Adolf Hitler - Great speech to the Reichstag
March 7, 1936
Men of the German Reichstag!
The President of the German Reichstag, Party Comrade Goring, convened today’s session at my request in order to give you an opportunity to hear a declaration from the Reich Government pertaining to questions which instinctively are regarded not only by yourselves but by the entire German Volk as important, if not to say decisive.
When in the gray November days of 1918 the curtain was lowered on the bloody tragedy of the Great War ...
However, I have a right to lay these views of mine open before you gentlemen, Deputies of the Reichstag, for they constitute both the explanation for our own political experience, for our internal work among the Volk and for our external standpoint.
Since the rest of the world often talks about a “German question,” it will be wise to reach for ourselves an objective clarification on the essence of this question. Some regard the “question” as being the German regime itself, as being the completely misunderstood difference between the German regime and the other regime, as being the so-called “rearmament” perceived as threatening, and as being all those things one imagines one sees as a mirage ensuing from this rearmament. For many, this question is rooted in the German Volk’s alleged lust for war, in its slumbering plans for offensive or in its diabolical skill in outwitting its opponents. No, my dear politicians! The German question is something entirely different.
Here we have sixty-seven million people62 living on a very limited and only partially fertile area. That means approximately 136 persons per square kilometer. These people are no less industrious than other European peoples; they are no less demanding; they are no less intelligent and they have no less will to live. They have just as little desire to allow themselves to be heroically shot dead for some fantasy as, for instance, a Frenchman or an Englishman does.
Neither are these sixty-seven million Germans more cowardly; and by no means do they have less honor than members of the other European nations.
Once they were torn into a war in which they believed no more than other Europeans and for which they bore just as little responsibility. Today’s young German of twenty-five had just celebrated his first birthday during the pre-war years and at the beginning of the war; thus, he can hardly be held responsible for this catastrophe of the nations. Yes, even the youngest German who could have been responsible was twenty-five years old when the German voting age was fixed. Hence he is today at least fifty years old. That means that the overwhelming majority of men in the German Volk were simply forced to take part in the war, just as was the bulk of the survivors from the French or English peoples. If they were decent, they did their duty then-if they were already of age-just as well as every decent Frenchman and Englishman. If they were not decent, they failed to do this and perhaps earned money instead or worked for the revolution. These people are no longer in our ranks today, but live for the most part as emigrants with some host or another. This German Volk has just as many merits as other peoples, and naturally just as many disadvantages and weaknesses, too.
The German question lay in the fact that this Volk-even as late as, for example, 1935, and on the basis of a guilt it had never committed-was to be made to suffer lesser rights which constitute an intolerable burden to an honorloving Volk, a torment to an industrious Volk, and an outrage to an intelligent Volk. The German question also means that one is attempting, by way of a system of unreasonable actions, measures and hate-filled incitements, to make even more difficult the already hard battle to assert the right to live, and to make it more difficult not only artificially, but perversely and absurdly.
For the rest of the world does not profit in the slightest from making it more difficult for Germany to maintain its life. There is eighteen times less land per capita of the population in respect to the German being than, for instance, in respect to a Russian. It is understandable how hard the mere fight for one’s daily bread must be and is. Without the efficiency and industriousness of the German peasant and the organizational ability of the German Volk, it would hardly be possible for these sixty-seven million to lead their lives. Yet what are we to think of the mental naivety of those who perhaps recognize these difficulties yet nonetheless celebrate our misery in childish glee in articles, publications and lectures, who moreover actually hunt down every indication of this, our inner plight, to tell it to the rest of the world? Apparently they would be pleased were our distress even worse, were we not able to succeed over and over again in making it bearable by industriousness and intelligence.
They have no idea how the German question would present a completely different picture were the abilities and industriousness of these millions to falter, whereby not only misery but also political unreason would come into evidence. This, too, is one of the German questions, and the world cannot but be interested in seeing that this matter of securing a German means of living year after year is successfully solved, just as it is my desire that the German Volk will also comprehend and respect a happy solution to these vital questions for other peoples, just as in its very own best interest.
However, mastering this German question is initially a matter involving the German Volk itself and need not concern the rest of the world. It touches upon the interests of other peoples only to the extent that the German Volk is forced, when solving this problem, to establish contact in an economic sense with other peoples as buyers and sellers.
