Adolf Hitler – speech in Hamburg at the
Blohm and Voss shipyard
August 17, 1934
My German Volksgenossen!
When our venerable Field Marshal and Reich President von Hindenburg closed his eyes for the last time after a blessed life, there were no few people outside the Reich who wished to see in his death the beginning of heavy internal fighting within Germany. Elements with whom we can never become reconciled were literally trembling in a joyful anticipation in which, as has so often been the case, the wish was father to the thought. “Heavy Rioting in Germany,” “National Socialist Movement Threatens to Fall Apart,” “Fight between the Party and the Reichswehr,” “Differences between the Leaders on Succession”- those were the headlines of a certain press whose “sincere” empathy for the fate of our Volk and our Reich is common knowledge over the world.
These circles were apparently entertaining the pleasant hope that weeks without leadership in the Reich would afford an opportunity to confuse the public both within and outside of Germany by an endless game of conjectures and, by doing so, contribute further to the international insecurity already existing.
In the interests of the German Volk and Reich, this game was interrupted! You can believe me, my Volksgenossen, when I say that otherwise we naturally would have chosen the course of first addressing our appeal to the Volk and then complying with its decision. In such a case, the result would have been no different than now.
By announcing the merger of both offices, the Reich Government-vested with legal authority-did what the Volk itself would have demanded in view of the given circumstances.
My personal opinion regarding this problem is unequivocally and clearly stated in my letter to the Reich Minister of the Interior.
Reich President and Field Marshal von Hindenburg was chosen by Fate to be the great mediator between the Germany of the past and that of the future.
In his venerable old age, far removed from all self-centered desires, he was, for all of us, the supra-personal representative of our Volk. In the past year and a half, I have thanked Providence again and again that it decreed that the National Socialist Movement, through me, was able to render its pledge of loyalty to this true father of the nation; that finally, after such heavy battles, It bestowed upon me the generous friendship of the Old Gentleman after all, thus providing the basis for a relationship which brought me happiness and was, moreover, of great benefit to the nation.
The Field Marshal and Reich President was a unique figure and cannot be replaced. His mission as Reich President came to fulfillment in his very person.
In the future, no one else shall carry on this title.221 Regardless of how logical, however, the combination of the two functions is, and regardless of how irreproachably the law of the Reich Government settles this matter in conformity with the Constitution, I must nevertheless refuse to derive the right to take this most tremendous step toward the new formation of the German Reich from any previous mandate. No! The German Volk itself shall decide! I am not anticipating the future and final form of the Constitution of the German Reich in any way when I believe that I will succeed in adding new honor to the title of German Reich Chancellor for the future! The right to be able to state such a bold opinion is one I derive from nearly fifteen years of labor which-whether voluntarily or involuntarily-will one day be recognized as a transformation and development of historic dimensions.
I would like to take this opportunity as well to dwell briefly on those who believe that their freedom of criticism has been unjustly encroached upon. In my eyes, criticism is not a vital function in and of itself. The world can live without critics, but not without workers.
I protest that a profession should exist which consists of nothing but acting the know-it-all without any responsibility of one’s own and of telling responsible working people what to do and think. I have spent thirteen years of my life fighting a regime, however not by negative criticism, but with constructive suggestions as to what should be done. And I did not hesitate a second to assume the responsibility when the blessed Old Gentleman gave it to me, and I am now responsible to the entire German Volk. And no action will take place for which I will not vouch with my life, as this Volk be my witness.
However, I can at least claim before this Volk the same right which every worker and peasant and entrepreneur can also claim for himself.
What would a peasant say if, while he was laboring in the sweat of his brow, someone kept strolling around on his farm with nothing else to do but go around carping, criticizing, and stirring up discontent? What would a worker do who is standing in front of his machine and is constantly talked at by someone who has no skills and does nothing but incessantly carp and find fault? I know they would not tolerate such creatures for more than a week; they would tell them to go to hell. The organization of the Movement gives hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to play a constructive part in shaping our life as a nation. Any serious suggestions and any genuine cooperation are welcomed with gratitude. But people whose only activity is confined to judging and condemning the activities of others without ever assuming any practical responsibility themselves are people I cannot bear.222 In this State, everyone is called upon to fight and work in some way or another.
