Adolf Hitler – speech at the Blohm and Voss shipyard
Hamburg, February 14, 1939
On the day of our assumption of power six years ago commenced the resurrection of the German Wehrmacht. It is to secure the existence of the Reich and to enable its Fuhrer to pursue the justified interests of the nation successfully. As the sharpest instrument of war, it is to take under its protection a just peace and help shield it. Simultaneously with the establishment of the German Army and the creation of a new German Luftwaffe, we established a new Navy, one sufficient to meet our needs. We Germans still feel a terrific tug at our hearts when we think of the fate of the Fleet sunk twenty years ago, after its glorious struggle throughout four years. National Socialist Germany sought its resurrection with particular dedication and love.
The circumstances made necessary and acceptable the restrictions in the Anglo-German Naval Agreement on the number of large-sized ships. This has led to the necessity of achieving a compromise in the christening of these vessels between, on the one hand, the Navy’s understandable desire to accommodate its heritage and, on the other hand, the new Wehrmacht’s significance to the Volk and the National Socialist State. The pool of names from which to draw inspiration in the naming of large entities of our fleet is therefore restricted to those men who deserve an honorary mention in our history, to be immortalized in these gigantic works of nationalist feats and inspirations, or else to those men whose names have already been inscribed honorably on the pages of our history and whose greatness commands us to respect this tradition. And it was thus that the names of two great soldiers were given to the first two German battleships to serve with our new Navy. These men undertook, in times of the greatest degradation of Prussia, to realize the principal idea of a Volksheer (people’s army) and to fight for the restoration of their country’s external liberty. The names Scharnhorst and Gneisenau have already borne witness to a naval history and a glorious heroic struggle on their own. Before us today we see the first giant of a new squadron of 35,000-ton battleships. We shall witness its launch momentarily, the first in the days of the new Greater German Reich. After a period of complete collapse and decay, National Socialism has gripped the nation, elevated it, and led it toward gigantic domestic and foreign victories. And the signs of the time compel me all the more fervently to honor the memory of those whose undertakings in their day and age created the preconditions for this Greater Germany of today.
One giant rises above all of those who could lay claim as well to having prepared the path toward a Greater Germany: Bismarck. The life of this one heroic man reflects the history of an age. Amidst the waning relief felt as Prussia and Germany emerged from a disquieting age, when the best of Germans began to entertain doubts as to the rise of the desired liberty for the German nation and had but a faint, imperfect vision of a new German Reich, a child is born.
Thirty-three years later, the deputy von Bismarck begins to emerge from a revolutionary, agitated epoch; highly ambitious in its ideals; highly ambivalent in the methods it employed. Those surrounding him grow increasingly attentive to the young man.
Two years later, he appears at the Bundestag in Frankfurt in his official capacity as the Envoy of Prussia. Eleven years thereafter, a King of great character entrusts him with the leadership of Prussia and the conduct of its foreign affairs. Within barely eight years, he assures hegemony in Germany for a Prussia previously in the shadow of the Habsburg monarchy. He leads Prussia onward, his efforts crowned by the creation of a new German Reich.
This culminating event was not predetermined. It was not one whose time had come in due course, as certain dunces (Einfaltspinsel) maintain. No, this result was wrought by a historically isolated phenomenon, a man truly blessed by the Lord.
And this struggle for a new German Reich is a struggle not only against all sorts of imaginable internal forces and their opposition. Liberals and democrats hate this Junker. As late as 1867, conservatives implore the King to distance himself from this treacherous reformer; from this revolutionary who seeks the destruction of Prussia. Clerical politicians fight him with teeth clenched for they clearly recognize him as the founder of an imperial might; one for whom they harbor only hatred. In the eyes of the Marxists, this man represents a stabilizing force in a social order which ultimately undertakes the solution of social problems without setting fire to the entire world in due course. The egoism of stubborn, decrepit dynasties unites with the hunger for power of Lander politicians. The ambitions and recklessness of parliamentarians mobilize the print press and agitate the Volk. Certain females (Frauenzimmer) plunge themselves into the nerve-racking pursuit of intrigues at the Royal Court. At each step, this great man of genius, alone in his age, encounters the opposition of nobodies. It is truly a struggle of giants, as only a man can estimate who himself has been forced to lead a struggle in a similarly hostile environment [i.e. Hitler].
