September 12, 1938
And yet we look back upon these times with the greatest feeling of pride.
Today we feel doubly close to those times because first of all, in our midst we see the fighters of the eldest German Ostmark who until recently were subject to a like persecution because of their National Socialist conviction. They stand amongst us today as Volksgenossen and citizens of the German Reich. What have they not had to go through, suffer through?! How many of their comrades were slain, how many injured in body and spirit, how many lost their livelihoods for many years, and how many ten thousands were imprisoned in jails, penitentiaries and Anhaltelagers?! The second reason for which we reflect upon these times with particular emotion is the fact that the events we experienced and suffered in our own nation at the time are precisely those we are witnessing on the world stage today.
And above all: our enemies today remain weltanschaulich the very same ones.
Almost every year, we could step before the nation with quiet confidence and await its judgment. The greatest approval ever granted the leadership of a Volk became ours on April 10 of this year. The Volk acknowledged and confirmed that it regards the new form of state and its leadership as institutions that strive to the best of their abilities to serve the Volk and to lead it once more to freedom and greatness and to ensure its economic well-being.
And still, what we are witnessing today on a larger scale is precisely the same we experienced in the decades of internal struggle. Ever since the day we assumed power, we have been surrounded by a hostile environment. The connivance between the gilded, capitalist democratic movement in our parliament on the one hand and with Marxism on the other in their war on National Socialism is today mirrored in a like conspiracy, albeit on a larger scale, involving the democracies and the Bolshevists as they make war on the state constituted by the National Socialist Volksgemeinschaft.
Perhaps the most persuasive evidence of the insincerity of their fight against the National Socialist Party as it struggled for power at the time is the fact that no matter whether they were bourgeois nationalists, capitalist democrats, or Marxist internationalists, they formed a unitary front against us in all decisive battles. At the time, many of our Volksgenossen were forced to realize just how dishonest the political battle was and of how little import morals were in this fight as they saw those parties fighting us on nationalist grounds, yet were not reluctant to conspire with Marxist internationalists to that end.
And vice versa, our Volksgenossen had to realize just how dishonest and fraudulent those parties were who claimed to persecute us for socialist reasons and then went to ally themselves with the worst proponents of capitalism prior to entering into the unitary front against us. The Center Party claimed to be fighting us because we were hostile to the Church, and yet to this end it entered into a holy alliance with atheist Social Democrats and did not shrink from uniting with the Communists. And on the other hand, Communists fought us because, as they claimed, we represented the Reaktion in their eyes. Yet they cast their ballot together with the true reactionaries against the vote of the National Socialist Party in the Reichstag.
It was indeed a display of such duplicity that one could only turn from it in disgust. Today we feel equally repelled as we watch the so-called international world democracies who supposedly advocate liberty, fraternity, justice, the right to self-determination of the peoples, etc., as we see these states ally themselves with Bolshevist Moscow.349 One day, perhaps someone will ask why we concern ourselves so much with the democracies and why we treat them in so negative a manner. This is the case because: First, as those attacked we are forced to counter.
Second, the conduct of these phenomena is so revolting.
Dishonesty sets in the minute these democracies claim to represent government by the people and decry authoritarian states as dictatorships. I believe that I can confidently state that today there are only two world powers who can honestly claim to have 99 percent of their people backing the government. What in other countries goes by the name of democracy is in most cases little other than the apt manipulation of public opinion by means of money and the press, and the equally apt manipulation of the results hereby achieved. How easily, however, are these supposed democracies stripped bare of their pretenses when one takes a close look at their stance in matters of foreign policy which constantly change to suit the purpose of the moment. There we witness how truly repressive regimes in small countries are actually being glorified by these democracies if it suits their needs. Yes, they even go so far as to fight for them, while on the other hand, they themselves actively repress inconvenient rallies in those states where such protest does not suit them. They fail to acknowledge this activism, attempt to subvert it or simply misinterpret its significance. And this is not all: these democracies even glorify Bolshevist regimes if it happens to suit their purpose, and this in spite of the fact that the latter style themselves as the dictatorship of the proletariat.
