Adolf Hitler – speech at the opening of the new Winterhilfswerk
Berlin, October 5, 1938
When six years ago I took over the leadership of the Reich one of our so-called 'statesmen' of that day said: 'Now this man has taken the decisive step. Up to now he has been popular, because he has been in opposition. Now he must govern and we shall see in six or eight weeks how his popularity will look'! Six years - not six weeks only - have passed and I believe that they have been the most decisive years for German history. The most characteristic feature of this period is the close unity of the German people. What I have achieved in these six years was possible only because I had standing behind me the whole German people. The problems which faced us no single man could solve unaided: only when he could speak and, if necessary, also act in the name of the whole German people could he master these questions....
During the last few months and weeks I have had in my foreign policy a great helper and previously, in my last speech in this hall [the Sportpalast], I expressed my thanks to the man who took his stand in support of Germany as a true, great friend, Benito Mussolini. He has thrown into the scale of a just solution the entire force not only of his own genius but of the power which stands behind him. I must also thank the two other great statesmen who at the last minute recognized the historical hour, declared themselves ready to give their support to the solution of one of Europe's most burning problems and who thereby made it possible for me, too, to offer the hand towards an understanding. But above all my thanks fly to the German people which in these long months has never deserted me. . . .. I am proud of my German people! I hope that in a few days the problem of the Sudeten Germans will be finally solved. By October 10 we shall have occupied all the areas which belong to us. Thus one of Europe's most serious crises will be ended, and all of us, not only in Germany but those far beyond our frontiers, will then in this year for the first time really rejoice at the Christmas festival. It should for us all be a true Festival of Peace....
Above us all stands the motto: 'no one in the world will help us if we do not help ourselves.' This program of self-help is a proud and manly program. It is a different program from that of my predecessors who continually ran round through the world, going a-begging now in Versailles, then in Geneva, now in Lausanne or at some conference or other elsewhere. It is a prouder thing that to-day we Germans are determined to solve our own problems and to help ourselves.
We have been witnesses of a great turning-point in history. At this moment we must bethink ourselves, too, of those who through twenty years in an apparently hopeless state still nursed a fanatical faith in Germany and never surrendered their *Deutschtum*-their life as Germans. It is so easy here in the heart of the Empire to profess one's belief in Germany. But it is inexpressibly difficult, in the face of an unceasing persecution, not to allow oneself to be drawn away from this faith - to remain fanatically true to it, as though redemption were coming the next day. But now the hour of redemption has come. I have just had my first sight of these areas and what moved me so profoundly was two impressions. First: I have often known the jubilation and the enthusiasm of joy, but here for the first time I have seen hundreds of thousands shedding tears of joy. And secondly I saw appalling distress. When in England a Duff Cooper or a Mr. Eden say that injustice has been done to the Czechs, then these men should just for once see what in reality has happened there. How can one so pervert the truth! I have seen here whole villages undernourished, whole towns reduced to ruin. My fellow-countrymen, you have a great debt of honor to pay! . . . I expect of you that the Winter Help Contribution of 1938-39 shall correspond with the historical greatness of this year.
In the history of our people the year 1938 will be a great, incomparable, proud year.... Later historians will show that the German nation found its way back again to the position of an honorable great nation - that our history has once more become a worthy history.
It was a great goal I set for myself on May 28. At the time, it was a most difficult decision. I believed in its realization and I could only believe in it because I knew: behind me stands the entire German Volk, and it is ready to take on any [!] mission.
Within these last few weeks and months, I have been able to count upon one great help in matters of foreign affairs, and in my last speech in Halle, I already thanked that man who always stood behind me as a great and loyal friend of Germany, Benito Mussolini. He placed not only his own strength and power of genius in the service of finding a just solution, but also placed in its service all the power at his disposal. I must also thank two other great statesmen who, at the last minute, realized the historic import of the hour and declared themselves willing to strive for the solution of one of the most burning problems in all of Europe. These men made it possible for me to extend my hand as well for reaching an understanding.
However, above all, my heartfelt gratitude flies toward the German Volk! It has always stood by me in these long months. In solemn determination it has shouldered all those measures necessary to see through the just demands of the Reich. It will be to the eternal glory of our Volk that in a time period in which hundreds of thousands were called to work and hundreds of thousands of our men were called to arms, that in this time period not one panic-buy took place, that not one man went to the bank, not one woman had doubts. Rather the entire nation stood together as one. I must say this openly: I am proud of my German Volk!
I hope that within a few days, the Sudeten German problem will finally be resolved. By October 10, we will call all German territories our own which belong to us.
With that, one of the most difficult crises in Europe will be over. This year, all of us may truly look forward to Christmas, not only within Germany but outside of its borders as well. For all of us, it shall be a true celebration of peace.
A law reigns above all of us: no one in this world will help us, if we do not help ourselves. This program of self-help is both a proud one and a manly one.
It is quite different from those of my predecessors who ran around all over the place, one minute begging at the gates of Versailles, then in Geneva, Lausanne, or at some other conferences [!]. It is with greater pride that we Germans solve our own problems and help ourselves today! Yet we must realize to how many nameless, countless of our Volksgenossen we owe a great debt. How many hundreds of thousands of German workers were suddenly pulled from their jobs these past months. One fine day they were told: “You must pack your bags now, you are going West!” There a mighty army set to work and built a wall of concrete and steel to protect all of us and all of Germany. They had to leave their wives and children behind. They had to leave their work places and had to choose different, often more taxing tasks. In mass dormitories, they had to put up with many an inconvenience. Certainly, we tried to make things bearable for them. All the same, we owe them thanks, we owe it to them and to the hundreds of thousands of other men who were called up and moved into the barracks and to maneuver sites. And we owe thanks to all those women who had to let their sons and husbands go.
I myself have taken the first step into these [Sudeten German] territories. I was greatly moved by two pictures. For one, I had often witnessed joyous jubilation and enthusiasm. It was the first time that I saw tears of joy in the eyes of hundreds of thousands there.
Secondly, I witnessed gruesome destitution! When Englishmen like Duff Cooper and Mister Eden go around claiming there had been injustice done to the Czechs-well, they should just see what had happened there in reality. How can they twist the truth like that?! I saw entire villages malnourished, entire cities run down.
My Volksgenossen, it is up to you now to fulfill an obligation of honor! We must take these people into the midst of our Volksgemeinschaft and help them.
They need our help! This is merely a token of appreciation on the part of those Germans who were so fortunate as to always have lived in the safe haven of our Reich. We demand but a small sacrifice from everyone. I expect everyone, however, to determine the nature of this sacrifice in accordance to his expertise and ability. I expect of the wealthy to set an example. It must be a question of pride for us to eradicate this destitution in the quickest way possible. I wish to see not one more rachitic child in Germany within a few years’ time.
I expect that the 1938 Winterhilfswerk campaign reflects the historic greatness of the year. It shall be the ambition of all of us to contribute to such a monumental success. This success shall then prove beyond all doubt that the word “Volksgemeinschaft” is not just an empty delusion. We realize that, in the final instance, all human enterprise requires the blessings of Providence if it is to succeed. Yet we realize as well that Providence accords its blessings only to him who proves himself worthy of them. I believe that all of us have experienced such great fortune this year that we are obligated to make sacrifices voluntarily.