In this State, there will no longer be a right to carp, but only a right to do a better job.
I myself have no other aim in the future than the aim I have had for the fifteen years lying behind me. I wish to devote my whole life, unto my dying breath, to one task: making Germany free, healthy and happy once more. Just as I have viewed the fulfillment of my task in the past as the conquest of the Germans for this same concept, so will I do today and in the future. That is why the law of August 3 of this year is being presented to the German Volk for its verdict.
We have malicious enemies in the world. Do what we might, a certain international conspiracy will stop at nothing to interpret it as something bad.
They permanently subsist on the sole hope that our Volk might once again drown in inner discord. We know our fate throughout the centuries all too well to overlook the consequences. It has always been Germans who have sacrificed themselves as allies of a foreign design. Ambitious noblemen, greedy merchants, unscrupulous party leaders and parties have repeatedly become the shield bearers of foreign interests against their own Volk. The hope for such aid has thrown Germany into the most severe misfortune of war more than once.
History should be a lesson to us.
Thus I feel that it is necessary, in the face of such speculations, to document anew at this time above all the unshakable unity of the German Volk at home and abroad.
It was not for my sake that I asked for this plebiscite, but for the sake of the German Volk. It is not I who requires such a vote of confidence to strengthen or maintain my position, but the German Volk which needs a Chancellor who is accorded such confidence in the eyes of the world. For I am nothing, my Volksgenossen, but your spokesman, and I aspire to be nothing but the representative of your life and the defender of your vital interests.
The burden which a sad fate has imposed upon our Volk is heavy enough.
I am not to blame for this crisis, I am only bearing it with you and for you, my Volksgenossen, and even if there is a scattering of blinded Germans who perhaps are gratified at the thought that this crisis might be greater than the power of my resistance, may these lunatics bear in mind that they are gloating not over my own mishap, but over the misfortune of the German Volk.
There are millions of people whom Fate has made dependent upon their leadership and who are defenseless if no one acts as their spokesman, leader or defender. They comprise millions of German peasants who wish to earn their daily bread honestly and industriously, by upright and loyal effort; millions of the most efficient German workers who labor in the sweat of their brows; countless intellectual workers-they comprise the enormous community of working people who would be helplessly abandoned to demise and destruction were a leadership incapable of changing the course of their fate for the better.
There is no cause for me to concern myself with those who perhaps today know better but knew nothing fifteen or twenty years earlier and failed. The Goddess of Fortune has held her cloak over them long enough. For fifteen long years they were unable to find an opportunity to seize hold of it. Now she has turned away from these spirits. Fifteen years ago I pointed out where they had failed, and one and a half years ago I began there.
If they wanted to be fair, after their failure they would have to grant me at least the term of fifteen years they had to prove themselves. And I know it to be a fact: they will not recognize Germany then, just as Germany will not recognize them. And if they further want to be just, they must acknowledge to me that I have been more industrious in these fifteen years than my opponents. For they had the power and everything which goes with it, while I was forced, starting with nothing, to wage a bitter and difficult battle to gain it.
And all the same, even my most malicious libellers cannot deny that I have never changed in these fifteen years.
Whether in good fortune or in bad, whether in liberty or in prison, I have remained true to my flag, the flag which is now the national flag of the German Reich. And they further cannot claim that I had ever in my life undertaken or omitted any political act for the sake of my own personal benefit.
And they must finally admit that, in general terms, this fifteen-year-long battle of mine was not unsuccessful, but led a movement evolving from nothing to victory in Germany, giving the German Volk a new and better position at home and abroad.
I will gladly answer for and accept whatever mistakes they can prove that I actually made. However, these all lie within the limits set for everyone by the basic fact of human fallibility. But I can point out in this context that I have never in the course of my fight committed an act which I did not hold to be for the benefit of the German Volk.
For since I have become involved in the political fight, I have been governed and guided, so help me God, by a single thought: Germany!