In other words, these supposed democracies decry regimes that are backed by 99 percent of their constituents as dictatorships, while at the same time they praise other countries as highly respectable democratic institutions even though these call themselves dictatorships and even though these can only subsist on the basis of mass executions, torture, etc. Is it not one of the greatest ironies in history that in the midst of upright prototype democrats in Geneva, the blooddrenched proponent of one of the cruelest tyrannies of all time moves about freely as a highly respected member of the Council?350 We in Germany have already witnessed the alliance of Jewish capitalism with an abstract version of communist anti-capitalism, and we have seen the Rote Fahne, the Vorwarts and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung march hand in hand here. It is the same all over the world. Bolshevist Moscow has become the highly revered ally of capitalist democracies! [-] For fifteen years, they have acted in gruesome defiance of the most natural interests of their peoples, yes, acting contrary to any standards of human dignity. Indeed, they drew up Diktats with a pistol in hand only to, at a later date, lament the “unilateral” transgression of holy rights and the breach of all the more holy contracts. Without so much as a thought for the opinion of the natives, they have led a drive for the bloody subjugation of entire continents.
However, the minute that Germany mentions the return of its colonies, they declared that-out of concern for the indigenous people there-one could not possibly abandon the natives to so horrid a fate. At the same time, they did not distance themselves from dropping bombs out of planes onto their own colonies. And all this to use the force of reason to persuade the dear colored compatriots to submit to the foreign rule a hit longer. Of course, the bombs thus employed were bombs with civilizing warheads which one must absolutely not confuse with those brutal ones Italy used in Abyssinia.
Throughout the democratic countries, one laments the unimaginable cruelty with which first Germany, and now Italy as well, are striving to rid themselves of the Jewish element. However, all these great democratic empires have altogether little more than a few persons per square kilometer. In Italy and in Germany this number exceeds 140 persons. For decades, Germany nevertheless took in hundreds of thousands upon hundreds of thousands of Jews without batting an eyelid.
Now that the burden has become overbearing and the nation is no longer willing to have its life blood sucked out of it by these parasites, it is now that there is great lament abroad. However, not a word is heard in these democratic countries about replacing this hypocritical lamentation with a good deed and assistance. No, to the contrary, all one hears is cold reasoning claiming that in these states there is regretfully no space either! Evidently, they expect us to bear up under this burden of Jewry despite our 140 persons per square kilometer, while the democratic world empires with their few people per square kilometer could not possibly shoulder this burden. Alas, no help. But morals! And thus we find the National Socialist Reich faced with the same phenomenon and forces that we had fifteen years to get to know as a party.
Insofar as this is indicative of the hostile attitude of the democratic states toward Germany, this matters little to us. Besides, why should we fare any better than the Reich before us? On a side note, I will admit quite openly that I find it easier to bear insults from someone who can no longer rob me than to be robbed by someone who praises me for letting it happen. Today we are insulted. Yet we are in a position-praise the Lord-to prevent Germany from being ravaged and raped. The state before us was blackmailed for fifteen years.
For this, admittedly, it received compensation-the somewhat sparse recompense, at least in my eyes-of praise for having been a good little democratic state.
This comportment becomes unbearable for us the minute a major part of our Volk is placed at the mercy of impertinent abusers, ostensibly without any means of defending itself, while the brunt of democratic rhetoric pours forth as a threat to our Volksgenossen. I am speaking of Czecho-Slovakia.
This state is a democracy, that is to say it was founded on democratic principles. The majority of its people was simply forced to submit to the structure construed at Versailles without any one asking for its opinion. As a true democracy, this state immediately began to suppress the majority of its people, to abuse there and to rob them of their inalienable rights. Gradually, one attempted to impress upon the world that this state had a special military and political mission to fulfill.
The former French Minister of Aviation, Pierre Cot,352 has explained this to us recently. According to him, Czechoslovakia exists for the purpose of providing a base, in the event of war, for launching aerial attacks and dropping bombs upon German cities and industrial plants. Needless to say, we may assume that these will once again be equipped with those warheads of the famed civilizing variety.
