Adolf Hitler – speech at Hindenburg’s funeral in Tannenberg Monument
August 7, 1934
Herr und Frau von Hindenburg! Esteemed Mourners!
Generals, Officers and Soldiers of the Wehrmacht!
A soldier is normally honored twice in his life: following a victory, and following his death.
When the name of the Field Marshal and Reich President first rang out in the German Volk, a long and complete life of fighting and work already lay behind him. As a young officer of the Great King, the 17-year-old fought on the battlefield of Königgrätz and was ordained by his first wound there. Four years later, he is witness to the proclamation of his Royal Commander in Chief to the German Kaiser. In the years thereafter, he aids in shaping the strength of the newly united German Reich. When commanding General von Hindenburg takes his leave on March 18, 1911, he can look back on a full career as a Prussian officer in the service of war and peace.
It was a great age. After centuries of powerlessness, after never-ending confusion and division, the German tribes were united by the brilliant leadership of a single man, the German nation thus created anew. The image of weakness which the Germans had so disgracefully and so often projected in centuries past was replaced by the manifestation of an unsuspected strength.
What a wondrous feeling to have played a part in this epoch marking the resurrection of a German Reich by consistently fulfilling one’s duty in the storms of battle as well as in the immeasurable work of education and preparation in peacetime! And nonetheless, the name of this man remained unknown to the German Volk as did the names of innumerable other officers.
Only a small circle in the nation knows these nameless men who unobtrusively fulfill their duties.
When, three and a half years later, the German Volk first receives word of the name of General Paul von Hindenburg, the tempests of the World War are raging over Europe. In the worst hours, the Kaiser recalled the General from retirement and assigned to him command of the Army in East Prussia. And six days later, the cannons are booming here in the midst of the beautiful countryside of this old Land of the Teutonic Order, and still three days later the churchbells are proclaiming throughout Germany: the battle of Tannenberg has been won. A victory had been achieved which world history is at pains to equal.
And how immense have been the consequences! A precious German Land is snatched from the jaws of further devastation. In deeply-felt gratitude, millions of Germans throughout the Reich are passing on to each other the name of the commander who has performed this miraculous rescue together with his forces. And so much has happened in the space of the twenty years between August 28, 1914 and the present day! A war which made all of our memories and concepts of the past pale to insignificance, an incredible, neverending series of fights and battles, nervewracking tensions, terrible crises, and victories unequaled. Hope is pitted against despondency, confidence against despair. But again and again the nation is brought to its feet to protect its existence; millions of German men do their duty in loyalty and obedience. For the next century, the German Volk will have no reason to vindicate its military honor.
Never before have soldiers been braver, never before more enduring, never before more willing to sacrifice than were the sons of our Volk in these four and a half years. The miracles of these accomplishments-they are inconceivable if one does not gauge and appreciate the strength of the man himself. A magic power lay in the very name of the Field Marshal who, with his armies, ultimately forced the greatest military power in the world to its knees in the Russia of that time. And when-unfortunately, too late-the Kaiser appointed him to head the entire Army, he was able, with his brilliant aides, not only to banish the most severe crisis for the time being but also to rouse German resistance to launch an offensive and win tremendous victories even two years later.
The tragic end of that great struggle cannot be held against this commander in history, but is instead a condemnation of the politicians.
With a God-given loyalty to his duty, the hoary Field Marshal led our regiments and divisions onwards from victory to victory, pinning unfading laurels to their flags.
When the heinous deeds at home broke the resistance, a leader once more retired whose name had been inscribed for all time in the book of World History.
It was the final triumph of the Old Army that, in 1925, the best representative national Germany could find was the soldier and Field Marshal of the World War. And it is one of the miraculous decrees of an enigmatic and wise Providence that the preparation for the uprising of our German Volk was initiated under the presidency of this superlative soldier and servant of our Volk and that, in the end, it was he who opened the gates to the renewal of Germany.
It was in his name that the alliance was established which united the stormy power of the uprising with the best abilities of the past. As Reich President, the Field Marshal became the patron of the National Socialist Revolution and hence of the rebirth of our Volk.
Nearly twenty years ago today, the bells sounded here and echoed throughout Germany for the first time in honor of the name of the Field Marshal. Today, to the peal of these same bells, the nation has accompanied its venerable departed hero back to the great battlefield of his unequaled victory. It is here, in the midst of the slumbering grenadiers of his victorious regiments, that the tired commander shall find his peace. The towers of the castle shall be defiant guards of this, his last great headquarters in the East. Standards and flags shall salute him.
And the German Volk will come to its dead hero to gather new strength for life in times of need, for even when the last trace of this body shall have been obliterated, his name will ever more be immortal.
Dead Commander, enter into Valhalla now!