Adolf Hitler – great speech in Sportpalast
Berlin, September 26, 1938
Introduction by Reichsminister Dr. Joseph Goebbels:
You can rely upon your Volk, just as it relies upon you. It stands behind you as one man. We are aware that no threat and no pressure, from whatever source, can keep you from pursuing your and our inalienable rights. The entire German Volk shares this spirit and firm conviction. Many times we have stated and pledged ourselves to this in the historic hours of our nation. Now in this hour of difficult decisions, we repeat it before you with all our heart, full and strong:
Führer befiehl, wir folgen.
We greet you, mein Führer, with our old battle call: Adolf Hitler, Sieg Heil!
The Führer speaks:
Speaking before the German Reichstag delegates on February 20, I pronounced, for the first time, a demand based on an irrevocable principle. Back then the entire nation heard me and understood me! One statesman did not understand. He has been removed, and I have made true my promise given at the time! At the Reich Party Congress, I spoke on the topic of this demand for the second time. And once more the nation heard this demand. Today I step before you to speak directly to the Volk for the first time just as in the days of our great struggles, and you know well what that means! The world may no longer have any doubts: it is not one Führer or one man who speaks at this point, rather it is the German Volk that speaks! As I now speak for this German Volk, I know that this Volk of millions joins in the chorus of my words, reaffirms them, and makes them a holy oath in its own right. Some of the other statesmen might do well to consider if this is the case with their people as well.
The question which has moved us so profoundly within the last few months and weeks is an old one. It reads not so much “Czecho-Slovakia,” but rather “Herr Benes.”This name unites all that moves millions of people today and which lets them either despair or instills in them a zealous determination. How could such a question rise to such supreme importance? I wish to reiterate before you, my Volksgenossen, a short summary on the essence and goals of Germany’s foreign policy.
After two years of having made offer upon offer to the world and receiving rejection upon rejection, I gave orders to rearm the German Wehrmacht and to bring it to the highest level possible. Today I can openly admit: we rearmed to an extent the like of which the world had not yet seen. I offered to disarm as long as this was possible. After yet another rejection, I decided to go all the way.
I am a National Socialist and an old German front-line soldier! If the world does not want disarmament, so be it: now German Volk carry your weapons as well. Germany can be proud of its Wehrmacht! Indeed, I did rearm within the past five years. I spent billions on it.405 That the German Volk has a right to know. I took care that the new army carried the newest, most modern weapons that exist. I ordered my friend Goring: now build up a Luftwaffe for me capable of protecting Germany against any onslaught conceivable.
And so we built up a Wehrmacht of which the German Volk can be proud today and which the world will respect whenever it shall be introduced. We have created for ourselves the best anti-aircraft defense and the best anti-tank defense ever seen on the face of this earth!
We worked night and day during these five years. On one topic only did I succeed in bringing about an understanding. I shall speak of this later.
Nevertheless, I continued to pursue the ideas of limiting armament and of a disarmament policy. In these years, I truly pursued a pragmatic policy for peace.
I approached any and all topics, firmly determined to resolve them peacefully- even if this should involve great sacrifices on the part of Germany. I myself am a front-line soldier and know the hardships of war. I wished to spare the German Volk this experience. I approached each and every problem firmly determined to attempt anything to bring about its peaceful resolution.
The most pressing problem I was faced with was the relationship between Germany and Poland. The danger was present that the idea of a “hereditary enmity” would take hold of our Volk as well as of the Polish people. I wanted to avoid this. I know only too well that I should not have succeeded had Poland had a democratic constitution at that point in time. For these democracies dripping all over with their peace rhetoric, they are the most blood-thirsty of all warmongers. Democracy did not reign in Poland, one man did! With him we reached an accord within one year’s time, an accord that, for the time being, eliminates a clash between both countries in principle for the duration of ten years. All of us are convinced that, in time, this accord will prove to be one of substance. All of us realize that these are two peoples that need to exist side by side and that neither can eliminate the other.
