Berlin, April 28, 1939
Deputies, Men of the Reichstag!
The President of the United States of America has addressed a telegram to me, whose peculiar contents you are aware of. Since, as the addressee of this document, I saw it only after the rest of the world had gained knowledge of it on the radio and in the press, and after countless commentators from international democratic institutions had kindly informed us that this telegram was a very adroit tactical paper which was to burden those states governed by the people with the responsibility for the aggression perpetrated by the plutocracies, I resolved to convene the German Reichstag to afford you, my Deputies, the opportunity–in your capacity as the elected representatives of the German nation-to be the first to hear my response which you may either confirm or reject. Beyond this, I thought it expedient to adopt the method employed by Herr President Roosevelt and, for my part, to proceed to inform the rest of the world of my answer by the means at our disposal. I should like equally to take advantage of this occasion to express those sentiments which have deeply moved me in light of the stunning historic events of the month of March of this year.
These, my deepest sentiments, compel me to turn to Providence in humble gratitude, to thank it for calling on me, an unknown soldier in the World War, to rise to the heights of Fuhrer of my dearly beloved Volk. Providence permitted me to find the appropriate path, one not smeared with blood, to free my Volk from misery and to lead it upward once again. Providence granted me the fulfillment of what I consider the mission of my life: to uplift the German Volk from its defeat; to free it from the shackles of this most shameful Diktat of all time!
I have not, as France did in the years 1870–71, referred to the cession of Alsace-Lorraine as intolerable in the future. No, I carefully differentiated between the Saar territory and the two other former Reichslander. And I have not revised my stance on the matter, nor will I revise it in the future. Not once have I allowed my views to be violated or questioned in the interior, either for the sake of publicity, or for any other reason. The return of the Saar has removed from the face of the earth all territorial disputes between France and Germany in Europe.
Nevertheless, I have always regretted that French statesmen take this, my stance, for granted. Things are not so simple. I have not preached this stance for fear of France. As a former soldier, I have no reason for such fear. Moreover, in the context of the Saar settlement, I have left no doubt that a refusal to return this territory to Germany was unacceptable to us. No, I have assumed this attitude towards France as an expression of my realization that it is necessary for Europe to find peace somehow, and that open, limitless demands for ever new [territorial] revisions would merely sow the seeds of lasting insecurity and tensions. If tensions have now arisen, Germany does not bear the responsibility for this. Instead, this is to be blamed on international elements intentionally promoting tensions to serve their capitalist interests.
I have extended binding assurances to a series of states. Not one of the states can lament so much as an insinuation by Germany of any demands in violation thereof. Not one Nordic statesman can claim, for instance, that either the German Reich Government or German public opinion forced on him an unreasonable request which was incompatible with the territorial integrity or the sovereignty of his state.
I was glad that a number of European states took advantage of the opportunity presented by the German Reich Government’s declaration to express, in turn, their unequivocal willingness to espouse a stand of unconditional neutrality and hereby to strengthen this avowal. This is true of Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, and so on. I have already mentioned France. I need not mention Italy, as it is tied to us by bonds of a friendship both close and profound. Neither need I speak of Hungary or Yugoslavia, neighbors with whom we are fortunate to enjoy a heartfelt friendship.
By the same token, from the first moment I actively involved myself in politics, I have left no doubt that there do exist certain states of affairs which represent so base and crude an infringement on our Volk’s right to selfdetermination, that we can never be expected to accept or tolerate these. I have not written a single line or a single speech in which I have ever expressed a stance contrary to the one indicated on the subject of the states mentioned before.
Neither does there exist a single line or a single speech concerning other instances in which the stand I espoused was not retroactively confirmed by the actions I later took.
First: Austria. This oldest Ostmark of the German Volk once shielded the Reich to its southeast, as the protective march of the German nation. The Germans who settled in these lands were recruited from among all German tribes, although it may well be true that the majority of them were Bavarians.
Later this Ostmark became the seat of dynastic power of a German empire which lasted half a millennium, while Vienna became the capital city of the German Reich. Already in gradual dissolution, this German Reich was finally shattered by the Corsican Napoleon. Still, it lived on in the framework of the German Union (Deutscher Bund). Although no longer sharing a common statehood, its people recently came together, in yearned-for volkisch unity, to fight and suffer side by side in the greatest war of all time, though not united in the form of a common statehood. I myself am the child of this Ostmark.
Not only did the criminals of Versailles hack this German Reich to pieces and dissolve Austria, what was worse they forbade the Germans to avow their allegiance to the one community to which Germans have belonged for more than one thousand years. To alter this state of affairs is a task I have always regarded as the most lofty and most hallowed of missions in my life. To proclaim this will is something I have never failed to do. I stand ready to realize this will at any time in my life; it is a thought that haunts me day and night.
I would have sinned against Providence’s calling, if I had become a traitor to this endeavor to return my homeland and my German Volk of the Ostmark to the Reich, and thereby to the German Volksgemeinschaft. I have erased the most shameful page of the Versailles Treaty. I have restored the right of selfdetermination to seven-and-a-half million Germans. I have put an end to the persistent democratic rape of these seven-and-a-half million people. They were forbidden to take their destiny into their own hands-I have rescinded this prohibition. I have conducted this plebiscite before the eyes of history. Its results confirmed my expectations.
Those democratic rapists of the peoples (Volkervergewaltiger) conferring at Versailles had apparently shared them. Why else would they have forbidden a referendum on the Anschluss?
When in the course of the migration of the peoples, German tribes for inexplicable reasons began to leave the area which today is Bohemia and Moravia, a foreign, Slavic people penetrated this area and drove a wedge between those Germans who had remained behind. Ever since, this people’s Lebensraum was embraced by the German Volkstum in the form of a horseshoe. In economic terms, an independent existence of this area is conceivable only in connection with the German Volk and the German economy.
Besides this, nearly four million Germans live in the Bohemian and Moravian area. Pressure by the Czech majority has brought a policy of annihilation to bear, especially apparent since the Diktat of Versailles, but which has also been in part due to the economic situation and an increasing poverty, which, in turn, has led to an exodus of the German elements from the area. The numbers of the remaining Germans there dropped to approximately 3.7 million.
While the fringes of this area are populated exclusively by Germans, there are several big islands of German speech in its interior.
The Czechs are a people alien to us, given their foreign heritage. Through a community formed over a thousand years, German influence has largely molded and fashioned their culture. Their economy is the result of affiliation with the greater German economy. At times, the capital of this area was a German Imperial city. It is home to the oldest German university. Numerous cathedrals, city halls, palaces of noblemen and burghers attest to Germany’s cultural influences. Throughout the centuries, the Czech people have fashioned their relations to the German Volk now the more closely, now the more distantly.
Closeness of relations leads to a bloom of both the German and the Czech peoples; separation to catastrophe.
The merit and value of the German Volk is known to us. The Czechs also deserve our respect for the sum of their skills and abilities, their enterprise and diligence, their love for their homeland and folklore. And, indeed, there were periods in which respect for each other’s national conditions was considered most natural.
The credit for assigning to the Czech people the special role of a satellite state that can be set against Germany goes to the democratic architects of peace (Friedensmacher) at Versailles. To this end, they arbitrarily appropriated the possessions of other peoples to this state, not viable in its Czech ethnic core (Volkssubstanz). This meant that it was allowed to rape other nationalities in order to secure a state-financed latent threat to the German nation in Central Europe. For this state, whose so-called state people (Staatsvolk) was in the minority, could survive only due to the brutal oppression of its ethnic majorities. This oppression, in turn, was unthinkable unless the European democracies granted this state protection and assistance. This assistance would only be granted, however, if this state was willing to assume and play the role assigned to it at birth. To play this role meant preventing the consolidation of Central Europe constituting a bridge for Bolshevist aggression into Europe, and, above all, to serve as a mercenary for the European democracies’ agitation against Germany. Everything else arose then of itself.
The more actively this state pursued its mission, the greater became the resistance of the ethnic minorities opposed to it. The greater the resistance, the greater the need for suppression. The resulting hardening of the inner antagonism led to an ever greater dependence on the democratic European founders of this state and its benefactors. For they alone were in a position to maintain economically the unnatural, artificial existence of this edifice.
Essentially, Germany primarily pursued only one interest, namely, to deliver the nearly four million Germans in this country from this unbearable situation, and to enable them to return to their homeland: the one-thousand year old Reich. Of course this problem brought up immediately the entire question of the remaining nationalities. That the removal of these nationalities would rob the remainder of this state of its viability was equally clear, as the founders of this state at Versailles had been only too aware. It was because of this that they decided on the suppression of the other minorities and their forced integration into this dilettantish state structure against their will.
Never have I left any doubt of this, my view and opinion. Certainly, as long as Germany itself was impotent and defenseless, this rape of nearly four million Germans could take place without the Reich being able to mount any resistance to it. However, only a political tot could seriously believe that the German nation would forever remain in the state of the year 1919.
