“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
The original description of the big lie appeared in Mein Kampf. Adolf Hitler applied it to the behavior of Jews rather than as a tactic he advocated. Specifically, he accused Viennese Jews of trying to discredit the Germans’ activities during World War I. Hitler wrote of the Jews’ “unqualified capacity for falsehood” and “that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation…. From time immemorial, however, the Jews have known better than any others how falsehood and calumny can be exploited.”
The OSS psychological profile of Hitler described his use of the big lie:
Goebbels did describe the big lie in different language in an article he wrote in 1941, “Churchill’s Lie Factory,” but he was accusing the British of the ploy:
Randall Bytwerk argues that neither Hitler nor Goebbels would admit to lying. Goebbels, “always maintained that propaganda had to be truthful. That doesn’t mean he didn’t lie, but it would be a pretty poor propagandist who publicly proclaimed that he was going to lie.”
Sources: Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X.
“Big lie,” Wikipedia.
Joseph Goebbels, “Churchill’s Lie Factory,” (January 12, 1941). Original: “Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik,” Die Zeit ohne Beispiel (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP., 1941), pp. 364-369.
Randall Bytwerk, “False Nazi Quotations,” German Propaganda Archive.