A state of thirty-three million will always strive for an outlet to the sea.
Hence, we had to arrive at some sort of settlement. And we did arrive at a settlement which is constantly being improved upon. What is decisive in this instance is that both governments and all reasoned and rational people in both countries have the firm will to increasingly improve relations. This deed was truly in the service of peace, worth substantially more than the idle talk in the League of Nations’ Palace in Geneva.
In this time period, I also attempted to improve relations to other nations and to make these durable.
We gave guarantees to all Western states and have assured all countries bordering on us that Germany will respect their territorial integrity. This is not just empty talk. This is our holy will. It is not in our interest to disturb their peace. These offers on the part of Germany encountered increasing good will.
Gradually, more and more states divorce themselves from the insanity produced in Geneva which, if I may say so, does not serve the interests of peace, but rather entails an obligation to war. These states divorce themselves from it and begin to reflect upon problems in a more rational manner. They are willing to negotiate, and they desire peace.
I went even further and offered my hand to England! In order to afford the British Empire a feeling of security, I voluntarily renounced entering into a naval armament race with Great Britain. I did so not because I would not have been capable of producing additional ships-let no one be deceived. Rather, I did so for the sole reason of wishing to secure peace between the two peoples, a peace of permanence.
Of course, certain conditions have to be met. It is simply not possible for one side to say: “I will never again lead a war, and to this end I offer you the voluntary reduction of my weapons to 35 percent,” while the other side declares: “Whenever I feel like it I may lead a war on occasion.” Impossible! Such an agreement is morally tenable only then if both peoples pledge never to make war on each other again. Germany has that will! We all hope that among the British people those will prevail who share that will!
Again I went further. Immediately subsequent to the return of the Saar to Germany by way of the plebiscite, I approached France and informed it that there were no longer any differences between us. The question of Alsace- Lorraine no longer existed as far as we were concerned. It is a border area. The people there have never really been asked their opinion during the past decades. It is our impression that the inhabitants of the area would be the most happy if all the fighting about them ended. We do not wish for war with France. We want nothing of France! Nothing at all! And once the Saar had returned to the Reich, thanks to the integrity of France in interpreting the contracts which I must give it credit for, I solemnly declared: now all differences on territorial matters between France and Germany have been resolved. I do no longer see any differences between us today. All that is there are two great peoples both wishing to work and live. And they will live best once they work together.
After this unprecedented and irrevocable renouncement 1 turned to yet another problem, one easier to resolve than others because a shared weltanschaulich belief facilitates mutual understanding: the relationship between Germany and Italy. Of course, the resolution of this problem is only in part my own achievement because the other part is the achievement of a great man whom the Italian people have the great fortune to call their leader.
This relationship long ago transcended the boundaries of economics and politics as such, and, after countless contracts and alliances had been concluded, it has developed into a friendship from the heart. Two peoples with shared ideals, Weltanschauung, and politics have formed a friendship and an axis, the strength of which defies separation. In consideration of my responsibility to my Volksgenossen here, too, I have carried through a unique and final measure. I have solved a problem which henceforth no longer exists. No matter how bitter this might be for the individual: the common interest of the Volk ranks above all of us. And this interest means: to be able to work in peace. This work in the service of peace, my Volksgenossen, it is not an empty phrase, rather this work is supported by facts which no liar can deny.
Two problems remained to be solved. Here I had some reservations, however. Ten million Germans found themselves outside of the boundaries of the Reich in two principal areas of settlement; Germans who wished to return to their homeland! Ten million is not a negligible figure. In France, ten million make up a quarter of its total population.
Given that for over forty years, France never relinquished its claim to the few million Frenchmen in the Alsace-Lorraine region then, before the eyes of God and of the world, we also had a right to maintain our claim on these ten million Germans.
My Volksgenossen! Leniency had reached its limits, any further leniency would have been construed as a most fatal weakness. I would not have had the right to appear in the annals of German history, had I nonchalantly abandoned these ten million to their fate. I would not have had the moral legitimacy to be the Führer of this Volk. I had made sacrifices, and I had shown great restraint.