It was only as long as those international traitors, who were financed abroad, held the leadership of the German State that a patient acceptance of this shameful state of affairs could be expected. Ever since the victory of National Socialism forced these traitors to take up residence in those countries from where they received their subsidies, the resolution of this problem has become merely a question of time. And it was a question exclusively of the concerned nationalities, not of Western Europe. It was only natural that Western Europe should take an interest in the artificial state structure created in its interest. That the nationalities surrounding this state should consider this interest decisive for them was perhaps a regrettable fallacy for some. Insofar as this interest exclusively concerned the financial foundations of this state, no objections to this would have been voiced by Germany, had not this financial interest in the end been subservient to the power politics and ambitions of the democracies.
Even the financial sponsorship of this state served one central idea: to create a state, militarily armed to the teeth, with the task of forming a bastion reaching far into the Reich. There was no doubt of its value and the promise it held, either as a base for military operations in the context of Western incursions into the Reich or simply as an air base. A comment by the French Minister of Aviation, Pierre Cot, left no doubt of what was expected of this state. Calmly he spoke his mind, saying that it would be the task of this state, in the event of conflict, to serve as a port for arrival and departure for bombers. From there it would be possible to destroy the most important industrial centers in Germany within hours. Hence, it was only natural that the German state leadership, for its part, resolved to destroy this port of departure for bombers. It arrived at this decision not because of hatred for the Czech people. On the contrary, in the thousand years they have lived together, the German and the Czech peoples have enjoyed centuries of close cooperation, interrupted by only short periods of tension.
Admittedly, in such times of tension, the passions of the men fighting on the front lines of such ethnic conflicts may well dim their sense of justice and thus lead to a false assessment of the overall situation. This is a trait characteristic of any war. However, in the great epochs of understanding coexistence, both peoples have always agreed that each of them had an inalienable right- mutually-to the esteem and respect of its Volkstum.
Even in these years of struggle, I approached the Czech people not only in my capacity as the protector of the biased interests of his Volk and Reich, but also as one who never failed to respect the Czech people itself. One thing is certain, however: had the democratic midwives of this state been allowed to realize their ultimate goal, the German Reich would not have been eliminated, although, undoubtedly, we would also have had to take some losses. Rather the Czech people would in all likelihood have had to bear far more horrendous consequences, as regards its size and position. Indeed, I am convinced these consequences would have been catastrophic.
I am happy that we were able to prevent this catastrophe in Central Europe, albeit to the great irritation of democratic interests, thanks to the restraint we exercised and the insight of the Czech people. For the National Socialist German Reich grants its citizens from the start what the best and most insightful Czechs have fought for throughout the decades. It is the right to one’s own Volkstum, the right to cultivate it and to enjoy it freely. National Socialist Germany has no intention whatever of renouncing the racial principles on which we pride ourselves. They will not only benefit the German, but also the Czech Volk. What we demand is respect for the historic necessity, for the economic predicament that confronts us all.
As I announced the solution of this problem on March 22, 1938 before the Reichstag, I was convinced that I was attending to a Central European necessity. In March 1938, I still believed that we could resolve the minorities question in this state by a slow evolution and that, sooner or later, we would be able to assure a common platform by means of contractual cooperation, which would benefit the interests of all of us not only politically, but also economically.
It was only when Herr Beneš, by then completely in the hands of his international democratic financiers, added a military aspect to the problem and unleashed a wave of repressions on the Germans and simultaneously attempted the well-known mobilization to deal the German state a defeat internationally and to damage its prestige, that I finally realized that a solution in this manner was no longer possible. For the lie about a German mobilization at the time had obviously been inspired by foreign powers and proposed to the Czechs in order to deal a blow to the prestige of the German Reich.
I do not need to repeat once again that Germany had not mobilized a single man in May of last year. By contrast, all of us had been of the opinion that the fate of Herr Schuschnigg would induce others to seek an understanding, by means of a more just treatment of their national minorities. For my person, I had been prepared to undertake patiently such a peaceful evolution, if necessary, over a number of years.
However, it was precisely these peaceful intentions which represented a thorn in the side of the fomenters in the democracies. They hate us Germans and would much prefer to wipe us out completely. And, what are the Czechs to them? A means to an end! What interest do they have in the fate of such a brave little people? What do they care for the lives of a few hundred thousand brave soldiers who unwittingly became the victims of their politics? These Western European fomenters of peace (Friedenshetzer) did not seek to promote peace, but to spill blood. And this bloodshed did enable them to rouse people yet again and thereby to let more blood flow. That is why the mobilization was made up and the public in Prague was told a pack of lies. These were intended to serve as arguments for a Czech mobilization. Above all, they were to furnish an excuse to exert highly welcome military pressure on the pending elections in the Sudetenland.
According to these men’s convictions, there remained only two possibilities for Germany: either it accepted the Czech mobilization and hence suffered a shameful defeat, or it openly confronted Czechoslovakia in a bloody war. This would have made it possible to mobilize the peoples of Western Europe, who had no real interest in this matter, to plunge them into the necessary frenzy of bloodlust and mankind into a new catastrophe. Some would have the honor to lose their lives in this war, while others would profit from it.
You are aware of the decision I made instantly at the time, my Deputies.
First: resolution of this question before the year 1938 ended, by October 2 at the latest. Second: preparations for a solution by all those means which would leave no doubt that any attempts at interference would be thwarted by the united strength of the nation.
At the time, I directed and gave orders for the expansion of our fortifications in the west. By September 25, 1938, they were already in such a condition as to surpass the power of resistance of the former Siegfried Line by thirty to forty times. Since then, they have essentially been completed. At present, the sections I later ordered to be added, running from Saarbrucken to Aix-la-Chapelle, are under construction. To a high degree, they are ready to assume their defensive role.
The state in which this mightiest fortification of all time finds itself today affords the German nation the reassuring knowledge that no power on earth shall ever be able to pierce this front.
When the first attempt at provocation by means of the Czech mobilization had not produced the desired results, a second phase set in. It revealed all the more the true nature of the interests involved in this affair which concerned Central Europe exclusively. And when today a cry rings out in the world, “Never again Munich,” this is ample evidence that these warmongers regard the peaceful solution of this problem as the most ruinous outcome that ever happened.
They regret that no blood was shed. Not their blood, of course, since these fomenters never stand where the shots are being fired, but where the money is being made. What is at stake is the blood of many nameless soldiers.
By the way, it was not even necessary for this Conference at Munich to convene. After all, it came about only because those states which agitated for resistance at all costs later on began to search for a more or less decent escape route, once the problem called for a solution in one way or another. For without Munich, i.e. without the Western European states’ intervention, the solution of this entire problem-had there ever been a like escalation of events- would have been child’s play.
The decision at Munich resulted in the following:
- Return of substantial parts of the German frontier areas in Bohemia and Moravia to the Reich.
- Preservation of options for a resolution of the other problems with this state, i.e. the return or the migration of the remaining Hungarian and Slovak minorities.
- Issue of a guarantee. From the start, as far as Germany and Italy were concerned, the guarantee of this state was made conditional on the consent of all interested parties bordering the state and, thus, depended on the actual resolution of those questions concerning the interested parties.
The following questions remained open:
- Return of the Magyar parts to Hungary;
- return of the Polish parts to Poland;
- resolution of the Slovak question; and
- resolution of the Ukrainian question.
As you are aware, barely had the negotiations between Hungary and Czechoslovakia begun, when the Czechoslovakian as well as the Hungarian negotiators approached Germany and Italy, standing at our side, with the request to undertake, as arbitrators, the drawing of the new borders between Slovakia, the Carpatho-Ukraine, and Hungary. In so doing, they themselves failed to exhaust the possibility of an appeal to the Four Powers, and, thus, waived this right, i.e. declined to take advantage of it.
And this was quite understandable. All those residing in this Lebensraum wished to preserve peace and quiet. Italy and Germany were ready to heed this call. Neither England nor France objected to this agreement, which in its nature had already bypassed the formalities of the Munich Agreement. After all, it would have been crazy if either London or Paris had protested against an act by Germany or Italy which had taken place on the request of those concerned.
As always in such cases, the award arbitrated by Italy and Germany could not completely satisfy both sides. Its major shortcoming was that both parties had to agree to submit to the arbitration voluntarily. Shortly after this award was settled, two states immediately mounted strong protests.
Hungary claimed the Carpatho-Ukraine based on its general interests and certain specific ones. Poland, on the other hand, demanded a direct link to Hungary. In view of these claims, the remainder of this state born at Versailles was destined to perish. In all likelihood, only one other state was interested in maintaining the status quo: Rumania. A competent authority personally informed me of how desirable he felt it was that Rumania should be granted a direct link to Germany through the Ukraine and Slovakia. I am citing this particular example to illustrate how threatened Rumania must have felt by Germany, as certain American clairvoyants would have had it.
It was clear, however, that it was neither Germany’s duty to oppose such a development in the long run, nor to fight for a state of affairs for which we could never have assumed responsibility.
