Adolf Hitler-Speech to the Reichstag
Berlin, July 13, 1934
Deputies! Men of the German Reichstag!
Acting on behalf of the Reich Government, the President of the Reichstag, Hermann Göring, has called you together today in order to give me an opportunity to enlighten the Volk before this body, the highest appointed forum of the nation, concerning events which will hopefully live on in our history for all time as both a sad reminder and a warning.
Out of a combination of objective circumstances and personal guilt, of human incompetence and human defects, a crisis arose in our young Reich which all too easily may have brought about truly destructive consequences for an indeterminate period of time.
The purpose of my remarks is to explain to you and thus to the nation how they came about and were overcome. The contents of my remarks will be completely frank. Only in respect to scope must I impose upon myself limitations necessitated, on the one hand, by consideration to the interests of the Reich and, on the other, by the boundaries drawn by the feeling of shame.
Street riots, barricade fighting, mass terror, and an individualistic propaganda of disintegration today trouble nearly all countries throughout the world. In Germany as well, a few isolated fools and criminals of this type are still making repeated attempts to ply their destructive trade. Since the defeat of the Communist Party, we have experienced, albeit growing constantly weaker, one attempt after another to establish Communist organizations with varying degrees of anarchist character and to put them to work. Their methods are always the same. While portraying the present lot as unbearable, they extol the Communist paradise of the future and, in doing so, are practically only waging war for hell. For the consequences of their victory in a country like Germany could be nothing other than destructive.
However, the trial run of their capability and of the consequences of their rule have, in the concrete case, already produced results so clear to the German Volk that the overwhelming majority, particularly of the German workers, has recognized this Jewish-international benefactor of mankind and inwardly defeated it.
The National Socialist State will wage a Hundred Years’ War, if necessary, to stamp out and destroy every last trace within its boundaries of this phenomenon which poisons and makes dupes of the Volk (Volksvernarrung).
The second group of discontented is comprised of those political leaders who regard their futures as having been settled by January 30 but who have never been able to reconcile themselves to the irreversibility of this fact.
The more Time veils their own incompetence with the merciful cloak of forgetfulness, the more they believe themselves entitled to gradually reintroduce themselves to the mind of the Volk. However, because their incompetence then was not a matter of time but a matter of inborn incompetence, they are equally unable today to prove their worth by positive, useful work but instead perceive their purpose in life as being fulfilled by voicing criticism which is as underhanded as it is false. The Volk does not belong to them either. They can neither seriously threaten the National Socialist State nor seriously damage it in any way.
A third group of destructive elements is made up of those revolutionaries who were shaken and uprooted in 1918 in regard to their relation to the State and who thus have lost all inner connection to a regulated human social order.
They have become revolutionaries who pay homage to the revolution for its own sake and would like to see it become a permanent state of affairs.155 All of us once suffered from the horrible tragedy that, as obedient and dutiful soldiers, we were suddenly faced by a revolt of mutineers who actually succeeded in gaining possession of the State. Each of us had originally been trained to abide by the laws, to respect authority and to show obedience to the commands and orders it issues, and instilled with an inner devotion to the representatives of the State.
Now the revolution of deserters and mutineers forced us to inwardly disassociate ourselves from these concepts.
We were unable to muster any respect for the new usurpers. Honor and obedience forced us to refuse to obey; love of the nation and the Vaterland obliged us to wage war on them; the amorality of their laws extinguished in us the conviction of the necessity for complying with them-and hence we became revolutionaries.
However, even as revolutionaries, we had not disassociated ourselves from the obligation to apply to ourselves the natural laws of the sovereign right of our Volk and to respect these laws.
It was not our intention to violate the will and the right of selfdetermination of the German Volk, but to drive away those who violated the nation.
And when finally, legitimated by the trust of this Volk, we drew the consequences from our fourteen-year-long struggle, this was not done in order to unloose a chaos of unreined instincts, but with the sole aim of establishing a new and better order.
For us, the revolution which shattered the Second Germany was nothing other than the tremendous act of birth which summoned the Third Reich into being. We wanted to once again create a State to which every German can cling in love; to establish a regime to which everyone can look up with respect; to find laws which are commensurate with the morality of our Volk; to install an authority to which each and every man submits in joyful obedience.
For us, the revolution is not a permanent state of affairs. When a deathly check is violently imposed upon the natural development of a Volk, an act of violence may serve to release the artificially interrupted flow of evolution to allow it once again the freedom of natural development. However, there is no such thing as a permanent revolution or any type of profitable development possible by means of periodically recurring revolts.
