Gregor Strasser who put him to work in the NSDAP, which had been established again in the meantime, to write the Nationalsozialistische Briefe (National Socialist letters). In the same year, 1925, he met Hitler for the first time. He was not immediately impressed by the Führer. That became obvious in 1926 at a conference in Hannover where he demanded the deportation of "Kleinbürger Adolf Hitler" (blockhead). After a short time, his political opportunism caused him to chose Hitler’s side anyway.


German word for leader. During his reign of power Adolf Hitler was Führer of Nazi Germany.

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Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945).

Wedding day, December 19th, 1931. Josef and Magda on their way to church.
(Source: Bundesarchiv)


Translated by:
Arnold Palthe
Article by:
Gerd Van der Auwera
Published on:
Last edit on:
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