Putin Tells Rabbis that Goebbels Was “Talented”

Vladimir Putin meets with religious officials, July 9, 2014, Moscow, Russia. Kremlin Press Service, Public domain.

Vladimir Putin meets with religious officials, July 9, 2014, Moscow, Russia. Kremlin Press Service, Public domain.

When faced with being tactful or truthful, often tact is the more polite of the two. Vladimir Putin, however, chose truth over tact when he called Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, as a “talented man” in the meeting with an international delegation of rabbis. Addressing the falsification of history, the Russian President said,

Вы сказали, что нужно быть глупым, чтобы отрицать то, что было. Вы знаете, мне кажется, что нужно быть не просто глупым, нужно быть наглым, чтобы отрицать то, что было. Но, к сожалению, эта наглость так же, как и 70 лет назад, часто достигает своей цели. Ведь Геббельс же говорил: чем невероятнее ложь, тем быстрее в неё поверят. И он добивался своего, он был талантливый человек.

You said that one must be stupid to deny what happened. You know, I think that one must not just be stupid, but also shameless, to deny what occurred. But unfortunately, just like 70 years ago, this shamelessness often achieves its purposes. After all, Goebbels had said, “The more improbable the lie, the faster people believe it.” And it worked out; he was a talented man.

The context for Putin’s remarks is a law initiated by Duma deputy Irina Yarovaya and adopted in May that made “justifying Nazism” or “rehabilitating Nazism” punishable by five years in prison or fines that go as high as 15 thousand dollars. The law criminalizes any public denial of facts established by the International War Tribunal at the end of WWII, the approval of Nazi crimes, or the spread of falsehoods associated with the activities of the USSR during the war. Yarovaya wrote the law in the wake of the Dozhd TV scandal about a poll asking viewers if the Soviets should have surrendered Leningrad.

Did Vladimir Putin break the law when he acknowledged Goebbels’ “talent”?

The thing is, Putin is right. Goebbels was a talented guy. He excelled at using propaganda to convince millions of Germans to love Hitler and hate Jews. And truth be told, he did live by his maxim of the bigger the lie the more it will be believed. One wonders where the controversy is. But Putin’s positive words for the Nazi propagandist Goebbels nonetheless caused a stir on the RuNet.

Putin couldn’t help himself. He marveled at Goebbels in a meeting with rabbis. “Goebbels was a talented man and always made good.”

Well then, for Putin Goebbels is an excellent guy, but the fascists and banderovtsy—that’s me and the people who think like me. Well, okay. :)

LJ user rovego thought Putin’s comments were in bad taste, suggesting that the 61-year-old leader is showing his age.

Путин, похоже, стареет. Раньше он очень тщательно подбирал слова. Плохой знак.

It looks like Putin getting old. Before, he picked his words very precisely. It’s a bad sign.

Not everyone on Twitter agreed that Putin's remarks constituted a scandal.

Why is everyone jumping all over Putin? Yes, Goebbels was a talented propagandist and leader. Scum can’t be talented?

Some couldn’t resist using Putin’s statement to liken the Nazi figure to Russia’s own propaganda machine. Comparing Goebbels to Dmitry Kiselev, the reigning voice of Russia’s contempoary mass media, one Twitter user had this to say:

Goebbles is more talented than Kiselev.


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