Among the countless files which I was obliged to read through in the past few weeks, I also found a journal with the notes of a man who was cast onto the route of resistance to the laws in 1918 and now lives in a world in which the law itself appears to provoke resistance; an unnerving document, an uninterrupted sequence of conspiracies and plots, an insight into the mentality of people who, without realizing it, have found in nihilism their ultimate creed. Incapable of any real cooperation, determined to take a stand against any kind of order, filled by hatred of every authority as they are, their uneasiness and their restlessness can be quelled only by their permanent mental and conspiratorial preoccupation with the disintegration of whatever exists at the given time. Many of them stormed the State with us in our early period of struggle, but an inner lack of discipline led most of them away from the disciplined National Socialist Movement in the course of the struggle.
The last remnant seemed to have withdrawn after January 30. Their link with the National Socialist Movement was dissolved the moment this itself, as State, became the object of their pathological aversion. As a matter of principle, they are enemies of every authority and thus utterly incapable of being converted. Accomplishments which appear to strengthen the new German State only provoke their even greater hatred. For there is one thing, above all, which all of these oppositional elements principally have in common: they do not see before them the German Volk, but the institution of order they so abhor. They are filled not by a desire to help the Volk, but by the fervent hope that the government will fail in its work to rescue the Volk. Thus they are never willing to admit that an action is beneficial but are instead filled by the will to contest any success as a matter of principle and to extract from every success any potential weaknesses.
This third group of pathological enemies of the State is dangerous because, until a new order has begun to crystallize from a state of chaotic conflict, they represent a reservoir of willing accomplices for every attempt at revolt.
I must, however, now devote my attention to the fourth group, which on occasion-perhaps even unintentionally-nonetheless plies a truly destructive trade. I am speaking of those who belonged to a relatively small class in society, who have nothing to do and thus find the time and the opportunity to deliver oral reports on everything capable of bringing some interesting-and important-variety to their lives which are otherwise completely meaningless.
For while the overwhelming majority in the nation is made to earn its daily bread by toilsome labor, in certain classes of life there are still people whose sole activity consists of doing nothing, followed by more of the same to recuperate from having done nothing. The more pathetic the life of such a drone is, all the more avidly will he seize upon whatever can fill this vacuum with some interesting content.
Personal and political gossip is caught up eagerly and passed on even more eagerly. And because these people, as a result of doing nothing, have no living tie to the masses of the nation’s millions, their lives are delimitated by the scope of the sphere within which they move.
Every bit of prattle which becomes absorbed by these circles throws its reflection back and forth endlessly as between two distorting mirrors.
Because their very beings are filled with a nothingness which they constantly see reflected in those like them, they believe that this phenomenon is universal. They mistake the view of their circle for the view of all. Their doubts, they fancy, constitute the troubles of the entire nation.
In reality, this little colony of drones is only a state within the State, without any living contact with life, with the feelings, hopes and cares of the rest of the Volk. However, they are dangerous, for they are veritable germ-carriers for unrest, uncertainty, rumors, allegations, lies, suspicions, slander, and fear, and thus they contribute to creating a gradually increasing tension until, in the end, it is difficult to recognize or draw the natural boundaries between them and the Volk.
Just as they wreak their havoc in every other nation, they do so in Germany, too. They regarded the National Socialist Revolution as a conversation topic just as interesting as, on the other hand, the fight of the enemies of the National Socialist State.
But one thing is certain: the work of rebuilding our Volk and, with it, the work of our Volk itself is only possible if the German Volk follows its leadership with inner calm, order and discipline and above all if it trusts in its leadership. For it is only the trust and the faith placed in the new State which have enabled us to take on and solve the great tasks put to us by former times.
Even though the National Socialist regime was forced to come to terms with these various groups from the very beginning and has, in fact, come to terms with them, a mood has nonetheless arisen in the past few months which, in the end, could no longer be taken lightly.
The prattle of a new revolution, of a new upheaval, of a new uprising- while at first infrequent-gradually took on such intensity that only a foolhardy leadership of state would have been capable of ignoring it. It was no longer possible to simply dismiss as empty chatter what was put down in hundreds and ultimately thousands of oral and written reports. Even three months ago, the leadership of the Party was convinced that it was simply the foolish gossip of political reactionaries, Marxist anarchists and all sorts of idlers, completely lacking any substantiation in fact.
In mid-March I directed that preparations be made for a new wave of propaganda. It was to make the German Volk immune against any new attempts at poisoning. At the same time, however, I also gave certain Party Offices the order to track down the recurring rumors of a new revolution and, if possible, to locate the source of these rumors.
It was found that tendencies had appeared in the ranks of several highranking SA leaders which naturally gave rise to serious doubts.
At first, there were only isolated manifestations, the inner connections of which were not yet quite clear.
1. Against my express order and contrary to reports given me by former Chief of Staff Röhm, the SA had been blown into such proportions as to necessarily endanger the inner homogeneity of this unique organization.
2. Education in the National Socialist Weltanschauung was becoming more and more neglected in the ranks of these certain SA offices I have mentioned.
3. The natural relations between the Party and the SA slowly began to weaken. Methodical steps were taken, by means of which it was ascertained that endeavors were being made to disengage the SA from the mission which I had assigned to it in order to utilize it for other tasks or interests.