And this is where, again, it will be solely in the interests of the rest of the world to understand this question, i.e. to comprehend the fact that the cry for bread in a Volk consisting of forty, fifty, or sixty million is not some sly feat of malice on the part of the regime or certain governments but rather a natural expression of the urge to assert one’s right to live; and that well-fed peoples are more reasonable than those who are hungry; and that not only the respective government should have an interest in securing sufficient nourishment for its citizens, but the surrounding states and peoples should as well; and that it therefore lies in the interest of all to make it possible to assert one’s right to live in the highest sense of the word. It was the privilege of the pre-war age to take up the opposite view and proclaim it a state of war, namely the opinion that one part of the European family of peoples would fare all the better, the worse another part fared The German Volk needs no special assistance to assert its own life. It wants, however, to have opportunities no worse than those given to other peoples. This is one of the German questions.
And the second German question is the following: because, as a result of the extremely unfortunate general circumstances and conditions, the economic life-struggle of the German Volk is very strenuous-whereas the intelligence, industriousness, and hence the natural standard of living are in contrast very high-an extraordinary exertion of all our energies is required in order to master this first German question. Yet this can only be accomplished if this Volk enjoys a feeling of political security in an external sense.
In this world, it is impossible to maintain-or much less lead-a Volk of honor and bravery as Helots for any length of time.
There is no better confirmation of the German Volk’s innate love of peace than the fact that, in spite of its ability and in spite of its bravery-which cannot be denied, even by our opponents-and in spite of this Volk’s large numbers, it has secured for itself only such a modest share of the Lebensraum and goods of this world. Yet it is above all this trait of concentrating increasingly on the inland, so characteristic of German nature, which cannot bear being abused or shamefully deprived of its rights.
In that the unfortunate Peace Treaty of Versailles was intended to fix the- historically unique-perpetuation of the outcome of the war in moral terms, it created that very German question which constitutes a critical burden to Europe if unsolved and, if solved, will be Europe’s liberation. And following the signing of the Peace Treaty in the year 1919, I set myself the task of one day solving this problem-not because I have any desire to do harm to France or any other state, but because the German Volk cannot, will not, and shall not bear the wrong done to it on the long term! In the year 1932, Germany stood at the brink of a Bolshevist collapse. What this chaos in such a large country would have meant for Europe is something perhaps certain European statesmen will have an opportunity to observe elsewhere in future. For my part, I was only able to overcome this crisis of the German Volk, which was most visibly manifest in the economic sector, by mobilizing the ethical and moral values common to the German nation. The man who wanted to rescue Germany from Bolshevism would have to bring about a decision on-and thus a solution for-the question of German equality of rights. Not in order to do harm to other peoples, but on the contrary: to perhaps even spare them great harm by preventing a catastrophe from engulfing Germany, the ultimate consequences of which would be unimaginable for Europe.
For the re-establishment of German equality of rights has had no harmful effect on the French people. Only the Red revolt and the collapse of the German Reich would have dealt the European order and the European economy a blow having consequences which, unfortunately, are virtually beyond the grasp of most European statesmen. This battle for German equality of rights which I waged for three years does not pose a European question, but answers one.
It is a truly tragic misfortune that of all things, the Peace Treaty of Versailles created a situation the French people thought they should be particularly interested in maintaining. As incapable as this situation was of holding any real advantages for the individual Frenchman, all the greater was the unreal connection which appeared to exist between the discrimination of the German Volk by Versailles and the interests of the French. Perhaps the character weakness of the German postwar years; of our Governments; and, in particular, of our parties, was also to blame for the fact that the French people and the serious French statesmen could not be made sufficiently aware of the inaccuracy of this view. For, the worse the individual governments before our time were, the more reason they themselves had to fear the national awakening of the German Volk. Therefore, they were all the more frightened of any type of national self-awareness, and thus all the more supportive in their attitude toward the widespread international defamation of the German people. Yes, they simply needed this disgraceful bondage to prop up their own sorry regimes. Where this regime finally led Germany was vividly illustrated in the imminent collapse.
Now, of course it was difficult, in view of the fact that our neighbors had become so firmly accustomed to non-equality of rights, to prove that a reestablishment of German equality of rights would not only do no harm to them, but on the contrary: in the final analysis, it would be useful internationally.
You, my Deputies and men of the Reichstag, know the difficult path I have had to take since that thirtieth of January 1933 in order to redeem the German Volk from its unworthy situation, to then secure for it, step by step, equality of rights, without removing it from the political and economic community of the European nations and, particularly, without creating a new enmity in the process of settling an old one.
One day I will be able to demand from history confirmation of the fact that at no time in the course of my struggle on behalf of the German Volk did I forget the duties I myself and all of us are obligated to assume toward maintaining European culture and civilization.
However, it is a prerequisite for the existence of this continent, which ultimately owes its uniqueness to the diversity of its cultures, that it is unthinkable without the presence of free and independent national states.
Each European people may be convinced that it has made the greatest contribution to our Western culture. On the whole, however, we would not wish to do without any of what the separate peoples have given, and thus we do not wish to argue over the value of their respective contributions. Rather, we must recognize that the greatest achievements in the most diverse areas of human culture doubtless stem from the rivalry between individual European accomplishments.