What we so greatly admire in this man, besides his daunting insight and wisdom, is the enormous willpower which insured him against any cowardly pretenses. In three instances, his sense of duty pressured him to take up his sword in order to resolve matters which, according to his most sacred conviction, he held not to be answerable by means of a negotiated majority decision. And for what this giant wrought within himself-for this, all Germans owe him never-ending gratitude. By mastering the challenging, inner transition from a Prussian statesman to a German Reichsschmied (smith of the Reich) he forged not only an empire, but also created the prerequisites for the erection of what is today called Greater Germany. Despite scruples, he also laid the foundation for the National Socialist State as one of unity and cohesion. His persistent efforts led, as a logical conclusion, to an overcoming of the psychologically divisive prejudices between various tribes and Lander, and the difference in interests.
In those instances in which he was denied success, his efforts had been doomed from the outset, as he lacked the means to pursue this struggle to its ultimate conclusion. The resistance encountered from a filibustering league of Center Party priests paralyzed him as much as did his own attempt to exorcize the spirit of Marxism from the German Volk by all means at his disposal. His attempt to resolve purely social problems by state intervention inspires admiration even today. Unfortunately, he had not an inkling of the potential of an effective propaganda campaign. Most crucially, he lacked a certain tool in his pursuit founded on a weltanschaulich legitimate idea which alone could assure the long-term success of his efforts. And thus, thanks to his genius, his outstanding character and valor, he resolved the state’s problems in his day and age with the governmental means then available. Nevertheless, his attempt to lead a crusade with governmental means against powers that transcended the state was doomed to ultimate failure.
The Second Reich collapsed as he himself had sensed in torturous premonitions. He to whom the German nation owed all, who, after endless days of Germany’s degradation and shame, restored respect to the name of our Volk, might and strength to the Imperial Reich, and colonial possessions which linked the Reich to the remotest parts of the world, he received bad recompense for his troubles. His removal from office and the later hostility of certain political circles, these both constitute a lamentable chapter of national ingratitude. Providence proved more just than man. There are no longer princes and dynasties, politicized Center Party priests and Social Democrats, liberalism, Lander parliaments, or Reichstag parties. All those who rendered difficult the historic struggle of this one man outlived him for but a few years.
National Socialism, however, through the vehicle of its Movement, has imparted to the German Volksgemeinschaft the spiritual and organizing abilities of a world view capable of destroying the enemies of the Reich from now on for all eternity. In the sixth year of the National Socialist revolution, we bear witness today to the launch of this third, now mightiest of battleships in our new fleet.
As Fuhrer of the German Volk and Chancellor of this Reich, I cannot conceive of a better name to give this ship than the name of this man who, as a fearless valiant knight created this German Reich, whose restoration from bitter despair and whose miraculous growth Providence has bestowed on us.
German construction workers, engineers, and dock workers have created the enormous hull of this proud giant which will ride the waves! May the German soldiers and officers, who will have the honor to command this ship one day, prove themselves worthy of the name! May the spirit of the Iron Chancellor suffuse them, may it accompany them in their actions during many sorties in times of peace! Should it be necessary, may his example inspiringly remind and precede them, may it illuminate the hours of hardest fulfilment of their duty! It is with this fervent wish that the German Volk greets its new battleship, the Bismarck!
Admiral General Raeder’s closing words:
We thank the Fuhrer for bestowing on this new battleship of the Third Reich’s Navy so proud a name which obliges us to the Great Smith of the Second Reich. We acknowledge the high calling of his name. On this day, mein Fuhrer, we pledge ourselves, the crew of this ship and the entire Navy, always to bear in mind the high calling and enormous responsibility-unto our last breath.