Now I had reached the point beyond which I could not have gone. The plebiscite in Austria proved me right. A most fervent avowal was made then, an avowal that the rest of the world had most certainly not anticipated. Have we not witnessed it time and time again how in the eyes of democracies a plebiscite becomes irrelevant and even detrimental to their cause the moment it does not produce the desired results? Despite all this, the problem was resolved to the benefit of the entire great German Volk.
And now we face the last great problem that must be resolved and that will be resolved! It is the last territorial demand I shall make in Europe. It is a demand which I shall insist upon and a demand which I will satisfy so God will! A short history of this problem: Waving the banner of the right to selfdetermination of the peoples, Central Europe was torn apart in 1918 as certain crazed statesmen set to redraw the political landscape. Atomized and divided, new states were arbitrarily created in Central Europe in complete disregard of the origins of their peoples, their national desires, and of economic necessities.
It is to this process that Czechoslovakia owes its existence.
The Czech state was born a lie. The name of the father of the lie was Beneš.
He made his great appearance in Versailles, claiming that there was such a thing as a Czechoslovakian nation. He resorted to this lie to make his own people sound, despite their meager numbers, more important and to lend credence to its demand for greater influence. At the time, the Anglo-Saxon powers, renowned for their great lack of knowledge in geographic and volkisch matters, did not deem it necessary to investigate Beneš’ claim. Otherwise they most certainly would have realized that there is no such thing as a Czechoslovakian nation.408 All there is are Czechs and Slovaks and the Slovaks have little desire of being with the Czechs, rather . . . In the end, thanks to the efforts of Herr Beneš, the Czechs annexed Slovakia. Since this state did not appear to be a viable structure, they simply took three and a half million Germans in clear defiance of the rights and desires of the Germans for self-determination. Since that evidently did not suffice, the Czechs took another million of Magyars, adding a number of Carpatho-Russians and several hundreds of thousands of Poles.
That is the state that would later call itself Czechoslovakia. It exists contrary to the clear desire and will of the nations thus raped and in clear defiance of their right to self-determination. As I speak to you today, I naturally have pity on the fate of these oppressed peoples. I am touched by the fate of these Slovaks, Poles, Hungarians, and Ukrainians. Yet I can only be the voice of the fate of my Germans.
As Herr Beneš was busily cementing this state on a foundation of lies, naturally he promised to construct a state on the Swiss canton model, for after all there were a few among the democratic statesmen who were plagued by a guilty conscience. All of us know how Herr Beneš resolved the matter of cantons. He built up a regime of terror! Back then already, a number of Germans attempted to protest against this arbitrary rape of their people. They were summarily executed. Ever since, a war has been waged to exterminate the Germans there. Nearly 600,000 Germans were driven from their homes during these years of “peaceful development” in Czechoslovakia. The reason for this is a fairly simple one-they would have starved otherwise! The entire development since 1918 is proof of one thing only: Herr Beneš is determined to exterminate Deutschtum slowly but surely. He has been successful to a certain degree. He has plunged countless numbers into unspeakable despair.
He managed to make millions shy and afraid. Thanks to his unceasing terror campaign, he has managed to silence these millions while at the same time leaving no doubt as to the “international” mission of his state. There was little effort to conceal the fact that, if necessary, it was to be used against Germany.
One man who expressed this in a rather frank manner was the French Minister of Aviation, Pierre Cot, who said: “We need this state as a base from which to launch bombs with greater ease to destroy German’s economy and its industry.” And now Bolshevism resorts to this state as a means of entry. It was not us who sought contact with Bolshevism, rather it was Bolshevism that used this state to open venues to Central Europe.
