The Power of Rhetoric: A Case Study of the German Generals of WWII




Buschang, Madeline

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During World War II, Hitler employed a lot of tactical rhetoric and the use of this rhetoric is often noted as being extraordinarily persuasive, but I wanted to know if there is rhetorical evidence to suggest that this was the case. In order to do this, I looked at five of Hitler’s most prominent rhetorical topoi and examined the end-of-war/post-war rhetoric of German generals in both private and public settings for evidence of the repetition of these topoi in their deliberations.

By looking at this rhetorical evidence more closely it became clear that the answer to whether Hitler was truly persuasive was maybe. The topoi that are found in the rhetoric of both the public and private generals and in Hitler are those with a basis in the German culture, thus while this repetition of topoi may be a result of Hitler’s rhetorical power, it is also possible that this power was overstated and that what looks like persuasion is rather the weaponization of these beliefs by Hitler.


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