Hence came the moment in which I resolved to declare, on behalf of the Reich Government, that we had no intention to continue to be bothered with the odium of opposing the Polish and Hungarian desire for a common border, just perhaps to secure a route of advance into Rumania. And since the Czech government resorted once more to its methods of old, and Slovakia revealed its desires for independence, there could be no talk of maintaining this state any longer. The Czechoslovakian state constructed at Versailles had outlived its purpose. It broke up not because Germany wished this. It broke up because it is not possible to construct and maintain at the conference table artificial states which are not viable in themselves.
Thus when, a few days before this state disintegrated, England and France inquired about a guarantee, Germany rejected this because the conditions stipulated at Munich no longer applied. To the contrary, when the German Reich Government finally resolved to intervene on its part-now that this whole structure was in the process of disintegration and, for all practical purposes, had already disintegrated-then this occurred in the fulfillment of a self-evident duty. In this context, the following ought to be noted: On the occasion of the Czech Foreign Minister Chvalkovsky’s first visit to Munich, the German Reich Government clearly expressed its views on the future of Czechoslovakia. At the time, I myself assured Herr Minister Chvalkovsky that, given a decent treatment of the large remaining German minorities in Czechia and a pacification of the whole state, Germany would assume a fair attitude. We did not wish to create difficulties for this state.
I left no doubt that, if Czechia undertook any steps reminiscent of the political tendencies of the retired Herr Dr. Beneš, Germany would not tolerate a development along this line. Such a development would be nipped in the bud.
At the time, I also pointed out that the maintenance of huge military arsenal in Central Europe without aim and object had to be regarded as a source of danger.
Later developments proved how right this warning of mine had been. A continually worsening whispering campaign as well as a lapse of the Czech newspapers into the old style made it clear to even the most simple-minded that a return to the old state of affairs was imminent.
The danger of a military confrontation was ever present in view of the possibility that some lunatics could seize the enormous stockpile of war material.
This involved a certain danger of explosions of incalculable consequences.
To prove this to you, my Deputies, I have no choice but to give you a general idea of the numerical proportions of the international arsenal of explosives in Central Europe, which strike me as downright gigantic.
Since this territory has been occupied, the following items were confiscated and secured:
- Air Force: 1,582 planes; 501 anti-aircraft guns;
- Army: 2,175 fieldguns (light and heavy); 785 mortars; 469 tanks; 43,876 machineguns; 114,000 pistols; 1,090,000 rifles;
- Ammunition: 1,000,000,000 shells (infantry); 3,000,000 shells (artillery and gas);
- Other weaponry of all types, such as devices for building bridges; listening devices; searchlights; measuring instruments; cars and special vehicles in great numbers.
I believe that it was fortunate for millions and millions of people that I was able to prevent this explosion, thanks to the insight which the responsible men on the other side had at the last minute. It is my conviction that we found a solution which has settled this dispute and has eliminated it as a source of danger for Central Europe.
The claim that this solution contradicts the Munich Agreement cannot be justified any more than it can be substantiated. Under no circumstances can the Munich settlement be regarded as a final one. After all, it makes concessions for the solution of additional questions and the need to resolve them. Truly, and this is decisive, it cannot be held against us that the concerned parties appealed to Italy and Germany, and not to the Four Powers. Nor can it be held against us that Czechoslovakia disintegrated on its own and, hence, ceased to exist. It is only natural that, once these ethnographic principles no longer applied, Germany again took charge of its one-thousand year old interests, which are not only of a political, but also of an economic nature. Time will tell whether the solution Germany found was the right one. One thing is sure, however: this solution should not be subject to English control or criticism. For the Lander of Bohemia and Moravia have nothing at all to do with the Munich Agreement since they constituted the final remnants of the former Czechoslovakian state.
As little right as we have to subject English measures, whether just or unjust, to German control and criticism, for instance in Northern Ireland, as little right does England possess to do this in the case of the old German electorates. I completely fail to understand how the personal understanding reached by Mr. Chamberlain and myself at Munich can be applied to this case. After all, the case of Czechoslovakia was dealt with in the Munich Agreement insofar as it was possible to deal with it at that point. Beyond this, it was only planned that, should the concerned parties be unable to arrive at a agreement themselves, they could appeal to the Four Powers. After a period of three months, the Four Powers would meet again for further consultations.
Now the concerned parties have not appealed to the Four Powers, but to Germany and Italy. Evidence for the legitimacy of this step lies in the fact that neither England nor France voiced any objections. Moreover, they have accepted without any further ado the award arbitrated by Germany and Italy.
No, the agreement Mr. Chamberlain and I entered into has nothing to do with the problem at hand. It applies exclusively to questions concerning the coexistence of England and Germany. This is equally evident in the statement that such questions, in the future, ought to be dealt with in the spirit of the Munich Agreement and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, which advocate friendly relations by means of mutual consultations. Should this agreement apply to any and all future German political activities, then England could not take any further steps, for instance, in Palestine or anywhere else for that matter, without consulting Germany before taking action. We certainly expect nothing of the kind and, in turn, we protest that this is expected of us. When Mr. Chamberlain now concludes that the Munich Agreement is null and void, because we abrogated it, I shall take note of his disposition as of today and I shall draw the proper conclusions.
Throughout my years of political activities, I have always advocated the idea of establishing close Anglo-German friendship and cooperation. I found countless congenial people in my Movement. Perhaps they even joined my Movement because of this conviction of mine. The desire for Anglo-German friendship and cooperation not only reflects my own proper sentiments on the topic, derived from the common heritage of our two peoples, but also my opinion that the existence of the British Empire is of importance to mankind and in its best interest. Never have I left any doubt about my conviction that the maintaining of this empire is an object of inestimable value to mankind’s culture and economy.
By whatever means Great Britain may have gained its colonial possessions- and I know this entailed the use of force, the use of the most brutal force in many instances-I nevertheless realize that no other empire has ever been created by different means. In the end, world history values not the method so much as the success; and this not in terms of the success of the method employed, but of the general utility derived from the method.
Undoubtedly the Anglo-Saxon people have accomplished a great colonizing work on this earth. I sincerely admire this achievement. From a higher humanitarian point of view, the thought of its destruction has always seemed to me, and seems to me today, the product of a wanton thirst for fame (Herostratentum). However, my sincere respect for this attainment does not mean I will refrain from assuring the life of my own Volk. I believe it is not possible to bring about a lasting friendship between the German and the Anglo-Saxon peoples if the other side fails to realize that next to British interests there are German ones also. As for the men of Britain the sustenance of the British Empire lends meaning and purpose to life, so the sustenance and liberty of the German Reich does for the men of Germany! A lasting friendship between these two nations is conceivable only in the framework of mutual respect.
The English rule a mighty empire. They built this empire in the days of the German Volk’s slackening. In former times, the German Reich also was a mighty empire. It once ruled the West. In bloody battles and religious confrontations, as well as because this state split up internally, this Reich lost its might and greatness and finally fell into a deep sleep. Still, as the old Reich was nearing its end, the seed for its ultimate rebirth began to germinate. A new Germany grew out of Brandenburg and Prussia: the Second Reich. And, in the final instance, this became the German Volksreich of today.
Perhaps now the English will understand that we have no reason to feel in the least inferior to them. For this, truly, our historic past is too colossal! England has given the world many a great man; Germany has done no less.
The difficult struggle for the survival of our Volk has demanded of us, in the course of three centuries, a blood sacrifice in the defense of the Reich far outstripping the sacrifices other peoples had to make to secure their existence. That, perpetually the victim of aggression, Germany was not able to maintain its assets, that it had to sacrifice many provinces, has been the result of the state’s undesirable development which caused its impotence.
We have now overcome this condition. We, as Germans, therefore do not feel inferior to the British. Our respect for our country is just as great as that of every Englishman for England. The history of our Volk throughout the past two thousand years affords us grounds enough and deeds to fill us with sincere pride.
Should England declare itself incapable of understanding this, our attitude, and should it instead perhaps regard Germany as a vassal state, then our offer of love and friendship for England will have been for naught. We shall neither despair nor lose heart because of this. Instead, we shall then set out on a path- conscious of our own strength and that of our friends-which shall secure our independence and not prejudice our dignity.
I am aware of the British Prime Minister’s declaration in which he maintains he cannot place any trust in assurances by Germany. Under the circumstances, I felt that we should no longer burden him or the English people with conditions, unthinkable without mutual trust. When Germany became National Socialist and thus initiated its resurrection, I made a proposal, for my part, in pursuit of my stalwart policy of friendship for England, to impose voluntary limits on German armament at sea. This implied the will and conviction that war should never again be possible between England and Germany. And this remains my will and my conviction even today.
However, I am now forced to concede that England’s official and unofficial policies leave no doubt that London no longer shares this conviction. Quite the contrary, it is my conviction that, irrespective of what type of conflict Germany might be drawn into, Britain will always oppose Germany. War with Germany is regarded as a matter of course.
I deeply regret this since my only demand of England today is, and will continue to be, the return of our colonies. However, I have always made it perfectly clear that this does not constitute grounds for a war. I remain true to my conviction that England, for whom the colonies have no value, would come to understand Germany’s position one day. Then it would undoubtedly realize that Germany’s friendship far outweighed these objects, which, while they are of no real use to England, are of vital importance to Germany.