Therefore, although we are willing to cooperate in this European world of culture as a free and equal member, we are just as stubbornly determined to remain what we are.
In these three years, I have again and again attempted-unfortunately all too often in vain-to build a bridge of understanding to the people of France. The further we get from the bitterness of the World War and the years that followed it, the more the evil fades in human memory, and the more the better things of life, knowledge, and experience advance to the fore.
Those who once faced one another as bitter foes today honor each other as brave fighters in a great struggle of the past, and once again recognize one another as responsible for maintaining and upholding a great shared cultural inheritance.
Why should it not be possible to terminate the futile, centuries-old strife which has not brought either of the peoples a final settlement-and which never will-and replace it by the consideration of a higher reason? The German Volk has no interest in seeing the French suffer, and vice versa: how would France profit if Germany were to come to ruin? What use is it to the French peasant if the German peasant fares badly-or vice versa? Or what advantage does the French worker have from the distress of the German worker? And what blessing could it hold for Germany, for the German worker, the German Mittelstand, for the German Volk as a whole, if France were to fall prey to misfortune? I have attempted to solve the problems of a hate-filled theory of class conflict within Germany’s borders by means of a higher reason, and I have been successful. Why should it not be possible to remove the problem of the general European differences between peoples and states from the sphere of irrationality and passion and to place it in the calm light of a higher insight? In any case, I once swore to myself that I would fight with persistence and bravery for German equality of rights and make it a reality one way or another,63 but also that I would strengthen the feeling of responsibility for the necessity of mutual consideration and cooperation in Europe.
When today my international opponents confront me with the fact that I refuse to practice this cooperation with Russia, I must counter this assertion with the following: I rejected and continue to reject this cooperation not with Russia, but with the Bolshevism which lays claim to world rulership.
I am a German, I love my Volk and am attached to it. I know that it can only be happy if allowed to live in accordance with its nature and its way. The German Volk has been able not only to cry, but also to laugh heartily all its life, and I do not want the horror of the Communist international dictatorship of hatred to descend upon it. I tremble for Europe at the thought of what would lie in store for our old, heavily populated continent were the chaos of the Bolshevist revolution rendered successful by the infiltrating force of this destructive Asiatic concept of the world, which subverts all our established ideals. I am perhaps for many European statesmen a fantastic, or at any rate uncomfortable, harbinger of warnings. That I am regarded in the eyes of the international Bolshevist oppressors of the world as one of their greatest enemies is for me a great honor and a justification for my actions in the eyes of posterity.
I cannot prevent other states from taking the paths they believe they must or at least believe they can take, but I shall prevent Germany from taking this road to ruin. And I believe that this ruin would come at that point at which the leadership of state decides to stoop to become an ally at the service of such a destructive doctrine.
I would see no possibility of conveying in clear terms to the German worker the threatening misfortune of Bolshevist chaos which so deeply troubles me were I myself, as Fuhrer of the nation, to enter into close dealings with this very menace. As a statesman and the Fuhrer of the Volk, I wish to also do myself all those things I expect and demand from each of my Volksgenossen. I do not believe that statesmen can profit from closer contact with a Weltanschauung which is the ruin of any people.
In the past twenty years of German history, we have had ample opportunity to gain experience in this sector. Our initial contact with Bolshevism in the year 1917 brought us the revolution one year later. The second encounter with it sufficed to put Germany near the brink of a Communist collapse within but a few years’ time. I broke off these relations and thus jerked Germany back from the verge of destruction.
Nothing can persuade me to go any other way than that dictated by experience, insight and foresight.
And I know that this conviction has grown to become the most profound body of thought and ideas for the entire National Socialist Movement. With persistent tenacity we shall solve the social problems and tensions in our Volk by means of carrying on the evolutionary process, thereby ensuring for ourselves the blessing of a peaceful development from which all of our Volksgenossen will profit. And each of the many new tasks we will encounter in this process will fill us with the joy of those who are incapable of living without work and hence without a task to perform.
When I apply this basic attitude to European politics at large, I find that Europe is divided into two halves: one comprised of self-sufficient and independent national states, of peoples with whom we are linked a thousandfold by history and culture and with whom we wish to continue to be linked for all time in the same manner as with the free and self-sufficient nations of the non-European continents; and the other governed by the very same intolerant Bolshevist doctrine claiming general international supremacy, which even preaches the destruction of the immortal values-sacred to us-of this world and the next, in order to built a different world whose culture, exterior and content seem abhorrent to us. Except for the given political and economic international relations, we do not wish to have any closer contact with that.