4. Promotions to leadership posts in the SA revealed themselves upon review to be based upon a completely one-sided evaluation of purely external capabilities or, in many cases, on a merely assumed intellectual capacity. The greater number of our oldest and most loyal SA men were increasingly neglected when leaders were appointed and posts filled, while those who had enlisted in 1933 and who are not favored with any especial regard within the Movement were incomprehensibly given priority. In some cases, only a few months of uninterrupted membership in the Party or even only in the SA sufficed for promotion to a higher SA office to which an old SA leader was barred access even after many years of service.
5. The behavior of these individual SA leaders who, for the most part, had in no way grown to become part of the Movement, was as un-National Socialist as, at times, it was positively revolting. However, it could not be overlooked that these circles contained one source of unrest in the Movement, which lay in the fact that their lack of practical National Socialism attempted to veil itself in quite uncalled for demands for a new revolution.
I drew Chief of Staff Röhm’s attention to this and a number of other problems, but this did not result in any noticeable improvement or even in any recognizable reaction to my censures. In the months of April and May, there was a constant increase in these complaints. For the first time, however, during this period I received reports-with supporting documentation-of discussions which had been held by individual high-ranking SA leaders and which can be described in no other terms than “gross insubordination” (große Ungehörigkeit).
For the first time, there was undeniable supporting documentation in several cases that references had been made to the necessity of a new revolution in such discussions and that leaders had received instructions to prepare both inwardly and materially for such a new revolution. Chief of Staff Röhm attempted to deny that any of these incidents had in fact taken place, stating that they could be explained as disguised attacks on the SA.
The gathering of evidence for several of these incidents by means of statements of parties involved ended in a most serious maltreatment of these witnesses who, for the most part, came from the ranks of the old SA. As early as the end of April, the leadership of the Party and a number of State institutions concerned were convinced that a certain group of high-ranking SA leaders had deliberately contributed to the alienation of the SA from the Party and other State institutions or at least had failed to prevent this from happening.
Repeated attempts to remedy this through normal official channels failed each time. Chief of Staff Röhm gave me his personal assurance time and time again that the cases would be investigated and the guilty parties removed and, if necessary, punished. However, no visible change took place.
In the month of may, several Party and State offices received countless complaints of offenses committed by high-ranking and middle-ranking SA leaders which, accompanied by supporting documentation, could not be denied. The offenses included everything from rabble-rousing speeches to intolerable excesses. Minister-President Göring had already previously endeavored in Prussia to give the authority of the National Socialist will of the State priority over the individual wills of certain elements. In other Länder, Party offices and public authorities had been forced, on occasion, to take a stand against certain intolerable excesses. A number of the parties responsible were arrested. I have always stressed that an authoritarian regime bears particularly great responsibilities. If it is demanded of the Volk that it place blind trust in its leadership, that leadership must earn this trust by its achievements and by particularly good behavior. Mistakes and errors may occur in a given case, but they can be eradicated. Bad behavior, drunken excesses, molesting peaceful, upstanding citizens-this is unworthy of a leader, contrary to National Socialism, and detestable to the utmost degree. Thus I have always insisted that higher demands be placed upon the behavior and conduct of National Socialist leaders than upon the other Volksgenossen. He who would command more respect for himself must in turn achieve more.
The most basic thing which can be expected of him is that his life not be a disgraceful example to those around him. Thus I do not want National Socialists to be more leniently judged and punished for such offenses than other Volksgenossen; rather, I expect that a leader who forgets himself in this way be punished more severely than an unknown man would under identical circumstances. And I do not wish to make any distinction here between leaders of the political organizations and leaders of the formations of our SA, SS, HJ, etc.
The determination of the National Socialist leadership of State to put an end to such excesses committed by unworthy elements who serve only to heap shame upon the Party and the SA evoked extremely vehement counter-reactions on the part of the Chief of Staff. The first of the original National Socialist fighters, a number of whom had struggled for nearly fifteen years for the victory of the Movement and now represented the Movement as high-ranking State officials in leading positions in our State, were called to account for the action they took against such unworthy elements; in other words, Chief of Staff Röhm attempted to take disciplinary action against these persons, the oldest supporters of the Party, in courts of honor composed in part of the youngest party comrades and even of persons who were not members of the Party.
These conflicts led to very serious talks between Chief of Staff Röhm and myself, in the course of which, for the first time, doubts as to this man’s loyalty began to arise in my mind. Although I had rejected any such thoughts for many months, although I had personally protected this man in unshakable loyalty and comradeship for years in the past, warnings gradually began to leave their mark on me-above all, warnings from my deputy in the Party leadership, Rudolf Hess-which, try as I might, I could no longer refute.
From May onwards, there could no longer be any doubt that Chief of Staff Röhm was involved in ambitious plans which, had they become reality, could have resulted only in the most violent disruptions.