Beyond this, I have never made any demands which affected British interests, posed a real danger to its world empire, or were detrimental to England in some other manner. I have restricted myself to demands in the framework of Germany’s Lebensraum, questions closely tied to the German nation’s eternal possessions. Now that journalists and officials in England publicly advocate opposition to Germany in any case, and this is confirmed by the well-known policy of encirclement, then the foundations on which the Anglo-German Naval Agreement rested have been destroyed.
Thus, I have resolved to inform the British Government of this today. This is not a question of a material affair-since I continue to cherish the hope that an arms race with England can be avoided-but a question of self-respect.
Should the British government reconsider and wish to negotiate this matter with Germany in order to reach a clear and definite understanding, then no one would be happier than I.
Beyond this, I know my Volk-I rely on it. We desire nothing that was not ours before. Never will we rob another state of its rightful possessions.
Alas, he who believes he can attack Germany will encounter such a power and such a resistance that those of the year 1914 will have been negligible in comparison.
I would like to discuss in this context a matter which those circles that earlier occasioned the mobilization of Czechoslovakia have taken up as a point of departure for a new campaign against the Reich. In the introduction to my speech, my Deputies, I already assured you that never in my political life, neither in the case of Austria nor in the case of Czechoslovakia, have I assumed an attitude which was incompatible with the measures now executed. On the question of the Memel Germans, I have always pointed out that, should Lithuania not resolve this problem in a refined and generous manner, Germany would have to appear on the scene one day.
You know that the Diktat of Versailles arbitrarily tore the Memel territory from the German Reich, and that in 1923, in the midst of peace, Lithuania occupied these areas and confiscated them more or less. The fate suffered by the Germans living there has become tantamount to martyrdom since then. In the framework of the reintegration of Bohemia and Moravia into the German Reich, I was able to reach an agreement with the Lithuanian government, which allowed for the return of these areas to Germany without any violent act or bloodshed. And here, too, I did not demand even one square mile more than what we originally had possessed and had been robbed of.
This means that only those areas torn from us by the insane dictators of peace at Versailles returned to the German Reich. I am convinced that this solution will have a favorable effect on the relations between Germany and Lithuania. Our behavior has clearly shown that Germany now has no interest in anything other than to live in peace and friendship also with this state. We seek to establish and cultivate economic ties with it.
And, in principle, I wish to explain the following here: the significance of economic agreements with Germany lies not only in its ability to produce nearly all industrial goods in demand, but also in its role as a gigantic consumer. As the buyer of numerous products Germany makes it possible for many other countries to participate in world trade in the first place. Hence, it is in our own best interest not only to preserve these markets, but to cultivate them as well.
For this is what the existence of our Volk is based on to a high degree. It is once more a sign of the greatness of the so-called democratic statesmen that they believe they have won an eminent political success when they manage to prevent a people from making sales, for example, by boycotting its markets, in order to starve them out, I presume. I need not tell you that, in accordance with my convictions, a people will not starve because of this, but it will be all the more willing to fight under such circumstances.
As far as Germany is concerned, it is determined not to allow certain markets which are of vital interest to the nation to be taken from it by terrorist interventions from abroad or by threats from there. This is not only in our interest, but also in the interest of our trading partners. In this case, as in any type of business, dependency is not unilateral but mutual.
We often have the pleasure to read dilettantish treatises in the democratic press which in all earnest maintain that, because Germany has close economic relations with a country, it is trying to make that country dependent on it. What truly hair-raising Jewish nonsense! For, if today the German Reich delivers machinery to an agricultural state and receives foodstuffs in return, then the Reich as a consumer of these foodstuffs is at least as dependent-if not more dependent-on this agricultural state as the agricultural state is on Germany from which it receives industrial products as payment.
Germany regards the Baltic States as its most important trading partners. It is hence in our own interest to see that these lead an independent, orderly national life of their own. In our eyes, this is a prerequisite for any economic development domestically, which in turn creates the prerequisites for our barter trade.
I therefore am happy that in the case of Lithuania, too, we have been able to remove the bone of contention between our two countries. Thus, we have cleared away the only obstacle in the way of a friendly policy. It does not consist of political compliments, but can and will hold its own, I am convinced, in practical work in the economic sphere.
The democratic world profoundly regrets that no blood was shed in this instance, too. It regrets that 175,000 Germans were able to return to their beloved German homeland without a few hundred thousand others being shot in the process! This truly pains the humane world apostles. It is not surprising in the least that they immediately set out to search for new means of once again upsetting the European atmosphere thoroughly. And this time, as in the case of Czechoslovakia, they again alleged that Germany had taken military measures, that is they claimed that a so-called German mobilization had taken place. And the object of this mobilization was Poland.
There is little to be said on the topic of Polish-German relations. In this instance as well, the Peace Treaty of Versailles has grievously and intentionally wounded the German Volk. Above all, the strange delimitation of the Corridor, granting Poland access to the sea, was to preclude a reconciliation between Poland and Germany for all time. And, as emphasized earlier, this problem is perhaps the most painful one for Germany to bear.
This notwithstanding, I remained steadfast in my conviction that the necessity of granting the Polish state free access to the sea cannot be ignored.
Moreover, in principle, I have always maintained that it would be expedient that people whom Providence has destined-or damned, for all I care-to live next to one another, did not needlessly and artificially poison their relations. The late Marshal Pilsudski, who adhered to this view also, was willing to review the issue of a decontamination of Polish-German relations and finally to arrive at an agreement, in which Germany and Poland pledged themselves to renounce war as a means of settling conflicts between them.
Poland was granted one exception from this agreement: the provision that pacts of assistance previously entered into by Poland would not be affected by this regulation. Reference here was solely to the Mutual Assistance Pact with France. It was accepted as a matter of course that this provision applied only to the pact already concluded and was not to be extended to pacts to be concluded in the future. It is a fact that this German-Polish Pact considerably contributed to a relaxation of tensions in Europe.
Nevertheless one question remained open, one issue which would naturally have to be resolved sooner or later: the question of the German city of Danzig. Danzig is a German city and it wishes to return to Germany. On the other hand, this city does have contractual obligations to Poland, although they were forced on it by the dictators of peace at Versailles. Now that the League of Nations-previously a great contributor to the unrest-has commissioned a most tactful High Commissioner to represent its interest, the question of Danzig was destined to land on the conference table once more, at the very latest when this ominous institution itself began to fade. I regard the peaceful resolution of this question as a further contribution to a final relaxation of tensions in Europe. This relaxation of tensions is assuredly not promoted by the smear campaign of warmongers gone crazy, but rather by the elimination of real sources of danger.
Since the problem of Danzig was discussed several times a few months ago, I forwarded to the Polish Government a concrete proposal. I will now inform you, my Deputies, of the contents of this proposal. You shall be able to judge for yourselves whether this proposal was not the most gigantic concession imaginable in the service of peace in Europe.
As emphasized previously, I have always recognized the necessity for this state to have access to the sea and I have taken account of this. I am not a democratic statesman; I am a realistic National Socialist. However, I held it equally necessary to point out to the government in Warsaw that, just as it desires access to the sea, Germany desires access to its province in the East. These are indeed difficult problems. Germany bears no responsibility for this. The ones to be blamed are the magicians of Versailles who either out of malice or thoughtlessness set up a hundred powder kegs all around Europe, each equipped with a fuse virtually impossible to extinguish.
You cannot solve these problems in the same old way. I hold it to be absolutely essential that new ways be found. After all, Poland’s access to the sea and Germany’s access to the Corridor are devoid of any military significance.
Their significance is of a psychological and economic nature exclusively. To assign military significance to this traffic route would mean succumbing to military naivety to an exceptional degree.
I have therefore made the following proposal to the Polish Government:
- Danzig is reintegrated into the framework of the German Reich as a Free State.
- A highway and a railroad line through the Corridor are placed at Germany’s disposal. They are accorded the same extraterritorial status which the Corridor now enjoys.
In return, Germany is willing:
- to recognize all economic rights of Poland in Danzig;
- to secure for Poland a free port of whatever size it desires in Danzig and to guarantee free access thereto;
- to regard and accept the borders between Germany and Poland as final;
- to enter into a twenty-five-year pact of non-aggression with Poland, a pact which would far outlive me, and
- to secure the independence of the Slovak state through cooperation between Germany, Poland, and Hungary, which is tantamount to a virtual renunciation of a one-sided German hegemony in this area.
The Polish Government has refused this proposal of mine and has declared itself willing:
- to discuss only the question of a potential replacement of the present League of Nations’ High Commissioner and
- to consider facilitating transit traffic through the Corridor.
I sincerely regret the attitude of the Polish government which I fail to understand. This alone is not decisive, however. What is far worse is that Poland, like Czechoslovakia a year ago, now apparently believes it has to call up troops, under pressure from a mendacious worldwide campaign of rabblerousing.
And this though Germany has conscripted not one man nor in any way intended to take action against Poland.
As stated earlier, all this is regrettable in itself. It will be up to posterity to decide whether it was wise to refuse the unique proposal which I had made. As stated earlier, this was an attempt to resolve a question which moves the entire German nation emotionally through a truly unique compromise, and to solve it to the advantage of both countries.
