We Must Become Ever Harder

Source: Based on a report by SS-war correspondent Zimmermann SS Leitheft, Year 9, Issue 11, November 1943

At certain points on the eastern front there is fighting not mentioned in the armed forces report. The bridgehead P. is one of the countless, nameless places where German soldiers stand iron firm against the vast superiority of the enemy. For the few thousand SS panzer grenadiers who, as an insurmountable defensive wall, have for days opposed the furious assault of Soviet tanks and red army soldiers, who have experienced how the companies got smaller day by day, for this small band of Waffen-SS men who, hard and pitiless, strafed the ranks of the attacking Soviets with their machine-gun bursts, bridgehead P. is an unforgettable battleground and has become the symbol of defense against a vastly superior force. One infantry and one panzer regiment faced four Bolshevik rifle guard divisions, three tank brigades and a motorized Soviet rifle brigade.

Five days of combat were already behind us when we first heard the name P. Five days long the troop had beaten down one position after the other, smashed it, and pushed through heavily fortified Soviet defensive works. Then we stood in front of P. The night we took positions it was pitch black. A rain storm had suddenly set in and it took effort to move forward. Stubborn as glue, the clay stuck to our vehicles’ wheels. The path through the gorge was so narrow that only one vehicle could fit. So if a vehicle got stuck in the slippery mud, it turned on its own axis and slid from the path down into the swampy meadow or the whole column behind it came to a standstill. Food could not be brought up, munitions trucks remained stuck along the way and gas supply columns got lost in the dark. Even the tractors could not always reliably overcome every obstacle. Only hours after the messengers had been sent out into the dark night could the battalion commander assemble with his officers in a hut and under the sparse light of a candle present the attack plan. The new morning did not bring an improvement in the weather. It rained. Mist clouds floated over the gorge and the sun did not want to break through. There was nothing else to do but attack in the rain; for P. had to be taken, the bridgehead had to be established there, if all the further operations were not to be jeopardized.

The attack took place. The SS-grenadiers of the Death‘s Head division, who had not really slept in six days, swung their machine-guns across their backs, stuck hand-grenades in their belts, as many as they could, and dragged ammunition crates. They waded through mud and swamp and had to again and again push aside the branches of bushes. They were wet and their energy had already noticeably diminished after the past difficult days.

But they were not tired because of that. At the edge of the village they received the order to halt. The fire from Soviet artillery became ever more fierce, and finally a thick curtain of fire was in front of them, which could only be penetrated with heavy losses. The men took cover in a ravine. The rain still splashed down on them. They ripped grain stalks from the fields and grass from the swamp in order to cover themselves, but that didn’t help much and they were soon soaked to the skin.

What would happen now? When would they attack again? They looked at the first village huts, almost close enough to grasp, the bushes and hedges along the river. They saw a few tall trees and knew the bridge had to be there, between the two villages. They saw the church’s onion dome that jutted up strangely huge from the straw roofs. On the steep slope across the river muzzle bursts flashed, shells howled over them, and they pressed themselves even closer to the earth and breathed a sigh of relief when after the detonations none of their comrades had to shout for the medic.

The sole thought moving them in these hours was this: we must get across the river, establish the bridgehead and then throw the Bolsheviks out of their positions.

Meanwhile, behind them the exact war machinery had been set into motion. The radios hummed and the telegraphs clicked. Assault guns advanced through the gorge, reconnaissance and fighter planes flew in, circled the river and spotted new targets. Light and heavy guns from the ready area moved forward into firing positions. All the weapons that could be brought up were used in order to enable the leap across the river.

That was the signal for a new effort, a new attack. The use of artillery and air power could only last a limited time. The decisive thrust must always be made by the grenadier, by the individual fighter. Technology can make his fight easier, it can open the way for him, but he and he alone must pass through that opening.

It was as if the whole fury of our grenadiers suddenly exploded, their fury at the Bolsheviks who had believed they could stop our advance by firing from the barrels of their guns everything they could fire. Our companies soon stood in the middle of the village. Flares shot up between the curve of the high birch trees. Our men fought their way through the bushes on the bank and waded through cloudy rain water. Soaking wet to the waist they worked their way along the other swamp bank and attacked the slopes. Close-range fighting of the most bitter intensity unfolded as they entered the Soviet positions on the steep slopes. The Soviets had to be driven from their foxholes man by man. Our armored battle vehicles already climbed up through the little forest and gorge onto the steep slopes. Our grenadiers followed them and drove the Bolsheviks back more and more, far past the peak, through cornfields, until the planned bridgehead border was reached.