The fact that, throughout these months, I hesitated again and again to make any final decision, was due to the following: 1. I could not simply reconcile myself to the idea that a relationship which I had built upon trust could be nothing but a lie.
2. I still harbored the secret hope of being able to spare the Movement and my SA the disgrace of such a confrontation and to repair the damage without bitter fighting.
However, the end of May brought even more alarming facts to light. Chief of Staff Röhm began to depart, not only inwardly, but with his entire outward behavior, from the Party.
All of the principles with which we had become great lost their validity. The life which the Chief of Staff-and with him, a certain circle of others-began to lead was intolerable from any National Socialist point of view. As if it were not terrible enough that he himself and his circle of devotees broke every single law of decency and modesty, still worse, this poison now began to spread in ever increasing circles.
But worst of all was the fact that, out of a certain common predisposition, a sect gradually began to form in the SA which made up the nucleus of a conspiracy directed not only against the normal conceptions of a healthy Volk but against the security of the State as well.
Reviews conducted in the month of May of the promotions granted in certain areas of the SA resulted in the terrible realization that men had been promoted to positions in the SA without any consideration to their accomplishments within the Movement and the SA for the sole reason that they belonged to the circle of these persons with this particular predisposition.
Individual incidents which are well known to you, for instance the case of the Standartenführer Schmidt157 in Breslau, revealed a state of affairs which could only be regarded as intolerable. My order to intervene was followed in theory, but in fact, it was sabotaged.
Three groups gradually crystallized from the leadership of the SA: a small group, the elements of which were held together by a common predisposition who would stop at nothing and who had blindly delivered themselves into the hands of Chief of Staff Röhm.
In principle, these men were the SA leaders Ernst from Berlin, Heines in Silesia, Hayn in Saxony, and Heydebreck in Pomerania.158 In addition to these men, there was another group of SA leaders who did not inwardly belong to this circle but felt themselves obligated to obey Chief of Staff Röhm simply from a soldierly point of view. And these were faced by a third group of leaders who made no secret of their inner aversion and disapproval and, as a result, had in part been removed from positions of responsibility while others had been pushed aside and, in many respects, simply disregarded.
At the fore of these SA leaders who were rejected because of their basic decency stood the present Chief of Staff, Lutze, as well as the leader of the SS, Himmler. Without informing me at all and, initially, without even the slightest suspicion on my part, Chief of Staff Röhm had established contact with General Schleicher using as intermediary a thoroughly corrupt swindler, a certain Herr von A., whom you all know.160 General Schleicher was the man who gave an external framework to Röhm’s inner desires. He was the one who upheld and defined in concrete terms the viewpoint that 1. the present German regime was insupportable; that 2. above all, power over the Armed Forces and all national associations was to be united in one hand; that 3. Chief of Staff Röhm was the only man who could be considered for this post; that 4. Herr von Papen would have to be removed, and he was willing to assume the position of Vice Chancellor; and that furthermore, other major changes would have to be made in the Reich cabinet.
As always in such cases, the search for men to make up the new government began, under the condition that I was to be allowed to remain at my post-at least for the time being.
The implementation of these proposals from General von Schleicher was bound to meet with my unconquerable resistance as early as item 2.
It would never have been objectively or humanly possible for me to have given my consent to a personnel change in the Reich Ministry of Defense and to have appointed Chief of Staff Röhm to the vacant post.
First of all, for objective reasons: For fourteen years, I have consistently upheld that the fighting organizations of the Party are political organizations which have nothing to do with the Army. In my eyes, it would constitute a disavowal of my view and my policies of fourteen years to appoint the leader of the SA to head the Army. In November 1923, I proposed appointing an officer161 to head the Army and not my SA leader at the time, Captain Göring.
Secondly, it would have been humanly impossible for me to ever consent to this proposal on the part of General von Schleicher. When I became aware of these plans, my own view of the inner value of Chief of Staff Röhm was already such that I would all the more never have been able to accept him for this post before my own conscience and for the sake of the Army’s honor. However, above all, the supreme head of the Army is the Field Marshal and President of the Reich. As Chancellor, I gave him my oath. His person is inviolate for all of us.
The pledge which I made to him to maintain the Army as an unpolitical instrument of the Reich is binding for me, due both to my innermost conviction and to the fact that I gave my word.162 However, it would also have been humanly impossible for me to have done such a thing to the Reich Minister of Defense. I myself and all of us are happy to be able to look upon him as a man of honor from head to toe. From the very depths of his heart, he has reconciled the Army with the revolutionaries of old and allied it with their present leadership of State.
He has affirmed his most loyal devotion to that principle to which I will be devoted until my dying breath.
