Adolf Hitler - speech in Cologne
March 28, 1936
That Providence has chosen me to perform this act [restoring German military sovereignty in the Rhineland) is something I feel is the greatest blessing of my life.
It seemed as though the Lord had withdrawn his grace from our Volk.
Millions no longer saw any way out. I, too, belonged to those who were in despair back then: a half-blinded soldier in a sick-bay-tormented too by that anxious concern for the German future, shaken by the magnitude of this misfortune which had come upon us, despairing at our own weaknesses, our own mistakes, and our own failures that had allowed us to sink so low ...
When I ask you in this hour to raise your gaze to the grave problems, I do not want to begin enumerating to you all the things we have created and accomplished these past three years. I would like to approach all that has happened from a higher vantage point. I would like to equate what has happened with all the great and similar events in our Volk in history. For in these three years we have done what was often done before us within the German Volk- perhaps not in such a tremendous massing of powers, of numbers; not as concentrated in terms of time.
That disintegration threatened to destroy us. I know I was forced to hurt innumerable national men in Germany. I can assure you that it had to be in order to prevent our Volk from perishing in a fratricidal war.
Someone had to come to place a great unity above this disintegration. I dared to do it; In my life I have come to know so many classes of the German Volk, in my own hard youth in the time I took part in the Great War as a soldier, and later, too; I came to know the German being, and I came to have that unshakeable faith in this German being. It was then I began to have faith in my Volk.
But there is one method, my dear critics, which you cannot tell us is not right: we have once more gained a Volk which is the most tremendous thing we have accomplished in these years! For three weeks I have been standing in German parts as in the years of struggle. Hundreds of thousands of people flow by me. And, believe me, God has forsaken whoever does not feel his heart tug at the sight: what a great Volk we have once more become! Back then the last regiments marched over these [Rhine] bridges; today a Volk has returned! The German being has arisen from the ranks of workers, peasants and the bourgeoisie; from young and old, from every class, every religion, and from all over the country. A new community has come to stay in our Volk. The things it can only begin in the space of three years, it will complete in decades and centuries. Having found this unity in our Volk that allows us all to be so happy and proud, we must desire a similar order of reason penetrating far beyond our own Volk, for other peoples among themselves, in their relations with one another. We must desire that there, too, this senseless fight of all against all will come to an end, that the old age of senile concepts will finally be overcome by a new youth which, with faithful heart, has a will to solve these problems using reason not only within their own nations, but beyond them as well.
We are envisioning a legal order of national European states with equal rights. When I say “legal order,” I am addressing myself specifically to those countries who always talk about law and legal precepts but renounce equality before the law and refuse to take it seriously. The German Volk has come a long, long way. During these past years, it has truly undergone an inner reformation. Much of the external ado (Tantam), much of the external prattle has been removed from our Volk. It barely knows these phrases of which politics were made in former times. It has become more sober, because it has become more ideal. There are grave problems today. Perhaps that is why others do not understand us-but often we cannot understand them here anymore, either.
What can we say when we hear over and over again today in the world of politicians that gestures have to be made, symbolic acts need to be performed? That has become so alien to our Volk, to think that today a German could still say: We want to reach an understanding with the French people-but only if the French people bows down before us three times and then makes such and such a gesture and such and such a symbolic act. That is something we no longer understand, that is inconceivable to us.
We offer other peoples our hand. It is the hand in which a people of sixtyseven million is united. Nowhere in the world today is there a greater guarantee for the security of such a treaty than if it is signed by this hand. Here one Volk is united, forming a single will, brought together in a single community. This environment responds only with phrases or gestures or remarks and demands.
What a discrepancy between what is offered, between the magnitude of what is given and the smallness of the recipient.
But if this other world refuses to understand our giving, it will have to understand our persistence, i.e. as regards these obligations we have all assumed to set free Germany’s honor and Germany’s equal rights under all circumstances! The fact that we want peace is something I need not confirm over and over again. I do not believe that any other man in this world has talked about and struggled and fought for peace more than I have. And it is understandable that, when I talk about peace this way and am so devoted to it, I do so, my dear German Volk, because I came to know war in a different place than so many of my international political antagonists. I do not mean to talk at all of those for whom the war was a useful event. I am only talking about those who saw it roll by beneath them from some higher position, i.e. from a higher perspective. I was not seeing it from that angle. I was a musketeer and experienced war with its horror and its terror. And I believe more people have learned to see war with my eyes than with the eyes of these political antagonists. That is the key to understanding my attitude. I stand up for the rights and the freedom of my Volk. I want peace. I offer it personally to the others, and I demand of you, my Volk, that you become united with me to form an inseparable community.
For three years I have worked for this honor of my Volk, I have labored and fretted for its freedom and its equal rights. For three years I have trembled for its peace. Today I must produce to the world the proof that this concern and this anxiety and this hope-and this resolve as well-are not those of a single man, but are the virtue and vow of an entire Volk.
My German Volksgenossen, we have a great deal to rectify before our own history and before our eternal Lord. Providence had withdrawn its protection from us. Our Volk had fallen, plunging to a depth to which a Volk has rarely fallen before. In this difficult plight we have once again learned how to pray; we have learned to respect our Lord; we have regained our faith in the virtues of a Volk, and have endeavored to be better again. Hence a new community evolved.
Today’s Volk can no longer be compared with the Volk which lies behind us. It has become more decent, better. And we feel that the Lord is now slowly beginning to show us His mercy once again.
And in this hour, let us fall down upon our knees and beg the Almighty to grant us the strength to prevail in the struggle for freedom and the future and the honor and the peace of our Volk, so help us God!