The river crossing had succeeded; our bridgehead had been established.

Hardly had we advanced over the little river when our guns followed across makeshift bridges; hardly had the first foxholes been dug when the Soviet counterattacks started already.

They came in battalion and regiment strength. They even came with whole brigades and divisions. They brought up whole batteries of guns and hurled salvo after salvo at the river bank and the heights held by us. Tanks raced against our lines in a number we had never before experienced in such a small area on the eastern front. They were shot up by our panzer canons and anti-tank guns at distances of 1500 meters and more. But sometimes they also advanced against our lines and came within 40 or 50 meters and had to be repulsed and destroyed in intense fire duels at that range. Here and there they broke through our lines, but the men of the SS-men fortunately survived the tank terror of those days. They knew exactly that even a tank is vulnerable, and not just at one place. They calmly let the tanks roll past, snatched mines, waited for the right moment with determination and ran across com fields in order to be set for the final dash, which usually brought the mortal blow to the tank.

But it was not just the tanks against which the defenders of the bridgehead had to defend. The enemy had in all haste brought up infantry forces and these rested troops pushed against our lines. It often came to bitter close combat, where our SS-grenadiers, only due to their exemplary calm and bravery, could win against the numerical superiority of the Bolsheviks.

A panzer rolled back. The hatch opened and the driver and loader carefully raised their dead commander from the panzer, then the radioman, who had lost both legs from a hit. Soon afterward they again raced back through the gorge to report to a new commander, because their panzer must not fall out. The lightly wounded incessantly asked the doctors not to send them to the rear; they wanted to remain with their comrades. When rain had again made the ground muddy and the tracked vehicles could no longer climb the slopes, there was not a single SS- man who would not have ran to the munition vehicles in order to carry shells and munition forward to the positions. In the bridgehead the foxholes got deeper each day. But with every centimeter our grenadiers dug in deeper, with each comrade they lost, grew their fighting spirit and will to resistance. Measured against the strength of enemy men and weapons that had been employed on all sides on Stalin’s personal order in order to force the division to give up the bridgehead, the SS-men accomplished the inconceivable here, above all their commander, who was always in the foremost lines in his panzer and intervened wherever the situation appeared most dangerous. The calm and superiority that emanated from him embraced the whole troop, and with it the fighting spirit that was born from the mission of the political soldier. Leader and men merged there into a block of resistance.

Military history would hardly note the name of the bridgehead P.. It had been held against the enemy’s overwhelming effort. The realization that only a hardness and ruthlessness toward one’s own person shaken by nothing solves a military task, this realization is the principle of this war. We must become ever harder!

Adolf Hitler – Speech in the Lustgarten – 01.05.1939

Berlin, May 1, 1939

The foundations for the life of a people are not to be found in doctrines and theories, but in its Lebensraum, in what the earth affords it for sustenance.

Hence, Lebensraum cannot be regarded separately from the Lebenshohe (peak of life) of a Volk. And this Lebensraum is not enough by itself-and this also is a truly revolutionary realization-it must be complemented by a Volk’s diligence, its energy, and its ability to manage to get the most out of its Lebensraum. And a still greater insight: this necessitates a Volksgemeinschaft, even if blood alone is insufficient for this. My Volksgenossen! No leader can command greater strength than that accorded to him by his followers. What am I without you?! If you refuse me your unanimous solidarity, what am I to do?! I am only one man. I can possess the greatest good-will possible-my will is of no greater worth to you than your will is worth to me!

How petty are all other vain differences in our lives in view of this! How easily is the individual deceived by vanity and notions of his own supreme importance, my Volksgenossen! One man thinks a great deal of himself for one reason, another for another reason. One prides himself on being ten centimeters taller than the other, yet another is happy simply because he considers himself better looking than the first. Yet another man thinks he looks even better because his ancestors already looked better-nothing is proven, of course. Yet another man holds himself to have an advantage because momentarily his purse is fuller than that of another. I say “momentarily” for experience has shown this phenomenon to mostly be short-lived.

Another man yet says: “I have graduated from more classes than you have.