However, this mission stands in opposition to the desires of the majority of the inhabitants of this state, and is alien to their philosophy of life and contrary to their vital interests. That is why the majority of its citizens were silenced. Any protest against this fate would have been an assault upon the aims incarnate in this state and hence would have been in violation of its constitution. Drawn up by the democrats, this constitution was less suited to realizing the rights of the people affected and was instead more tailored toward accommodating the political expediencies of the people’s oppressors. Political expediency necessitated as well that a structure be construed that accorded the Czech people a position of preeminence in this state. Whoever protested against this usurpation became an “enemy of the state” and hence, in accordance with democratic norms, he was outlawed. Providence has thus called upon the socalled people of the Czech state-admittedly voicing its intent through the good offices of the architects at Versailles-to stand guard lest someone rise in opposition to this ultimate purpose of the state.
Should someone nevertheless venture to step forth from amongst the majority of the oppressed peoples in this state and voice opposition to this end, then it is naturally permissible that he be beaten hack with the full force at the state’s disposal and, if so desire or need be, he could also simply be murdered.
If this now did not concern us, if this were some foreign affair, we, like so many others, might take note of it simply as a most interesting display of the democrats’ understanding of the rights of peoples to self-determination.
However, the nature of the affair involves an obligation of us Germans.
Amongst the suppressed minorities in this state, there are also three and a half million Germans, roughly as many people of our race as Denmark has in inhabitants.353 These Germans are God’s creatures as well. The Almighty has not created them so that the construction arrived at in Versailles might place them at the mercy of an alien power they hate. And He has not created seven million Czechs either so that they may reign over these three and a half million, keep them in tutelage, and even far less did He create them to ravage and torture.
The situation in this state has become unbearable, as is well known. In a political context, three and a half million people there are robbed of their right to self-determination in the name of the right to self-determination as construed by a certain Mister Wilson. In an economic context, these people are being ruined methodically and hence are subject to a slow but steady extermination.
The misery of the Sudeten Germans defies description. One desires to destroy them. In a humanitarian context, they are being oppressed and humiliated in an unprecedented fashion.
When three and a half million members of a Volk of eighty million may not sing a song they like because the Czechs dislike it, when they are beaten until they bleed simply because they wear stockings which the Czechs care not to see, when they are terrorized and abused because they greet one another in a fashion the Czechs cannot bear even though they were merely greeting one another and no Czech, when they are persecuted because of every little detail connected to the expression of their nationality, and when they are hunted down as though animals, yes, then this may leave those renowned representatives of democracy cold, who knows, they might actually enjoy it since those affected are a mere three and a half million Germans. All I can say to these representatives of democracy is that this does not leave us cold, no, if these tortured creatures can find neither justice nor help by themselves, then they will receive both from us. There must be an end to the injustice inflicted upon these people! I have already stated this quite openly in my speech of February 20. It was a short-sighted enterprise which the architects of Versailles conceived when they gave birth to the abnormal structure of the Czechoslovakian state. It could pursue its mission to ravage and rape a mass of millions of other nationalities only as long as the brother nations themselves suffered from the abuse inflicted upon the world at Versailles.
However, to believe that such a regime could continue to sin eternally and endlessly means to succumb to an inconceivable delusion. In my speech before the German Reichstag on February 20, I had pointed out that the Reich will no longer stand for any further oppression and persecution of these three and a half million Germans. And I implore all foreign statesmen not to think this mere rhetoric.
For the sake of peace in Europe, the National Socialist State has made enormous sacrifices, enormous sacrifices for the entire nation. It did not harbor any thoughts of so-called revenge; rather, it has banished all such thoughts from all private and public spheres of life. In the course of the seventeenth century, France slowly penetrated Alsace-Lorraine and took it from the Old German Reich in the midst of peacetime.
Following a dreadful war in 1870–71 which had been forced upon Germany, the Reich reclaimed these territories, and they were returned to it. They were lost once more after the World War. To us Germans, the cathedral in Strasbourg means a lot. And when we did not pursue the matter any further, we refrained only in the service of a lasting peace for Europe. No one could have forced us to cede these claims voluntarily had we not wished to give them up in the first place! We gave them up because we willed an end to this constant argument with France once and for all. The Reich has espoused a similar stance and has taken similarly determined steps along its other borders as well. Here National Socialism acted highly responsibly and set an example. We made the greatest of sacrifices and distanced ourselves voluntarily from any further demands so that Europe might enjoy a peaceful future and so that a passage might be cleared, at least on our part, for reconciliation of all peoples worldwide. We acted in an exceedingly loyal fashion.
