Learning German via Radio in WWII


At the moment there is a lot of talk how social media is used to distribute propaganda, but the widespread of propaganda is nothing new.

The ‘social media’  during WWII was the radio. About 18 months after the Germans invaded the Netherlands they started broadcasting German language course programs.

During World War II radio listening was restricted in the Netherlands In 1940 the Dutch were forbidden to listen to foreign broadcasting and Dutch broadcasting- organizations were censored by the Germans. The VARA was the first organization to openly protest against the Germans when they had to report about a march of the Dutch Nazi-organization NSB.

Broadcasting of English and American songs was forbidden in January 1941. The grip of the Nazis on the programming was increasing, they ordered to broadcast Aryan “Auflagesendungen” (mass-produced programs) like the music programs with German titles : “Gruss aus der Heimat” (greetings from the fatherland) and “Wunschconcerte” (request concert).
The Dutch society protested against the German rule and persecution of the Jews with the “February-strike” of 1941. After this the Germans let no more room for talking. On 9 March 1941 the broadcasting organizations were dismantled, and a German propaganda-station “De Netherlands Omroep” (Dutch for: Dutch Broadcasting Organization) was founded. The personal and property of were taken over by “De Netherlands Omroep”.

On Sunday 5 October 1941 listeners readied themselves with a textbook for their first German lesson, broadcast on a Dutch radio station from the city of Hilversum. Alfred Rügner began by telling his audience a little something about German pronunciation.


But this wasn’t any ordinary German lesson: this was about teaching National Socialist German. Those following the course learned military terms, translated the Nazi slogan-of-the-week and penned Hitler’s words to paper.

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The lessons in the book were interspersed with antisemitic illustrations and drawings of soldiers and members of the NSB (Dutch Nazi Party). As the war progressed, the Germans interfered with Dutch radio programming more and more. By mid-1941, all of the Dutch stations were incorporated into one Rijksradio (State-controlled) broadcaster. From then on, the propaganda transmitted via the radio simply continued to increase.

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Many Dutch listened with their hidden radios to the Dutch broadcasts of “Radio Orange” from England. The BBC was also very popular. Being caught with a hidden radio or listening to either the BBC or Radio Orange could result in a death penalty.

Onderduikers luisteren naar radio-uitzendingen uit Engeland.
With “wire-broadcasting” the Nazis could control the programs which were passed on. Wire-broadcasting (in Dutch “Draadomroep” or “Radio-distribute”) was the only radio which was allowed. During the last months of the war the Dutch could listen to “Radio Herrijzend Netherlands” from the liberated parts of the country.


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