It is infinitely tragic that, in conclusion of our long years of sincerely endeavoring to obtain the trust, sympathy and affection of the French people, a military alliance was sealed, the beginning of which we know today, but-if Providence is not once again more merciful than mankind deserves-the end of which will perhaps have unforeseeable consequences. In the past three years I have endeavored to slowly but surely establish the prerequisites for a German-French understanding. In doing so, I have never left a single doubt that an absolute equality of rights and thus the same legal status of the German Volk and State form part of the prerequisites for such an understanding. I have consciously regarded this understanding not only as a problem to be solved by means of pacts, but as a problem which must first be brought home psychologically to the two peoples, for it has to be prepared not only in mental, but also in emotional terms. Thus I was often confronted with the reproach that my offers of friendship contained no specific proposals. That is not correct.
I bravely and explicitly proposed everything that could in any way possibly be proposed to lessen the tension of German-French relations.
I did not hesitate on one occasion to join a concrete arms proposal for a limit of 200,000 men. When this proposal was abandoned by those responsible for drawing it up, I approached the French people and the European Governments with a new, quite specific proposal. This proposal for 300,000 men was also rejected. I have made a whole series of further concrete proposals aimed at eliminating the poison from public opinion in the individual states and at cleaning up methods of warfare, and thus ultimately at a slow yet, therefore, sure reduction in arms. Only one of these German proposals was given any real consideration. A British Government’s sense of realism accepted my proposal for establishing a permanent ratio between the German and English fleets, which both corresponds to the needs of German security and, conversely, takes into account the enormous overseas interests of a great world empire. I may also point out here that, to date, this agreement has remained practically the only truly considerate and thus successful attempt to limit arms. The Reich Government is willing to supplement this treaty by a further qualitative agreement with England.
I have expressed the very concrete principle that the collective programs of an international Paktomanie have as little chance of becoming reality as the general proposals for world disarmament which have been shown from the very onset to be impracticable under such circumstances. In contrast, I have stressed that these questions can only be approached step by step more specifically in that direction from which there is presumably the least resistance. Based upon this conviction, I have also developed the concrete proposal for an air pact grounded on a parity of strength between France, England and Germany. The consequence was that this proposal was initially ignored, and then a new Eastern-European-Asiatic factor was introduced on the stage of European equilibrium, the military ramifications of which are incalculable. Thus, for long years I took the trouble to make concrete proposals, yet I do not hesitate to state that the psychological preparation for the understanding has seemed just as important to me as the so-called concrete proposals, and I have done more in this area than any honest foreign statesman could ever have even hoped. I removed the question of the everlasting revision of European borders from the atmosphere of public discussion in Germany.64 Yet, unfortunately, it is often held, and this applies particularly to foreign statesmen, that this attitude and its actions are not of any particular significance. I may point out that it would have been equally possible for me as a German, in a moral sense, to place the restoration of the 1914 borders on my program and to support this item in publications and oratory, just as the French ministers and popular leaders did after 1871, for instance. My esteemed critics would do better not to deny me any ability whatsoever in this sector.
It is much more difficult for a National Socialist to persuade a Volk to come to an understanding than to do the opposite. And for me it would probably have been easier to whip up the instinct for revenge than to awaken and constantly amplify a feeling for the necessity of a European understanding. And that is what I have done. I have rid German public opinion of attacks of this sort against our neighboring peoples.
I have removed from the German press all animosity against the French people. I have endeavored to awaken in our youth a sense for the ideal of such an understanding, and was certainly not unsuccessful. When the French guests entered the Olympic Stadium in Garmisch-Partenkirchen several weeks ago, they perhaps had an opportunity to observe whether and to what extent I have been successful in bringing about this inner conversion of the German Volk.
This inner willingness to seek and find such an understanding is, however, more important than clever attempts by statesmen to ensnare the world in a net of pacts obscure as to both legal and factual content.
These efforts on my part have, however, been twice as difficult because at the same time I was forced to disentangle Germany from the web of a treaty which had robbed it of its equality of rights and which the French people- whether rightly or wrongly is secondary-believed it to be in their best interest to uphold. Being a German nationalist, I above all was forced to make yet another particularly difficult sacrifice for the German Volk in that context.
At least in modern times, the attempt had not yet been made following a war to simply deny the loser its sovereign rights over large and long-standing parts of its empire. It was only in the interest of this understanding that I bore this, the most difficult sacrifice we could be made to bear politically and morally, and had intended to continue bearing it for the sole reason that I believed it was necessary to abide by a treaty65 which could perhaps contribute to eliminating the poison from the political atmosphere between France and Germany and England and Germany and to spreading a feeling of security on all sides.