Neither press, silver screen, nor stage were allowed to propagate a diverging opinion. Not even in literature did we allow for an exception. In a related spirit, I offered solutions for a reduction of tensions in Europe, an offer that was refused for reasons we still fail to comprehend. We voluntarily restricted our power in this important realm in the hope that we should never again be forced to use arms against this one other state in question.354 This did not happen because we would not have been able to produce 55 percent more ships; it occurred because we wished to contribute to a final reduction of tensions and to a pacification of the situation in Europe. Since we found a great patriot and statesman in Poland willing to enter into an agreement with Germany, we immediately seized the opportunity, and arrived at a treaty that no doubt is of far greater import to peace in Europe than all the talk in the halls of the League of Nations’ temple in Geneva.
Germany today possesses many a completely pacified border and Germany is determined, and has stated as much, to accept these borders as inviolable and unchangeable in order to give Europe a feeling of security and peace.
Apparently, however, this self-denial and self-discipline on the part of Germany has been misinterpreted as a sign of weakness. Hence today I would like to set things right: I do not believe that we would be rendering peace in Europe a great service if we pronounced our disinterest in all European affairs. In particular, Germany would not be doing anyone a great service if it remained unmoved by the suffering and plight of three and a half million Volksgenossen and if it did not take an interest in their fate. We understand when England and France pursue their interests in the world.
I wish to point out to the statesmen in Paris and London that there are German interests as well and that we are determined to pursue these under all circumstances. At this point I would like to remind them of my speech before the Reichstag in 1933, in which I openly avowed before all the world that there were questions of national concern in which our path was clearly predetermined. I would rather submit myself to any ordeal, danger, or torment than to fail in the fulfillment of such prerogatives.
No European state has done as much as Germany in the service of peace! No one has made greater sacrifices! One must bear in mind, however, that there is a limit as to how much one can sacrifice, and one should not confuse National Socialist Germany with the Germany of Bethmann-Hollweg and Herding.
When I make this declaration, I do so because of an event that occurred in the course of this year, an event that forces all of us to reconsider our stance to date. As you well know, my Party Comrades, Czechoslovakia has finally announced local elections to be held this year after infinitely postponing any form of plebiscite. Even Prague has finally admitted to the untenable nature of its present position. It fears the unity of the Germans and of the other nationalities. It is convinced that it has to resort to extraordinary measures in order to exert pressure in the election process and thus to manipulate the outcome of the election. Evidently, the Czechoslovakian Government has concluded that this can be achieved only through a brutal policy of intimidation.
Apparently, the Czech state felt that a display of its military might was particularly well suited to this end.
This was especially geared toward the Sudeten Germans to serve as a warning not to speak up for their national interests and to vote accordingly. In order to somehow justify this attempt at intimidation before the eyes of the world public, the Czech Government, i.e. Herr Beneš, fabricated the lie that German troops had been mobilized for an invasion of Czechoslovakia.
In this context, let me today state the following: the creation of such lies is nothing new. About a year ago, the press in a certain country invented a story according to which 20,000 German soldiers had landed in Morocco.356 The Jewish proponent of this lie in the press hoped to thereby cause a war.
At the time, it had sufficed to address a short statement to the French Ambassador to resolve the situation. And in this instance as well, we immediately assured the ambassador of another great power of the falsehood of the Czech allegations. The statement was issued once more, and the Prague Government was immediately informed of its content. Nevertheless, the Government in Prague exploited this deception as a pretext for its terrorist blackmail and manipulation of the election.357 All that I can do in retrospect is to assert that, for one, not one German soldier had been called up other than those serving anyway at this point in time.
Secondly, not one regiment, not one additional unit, had marched to the border.
Indeed, not one soldier served in a garrison other than the one assigned to him for peacetime during this period.
To the contrary, orders were issued to avoid taking any steps that might be construed as a means for exerting pressure on Czechoslovakia on our part.