And it is at this point that we bear witness to the greatest brazenness imaginable. This state, resting upon a minority as support for its regime, forces the various nationalities to partake in a policy which one day will force them to shoot at their own brothers. Herr Beneš demands of the German man: “If I go to war with Germany, then you will have to shoot at Germans. If you should not be willing to do this, then you become a traitor, and I will have you shot.” He demands the same of the Hungarian and of the Polish man. He demands of the Slovaks to defend policies which are completely irrelevant to Slovakia’s situation. The Slovak people wish to live in peace, they have no wish to become involved in adventures. Herr Beneš, however, manages to portray these people either as traitors to their state or as traitors of their people’s cause. Either they agree to shoot at their compatriots and to betray their people, or Herr Beneš tells them: “You are traitors to your country, and because of that I will shoot you.” Can you imagine greater brazenness than to demand of other people to shoot their own compatriots if the circumstances warrant this? And all this simply because a rotten, disgusting, and criminal regime demands this of them? Let me assure you that as we occupied Austria, the first order I issued was that no Czech need to, that no Czech be allowed to serve in the German Army. I did not want to place him in this predicament.
Whoever opposes Herr Beneš will always be silenced by the application of economic pressure. This is a fact those democrats and apostles of a better world cannot lie about. In this state of Herr Beneš the consequences for the various nationalities have been dreadful ones. I speak for the Germans only. Amongst them, infant mortality is the highest, and the lack of progeny is the greatest among all of Germany’s Volk tribes. The unemployment rate affects them terribly. How long is this to go like this? For twenty years, the Germans in Czechoslovakia as well as the German Volk in the Reich have had to stand by and watch. They did not do so because they accepted this state of affairs.
No, they did so because they were powerless and helpless faced with their torturers, abandoned in this world of democracies. Yes, if there is a traitor locked up here or someone is placed under surveillance cursing down from his pulpit, then the English are outraged, and the Americans are incensed. These are the same prototype world democrats (Patentweltdemokraten) who utter not a word when hundreds of thousands are driven from their homes, when tens of thousands are thrown into prison or when thousands are slaughtered. We learned a great lesson in the course of these past years. We have only disdain for them now.
We see merely one great power in Europe headed by one man who understands the despair of the German Volk. It is my great friend, I believe I may call him this, Benito Mussolini. What he has done for us in these difficult times and how the Italian people stands to us, we shall never forget! And if there is ever an hour of equal need in Italy, then I will stand up before the German Volk and demand that it do the same. And then, too, it will not be two states defending themselves, but one single block defending itself.
In my speech before the Reichstag on February 20 of this year, I declared that there had to be a change in the lives of the Germans living outside of the borders of the Reich. Indeed, Herr Beneš has changed their lives in the meantime. He launched an even more repressive campaign against them, terrorizing the German minority to an even greater extent. He heralded a time of dissolution, prohibition, confiscation, and the like. And things went on like this until May 21 came along. My Volksgenossen, you cannot deny that we displayed exemplary patience. But this May 21 was insupportable. At great length, I reiterated its history at the Reich Party Congress. At long last, there was to be a plebiscite in Czechoslovakia, a plebiscite that could not be put off any more.
Undaunted, Herr Beneš, came up with a way of intimidating the Germans there: the military occupation of the territories in question. And he plans to persevere with this military occupation in the hope that no one can be found to stand up to him as long as his henchmen are around. It was that unbelievably brazen lie of May 21, which claimed that Germany had mobilized on that day, that now had to serve as an excuse, to gloss over and to serve as a disguise for the Czech mobilization.
You all know what came then: a virulent international campaign.
Germany had not called up one man. It was not even contemplating resolving this matter militarily. I still entertained hopes that, at the last minute, the Czechs would realize that this tyranny could not go on any longer. Herr Beneš was still convinced that, supported by France and Great Britain, he could do whatever he wished with Germany. What could happen to him? And after all, he could still turn to the Soviet Union, should all else fail.410 Thus he was encouraged in his reaction to all those he did not fancy: shoot them, jail them, lock them up. It was then that I made my demand in Nuremberg. For the first time, I demanded clearly that, now twenty years after President Wilson’s pledges, the right to self-determination must become reality for these three and a half million as well. And once more Herr Beneš responded in his customary manner: more dead, more imprisoned, more incarcerated. Germans were forced to flee.