There is only one bearer of arms in the State: the Wehrmacht. And only one body in which is vested the political will of the Volk: the National Socialist Party.163 Any thought of agreeing with General von Schleicher’s plans would, on my part, have constituted an act of disloyalty not only to the Field Marshal and the Minister of Defense, but also an act of disloyalty to the Army. For just as General von Blomberg is doing his duty as Minister of Defense in the National Socialist State in the most pronounced sense of the word, the other officers and soldiers are also doing the same. I cannot expect that each of them find his own position within our Movement; but none of them have abandoned their basic position of loyalty to the National Socialist State. Furthermore, without the most cogent reasons, I could not have those men removed who with me jointly made a vow on January 30 to save the Reich and the Volk.
There are certain duties attached to loyalty, duties which we may not and must not breach. And I believe that, above all, the man who has led the nation to unity in his own name must under no circumstances commit an act of disloyalty, for doing so would make all external and internal confidence in good faith disappear.164 Due to the fact that Chief of Staff Röhm was himself unsure whether attempts in the direction mentioned might not well meet with resistance on my part, the first plan was designed to bring this development about by force.
Extensive preparations were made.
1. The psychological groundwork for the outbreak of a second revolution was systematically laid. For this purpose, the SA propaganda offices spread a rumor-penetrating as far as the SA-alleging that the Reichswehr was planning to dissolve the SA, which was later supplemented by the claim that I had unfortunately been personally won over in support of this plan. A lie as pitiful as it is malicious!
2. The SA was now forced to forestall this attack and eliminate, in a second revolution, both the elements of Reaktion on the one hand and the resistance of the Party on the other, while entrusting the authority of the State to the leadership of the SA.
3. For this purpose, the SA was to make all necessary material preparations within the shortest time possible. By using pretexts-among other things, by falsely claiming that he intended to implement a social relief plan for the SA- Chief of Staff Röhm succeeded in raising twelve million marks for this purpose.
4. In order to be in a position to concentrate exclusively on delivering the most decisive blows, special terror groups were formed under the name of “Stabswachen”165 and sworn in for this sole purpose. While an old SA man had starved his way through an entire decade for the Movement, in this case paid troops were formed whose inner character and purpose cannot be more clearly revealed than in the truly horrible criminal records of the elements of which they are comprised, accompanied by the fact that the tried and true SA leaders and SA men were now thrust into the background to make room for politically untrained elements which were better fit for such actions. At certain Führertagungen and recreational outings, the SA leaders in question were brought together step by step and given individual treatment; in other words, while the members of the inner sect made systematic preparations for the action itself, the second large circle of SA leaders were given only general information to the effect that a second revolution was knocking at the door, that this revolution had the single aim of restoring to me my freedom of action; that hence the new and, this time, bloody uprising-‘The Night of the Long Knives,’ as it was gruesomely called166-corresponded to my own aim.
The necessity for action on the part of the SA was explained by drawing attention to my inability to make a decision; this situation could be remedied only by a fait accompli. Presumably, these false pretexts were used to assign Herr von Detten167 the task of making preparations for the action in foreign countries. General von Schleicher personally took care of part of this drama abroad, leaving the practical work to his messenger, General von Bredow.
Gregor Strasser was brought in.
In a final attempt early in June, I had Röhm summoned for a talk which went on for nearly five hours and lasted until midnight. I informed him that I had received the impression from countless rumors and innumerable assurances and statements from old and loyal party comrades and SA leaders that preparations were being made by unscrupulous elements for a national Bolshevist action which could only bring unutterable misfortune upon Germany. I further informed him that I had also heard rumors that there were plans to include the Army within the scope of this scheme. I assured Chief of Staff Röhm that the assertion that the SA was to be dissolved was a malicious lie, and that I could make no comment whatsoever on the lie that I intended to take action against the SA, but that I would personally take immediate steps to avert any attempt to allow chaos to arise in Germany, and that anyone who attacked the State would have to count me among his enemies from the very onset. I beseeched him for the last time to take a stand against this madness and use his authority to prevent a development which could only end in a catastrophe one way or another.
I once more voiced my strongest objection to the growing number of unimaginable excesses and demanded that every trace of these elements be wiped out in the SA in order to avoid that the SA itself as well as millions of decent party comrades and hundreds of thousands of old fighters were robbed of their honor by isolated inferior subjects. The Chief of Staff left me with the assurance that a number of the rumors were untrue and others were exaggerated and, in other respects, he would do everything he could to set things right.
The result of the conference was, however, that Chief of Staff Röhm, knowing that under no circumstances could he count on me in his planned undertaking, now proceeded to take steps toward my own elimination.
For this purpose, a larger circle of SA leaders who had been initiated were told that I myself was basically in agreement with the planned undertaking but that I could not afford to become personally involved and wished to be placed under arrest for a period of 24 or 48 hours when the uprising broke out so as to be relieved, by virtue of the fait accompli, of the embarrassing incrimination which would otherwise result for me abroad. This explanation is conclusively illustrated by the fact that, as a precautionary measure, the man had already been hired in the meantime who was to carry out my elimination at a later date: Standartenführer Uhl, who confessed only a few hours before his death that he had been willing to carry out such an order.