It is my conviction that Poland was not interested in the give and take of this solution-it sought exclusively to take. That Danzig could never again become Polish was completely beyond doubt. And the plans for an attack, falsely attributed to Germany by the international press, now led to the so-called offers of guarantee. It also led to a commitment by the Polish government to a pact of mutual assistance which would force Poland to oppose Germany militarily, in the event of war between Germany and another power-in which England would appear on the scene again. This commitment violates the agreement which, at the time, I had entered into with Marshal Pilsudski. For this agreement bore solely on commitments then already in existence, i.e. on Poland’s commitment to France, of which we knew. To expand on these commitments retroactively is inconsistent with the German-Polish Non- Aggression Pact. Under the circumstances, I would never have concluded this Pact. For what is the meaning of a non-aggression pact, when one party leaves open countless exceptions to the rules! Either collective security exists, that is collective insecurity and the perpetual threat of imminent war, or there are clear agreements, which, in principle, prevent the contracting parties from resorting to arms. Thus, I regard the agreement reached at the time with Marshal Pilsudski as unilaterally abrogated by Poland and therefore null and void. I have informed the Polish Government of this. I can only repeat once again that this does not signify a fundamental change in principle in my views of the stated problems.
Should the Polish Government consider it worth its while to arrive at a renewed contractual regulation of its relations to Germany, then I shall naturally welcome this with the one provision that such a regulation must contain clear commitments, which must be mutually binding for both parties.
Germany is gladly willing to undertake such obligations and to fulfill them as well.
When, for these reasons, new unrest took hold in Europe during the past weeks, the propaganda at the service of the international warmongers was responsible, a form of propaganda perpetrated by numerous organs in the democratic states. They seek to continuously exacerbate nervous tensions by fabricating persistent rumors; to make Europe ripe for a catastrophe; that catastrophe which they hope will achieve what has not been achieved by other means up to now: Bolshevism’s annihilation of European culture! The rabblerousers’ hatred is easily understood if one considers that in the meantime one of the crisis spots in Europe has been pacified, thanks to the heroism of one man and his people, and-if I may say so-thanks to the Italian and German volunteers. During these last weeks, Germany has joined in the experience and celebration of Spain’s victory with heartfelt sympathy.
When, at the time, I resolved to heed the request by General Franco for assistance by National Socialist Germany in his struggle against the international backing of the Bolshevist murderers and incendiaries (Mordbrenner), the same international warmongers misinterpreted and abused this step by Germany in the most shameful manner.
At the time, Germany was accused of seeking to gain a foothold in Spain; of coveting Spain’s colonies; there was the base lie of 20,000 men landing in Morocco. In brief, everything possible was done to discredit the idealism of our men and the Italian reinforcements and to provide new fodder for yet another campaign of warmongering.
In a few weeks, the victorious hero of Nationalist Spain will make his solemn entry into the capital of his country. The Spanish people will jubilantly cheer him as their savior from unspeakable horrors, as their liberator from gangs of murderers and incendiaries, on whose conscience are the execution and the murder of an estimated 775,000 human beings. Entire populations of villages and cities were literally slaughtered under the silent, gracious patronage of humanitarian world apostles from the democracies of Western Europe and North America. In this victory parade, side by side with their Italian comrades, the volunteers of our German Legion will march in the rows of valiant Spanish soldiers.
Shortly afterwards we hope to welcome them here in the homeland. The German Volk will then find out how, in this instance also, its valiant sons fought in the defense of the freedom of a most noble people and how, in the end, they contributed to the rescue of European civilization. For the victory of Bolshevist subhumanity (Untermenschentum) in Spain could only too easily have swept over Europe. Hence, the hatred felt by those who regret that Europe did not go up in flames. Now, they are all the more determined to make use of every opportunity to sow the seeds of distrust between nations and to whip up the enthusiasm for war, desirable from their point of view, somewhere else.
What these international warmongers have come up with, in the last weeks, in terms of mendacious statements and falsified reports, which were circulated in numerous newspapers, was partially as childish as it was spiteful. And its first success-insofar as it did not serve the domestic politics of the democratic governments exclusively-has been the spread of a type of nervous hysteria which in the land of unlimited possibilities has presently already led to people thinking that a landing by Martians is possible. However, the actual purpose is to prepare public opinion to accept the English policy of encirclement as necessary and, if worse comes to worse, to support this policy.
By contrast, the German Volk can calmly go about its daily work. The best army in Germany’s history defends its frontiers; a gigantic Luftwaffe protects its air space; its coasts have been made unassailable by any enemy power. In the West the mightiest bulwark of all time has been erected.
What is decisive, however, is the unity of the Volkskorper, the trust all Germans place in their Wehrmacht, and-I believe I can say this-the trust that all place in their leadership.
No less is the trust our leadership and our Volk place in our friends. At their fore stands the one state, which in its fateful solidarity is closest to us in all respects. And in this year also, Fascist Italy has shown the greatest possible understanding for Germany’s justified interests. No one should be surprised that, for our part, we reciprocate these sentiments for Italy’s vital necessities.
The alliance which binds the two peoples can never come apart! Any attempt to rock it is ludicrous in our eyes. In any event, a few days ago, one great democratic newspaper published an article which illustrates and elucidates this well. It maintained that one could no longer count on playing Italy and Germany against each other in order to destroy them separately later.
Thus, the German Reich Government has profound understanding for the lawfulness of the action of our Italian friend against Albania and has welcomed it. Yes, Fascism has not only the right but the duty to attend to the preservation of order in this Lebensraum, which nature and history have assigned to Italy. Only such an order can lay the foundations for the bloom of human civilization and its maintenance. And the rest of the world can no more doubt, in the end, the civilizing works of Fascism than it can doubt those of National Socialism. In both cases, undeniable facts speak against untenable fibs and unproven assertions by the other side.
It is the long-term goal of the German State leadership to bring about increasingly close relations between Germany, Italy, and Japan. We regard the continued existence and the preservation of the freedom and independence of these three world powers as a strong element in the maintenance of a truly human civilization, a practical civilization, as well as a more just world order for the future.
As I mentioned in my introduction earlier, the world was informed of the contents of a certain telegram on April 15, 1939. I did eventually see this telegram myself, though not until somewhat later. It is difficult to classify this document. It simply fits into no known category. Therefore, my Deputies of the German Reichstag, standing before you and hence before the German Volk, I will try to analyze the contents of this curious document. From there I will go on to give the necessary answers in your name and in the name of the German Volk.
- Mr. Roosevelt is of the opinion that I also ought to be aware that “throughout the world hundreds of millions of human beings are living today in constant fear of a new war or even a series of wars.” This was of definite concern to the United States, for whom he spoke, “as it must also be to the peoples of the other nations of the entire western hemisphere.”
Answer: To this I would like to say that the fear of war has undoubtedly haunted mankind throughout the ages, and rightly so. For example, from the conclusion of the Peace Treaty of Versailles in 1919 until 1938, fourteen wars alone have been waged, in none of which Germany has been involved. However, the same cannot be said of states of the “western hemisphere” in the name of which Mr. President Roosevelt claims to be speaking. To these wars one must add, within the same time period, twenty-six armed interventions and sanctions imposed by brute force, and resulting in bloodshed. And in this, too, Germany has not been involved in the least.
The United States has participated in six cases of armed intervention since the year 1918 alone Soviet Russia has been involved in ten wars and military actions since 1918 carried out by use of force and bloodshed. And in this, too, Germany has not been involved. Nor has it caused any of these incidents.
Hence, in my eyes, it would be a mistake to attribute the fear of war of the peoples of Europe and beyond right now to precisely those wars for which Germany could be held responsible.
Instead, the cause for this fear lies in an unbridled smear campaign in the press, as mendacious as it is vile, in the dissemination of nasty pamphlets to foreign heads of state, in the artificial scaremongering which has even made interventions from other planets seem possible, which, in turn, has led to dreadful scenes of utter confusion.
I believe that the minute the responsible governments exercise the necessary restraint themselves and demonstrate greater love of truth, and impose this criterion on their journalistic organs, with regard to international relations and the internal affairs of other people, then assuredly this constant fear of war will vanish immediately. And then, the peace we all desire will be forthcoming.
- Mr. Roosevelt professes the belief in his telegram that “any major war even if it were to be confined to other continents must bear heavily on everyone during its continuance and also for generations to come.”
Answer: No one knows this better than the German Volk. The Peace Treaty of Versailles placed so heavy a burden of debt on its shoulders that even a hundred years would not have sufficed to pay it off. And all this despite the fact that it was American specialists in constitutional law, historians, and professors of history who proved conclusively that Germany could not be blamed for the outbreak of the World War any more than any other nation.
Still, I do not believe that every struggle has catastrophic consequences for the environment, i.e. the entire earth, especially if it is not artificially drawn into this conflict by a system of impenetrable alliances. Since the world has experienced wars not only in the past centuries, but also frequently in more recent decades, as I have demonstrated in my earlier comments, then this would mean that, if Mr. Roosevelt’s views are correct, the sum of the consequences of these wars would bear heavily on mankind for millions of years to come.