And along came England. I was perfectly open with Mr. Chamberlain as to what we considered the sole solution possible. It is the most natural there is. I know that none of the various nationalities wish to remain with Herr Beneš.
Yet, I am but the speaker of the Germans. For them I spoke, as I asserted that I was no longer willing to stand by silently without intervening as this crazed man continues to believe that he can maltreat three and a half million people as he sits there in Prague.
I left no doubts as to the fact that Germany’s patience had reached its limit.
I left no doubt that while it may be a characteristic trait of us Germans to bear up under something for a long time and with great patience, once our patience has reached an end, that is the end! And it is now that England and France have finally demanded of Czechoslovakia what is the sole solution possible to this situation, to release the German areas and to cede them to the Reich.
Today we have intelligence of what Herr Beneš discussed during this time.
Faced with England’s and France’s declared intent to divorce themselves from the fate of Czechoslovakia should not the fate of these peoples be changed and these areas be ceded, Herr Beneš found yet another loophole. He ordered the cession of these territories. That he declared! Yet what did he do? He is not ceding the territories, rather he is driving the Germans from them. This is the point at which his game is up! Barely had Herr Beneš finished his declarations when yet another campaign of oppression by the military was launched, the only difference being that its nature was intensified this time around. We see the gruesome figures: one day there might be 10,000 refugees; the next day 20,000; yet another day later 37,000; and yet another two days later 41,000; then 62,000; and then 78,000; now that amounts to 90,000; 107,000; 137,000; and today we count 214,000. Entire regions are depopulated, villages burnt to the ground, and with grenades and gas the Germans are driven out. Beneš, however, sits in Prague and is comfortable believing: “Nothing can happen to me. England and France will always back me.” And now, my Volksgenossen, I believe the time has come to tell him what’s what. You simply cannot deny that someone truly loves peace when he has borne up under such shame, such disgrace, and so pitiful a fate for twenty long years, as we have done. When someone displays such unending patience as we have demonstrated, then truly you cannot accuse him of being a warmonger.
After all, Herr Beneš may have seven million Czechs, but here there is a Volk of seventy-five million.
I have placed a memorandum at the disposal of the British Government, a memorandum representing the last and the final proposal on the part of Germany. This memorandum demands nothing other than the implementation of what Herr Beneš already promised. The contents of this memorandum are quite simple: any territory which is German according to its populace and which wants to come to Germany belongs to Germany. And we shall not wait until after Herr Beneš has had a chance to drive one or two million Germans from it; it shall come to Germany now and immediately! The border I have redrawn does justice to the realities of the decade-old distribution of ethnic and linguistic groups in Czechoslovakia. Yet, I am a man more just than Herr Beneš, and I do not wish to abuse the power at present in our hands. That is why, from the very beginning, I made it clear that a territory will come under the sovereignty of the Reich only if the majority of its inhabitants are German.
The final demarcation of the border I leave to the vote of our Volksgenossen there! I have, therefore, decided to conduct a plebiscite in the area in question.
And just so no one can come and claim that this is not fair, this plebiscite will be held in accordance with the statutes of the Saar plebiscite.
I have always been willing, and I am still willing, to conduct plebiscites in the entire region if need be. However, Herr Beneš and his friends were opposed to this. They desired that plebiscites were to be held in certain regions only. All right, here I showed leniency. I even agreed to having an international commission survey the conduct of the plebiscites. I went even further and agreed to having a Czech-German commission draw the border.
Mr. Chamberlain asked if this could not be done by an international commission instead. I agreed to that as well. I was even willing to withdraw our troops from the region for the duration of the plebiscite. Today I even agreed to invite the British Legion to these territories as it had offered to ensure law and order there in the interim period.411 I was willing to go further and to have the final course of the border determined by an international commission and to have the details negotiated by a commission made up of Germans and Czechs alike.