The initial plan for the upheaval was based upon the idea of granting leave to the SA. During this period and due to the lack of available forces, inexplicable riots were to break out along the lines of the conditions of August 1932169 which would force me to summon the Chief of Staff, who alone would be in a position to restore order, and to entrust to him the executive authority. However, since it had become clear in the interim that under no circumstances could one count on such a willingness on my part, this plan was abandoned and direct action contemplated. Such action was to commence abruptly in Berlin with a raid on the government building and my arrest in order to allow other actions to follow in sequence, supposedly at my bidding. The conspirators proceeded on the assumption that orders given to the SA in my name would not only mobilize the SA throughout the Reich but also serve to bring about an automatic fragmentation of all other opposing forces within the State.
Chief of Staff Röhm, Gruppenführer Ernst, Obergruppenführer Heines, Hayn and a number of others declared before witnesses170 that initially the bloodiest possible confrontation with their adversaries was to take place, lasting several days. The question as to the financial side of such a development was dismissed with a positively insane lack of concern and the comment that the bloody terror itself would serve to provide the requisite funds one way or another.
I now must deal with only one more idea, namely whether or not every successful revolution constitutes its own justification. Chief of Staff Röhm and his elements explained the necessity of their revolution by citing the fact that this alone could secure the triumph of pure National Socialism. However, at this point I must make it clear for the present and for posterity that these men no longer had any right whatsoever to cite National Socialism as their Weltanschauung. Their lives had become as bad as the lives of those whom we overcame and relieved in the year 1933. The conduct of these men made it impossible for me to invite them to my home or to even once set foot in my Chief of Staff’s house in Berlin. It is hard to even fathom what would have become of Germany in the event that this sect had been victorious. The magnitude of the danger was documented all the more strongly by the observations which then entered Germany from abroad. English and French newspapers more and more frequently talked of a forthcoming upheaval in Germany, and increasing numbers of reports indicated that the conspirators had systematically impressed upon foreign countries the idea that the revolution of the true National Socialists was now imminent in Germany and that the existing regime was no longer capable of action. General von Bredow, who procured these connections as foreign agent for General von Schleicher, worked only in respect to the activities of those reactionary circles which-perhaps without having any direct connection with this conspiracy-allowed themselves to be exploited as a willing subterranean intelligence center for foreign powers.
At the end of June, I was thus determined to put an end to this outrageous development, and to do it before the blood of tens of thousands of innocent persons would seal the catastrophe.
Due to the fact that the danger and the tension which oppressed everyone had grown unbearable and certain bodies within the Party and the State had been compelled by virtue of their assigned duties to take defensive measures, the strange and sudden prolongation of service prior to the SA vacation leave171 aroused my suspicion, and thus I resolved that, on Saturday, June 30, 1 would dismiss the Chief of Staff from office, place him in custody for the time being, and arrest a number of SA leaders whose crimes had come to light.
Because it was doubtful whether, in view of the threat of an escalation, Chief of Staff Röhm would have come to Berlin or anywhere else at all, I resolved to personally travel to Wiessee for the conference of SA leaders scheduled there. Relying upon my personal authority and upon my power of determination, which had never failed me in the hour of need, I planned to dismiss the Chief of Staff from his post at 12:00 noon, arrest those SA leaders principally to blame and, in an urgent appeal, call upon the others to return to their duties.
In the course of June 29,1 received such threatening news of the most recent preparations for the action that at midday I was forced to interrupt my tour of the labor camps in Westphalia in order to be available in case of emergency. At 1:00 in the morning I received two extremely urgent alarm bulletins from Berlin and Munich. Namely first of all, that an alert had been issued in Berlin for 4:00 in the afternoon, that the order had already been given for the requisition of trucks to transport what were actually the raiding formations and that this was already being carried out, and that the action was to begin promptly at the stroke of 5:00 as a surprise attack with the occupation of the government building. This was the reason why Gruppenführer Ernst had not traveled to Wiessee but remained in Berlinin order to conduct the action in person. Second of all, an alert had already been given to the SA in Munich for 9:00 in the evening.
The SA formations would not be allowed to return home but were assigned to the alert barracks. That is mutiny!172 I am the commander of the SA and no one else! Under these circumstances, there was only one decision left for me to make.
If there was any chance to avert the disaster, lightning action was called for.
Only ruthless and bloody intervention might perhaps still have been capable of stifling the spread of the revolt. And then there could be no question of the fact that it would be better to destroy a hundred mutineers, plotters and conspirators (Meuterer, Verschwörer und Konspiratoren) than to allow ten thousand innocent SA men on the one hand and ten thousand equally innocent persons on the other to bleed to death. For if once the plans of that criminal Ernst were set in motion in Berlin, the consequences were unimaginable! How well the manipulations with my name had worked was evidenced in the distressing fact that these mutineers had, for instance, succeeded in securing four armored vehicles for their action from unsuspecting police officers in Berlin by citing my name, and that furthermore, even before then, the conspirators Heines and Hayn had made police officers in Saxony and Silesia uncertain by demanding that they decide between the SA and Hitler’s enemies in the coming confrontation.