- Mr. Roosevelt declared that already “on a previous occasion” he had addressed me “on behalf of the settlement of political, economic and social problems by peaceful methods and without resort to war.”
Answer: This is precisely the same opinion I have always advocated myself. Also as history proves, I have settled the necessary political, economic and social problems without resort to arms, without resort to war. Regrettably, a peaceful settlement has been rendered more difficult through the agitation by politicians, statesmen, and news reporters, who were neither concerned nor in the least affected by the issues in question.
- Mr. Roosevelt believes that “the tide of events seems to have reverted to the threat of arms. If such threats continue, it seems inevitable that much of the world must become involved in common ruin.”
Answer: As far as Germany is concerned, I am not aware of such threats to other nations. Nevertheless, each day in democratic newspapers I read lies concerning such threats. Daily I read about the mobilization of German troops, trooplandings, and blackmail. And all this is supposedly directed against states with whom we live in peace and enjoy the most friendly of relations.
- Mr. Roosevelt further believes that, in the event of war, “all the world, victor nations, vanquished nations, and neutral nations will suffer.”
Answer: This is a conviction I have expressed as a politician during twenty years in which, regrettably, the responsible statesmen in America could not bring themselves to see their involvement in the World War and the nature of its outcome in this light.
- Mr. Roosevelt believes that “it is clear that the leaders of great nations have it in their power to liberate their peoples from the disaster that impends.”
Answer: If this is indeed clear, then it must be truly criminal negligence-not to employ a less refined expression-by the leaders of these peoples if they prove incapable of curtailing, in view of the powers at their command, the excesses of their warmongering press and thereby of sparing the world the disaster which threatens in the case of armed confrontation.
Moreover, I fail to comprehend how the responsible leaders, instead of cultivating diplomatic relations internationally, can recall their ambassadors or take like actions to disrupt and render these relations more difficult without a good reason.
- Mr. Roosevelt declares that “three nations in Europe and one in Africa have seen their independent existence terminated.”
My answer: I do not understand which three nations in Europe are being referred to.
Should reference be made to the provinces which have been reintegrated in the German Reich, then I must bring a mistaken notion of history to the attention of the President. These nations have by no means lost their independence within Europe. Rather it was in the year 1918 when, through the breach of a solemn promise, they were torn from the communities they belonged to. The stamp of nationhood was imprinted on their brow, one they neither desired nor deserved.
Independence was likewise forced on those who gained no independence thereby, but who instead were forced into a dependency on foreign powers whom they despised.
As far as the nation in Africa is concerned which supposedly lost its freedom too, this is evidently yet another case of mistaken identity. Not one nation in Africa has lost its freedom. Rather nearly all former inhabitants of this continent have been subjected by brute force to the sovereignty of other peoples. This is how they lost their freedom. The people of Morocco, the Berbers, the Arabs, the Negroes, and so on, all of them became the victims of foreign powers, whose swords assuredly did not bear the inscription “Made in Germany,” but instead “Made by Democracies.”
- Mr. Roosevelt then says that reports, which he trusts are not true, “insist that further acts of aggression are contemplated against still other independent nations.”
Answer: I hold such rumors, devoid of any basis in reality, to constitute a violation of peace and quiet in the world. I perceive therein an attempt to frighten small nations or at least an attempt to make them increasingly nervous. Should Mr.
Roosevelt have concrete cases in mind, then I would request that he name the states threatened by an attack and the potential aggressors in question. Then it will be possible to eliminate from the face of this earth these outrageous and general accusations by short declarations.
- Mr. Roosevelt declares that “plainly the world is moving toward the moment when this situation must end in catastrophe unless a more rational way of guiding events is found.” He then goes on to declare that I have repeatedly asserted that I and the German people “have no desire for war. If this is true there need be no war.”
My answer: Once again, I would like to state that, first of all, I have not waged war.
And, second, I have lent expression to my distaste for war as well as for warmongering for many years. Third, I do not know why I should wage war. I would be greatly indebted to Mr. Roosevelt if he could explain all this to me.
- Mr. Roosevelt finally espouses the opinion that “nothing can persuade the peoples of the earth that any governing power has the right or need to inflict the consequences of war on its own or any other people save in the case of selfevident home defense.”
My answer: I hold this to be the attitude embraced by all reasonable men. Only it seems to me that in almost every war both parties tend to claim to be acting in self-evident home defense. Regrettably, the world does not possess any institution, including the person of Roosevelt, able to resolve this problem unequivocally. For example, there is no doubt that America did not enter into the World War in “self-evident home defense.” A commission appointed by Mr. Roosevelt himself to investigate the reasons for America’s entry into the World War arrived at the conclusion that this entry had been essentially for the realization of capitalist interests. Now, all there is left for us to do is to hope that the United States itself shall adhere to this noble principle in the future and will not make war on another people “save in the case of selfevident home defense.”
- Mr. Roosevelt further argues that he speaks “not through selfishness or fear of weakness, but with the voice of strength and with friendship for mankind.”
My answer: Had America raised its voice of strength and friendship for mankind in a more timely fashion and, above all, had this voice carried with it practical applications, then at least the treaty could have been prevented, which has become the source of the greatest disruption for mankind of all time, namely, the Diktat of Versailles.
- Mr. Roosevelt further declares that it is clear to him that “all international problems can be solved at the Council table.”
My answer: Theoretically that may well be possible, since one ought to think that, in many instances, reason would prevail in pointing to the justness of the demands on the one side, and to the necessity of making concessions on the other. For example, according to all laws of reason, logic, and the principles of an allencompassing higher justice, even according to the commandments of a divine will, all nations should equally partake in the goods of this world. It is not right that one nation should occupy so large a Lebensraum that not even fifteen inhabitants live on one square kilometer, while other nations are forced to sustain themselves with 140, 150, or even 200 inhabitants per square kilometer.
And, under no circumstances, could these fortunate nations then seek to restrict the existing Lebensraum of those already impoverished, for example, by taking away their colonies. Thus, I would be happy if these problems could actually be solved at the Council table.
My skepticism is based on the fact that it was America which lent expression itself to pronounced reservations regarding the effectiveness of conferences. Without doubt, the greatest council of all time was the League of Nations. It was the will of an American President which created this body. All nations of this world together were to solve the problems of mankind at its Council table. However, the first state to withdraw from this endeavor was the United States. And this was the case because President Wilson himself already had voiced severe misgivings about the possibility of solving truly decisive international problems at the Council table.
With all due respect to your opinion, Mr. Roosevelt, it is contradicted by the actual fact that, in the nearly twenty years of the League of Nations’ existence-this greatest permanent conference of the world-it did not manage to solve even one truly decisive international problem. Throughout many years, the Treaty of Versailles had selectively excluded Germany from active participation in this great international conference in breach of the promise given by President Wilson. In spite of the bitter experiences of the past, the German Government nevertheless did not believe it ought to follow the example of the United States, but instead chose to occupy its seat at the Council table at a later date. It was not until after many years of futile participation that I finally resolved to imitate the Americans and withdraw from this greatest conference in the world. And since then I have set out to solve the problems concerning my Volk, which regrettably were not solved at the Council table of the League of Nations like all the others, and, without exception, I solved them without resort to war! Beyond this, many problems were brought to the attention of international conferences in the past years, as emphasized earlier, without a solution of any kind being found. And, Mr. Roosevelt, if your view is correct that all problems can be solved at the Council table, then all nations, including the United States, must have been led either by blind men or criminals in the last seven or eight thousand years. For all of them, including some of the greatest statesmen in the United States, have made history not by sitting at Council tables, but by making use of the strength of their nation. America did not gain its independence at the Council table any more than the conflict between its northern and southern states was solved at the Council table. I am leaving out of consideration here that the same holds true for the countless wars in the course of the gradual conquest of the North American continent. I mention all this only to observe that, with all due respect to the assuredly noble nature of your views, Mr. President Roosevelt, they are not in the least confirmed by either the history of your own country or the history of the rest of the world.
- Mr. Roosevelt further asserts that “it is therefore no answer to the plea for peaceful discussion for one side to plead that unless they receive assurances beforehand that the verdict will be theirs they will not lay aside their arms.”
My answer: Truly, Mr. Roosevelt, you cannot believe that when the fate of the nation is at stake any government or leadership of the nation will lay down its weapons before a conference, or surrender them, simply in the blind hope that the intelligence or insight, or whatever, of the other participants in the conference will make the right decision in the end? Mr. Roosevelt, there has been only one people and one government in all of world history, which has adhered to the formula which you recommend: that of Germany. Acting on solemn promises by the American President Wilson and the endorsement of these assurances by the Allies, the German nation once trustingly laid down its arms. It approached the Council table unarmed. However, once it had laid down its arms, the German nation no longer was even invited to the conference. Instead, contrary to all assurances, the greatest breach of promise of all time was affected.