Nonetheless, a base and vile campaign against us was launched in which all of Europe was organized in the service of a government in pursuit of criminal goals. This government’s sole ambition lay in the manipulation of the election by the exertion of military pressure in an effort to intimidate its citizens and thus rob them of their right to vote. And all this was merely a means of obtaining moral legitimacy which this government felt it needed. Indeed, it had no scruples to cast suspicion on one great state, to alarm all of Europe and to, if need be, plunge Europe into a bloody war.
The Reich Government undertook no such steps, and, in fact, Germany had no such intentions; quite to the contrary, it was convinced that the local elections would do justice to the Sudeten German cause. This lack of activity was then construed as a sign that the German Government stepped down because of the determined stance of the Czechs and of the early intervention by England and France.
You will understand, my Party Comrades, that a great power cannot tolerate such a base incursion [the partial mobilization of Czechoslovakian troops on May 20/21] a second time. As a consequence, I have taken the necessary precautions. I am a National Socialist and as such I am accustomed to strike back at any attacker. Moreover, I know only too well that leniency will not succeed in appeasing, but will merely encourage the arrogance of so irreconcilable an adversary as the Czechs.
Let the fate of the Old German Reich be a warning to us. Its love for peace drove it to the brink of self-destruction. Nonetheless, the Old Reich could not prevent the war in the end. In due consideration thereof, I took steps on May 28 which were very difficult: First, I ordered a far-reaching intensification and the immediate implementation and execution of the reinforcements announced for Army and Luftwaffe. Second, I ordered the immediate expansion of our fortifications to the West. I can assure you that ever since May 28, the construction of one of the most gigantic fortresses of all time has been underway there.
To this end, I entrusted Dr. Todt, the Generalinspekteur for road construction in Germany, with a new commission. Within the framework of the projects undertaken by the fortress construction inspectorate, he has achieved one of the greatest accomplishments of all time, thanks to his extraordinary organizational talents.
Let me point out a few figures to you. At present at work on the fortification of our Western frontier, a project actually begun over two years ago, are: 278,000 laborers in the Todt organization in addition to 84,000 [other] laborers, in addition to 100,000 men of the Reich Labor Service and numerous pioneer battalions and infantry divisions. Besides the materials that are brought to the construction sites via different transportation routes, the German Reichsbahn alone transports 8,000 freight cars a day.
The daily consumption of gravel amounts to over 100,000 tons. The fortification of Germany’s western border will be completed prior to the onset of winter. Its defensive capacity is already assured as of this day. Once completed, it will consist of over 17,000 armored plates and concrete structures. The German Volk in arms stands behind this front of steel and concrete made up of three fortified lines and in some locations actually consists of four fortified lines up to fifty kilometers deep. I have made this greatest effort of all time in the service of peace. Under no circumstances, however, am I willing to quietly stand by and observe from afar the continued oppression of German Volksgenossen in Czechoslovakia.
It’s all tactics. Herr Beneš talks, wants to organize negotiations. He wishes to resolve the question of procedure in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and hands out little favors to placate the people. Things cannot go on this way! This is not a question of empty diplomatic phrases. This is a question of right, the question of a right not granted. What we Germans demand is the right to self-determination, a right every Volk possesses, and not an empty phrase. Herr Beneš is not supposed to grant the Sudeten Germans any favors. They have a right to their own way of life, just as any other people do.
The consequences will be grave ones should, perchance, the democracies persist in their conviction that they must continue to, by any and all means, accord their protection to the oppression of German men and women! I believe it to be in the service of peace, if I leave no doubts as to this fact.
I am asking neither that Germany be allowed to oppress three and a half million Frenchmen, nor am I asking that three and a half million Englishmen be placed at our mercy. Rather I am simply demanding that the oppression of three and a half million Germans in Czechoslovakia cease and that the inalienable right to self-determination take its place.
We would truly regret if this were to cloud or damage our relations to the other European states. Yet the fault would not be ours. It is the business of the Czechoslovakian Government to come to terms with the true representatives of the Sudeten Germans and, in one way or another, to reach some form of understanding with them. Nevertheless, it is my business and, my Volksgenossen, it is the business of all of us to take care that justice not be perverted into injustice. After all, this matter involves our German Volksgenossen. I am not in the least willing to allow foreign statesmen to create a second Palestine right here in the heart of Germany. The poor Arabs are defenseless and have been abandoned by all. The Germans in Czechoslovakia are neither defenseless nor have they been abandoned. Please note this fact.
