March 9, 1936
First question: Does the Fuhrer’s offer of a non-aggression pact to every Eastern neighbour of Germany also apply to Austria? Does be consider Czechoslovakia as a state neighbouring Germany in the East, too?
Answer: My proposal for the conclusion of non-aggression pacts both to the East and West of Germany was of a general nature, i.e. there were no exclusions.
Hence, this applies to both Czechoslovakia and Austria.
Second question: Does the Fuhrer intend to return Germany to the League of Nations so that his proposals might be placed before that body for consideration, with Germany a full member of the League’s Council? Or would he prefer to call for an international conference to deal with the matter?
Answer: In the stead of Germany, I declared it willing to immediately join the League of Nations. I do so in the expectation that, in due time, both the question of colonial claims and the question of a divorce of the Covenant of the League of Nations from the so-called peace treaty would be resolved.
I believe it would be most practical if the Governments in question would directly take responsibility for the conclusion of the non-aggression pacts proposed by the German Government. This means that in the case of pacts securing the borders between Germany, France, and Belgium (and perhaps, given the circumstances, even Holland) the powers invited to participate would consist of the Governments involved and England and Italy-the signatory powers and guarantors of the agreement. It might be a good idea if those countries which will be secured by these pacts approach their future guarantors.
The non-aggression pacts with the other states could then be negotiated in the manner in which the German-Polish pact was concluded, in other words, directly between the Governments involved.
In addition to that, Germany would certainly be content if another power -for instance England-assumed the role of an impartial mediator in the practical resolution of these questions.
Third question: It is highly unlikely that, given the upcoming elections in France in April, any French Government will be in a position to discuss your suggestions, even if it wanted to. Is Germany willing to keep its offer in force until after that date? Will Germany be undertaking any steps in the meantime that again might alter the present situation?
Answer: There need not be any change of the current situation, at least not on the part of the German Government. We have restored its sovereign rights to the German Reich and have brought ancient Reich territory back under the protection of the entire nation. Hence, for us, there is no need to set deadlines.
I would like to make one thing clear, however. Should these proposals fail, or simply be ignored, like so many before them have been, then the German Government will not impose upon Europe with any further suggestions.
Fourth question: Now that the Fuhrer has reclaimed total sovereignty over the entire German territory, is he willing to restrict the forces deployed in the Rhineland to a number that would preclude any offensive actions directed against France on the part of Germany?
Answer: It was not our intention to commit an act of aggression against France as we occupied the so-called “demilitarized” zone. Rather, we consider that such an enormous sacrifice by a nation is only conceivable and hence supportable if it is met with objectivity and political understanding on the part of the other party to the contract. Not Germany is in breach of contract! Ever since the signing of the armistice agreement based on President Wilson’s Fourteen Points, the following customs have been observed in Europe.
Whenever victor and vanquished draw up a contract between each other, the vanquished becomes obliged to observe its conventions while the victor may proceed as he sees fit and as suits his purposes. You cannot deny the fact that the provisions of Wilson’s Fourteen Points and the three additional contracts supplementing it were not upheld.
Further, you cannot deny the fact that their general disarmament provisions were not upheld on the part of the victorious powers. And the letters of the Locarno Pact as well are of significance since they additionally carry political weight.
Had the Franco-Russian agreement of May 2, 1935 been on the books already upon the signature of the Locarno Pact, then naturally there would have been no signing of the Rhine Pact. It is unacceptable that, retroactively, a contract should take on a different meaning or should be interpreted in a manner not intended. In the case before us not only the spirit but also the letter of the Locarno Pact was violated. The conclusion of a military alliance between the Soviet Union and France brings Germany into a position in which it is forced to draw certain conclusions. It is nothing but these conclusions that I have drawn! After all, it is clearly impossible that, with France concluding such a military alliance, such a densely populated and economically vital border region of the German Reich should be left defenceless and without protection. This is the most natural and instinctive reaction to such a move.
Perhaps in England, I fear, there may be many persons who do not realize that the so-called “demilitarized” zone has about as many inhabitants as does, for instance, the Czechoslovakian State or Yugoslavia. The area is merely being furnished with garrisons to protect its freedom precisely as in the other parts of the Reich-no more and no less! There cannot be any talk of massing troops along the border for offensive purposes because: a) Germany no longer has anything to demand of France and it will not demand anything anymore; b) Germany itself has called for the establishment of non-aggression pacts, expressing the desire that England and Italy might become signatory powers and guarantors of these agreements; c) massing troops along the border would be unnecessary from a military point of view and, as a matter of fact, it would be senseless! Moreover, we want to create a future in which these two countries no longer feel threatened by one another. When M. Sarraut declares that he cannot support the sight of German cannons threatening the Strasbourg fortress, it ought to be quite obvious that we too cannot support the sight of French fortress cannons threatening our open cities Frankfurt, Freiburg, Karlsruhe, etc.
Such a sense of threat could be prevented by finding a mutual solution to the question of the “demilitarized” zone.
Fifth question: Will the Fuhrer tell the world, why he has chosen this particular path to attain his goal? Why did he not first present his suggestions to the public and then demand the remilitarization of the Rhineland in return? I am certain that the entire world would have agreed enthusiastically.
Answer: I have already dealt with this topic at great length in my speech before the Reichstag. However, let me touch upon your remark that any solutions proposed by me, divorced from a military occupation of the Rhineland, would have assuredly been greeted with great enthusiasm. That is well possible. Yet this regrettably is not the crucial point. It was I, for instance, who proposed the 300,000-man army. I still think that was a most reasonable proposal. It certainly was a concrete proposal and it would greatly have contributed to a lessening of tensions in Europe. No doubt, many people welcomed it. Indeed, the French and British Governments have even adopted this proposal.
Nonetheless, it was rejected. Thus, for better or for worse I had to proceed as sole bearer of responsibility. After all, I sought to secure equal rights for Germany in questions of armament, thereby resolving one of the most burning issues in Europe today. No one can deny Germany’s moral claim to these rights.
And this time as well, the outcome would have been no different. It is well possible that if I had first made my proposal public, demanding the restitution of full sovereignty to the Reich in the demilitarized zone as well, it would have been welcomed and understood by the world public. However, based on my experiences in the past, I did not believe that we ever would have come together at the conference table. Yet if one party to an agreement moves against the spirit and letter of the contract, then it is only natural that the other party withdraw from its obligations as well. And that is precisely what I did! Moreover, if ever a French or British statesman encountered his people in similar distress as I found my own Volk, then I have no doubts that he would have proceeded in precisely the same manner, given the same circumstances. He will do so in the future as well, I am certain.
Rarely does the present realize the full import of an event of historic proportion. No doubt, posterity will see that it was morally more decent and appropriate to eliminate the cause of these insupportable tensions in order to finally arrive at a reasonable approach in that opening of doors we all desired. It was far better to proceed in this manner than to try to maintain such a position, a position which ran contrary to any considerations of common sense and reason.
Once the proposals of the German Reich Government have been accepted, it is my firm conviction that posterity will deem these proposals to have rendered a great service to Europe and to the cause of peace.