And then, one fine day, instead of resolving the greatest confusion of all time at the Council table, the most inhuman Diktat in the world brought about even more terrible confusion. The representatives of the German Volk, having laid down their arms and trusting in the solemn assurances of the American President, appeared unarmed to accept the Diktat of Versailles. They were received not as the representatives of a nation, which throughout four years had withstood the whole world with immense heroism in the struggle for its freedom and independence, but instead they were treated in a more degrading manner than could have been the case with Sioux Chiefs.
The German delegates were called names by the mob, stoned. They were dragged to the greatest Council table in the world no differently than prisoners to the tribunal of a victor. There, at gunpoint, they were forced to accept the most shameful subjugation and pillage of all time. Let me assure you, Mr. Roosevelt, that it is my own unshakeable will to see to it that not only now, but in the future as well, no German ever again shall step into a conference room defenseless. Instead, every representative of Germany shall perceive behind him the united force of the German nation, today and in the future, so help me God.
- Mr. Roosevelt believes that “in Conference rooms as in Courts it is necessary that both sides enter upon the discussion in good faith assuming that substantial justice will accrue to both.”
Answer: The representatives of Germany shall never again enter into a conference, which means nothing other than a tribunal for them. For who is to judge them? In a conference, there is neither a prosecution nor a judge, there are only two warring parties. And if the common sense of the concerned parties cannot find a solution or a settlement, then surely they will not submit themselves to a judge’s verdict by disinterested foreign powers. Besides, it was the United States which declined to step before the League of Nations for fear of becoming the unwitting victim of a court which could decide against the interest of individual parties, provided the necessary majority vote was attained.
Nevertheless, I would be greatly indebted to Mr. Roosevelt if he could explain to me how precisely this new world court is to be set up. Who are to be the judges? How shall they be selected? To whom shall they be held responsible? And, above all, for what shall they be held responsible?
- Mr. Roosevelt believes that “the cause of world peace would be greatly advanced if the nations of the world were to obtain a frank statement relating to the present and future policy of Governments.”
Answer: In countless public addresses, Mr. Roosevelt, I have already done this. And in today’s session, I have made such a frank statement before the forum of the Reichstag-insofar as this is possible within the span of two hours. I must decline, however, to make such statements to anyone but the Volk for whose existence and life I am responsible. It alone has the right to demand this of me.
I render account of German policy objectives in so public a manner that the whole world can hear it anyway. Alas, these clarifications are of no consequence to the rest of the world, as long as there is a press capable of distorting any explanation, making it suspect, placing it in question, and concealing it beneath new mendacious answers.
- Mr. Roosevelt believes that “the United States, as one of the nations of the western hemisphere, is not involved in the immediate controversies which have arisen in Europe.” Hence, he trusts that I should “be willing to make such a statement of policy to him as the head of a nation far removed from Europe.”
Answer: Apparently Mr. Roosevelt seriously believes it would render a service to the cause of peace worldwide if the nations of the world would make such frank statements relating to the present policy of governments.
Why does President Roosevelt burden the German head of state so selectively with the request to make such a statement without inviting other governments to make similar statements relating to their policies? I do not believe that it is permissible at all to demand that such statements be made to a foreign head of state. Instead, in accordance with President Wilson’s demand at the time for the abolition of secret negotiations, such statements should best be made to the entire world.
I have not only consistently been willing to do this, but-as mentioned before-I have also done so all too frequently. Regrettably, it was precisely the most important statements on the goals and intentions of the German policies which the press in many of the so-called democratic states either withheld from the people or misrepresented.
When, however, the American President Roosevelt feels called on to address such a request to Germany or Italy of all states simply because America is far removed from Europe, then, since the distance between Europe and America is equally great, our side also would have the right to question the President of the United States on the foreign policy goals pursued by America and the intentions on which this policy is based, for instance with regard to the states of Central and South America. In this case, Mr. Roosevelt surely would refer us to the Monroe Doctrine and decline this request as an uncalled-for interference in the internal affairs of the American continent. Now, we Germans advocate exactly the same doctrine with regard to Europe and, in any event, we insist on it insofar as this regards the domain and the interests of the Greater German Reich.
Besides this, of course, I would never allow myself to direct a similar request to the President of the United States of America, as I assume he would justly regard this as tactless.
- Mr. Roosevelt now declares further that he is willing to “communicate such declaration to other nations now apprehensive as to the course which the policy of your Government may take.”
Answer: By what means does Mr. Roosevelt determine which nations are apprehensive as to the course of the policy of Germany and which do not? Or is Mr. Roosevelt in a position, in spite of the surely enormously heavy load of work on his shoulders in his own country, to assess by himself the inner state and frame of mind of foreign peoples and their governments?
- Mr. Roosevelt demands finally that we “give assurance that your armed forces will not attack or invade the territory or possessions of the following independent nations: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain and Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Russia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Iraq, the Arabias, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Iran.”
Answer: As a first step, I took pains to inquire from the cited states whether, first, they are apprehensive. Second, I asked whether Mr. Roosevelt’s inquiry on their behalf was initiated by them or whether, at least, he had secured their consent in this. The responses obtained were negative throughout, in part even marked by outright indignation. However, a number of the cited states could not forward their response to us because, like Syria for example, they are presently not in the possession of their liberty since their territories are occupied by the military forces of the democratic states which have robbed them of all their rights. Third, far beyond this, the states bordering Germany have all received many binding assurances, and many more binding proposals, than Mr. Roosevelt requested of me in his peculiar telegram.
Fourth, should there be a question as to the value of these general and specific statements which I have repeatedly made, then would not any additional statement of this nature , even if it was made to Mr. Roosevelt, be equally worthless? After all, what is decisive is not Mr. Roosevelt’s opinion of such statements, but the value assigned to them by the states in question.
Fifth, I must yet point out to Mr. Roosevelt a few additional mistaken notions of history. For instance, he mentions Ireland and requests a statement that Germany not attack Ireland. Now, I have just read a speech by the Irish Prime Minister De Valera, in which, contrary to the opinion of Mr. Roosevelt, he oddly enough does not accuse Germany of oppressing Ireland and instead reproaches England for the persistent aggressions under which his state suffers.
And, despite Roosevelt’s great insight into the needs and concerns of other states, it can safely be assumed that the Irish Prime Minister knows better what threatens his country than the President of the United States does.
Equally, it appears to have slipped Mr. Roosevelt’s mind that Palestine is not being occupied by German troops but by English ones. By brute force, England is curtailing Palestinian freedom and is robbing the Palestinians of their independence to the advantage of Jewish intruders for whose cause the Palestinians suffer the most cruel of abuses. The Arabs living in this territory assuredly have not complained to Roosevelt of German aggressions. Rather, in persistent appeals to international public opinion, the Arabs lament the barbaric methods by means of which England seeks to overpower a people who loves its freedom and fights only to defend it.
This may well be one of the problems Mr. Roosevelt would like to see solved at the Council table. It ought to be decided by an impartial judge and not by brute force, military means, mass executions, the torching of villages, the dynamiting of houses, and so on. One thing is certain: in this case, England cannot claim to be repulsing the threat of an Arab attack on England. Instead England is the invader, whom no one bade come, and who seeks to establish his reign by force in a country not belonging to him. A number of similarly mistaken historic notions of Mr. Roosevelt are to be noted; not to mention how difficult it would be for Germany to conduct military operations in states and countries some of which are at a distance of two to five thousand and more kilometers.
I wish to state the following in concluding: the German Government nonetheless is willing to extend an assurance of the type desired by Roosevelt to each and every one of the cited states, if this state desires it and approaches Germany with such a reasoned request. However, there is one prerequisite: this assurance must be absolutely mutual in nature. This will be superfluous in a number of the cases of the states cited by Roosevelt since we are either already allied to them or, at the very least, enjoy close and friendly relations with them.
And, beyond the duration of such an arrangement, Germany will gladly enter into agreements with each of these states, agreements of the nature desired by this state.
I would not like to let this opportunity pass without extending assurances to the President of the United States on the issues of territories of most immediate concern to him, namely, the United States itself and the other states of the American continent. And herewith, I solemnly declare that any and all allegations of a planned German attack on American territories or an intervention to be pure swindle and crude fabrication. Not to mention that, assessed from a military standpoint, such allegations can only be the products of an overwrought imagination.
- Mr. Roosevelt declares in this context that he considers of crucial importance the discussions that are to “relate to the most effective and immediate manner through which the peoples of the world can obtain progressive relief from the crushing burden of armament.”
Answer: Mr. Roosevelt apparently is not aware that this problem already was completely resolved as far as Germany was concerned. In the years 1919 to 1923, the German Reich completely disarmed, as explicitly confirmed by the allied commissions, to the extent enumerated below.
The following were destroyed in the Army: 59,000 fieldguns and barrels; 130,000 machineguns; 31,000 trench mortars and barrels; 6,007,000 rifles and carbines; 243,000 MG barrels; 28,000 gun carriages; 4,390 trench mortar carriages; 38,750,000 shells; 16,550,000 hand grenades and rifle grenades; 60,400,000 live fuses; 491,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition; 335,000 tons of shell cases; 23,515 tons of cartridge cases; 37,600 tons of gunpowder; 79,000 ammunition gauges; 212,000 telephone sets; 1,072 flamethrowers, and so on.