I feel compelled to broach this topic at that Party Congress in which the representatives of our German-Austrian Gaus participate for the first time.
Better than anyone else they know how painful it is to be separated from the mother country. Easier than anyone else they will grasp the full import of my exposition on this day. With greater enthusiasm than any, they will agree with me when I state before the entire Volk that we would not deserve to be Germans if we were not willing to take such a stance, and to bear up under the consequences one way or another.
When we bear in mind the intolerable impertinence with which even a small state dared to approach Germany in the last months, then we realize that the only explanation possible is revealed in the unwillingness to recognize that the German Reich is more than just a peace-loving, upstart state.
Standing in Rome in the springtime, I felt deep inside that we assess historic developments in far too restricted a manner, investigating time periods far too short to be revealing. One thousand or fifteen hundred years are no more than a few dynastic successions.
What exhausts itself in a certain period, can rise again in the same time period. Today’s Italy and today’s Germany are living proof of this. Both are nations that have regenerated, indeed, that might be regarded as new nations in this context. However, their roots spring not from the grounds of more recent ages but rather they reach back into ancient history. The Roman Empire breathes once more. The phenomenon of Germany as a state is not new either, although it has made its appearance more recently.
I had the insignias of the Old German Reich brought to Nuremberg for a reason. I wish to call to mind, and this not only for the benefit of the German people but also for that of all peoples, that more than half a millennium prior to the discovery of the new world, a gigantic Germanic-German Reich358 stood on these grounds. Dynasties came into being and dissipated. Outward forms changed. Yet while the Volk has been rejuvenated, its essence has remained the same it has always been. The German Reich has long been dormant.
Now the German Volk has awakened and once more bears its crown of 1,000 years high on its head. All of us who bear witness to this historic resurrection feel great pride and happiness. We stand before the Almighty in humble gratitude.
For the rest of the world this should be an inspiration as well as a lesson learned, an inspiration to reflect upon history from a more elevated point of view, and a lesson not to succumb to the same mistakes as in the past.
In truth the new Roman-Italian empire and the Germanic-German Reich are ancient structures. You need not love them and yet no power on earth shall ever again remove them.
Party Comrades! National Socialists! The first Reich Party Congress of Greater Germany ends at this hour. All of you are still under the spell of the great historic events of these past days. This demonstration of our Volk’s power and determination has reinforced the nation’s pride and your confidence in it.
Return to your homes now and carry in your hearts that same faith which you have cherished throughout almost two decades as Germans and as National Socialists.
You now have the right to proudly carry your heads high again as Germans.
It is the duty of all of us to never again bow our heads to any alien will. To this let us pledge ourselves, so help us God!
This depends exclusively on the power of our own weapons and, therefore, depends upon the carriers of those weapons themselves.
No negotiations, no conferences and no other agreement has accorded us Germans the natural right to unity. We had to take justice into our own hands, and we were able to do so thanks to your existence, my soldiers! And it is thus that the two greatest institutions of our Volk must fulfill two identical missions. National Socialism has to educate our Volk within to form this Vol ksgemeinschaft. The Wehrmacht has to instruct this same Volk to defend this Volksgemeinschaft outwardly. So it is you, my soldiers, who were immediately charged with the fulfillment of a mission in this new Reich. And this fulfillment has earned you the love of the German Volk. It relied upon you and it has realized that it can rely upon its sons in uniform. For you carry the best weapons available today, you receive the best training, and I know that you also possess the best of character.
You fit in well with the eternal, everlasting front constituted by Germany’s soldiers. In the past months, I repeatedly had the opportunity to convince myself of this. I saw it at the maneuver sites, shooting stands, and training camps, and it was with great contentment that I realized that the German nation can once more look to its soldiers with great pride. And it is that for which I thank you! Yet, we do not serve for the sake of gratitude, praise, or recompense unless this gratitude, praise and recompense is at the service of what we value the most in this world: our Volk and our German Reich!