Yes, beyond that I have often-in this forum, too-upheld the standpoint that we are not only willing to make this most difficult contribution to safeguarding peace in Europe as long as the other partners fulfill their obligations; furthermore, we view this treaty-because concrete-as the only possible attempt to safeguard Europe.
You, my Deputies, are acquainted with the letter and spirit of this treaty.
It was to prevent the use of force for all time between Belgium and France on the one hand and Germany on the other. But unfortunately the treaties of alliance which France had concluded at an earlier date presented the first obstacle, although this obstacle did not contradict the essence of that Pact, namely, the Rhine Pact of Locarno. Germany’s contribution to this Pact presented the greatest sacrifice, for while France fortified its border with steel, cement and arms, and equipped it with numerous garrisons, we were made to bear the burden of permanently maintaining total defenselessness in the West.
We nonetheless complied with this, too, in the hope of serving-by making that contribution, one so difficult for a major power-the cause of European peace and promoting an understanding between nations.
Now, this Pact is in contradiction to the agreement France entered into last year with Russia which has already been signed and just recently received the Chamber’s approval. For, by virtue of this new Franco-Soviet agreement, the threatening military power of a huge empire has been given access to Central Europe via the detour of Czechoslovakia, which has signed a similar treaty with Russia. The incredible thing in this context is that these two states have undertaken an obligation in their treaty, regardless of any presently existing or anticipated rulings of the Council of the League of Nations, to clarify the question of guilt in the event of an Eastern-European complication at their own discretion and to thus consider the obligation to render mutual assistance as given or not, as the case may be.
The claim that the former obligation was canceled in this Pact by virtue of a supplemental restriction is incomprehensible. I cannot in one context define a certain procedure as a clear breach of obligations otherwise valid and hence thereby assume that such procedure is binding, and in another context declare that no action is to be taken which violates these other obligations. In such a case, the first binding obligation would be unreasonable and thus make no sense.
But this is first and foremost a political problem and is to be rated as such with all its weighty significance.
France did not conclude this treaty with any arbitrary European power.
Even prior to the Rhine Pact, France had treaties of mutual assistance both with Czechoslovakia and with Poland. Germany took no offense at this, not only because such pacts-in contrast to the Franco-Soviet Pact-recognized the authority of rulings passed by the League of Nations, but also because the Czechoslovakia of that time, and particularly Poland as well, will always basically uphold a policy of representing these states’ own national interests.
Germany has no desire to attack these states and does not believe it will lie in the interest of these states to prepare an offensive against Germany. But above all: Poland will remain Poland, and France will remain France.
Soviet Russia, in contrast, is the exponent of a revolutionary Weltanschauung organized as a state. Its concept of the state is the creed of world revolution. It is not possible to rule out that tomorrow or the day after, this Weltanschauung will have conquered France as well. However, should this be the case-and as a German statesman I must be prepared-then it is a certainty that this new Bolshevist state would become a section in the Bolshevist International, which means that the decision as to aggression or non-aggression will not be made by two separate states according to their own objective judgment, but instead by directives issuing from a single source. And in the event of such a development, this source would no longer be Paris, but Moscow.
If only for mere territorial reasons, Germany is not in a likely position to attack Russia,66 yet Russia is all the more in a position to bring about a conflict with Germany at any time via the detour of its advanced positions. Ascertaining the aggressor would then be a foregone conclusion, for the decision would be independent of the findings of the Council of the League of Nations.
Allegations or objections that France and Russia would do nothing which might expose them to sanctions-on the part of England or Italy-are immaterial, because one cannot begin to gauge which type of sanctions might possibly be effective against such an overwhelming construction so unified in both weltanschaulich and military terms.
For many years we anxiously warned of such a development, not only because we have more to fear from it than others, but because it may one day bring with it dire consequences for the whole of Europe, if one attempts to dismiss these, our most serious apprehensions, by citing the unfinished state of the Russian instrument of war, or even its unwieldiness and unfitness for deployment in a European war. We have always combated this view, not because we are somehow of the conviction that the German is inherently inferior, but because we all know that numbers, too, have their own weight. We are all the more grateful that M. Herriot67 has just enlightened the French Chamber as to Russia’s aggressive-military significance. We know that M.
Herriot’s information was given to him by the Soviet Government itself, and we are certain that this party cannot have supplied the spiritual inspirer of the new alliance in France with false propaganda; we similarly do not doubt that M.
Herriot has given a true account of this information. Yet according to this information, it is a fact that the Russian army has a peacetime strength of 1,350,000 men; that secondly, it has a total of 17,500,000 men ready for war and in the reserves; that thirdly, it is equipped with the largest tank weaponry; and fourthly, that it supports the largest air force in the world.