Do you have degrees like those I have?”-“No.”-“Therefore I am worth more than you. My degrees prove this conclusively.” So the story goes. So many men have extremely important degrees furnishing the basis for their own personal brand of arrogance.

How ludicrous is all this in view of the common fate we all share and which hangs so compellingly above all our heads! It is void of any significance before the one truth that all of us either unite in our struggle to survive or perish together. This applies just as much to the man with the so-called fatter purse as it does to the man with an older family name and his ancestors, and the man with the allegedly more thorough education. For better or for worse, we all depend on one another.

And to any man who fails to grasp this-I have no idea where he might be hiding out-the attitude of the outside world toward us should serve as ample proof. How do these people behave towards us? What can we expect of them? Are these not once again the very same advocates of a strategy of encirclement, the very same people who knew nothing but hatred in the year 1914? Yes, indeed, it is once more the same clique of warmongers which haunted us back then already. What can we expect of them, my Volksgenossen? I believe it is essential that all Germans throw overboard these ridiculous prejudices insofar as remnants of them exist yet today. It is imperative that we move closer together in the conviction that together and united we can face off any danger. United we stand, divided we fall.

Hence we wish to educate our Volk in this spirit. And if one of those stubborn old heads is driving me to despair, then all I need to do is look at his son to regain hope. Even if all hope is lost with some of these old troublemakers (alte Stankerer), the youth has already outgrown them-praise the Lord! This youth represents a new breed of man, the type we hope to introduce to the future.

We are doing everything that can be done in this educational undertaking.

True, at times, we do overlook the so-called freedom of the individual in the process. I can easily imagine one man or another saying: “It is beyond me why my son should have to serve with the labor service just now. He was born for something greater than that. Why should he now be running around with a spade in his hand? Would it not be better if he exercised the powers of his intellect instead?” For goodness sake, what is it precisely you understand as “intellect,” my dear friend?! If your boy spends six months in the West wielding his spade for the sake of Germany, it may well be that he is doing Germany a greater service than your “intellect” could in a lifetime. And, above all: he has contributed to the overcoming of the worst form of “intellectual” confusion possible, namely, the inner fractures within a Volk. Of course, we cannot simply say: “Oh, if he does not want to, he need not work.” Do you truly believe that work at a chemical factory in one of the democracies is something so infinitely more delightful? Do not come up to tell me: “Oh, truly, this is the magic of work which smells so enticingly.” Assuredly not! It stinks, my dear gentlemen! But a few hundred thousands of workers simply have to take this on themselves and take it on themselves they do. Therefore, another can assuredly take on himself to pick up the spade. And he will pick up this spade.

And this brings up the problematic topic of liberty. Liberty? Insofar as the interests of the Volksgemeinschaft permit the exercise of liberty by the individual, he shall be granted this liberty. The liberty of the individual ends where it starts to harm the interests of the collective. In this case the liberty of the Volk takes precedence over the liberty of the individual.

By the way, in no other state is intellectual work as highly esteemed as in ours. I believe this is evident already in its leadership. In Germany, we pride ourselves in having men head our state who can well withstand any type of “intellectual” comparison to the representatives of any other state. Above the liberty of the individual, however, there stands the liberty of our Volk. The liberty of the Reich takes precedence over both.

The commandment of the hour is the securing of German Lebensraum.

There is no need for me to stress that we love peace above all. I know that a certain international clique of journalists is spreading lies about us on a daily basis, placing us under suspicion and committing libel against us. This does not surprise me in the least. I know these creatures from back in the old days. They, too, are export articles for which the German nation has no use. In the American Union, a veritable campaign for boycotts against our German exports has been organized. It would have been more intelligent, so I believe, had they imported German goods instead of the most inferior German subjects.

Well, at least, we can rejoice in having rid ourselves of these. How the people there will handle them, that is truly their problem. We shall see to it that these subjects do not pose an actual threat to us. I have taken the necessary precautions. I still recall vividly my political “friends” from the days before our rise to power. These fellows always insisted they knew no Fatherland. And, indeed, this is true as they are Jews and have nothing to do with us. These fellows now are reaffirming their attitudes and their pledges of old: they have launched a campaign of hatred against Germany which they pursue with all their might.