This memorandum is nothing other than the implementation of what Herr Beneš promised, calling upon the most formidable of international guarantees.
Now Herr Beneš claims that this memorandum places him in a completely “new situation.” And of what does this “new situation” consist in reality? The only thing new about this situation is what Herr Beneš has promised is to be kept for a change. That is, indeed, a completely “new situation” for Herr Beneš.
The promises that man has made in his life-none of which he kept! Now for the first time, he will have to keep a promise.
Herr Beneš says: “We cannot withdraw from the area.” Evidently, Herr Beneš understood the cession of the area to imply that the Reich assumed the legal title of the land while it continued to be raped by the Czechs.
That’s over now! Now 1 demand that Herr Beneš be forced to honesty after twenty years. He will have to give over the territories on October 1.
Herr Beneš now places his last hopes in the world, and he and his diplomats do little to disguise this. They declare: “1t is our only hope that Chamberlain be overthrown, that Daladier be done away with, that there are overthrows all over.” They place their hope with the Soviet Union. He still believes he can escape fulfillment of his obligations.
All I can say to this: “There are two men facing each other down. Over there stands Herr Beneš. And here I stand!” We arc two entirely different men. While Herr Beneš danced on the world stage and hid himself there from his responsibilities, I was fulfilling my duties as a decent German soldier. And as I face this man today, I am but a soldier of my Volk.
I have little more to add. I am grateful to Mr. Chamberlain for his efforts. 1 have assured him that the German Volk desires nothing but peace. Yet, I have also told him that I cannot retreat behind the lines drawn by our patience.
I have assured him further that, and this I repeat here before you, once this issue has been resolved, there will no longer be any further territorial problems for Germany in Europe! I have assured him further that I will take no more interest in the Czechoslovakian state once that country has resolved its internal problems, that is once the Czechs have dealt with the other minorities there in a peaceful manner and not by means of oppression. And I will guarantee this for him! We do not want any Czechs at all. Yet I do declare before the German Volk that my patience is at an end with regard to the Sudeten German problem! I have put forth an offer to Herr Beneš, an offer that is nothing other than the realization of his promises. The decision is his now! Be it war or peace! He can either accept my offer and give the Germans their freedom, or we Germans will go get it for ourselves.
The world must avow that in my four and a half years in the War, and in the long years of my political life, no one could ever have accused me of one thing: I have never been a coward!
Now I march before my Volk as the first of its soldiers. And behind me, let it be known to the world, marches a Volk, a Volk that is a different one than that of 1918! Even though, at the time, a wandering scholar succeeded in poisoning the Volk with democratic phraseology, let it be known that the Volk of today is not the Volk of that time! Such phraseology touches us no more than stings of bees; we have become immune to them. At this hour, the entire German Volk unites itself with me.
It will regard my will as its will, just as I regard the Volk’s future and fate as the mandate of my actions. And we now want to strengthen this common will so that it might stand as strong as in the fighting times, a period in which I strode forth as a simple, unknown soldier and set out to conquer a Reich, a time in which I did not doubt the certain success and the final victory. Then a group of brave men and women congregated around me. And they marched with me.
And today I implore you, my German Volk: stand behind me man by man, woman by woman.
At this hour, let all of us resolve a common will. It shall be stronger than any despair and danger imaginable. And once this will has become stronger than any despair and danger, then one day it will vanquish despair and danger.
We stand determined! May Herr Beneš now make his choice.
Mein Führer! In this historic hour I shall speak in the name of the entire German Volk, as I solemnly declare: the German nation is solidly behind you to carry out your orders loyally, obediently, and enthusiastically. The German Volk has once again a feeling of national honor and duty. It will know how to act accordingly.
Never again will a November 1918 be repeated. Whoever in the world counts on this, has miscalculated. Once you call upon it, our Volk will move strongly and unrelentingly into battle in order to defend the life and the honor of the nation to its very last breath.
This we swear to you, so help us God!