Introducing this enormous military factor-which was described as being excellent in terms of its mobility and leadership as well as ready for action at any time-onto the Central European stage will destroy any genuine European equilibrium. This will furthermore present an obstacle to any possibility of estimating what means of defense on land and in the air are necessary for the European states involved, and particularly for the sole country targeted as an opponent: Germany.
This gigantic mobilization of the East against Central Europe contradicts not only the letter, but above all the spirit of the Locarno Pact. We are not alone in feeling this because we are directly involved; rather, this view thrives among innumerable intelligent men of all nations and has been openly upheld everywhere, as has been documented in publications and politics.
On February 21, a French journalist68 approached me with the request that I grant him an interview. Because I had been told that the person in question was one of those very Frenchmen who, like ourselves, is endeavoring to find ways of arriving at an understanding between our two peoples, I was all the less inclined to refuse, particularly since such an action would have instantly been interpreted as an indication of my lack of respect toward French journalism. I provided the desired information, just as I have openly given it in Germany hundreds and thousands of times, and I once more attempted to address the French people with a plea for the understanding to which we are dedicated with all our hearts and which we would so dearly like to see become reality. At the same time, however, I did express my deep regret as regards the threatening developments in France brought about by the conclusion of a pact for which, in our opinion, there was no conceivable necessity, yet which, were it to come into being, by necessity, would create a new state of affairs. As you all know, this interview was held back for reasons unknown to us and was not published until the day after ratification in the French Chamber.
As much as I will continue in the future to be ready and sincerely willing, as I stated in that interview, to promote this German-French understanding-for I see in it a necessary factor in safeguarding Europe from immeasurable dangers and because I do not expect and indeed am incapable of even perceiving any advantages whatsoever for the two peoples from any other course of behavior; while I do, however, perceive the gravest general and international dangers-I was all the more compelled by the knowledge of the final signing of this Pact to enter into a review of the new situation thus created and to draw the necessary conclusions.
These conclusions are of an extremely grave nature, and they fill us and myself personally with a bitter regret. However, I am obligated not only to make sacrifices for the sake of European understanding, but also to bow to the interests of my own Volk.
As long as a sacrifice meets with appreciation and understanding on the part of the opposition, I will gladly pursue that sacrifice and recommend to the German Volk that it do the same. Yet as soon as it becomes evident that a partner no longer values or appreciates this sacrifice, this must result in a onesided burden for Germany and hence in a discrimination we cannot tolerate. In this historic hour and within these walls, however, I would like to repeat what I stated in my first major speech before the Reichstag in May 1933: The German Volk would rather undergo any amount of suffering and distress than abandon the precept of honor and the will to freedom and equality of rights.
If the German Volk is to be of any value to European cooperation, it can be of value only as an honor-loving and hence equal partner. As soon as it ceases to be valuable in terms of this integrity, it becomes worthless in objective terms as well. I would not like to deceive ourselves or the rest of the world with a Volk which would then be completely without value, for it would lack the essentially natural feeling of honor.
I also believe, however, that even in the hour of such a bitter realization and grave decision, in spite of everything, one must not refrain from supporting European cooperation all the more and from seeking new ways to make it possible to solve these problems in a manner beneficial to all.
Thus I have continued my endeavors to express in specific proposals the feelings of the German Volk which is concerned for its security and willing to make any sacrifice for the sake of its freedom, but is likewise willing at all times to take part in a truly sincere and equally-valued European cooperation.
After a difficult inner struggle, I have hence decided on behalf of the German Reich Government to have the following Memorandum submitted to the French Government and the other signatories of the Locarno Pact: Memorandum Immediately after the Pact between France and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which was signed on May 2, 1935 became public, the German Government drew the attention of the Governments of the other signatory powers of the Rhine Pact of Locarno to the fact that the obligations which France assumed in the new Pact are not compatible with its obligations according to the Rhine Pact. At that time, the German Government submitted full legal and political justification for its standpoint: in legal terms in the German Memorandum dated May 25, 1935, and in political terms in the numerous diplomatic talks which followed in the wake of this Memorandum.
The Governments concerned are also aware that neither their written responses to the German Memorandum nor the arguments they brought forth via diplomatic channels or in public statements were able to discount the standpoint of the German Government.
In fact, the entire diplomatic and public discussion which has ensued since May 1935 on these questions has served merely to confirm every aspect of the position the German Government has taken from the very beginning.
1. It is an uncontested fact that the Franco-Soviet Agreement is directed exclusively against Germany.
2. It is an uncontested fact that, under the terms of this Agreement, France will undertake obligations in the event of a conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union which far exceed its duty pursuant to the Covenant of the League of Nations and which force it to take military action against Germany even if it can cite as grounds for such action neither a recommendation nor even an existing decision of the Council of the League of Nations.