It finally became clear to me that only one man could and must stand up to the Chief of Staff. He had broken his vow of loyalty to me, and I alone had to call him to account for that! At 1:00 in the morning, I received the last alarm dispatches, and at 2:00 a.m.
I flew to Munich. In the meantime, I had already instructed Minister-President Göring that, in the event of a purge action, he was immediately to take corresponding measures in Berlin and Prussia. He crushed the attack on the National Socialist State with an iron fist before it could develop. The fact that this action required lightning speed also meant that very few men were at my disposal in this decisive hour. Then, in the presence of Minister Goebbels and the new Chief of Staff, the action with which you are acquainted was carried out and brought to a close in Munich.
Although I had been willing to be lenient only a few days before, in this hour there was no longer any room for such consideration. Mutinies are crushed only by the everlasting laws of iron. If anyone reproaches me and asks why we did not call upon the regular courts for sentencing, my only answer is this: in that hour, I was responsible for the fate of the German nation and was thus the Supreme Justiciar of the German Volk! Mutinous divisions have always been recalled to order by decimation. Only one State did not make use of its wartime legislation, and the result was the collapse of this State: Germany. I did not want to abandon the young Reich to the fate of the old.
I gave the order to shoot those parties mainly responsible for this treason, and I also gave the order to burn out the tumors of our domestic poisoning and of the poisoning of foreign countries down to the raw flesh. And I also gave the order that if the mutineers made any attempt to resist arrest, they were at once to be brutally struck down by force (sofort mit der Waffe niederzumachen).
The nation should know that no one can threaten its existence-which is guaranteed by inner law and order-and escape unpunished! And every person should know for all time that if he raises his hand to strike out at the State, certain death will be his lot. And every National Socialist should know that no rank and no position relieves him of his personal responsibility and, with it, his due punishment. I have prosecuted thousands of our former opponents on account of their corruption.173 I would have to reproach myself if I were now to tolerate the same phenomenon in our own ranks.
No Volk and no leadership of State can be held responsible if creatures turn up such as those we have known in Germany in the likes of Kutisker etc., just as the French came to know Stavisky,174 and as we are witnessing them again today with the aim of sinning against a nation’s interests. However, any nation which does not find the strength to exterminate such pests makes itself guilty.
When people confront me with the view that only a trial in court would have been capable of accurately weighing the measure of guilt and expiation, I must lodge a solemn protest. He who rises up against Germany commits treason.
He who commits treason is to be punished not according to the scope and proportions of his deed, but rather according to his cast of mind as revealed therein. He who dares to instigate a mutiny, thereby violating the principles of good faith and sacred vows, can expect nothing other than that he himself will be the first victim. I do not intend to have the lesser culprits shot and to spare the major culprits. It is not my responsibility to ascertain whether and if so, which of these conspirators, agitators, nihilists and well-poisoners of German public opinion and, in a wider sense, of world opinion, too, has been dealt too hard a lot; rather, my duty is to make certain that Germany’s lot is bearable. A foreign journalist who is enjoying the right to hospitality has filed a protest on behalf of the wives and children of those shot and expects reprisal from among their ranks. I can give this man of honor only one answer: women and children have always been the innocent victims of criminal acts committed by men. I, too, have sympathy for them, but I believe that the suffering which has been inflicted upon them by the fault of these men is only a tiny fraction compared to the suffering which would perhaps have come upon tens of thousands of German women had this deed been successful. A foreign diplomat has explained that the meeting between Schleicher and Röhm was naturally of a quite harmless nature. I refuse to discuss this matter with anyone. The concept of what is harmless and what is not will never coincide in the political sector.
However, when three traitors arrange and conduct a meeting in Germany with a foreign statesman which they themselves describe as “business,” conduct it privately by excluding their staff and keep it concealed from me by the strictest orders, I will have such men shot dead, even if it were true that, at this meeting which was kept so secret from me, they talked only of the weather, old coins and similar topics.
The punishment for these crimes was a hard and severe one.
Nineteen high-ranking SA leaders and 31 SA leaders and members were shot, as were three SS leaders who were accomplices to the plot. Thirteen SA leaders and civilians who resisted arrest sacrificed their lives in the process. Three other lives were ended by suicide.
Five non-SA party comrades were shot for being accomplices.
And last of all, three members of the SS were shot who were guilty of disgraceful abuse of prisoners in protective custody.
In order to prevent the political passion and indignation from spreading to the lynch law in respect to other incriminated parties, once the danger had been removed and the revolt could be regarded as having been defeated, the strictest orders were issued on Sunday, July 1, to refrain from any further reprisals.
Hence as of Sunday night, July 1, normal conditions have been restored. A number of acts of violence in no way connected with this action are being handed over to the regular courts for sentencing.