Further destroyed were: sledges, mobile workshops, flak vehicles, limbers, steel helmets, gas masks, machines of the former war industry, and rifle barrels.
Further destroyed in the air were: 15,714 fighter planes and bombers; 27,757 aircraft engines.
At sea, the following were destroyed: 26 heavy battleships; 4 coastal armored ships; 4 battlecruisers; 19 light cruisers, 21 training ships and special ships; 83 torpedo boats; 315 U-boats.
Also destroyed were motor vehicles of all types, gas bombs and, in part, anti-gas defense equipment, propellants, explosives, searchlights, sighting devices, range finders and sound rangers, optical instruments of all kinds, harnesses, and so on; all airplane and airship hangars, and so on.
In accordance with the solemn assurances, which were given to Germany and corroborated in the Peace Treaty of Versailles, this was to constitute merely an advance payment to enable the outside world for its part to disarm without danger. As in all the other cases, having placed its faith in the promises given, Germany was to be shamefully deceived once more. As you are aware, all subsequent attempts sadly failed, in spite of years of negotiation at the council table, to bring about a disarmament of other states, which would have constituted no less than an element of intelligence and justice and the fulfillment of commitments made. I myself have contributed to these discussions a series of practical suggestions, Mr. Roosevelt, and I sought to initiate debate to at least reduce armament as much as possible. I suggested a 200,000-man ceiling for standing armies, an abolition of all offensive weapons, bombers, gas warfare, and so on.
- Mr. Roosevelt finally asserts his preparedness to “take part in discussions looking towards the most practical manner of opening up avenues of international trade to the end that every nation of the earth may be enabled to buy and sell on equal terms in the world market as well as to possess assurance of obtaining the materials and products of peaceful economic life.”
Answer: I believe, Mr. Roosevelt, that it is not a matter of discussing these problems in theory. Instead, it is imperative to take concrete actions to remove actual impediments to the international economy. The greatest impediments lie within the respective states themselves. Previous experiences have shown that all great international conferences on trade failed simply because the respective states were not capable of keeping their domestic economies in order. Currency manipulation carried this insecurity to the international capital market. Above all, this resulted in constant fluctuations in the exchange rates.
It likewise places an intolerable burden on world trade relations if, because of ideological considerations, it is possible for certain countries to unleash a campaign of wild boycotts of other peoples and their goods, and thereby to practically exclude them from participation in the market. I believe you would render us a great service, Mr. Roosevelt, if you took advantage of your strong influence in the United States to eliminate these particular impediments to the conduct of truly free trade.
However, it did not prove possible to see through these proposals in the rest of the world, in spite of Germany’s complete disarmament. I therefore advanced proposals for a ceiling of 300,000 men to be put up for discussion. The result was equally negative. I thereupon continued to place a series of other detailed disarmament proposals before the forum of the German Reichstag and hence before the international public.
Nobody even thought of joining in these discussions. Instead, the rest of the world began to reinforce its existing vast armament. It was not until the year 1934 that I ordered a thorough German rearmament, after the last of my comprehensive proposals on behalf of Germany, regarding the 300,000-man army, had been rejected for good.
Still, Mr. Roosevelt, I should not like to stand in the way of the discussion of armament questions in which you intend to participate. I would only like to request that, before you turn to me and Germany, you contact the others. I can still see in my mind’s eye a sum of practical experiences and I am inclined to remain skeptical until reality sets me right.
For I simply cannot believe that, if the leaders of other peoples are not even capable of putting in order production in their own states and of eliminating the campaign of wild boycotts for ideological reasons which so detrimentally affect international economic relations there can be much hope of international accords bearing fruit in the improvement of economic relations. Only in this manner can we secure the right for all to buy and sell on equal terms in the world market.
Besides this, the German Volk has made concrete demands in this context. I would be delighted if you, Mr. President, as one of the successors to the late President Wilson, would speak up for finally redeeming the promise which once led Germany to lay down its arms and to surrender to the so-called victors. I am speaking, in this context, not so much of the countless billions of so-called reparation payments extorted from Germany, as of the return of the areas stolen from Germany. The German Volk has lost three million square kilometers of land both within and beyond Europe.
Moreover, unlike the colonies of other nations, the colonial possessions of the German Reich were not acquired by conquest but instead by treaties and purchase. President Wilson solemnly pledged his word that Germany’s claims to its territorial possessions, as well as all others, would undergo just scrutiny.
Instead, those nations, which have already secured for themselves the mightiest colonial empires of all time, have been awarded the German possessions. This causes our Volk great concern especially today, and will increasingly in the future as well. It would be a noble deed if President Franklin Roosevelt redeemed the promise made by President Woodrow Wilson. This would constitute a practical contribution to the moral consolidation of the world and the improvement of its economy.
- Mr. Roosevelt declared in conclusion that “Heads of great Governments in this hour are literally responsible for the fate of humanity in the coming years. They cannot fail to hear the prayers of their peoples to be protected from the foreseeable chaos of war.” I, too, would be held “accountable.”
Answer: Mr. President Roosevelt! Without any difficulty, I do understand that the greatness of your empire and the immense riches of your land allow you to feel responsible for the fate of the entire world and for the fate of all peoples.
However, Mr. Roosevelt, my situation is much more modest and limited. You have 135 million inhabitants living on nine-and-a-half million square kilometers. Your land is one of untold riches and vast natural resources. It is fertile enough to sustain half a billion human beings and to provide them with all necessities.
I once took over a state on the brink of ruin thanks to its ready trust in the assurances of the outside world and the feeble leadership of a democratic regime.
Unlike America, where not even fifteen persons live on one square kilometer, this state has 140 persons per square kilometer. The fertility of our soil does not equal yours. We lack the numerous natural resources which nature places at the disposal of your people. The billions of German savings, accumulated in the form of gold and currency during the years of peace, were extorted from us and taken away. We lost our colonies. In the year 1933, there were seven million unemployed in my country. Millions worked part-time only, millions of peasants were reduced to misery, commerce was nearly destroyed, trade was ruined; in short: chaos reigned.
I have been able to accomplish only one task in the years since, Mr. President Roosevelt. I could not possibly feel myself responsible for the fate of a world which showed no sympathy for the woeful plight of my own Volk. I saw myself as a man called on by Providence to serve this Volk and to deliver it from its terrible hardships. Within the six-and-a-half years now lying behind us, I lived day and night for the one thought: to awaken the inner forces dormant in this Volk forsaken by the outside world, to increase them to the utmost, and, finally, to use them in the salvation of our community.
I overcame chaos in Germany. I restored order, enormously raised production in all spheres of our national economy, labored to create substitutes for a number of the raw materials we lack, smoothed the way for new inventions, developed traffic, ordered the construction of gigantic roads. I had canals dug, colossal new factories brought to life. In all this, I strove to serve the development of the social community of my Volk, its education, and its culture. I succeeded in bringing those seven million unemployed, whose plight truly went to heart, back into a useful production process. Despite the difficulties faced, I managed to preserve his plot of soil for the German farmer, to rescue this for him. I brought about a bloom in German trade and fostered traffic.
To preclude threats from the outside world, I have not only united the German Volk politically, I have rearmed it militarily. Further, I have sought to tear to shreds page upon page of this Treaty, whose 448 articles represent the most dastardly outrage ever committed against a people and man. I have restored those provinces to the Reich which were stolen from it in 1919. I have led home to the Reich millions of despondent Germans torn from us. I have restored the one-thousand-year old, historic unity of the German Lebensraum. And I have labored to do so, Mr. President, without bloodshed and without bringing either upon my own Volk or other peoples the hardships of war. I have done this all by myself, Mr. President, although a mere twenty-one years ago, I was but an unknown laborer and soldier of my Volk. And, hence, before history, I can truly claim the right to be counted among those men who do the best that can reasonably and in all fairness be expected of them individually.
Your task is infinitely easier, Mr. President. In 1933, when I became Reich Chancellor, you became the President of the United States. From the start, you thereby placed yourself at the head of the largest and richest state in the world.
It is your good fortune to have to nourish barely fifteen human beings per square kilometer in your country. You have virtually never-ending natural resources at your disposal, more than anyone else in the world. The vastness of the terrain and the fertility of the soil are capable of providing each individual American with ten times the foodstuffs possible in Germany. Nature permits you to do this. While the inhabitants of your country number barely a third more than those of Greater Germany, they have fifteen times its Lebensraum at their disposal.
Thus, the vastness of your country allows you to have the time and leisure to attend to problems of a universal nature. You hence conceive of the world as so small a place that you can intervene beneficially and effectively wherever this might be required. In this sense, your concerns and suggestions can be far more sweeping than mine. For my world is the one in which Providence has put me, Mr. President Roosevelt, and for which I am responsible. It is a much smaller one. It contains only my Volk. But I do believe I am thereby in a better position to serve those ends closer to the hearts of all of us: justice, welfare, progress, and peace for the entire community of man!