3. It is an uncontested fact that, in such event, France will also be claiming for itself the right to decide at its own discretion who is the aggressor.
4. Thus it is established that France has entered into obligations vis-a-vis the Soviet Union which, in practice, are tantamount to its acting as though neither the Covenant of the League of Nations nor the Rhine Pact, which rests on such Covenant, were in effect.
This consequence of the Franco-Soviet Pact is not canceled out by the fact that France has therein made the reservation not to be under obligation to take military action against Germany if, by doing so, it were to expose itself to sanctions on the part of the Guarantor Powers Italy and Great Britain. Despite this reservation, however, what remains decisive is the fact that the Rhine Pact is based not only upon guarantees on the part of Great Britain and Italy, but primarily on the obligations governing the relations between France and Germany. Thus the sole question is whether France has remained within those limits imposed upon it by the Rhine Pact in regard to its relations with Germany when assuming these treaty obligations.
And the German Government must answer this question in the negative.
The Rhine Pact was intended to accomplish the goal of securing peace in Western Europe, in that Germany on the one hand and France and Belgium on the other were to renounce for all time the use of military force in their relations with one another. If specific exceptions to this renunciation of war extending beyond the right of self-defense were allowed at the conclusion of this Pact, the sole political reason lay, as was generally known, in the fact that France had earlier undertaken certain alliance obligations toward Poland and Czechoslovakia which it was not willing to sacrifice for the idea of unconditionally securing peace in the West. With a clear conscience, Germany decided to accept these limitations on the renunciation of war. It made no objection to the agreements with Poland and Czechoslovakia which France’s representative presented at Locarno, acting as it did under the obvious condition that these agreements were in line with the layout of the Rhine Pact and contained no provisions whatsoever on the implementation of Article 16 of the Covenant of the League of Nations such as those contained in the new Franco-Soviet agreements.
This also corresponded to the contents of such special agreements as disclosed to the German Government at that time. The exceptions allowed for in the Rhine Pact are not, however, explicitly worded so as to apply only to Poland and Czechoslovakia, but are rather formulated in the abstract. Yet it was the aim of all respective negotiations to merely bring about a balance between the German-French renunciation of war and France’s desire to maintain the alliance obligations it had already undertaken.
If France now attempts to draw an advantage from the abstract wording of the possibilities of war allowed pursuant to the Rhine Pact in order to conclude a new alliance against Germany with a state heavily armed with military weapons; if it chooses to continue, in such a decisive fashion, to impose limits on the renunciation of war stipulated between itself and Germany; and if, in the process, it does not even confine itself to the established formal legal limitations, as stated above, it has ultimately created a completely new situation and destroyed-in both spirit and fact-the political system of the Rhine Pact.
The most recent debates and resolutions of the French Parliament have shown that France is determined-notwithstanding Germany’s standpoint-to definitely put the Pact with the Soviet Union into effect; talks on the diplomatic level have even revealed that France already regards itself as bound to the Pact by virtue of having signed it on May 2, 1935. However, faced with such a development in European politics, the German Reich Government cannot stand idle unless it wishes to abandon or betray the interests of the German Volk duly entrusted to it.
In negotiations in recent years, the German Government has consistently stressed that it intended to abide by and fulfill all of the obligations arising from the Rhine Pact as long as the other contracting parties were willing, on their part, to stand by this Pact. This obvious condition can no longer be deemed to exist as regards France. France responded to Germany’s repeated friendly advances and assurances of peace by violating the Rhine Pact by virtue of a military alliance with the Soviet Union directed exclusively against Germany.
Hence the Rhine Pact of Locarno has lost its inherent meaning and ceased, in a practical sense, to exist. As a consequence, Germany no longer views itself as bound for its part to this lapsed Pact. The German Government is now compelled to react to the new situation created by this alliance, a situation aggravated by the fact that the Franco-Soviet Agreement has been supplemented by a treaty of alliance between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union with arrangements which are exactly parallel. In the interest of the primal right of a people to safeguard its borders and maintain its possibilities of defense, the German Reich Government has today re-established the full and unlimited sovereignty of the Reich in the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland.
However, in order to prevent any misinterpretation of its intentions and to erase any doubt as to the purely defensive character of these measures, as well as to lend emphasis to its eternally given yearning for a true pacification of Europe between states enjoying equal rights and equal respect, the German Reich Government declares its willingness to assent to the following proposals for new agreements towards establishing a system for securing peace in Europe: 1. The German Reich Government declares its willingness to immediately enter into negotiations with France and Belgium concerning the formation of a mutually demilitarized zone and to give its consent to such a proposal from the very beginning, regardless of extent and effects, under the condition, however, of complete parity.