As heavy as these sacrifices may be, they were not in vain if they may serve to bring about once and for all the conviction that every attempt to commit treason against the internal and external security of the State will be broken, without distinction of person. I am confident in my hope in this respect that, if Fate were to dismiss me from my post at any given hour, my successor would not act differently, and were he also made to vacate this post, that the third in line would exhibit no less determination in his willingness to uphold the security of the Volk and the nation.
In view of the fact that, in the two weeks which now lie behind us, a part of the foreign press flooded the world with untrue and incorrect assertions and reports in the absence of any kind of objective and just reporting, I cannot accept the excuse that it was not possible to obtain any other news. In most cases, it would have required merely a short telephone call to the competent authorities in order to ascertain the groundlessness of most of these assertions.
When, in particular, it is reported that members of the Reich cabinet were among the victims or conspirators, it would not have been difficult to establish that the contrary was the case. The assertion that Vice Chancellor von Papen, Minister Seldte or other gentlemen in the Reich cabinet had had any connection with the mutineers is proven wrong most conclusively by the fact that one of the primary goals of the mutineers included murdering these men. Similarly, all reports of an involvement on the part of any of the German princes or of their prosecution are pure fabrication.
Finally, whereas an English paper has reported in the last few days that I had now had a nervous breakdown, I must note that in this case, too, a short inquiry would have sufficed to learn the truth immediately. I can only assure these anxious reporters that I have never suffered a nervous breakdown, neither in the War nor after the War, but this time I did suffer from the worst breakdown of the good faith which I had placed in a man whom I had once protected to the utmost, a man for whom I had veritably sacrificed myself.
However, at this point I must also confess that my confidence in the Movement-and particularly in the SS-has never wavered. And now my confidence in my SA has been restored to me as well. Three times175 did the SA have the misfortune of having leaders-the last time, even a Chief of Staff-to whom they believed they owed obedience and who deceived them, men in whom I placed my trust and who betrayed me. However, I have also had three opportunities to witness how, in that moment in which a deed revealed itself to be treason, the traitor was abandoned, left alone and shunned by all. But the behavior of this small group of leaders was just as disloyal as these two National Socialist organizations were loyal to me in the decisive hour. The SS, aching inside, did its highest duty in these days, but no less decent was the behavior of the millions of upright SA men and SA leaders who, standing outside the circle of treason, did not waver for a second in their concept of duty. This gives me the conviction that the newly appointed Chief of Staff of the SA, to whom I am bound by the ties of the old fighting community, will finally succeed in rejuvenating the organizations according to my guidelines and in making of them an even stronger part of the Movement. For never will I consent to the destruction of something which is not only inseparably bound up for all time with the battles and the victory of the National Socialist Movement, but which also deserves immeasurable credit for its contribution to the formation of the new Reich.
The SA has upheld its inner loyalty to me in these days which have been so difficult for both it and myself. It has thus proven for the third time that it is mine, just as I am willing to prove at any time that I belong to my SA men. Within the space of a few weeks, the Brown Shirt will once again dominate German streets and clearly demonstrate to everyone that the life of National Socialist Germany has become all the stronger for having overcome a difficult crisis.
When, in March of last year, our young revolution swept through Germany, it was my foremost endeavor to shed as little blood as possible. For the new State, I offered a general amnesty to millions of my former opponents on behalf of the National Socialist Party; millions of them have since joined our ranks and are faithfully working with us to rebuild the Reich. I had hoped that it would not be necessary to ever again defend this State with weapons in our hands. But now that Fate has nonetheless put us to the test, all of us wish to pledge to hold fast even more fanatically to that which was first won with so much of our best men’s blood and today had to be defended once more with the blood of German Volksgenossen.
Just as, one and a half years ago, I offered reconciliation to our opponents of that time, I would also like to make a bid of forgiveness from now on to all of those who shared the blame for this act of madness. May they all reflect and, in memory of this sad crisis of our recent German history, devote their entire strength to atoning for it. May they now more clearly than before recognize the great task which Fate has assigned to us and which cannot be accomplished by civil war and chaos; may they all feel responsible for the most valuable possession there can be for the German Volk: inner order and peace both within and without! I am likewise willing to assume the responsibility, as history be my witness, for the 24 hours of the most bitter decisions of my life,176 in which Fate once more taught me to anxiously cling fast with my every thought to the most precious thing we have been given in this world: the German Volk and the German Reich!
Much to my own regret, I was forced to destroy this man and his following.
[-] What kind of life would one have in this Volk had the precept of utmost brutal loyalty [to the Army] not been brought to bear here? Where would we be today? Back then, perhaps we might have been able to take a different path.
What would we have today? I am not claiming too much when I speak of it [the militia army] as a completely worthless bunch, in military terms. I do not believe in the so-called levée en masse. I do not believe that it is possible to create soldiers only by mobilizing what might be called enthusiasm.