And I? I arm with all my might! I love peace; my work perhaps best attests to this. And in this I differ from these warmongers. What is it I have wrought and what is it these elements are undertaking? There is a great Volk here for which I bear responsibility. I am attempting to make this Volk both great and happy. Enormous projects are being undertaken here: new industries are being born; enormous buildings are undergoing construction. They are to serve the uplifting of the Volk and to bear witness to our culture-not only here in Berlin, but also in a multitude of other German cities. The things we have created in the course of these years! The countless projects we have begun in these years! And so many of them will take ten to twenty years to be completed! Therefore, I have cause aplenty to desire peace. Yet, these warmongers need no peace. They neither advance peace nor do they labor for it.

There is no need for me to name names in this context. They are unknown international scribblers. They are ever so clever! They are truly omniscient.

There is only one thing that they failed to foresee, namely, my rise to power.

Even in January 1933, they could simply not believe it. They also failed to foresee that I was going to remain in power. Even in February 1934, they could simply not believe it. They failed to foresee that I was going to liberate Germany. Even in 1935 and 1936, they could simply not believe it. They failed to foresee that I was going to liberate our German Volksgenossen and to return them home. Even in 1937 and 1938, they could simply not believe it. They failed to foresee that I was determined to liberate and return home the rest of them, too. Even in February of this year, they could simply not believe it. They failed to foresee that I was going to eliminate the unemployment afflicting seven million. Even two, three years ago, they could simply not believe it. They failed to foresee that I was going to implement the Four-Year Plan in Germany with success. This they simply could not believe either. They foresaw nothing! And they know nothing even today! These people have always been parasites. Lately I do not know, but I have the feeling sometimes that they are a kind of cerebral parasite. They know only too well what is happening in my brain, for instance. Whatever I say today, as I stand before you, they knew of it yesterday already. And even if I myself did not know of it yesterday-they did, these most excellent receptacles of wisdom! Actually, these creatures know everything. And, even if facts prove their pronouncements blatant lies, they have the nerve to come up with new pronouncements immediately. This is an old Jewish trick. It keeps the people from having time for reflection. Should people truly reflect on all these various prophecies, compare them to reality, then these scribblers would not get a penny for their false reports. Therefore their tactic and trick is, once one prophecy has been disproved, to come up with three new ones in its stead. And so they keep on lying, according to a type of snowball-tactics, from today until tomorrow, from tomorrow until the next day.

The current version of this is the claim that 20,000 Germans have failed to land in Morocco, although their imminent arrival had been reported earlier.

Instead of landing in Morocco, they have landed in Liberia. Considering the initial report’s assertion that these landings were supposed to be carried out by the Luftwaffe, it seems as though these planes have been floating about in midair ever since and have now unwittingly gone down over Liberia. Should no German be found in all of Liberia eight days hence, they will no doubt maintain: “It was not Liberia, after all, but Madagascar where they were heading.” And if this turns out to be wrong also-well, then it must have been another place-I already have enumerated all the locations allegedly threatened by us before the Reichstag.

The warmongers who do not do anything and, in any event, cannot step before the world to say: “I have created this or that!”-they are the men who are attempting to plunge the rest of the world into disaster once again. And you will understand, that I cannot possibly rely on assertions or declarations by people who themselves are paid servants of these warmongers. No, indeed, I rely exclusively on my German Volk-on you! Better safe than sorry. A declaration by the League of Nations is all very well, but I prefer our freedom to be guaranteed by the far more reliable fortifications protecting Germany in the West. And this, too, is the product of the diligent work wrought by Germans just as the inner attitude of our Volk is the product of the diligence and work of millions of its most active members. There is the German peasant who, loyally and bravely, assures bread for us by plowing his acres diligently and honestly. There is the German worker who, loyally and bravely, goes to work at the factory to assure other consumer goods for us earnestly and honestly. This is the basis of our existence.

As we reflect on the immense work done within these past six years, then I do believe we have a right to appoint a day once a year on which we shall join together to celebrate what we call the German Volksgemeinschaft. For this conveys the meaning of the First of May: a day to celebrate the work of Germans in the cities and in the countryside; a day to celebrate the creative man; a day to celebrate our Volksgemeinschaft. My Movement vouches for the proper education of our Volk! The German Wehrmacht vouches for its brave defense! And, all of you whom I greet at this moment, you millions of Germans in the cities and in the countryside, you who constitute the German Volksgemeinschaft, you are the guarantors that it shall never again fall apart internally! To our Greater German Reich and to our Volk, in East and West, and in North and South:

Sieg Heil!