2. The German Reich Government proposes that for the purpose of ensuring the intactness and inviolability of the borders in the West, a nonaggression pact be concluded between Germany, France and Belgium, whereby it is willing to fix the term of same at twenty-five years.
3. The German Reich Government desires to invite England and Italy to sign this treaty as Guarantor Powers.
4. The German Reich Government agrees, in the event that the Royal Dutch Government so desires, and the other contracting parties hold it to be fitting, that the Netherlands be included in this treaty system.
5. The German Reich Government is willing to conclude an air pact as a further reinforcement of these security arrangements between the Western Powers which shall suffice to effectively and automatically ban the risk of unexpected air attacks.
6. The German Reich Government repeats its offer to conclude nonaggression pacts with the states bordering Germany to the East such as that with Poland. Due to the fact that the Lithuanian Government has made a certain correction in its position regarding the Memel territory within the past months, the German Reich Government withdraws the exception it was once compelled to make as regards Lithuania and declares its willingness, under the condition of an effective development of the guaranteed autonomy for the Memel territory, to sign such a non-aggression pact with Lithuania as well.
7. Now that final equality of rights has been achieved for Germany and its complete sovereignty over the entire German Reich territory has been restored, the German Reich Government regards the main reason for its earlier withdrawal from the League of Nations as having been remedied. Thus it is willing to once more join the League of Nations. In this context, it may state that it anticipates that, within the course of an appropriate period, both the question of colonial equality of rights and the question of separating the Covenant of the League of Nations from its Versailles foundation will be settled by way of amicable negotiations.
Men, Deputies of the German Reichstag! In this historic hour when German troops are presently occupying their future garrisons of peace in the Reich’s western provinces, may we all join together to stand by two sacred, inner vows: First, to the oath that we shall never yield to any power or any force in restoring the honor of our Volk and would rather perish honorably from the gravest distress than ever capitulate before it.
Secondly, to the vow that now more than ever shall we dedicate ourselves to achieving an understanding between the peoples of Europe and particularly an understanding with our Western peoples and neighbors. After three years, I believe that today the struggle for German equality of rights can be deemed concluded.
I believe that the initial reason for our earlier withdrawal from a collective European cooperation has now ceased to exist. If we are now, therefore, once more willing to return to this cooperation, we are doing so with the sincere desire that these events and a retrospective on those years will aid us in cultivating a deeper understanding of this cooperation among other European peoples as well. We have no territorial claims to make in Europe. Above all, we are aware that all the tensions resulting either from erroneous territorial provisions or from the disproportion between the size of a population and its Lebensraum can never be solved by wars in Europe. However, we do hope that human insight will help to alleviate the painfulness of this state of affairs and relieve tensions by means of a gradual evolutionary development marked by peaceful cooperation.
Specifically, I sense today above all the necessity to honor those obligations imposed upon us by the national honor and freedom we have regained, obligations not only to our own Volk, but to the other European states as well.
Hence at this time I would like to recall to the minds of European statesmen the thoughts I expressed in the thirteen points of my last speech here with the assurance that we Germans are gladly willing to do everything possible and necessary toward putting these very realistic ideals into practice.
My Party Comrades! For three years now I have headed the Government of the German Reich and thus the German Volk. Great are the achievements which Providence has allowed me to accomplish for our Vaterland these three years. In every area of our national, political, and economic life, our position has improved. Yet today I may also confess that, for me, this time was accompanied by numerous cares, countless sleepless nights and days filled with work. I was only able to do all this because I have never regarded myself as a dictator of my Volk, but always as its Fuhrer alone and thus as its agent. In the past, I fought for the inner approval of the German Volk for my ideals for fourteen years, and then by virtue of its trust, I was appointed by the venerable Field Marshal. But since then I have drawn all my energy solely from the happy consciousness of being inseparably bound up with my Volk as a man and as Fuhrer. I cannot close this historic period, in which the honor and freedom of my Volk have been restored, without now asking the German Volk to grant to me-and hence to all my co-workers and co-fighters-in retrospect their approval for everything I have had to do during those years in the way of making decisions that often appeared stubborn, in carrying out harsh measures, and in demanding difficult sacrifices.
Therefore I have come to the decision to dissolve the German Reichstag today so that the German Volk may pass its judgment on my leadership and that of my co-workers. In these three years, Germany has regained once more its honor, found once more a faith, overcome its greatest economic crisis, and ushered in a new cultural ascent. I believe I can say this as my conscience and God are my witnesses. I now ask the German Volk to strengthen me in my belief and to continue giving me, through the power of its will, power of my own to take a courageous stand at all times for its honor and freedom and to ensure its economic well-being; above all, to support me in my struggle for real peace.