Adolf Hitler – speech in the Berlin Sportpalast
May 3, 1940
The battle in the midst of which Germany finds itself today is the second act of the great, decisive struggle which will determine the future of our race, of our Reich. You often hear the term balance of power these days: the balance of power in Europe. In particular of late, you will have had occasion to read that the cause for this battle lies with the threatened disruption of this balance of power in Europe.
Now what is the meaning of this thesis? Germany’s racial core consists of a mass of Volk of over eighty million men. Throughout the centuries, albeit in lesser numbers, this mass of Volk formed the center of gravity in Europe.
Over the past 300 years, this center of gravity in terms of the Volk’s mass has lost its significance in power politics.
At the end of the Thirty Years’ War, the political unity of this mass began to disintegrate and to evolve into a conglomerate of small, individual states.
With this, it lost its inner value-and, in particular, the impact in terms of power normally attributed to the center of gravity in Europe. The Peace of Munster- it established at least the vision of the political divisiveness of the German nation. Hence, it created the prerequisites for the rise of other powers to hegemony on the world stage-to a degree far beyond the numeric significance and value of these other races. Without this fragmentation of Germany, this political atomization, the rise of England as a world power over the past three hundred years would not have been conceivable. Without this, France would never have become what it became later, after overcoming its political, internal multifariousness, and what it would still like to be today. Broadly speaking, these two world powers are nothing other than the result of the elimination of the German nation as a factor in power politics. By the same token, the political impotence of the German nation remains a prerequisite to their continued existence in the future, as well. Hence, a balance of power has established itself in Europe devoid of a foundation in terms of the masses. The strongest European nation by far has rendered this exaggerated significance possible through its political fragmentation. Without this fragmentation, Germany undoubtedly would still constitute the determining factor in Europe as was the case earlier. And thus came about a state of affairs called the balance of power in Europe. Its mission is to eliminate the strongest European force as a factor in power politics by fostering its internal fragmentation.
For us Germans, the question arises: is a modification of this state of affairs necessary? Today, we need not reply to this any more. Its answer lies in the natural drive of all living beings. Its political answer goes back to the time when at the moment of collapse, or rather when the collapse of the Old Reich was imminent, a rebirth already became evident in the creation of a new cell, that of the Brandenburg-Prussia of the day.
Yet, beyond this, there is another compelling reason to seek a modification in this balance of power in Europe. The problem presents itself in the following manner to us Germans. There are two decisive elements in the life of a Volk. One the one hand, there is a variable: the Volk’s numbers; and, on the other hand, there is the Lebensraum as a given-a fact which does not change by itself. The Volk’s numbers and the Lebensraum exist interdependently and this interdependence is of fateful significance in the lives of peoples. Man lives not by theories alone. He lives not by phrases, nor does he live by programs. Man lives by what the Lebensraum at his disposal affords him in terms of foodstuffs and raw material, and by what he is then able, thanks to his industriousness, to reap from it through his work. Nonetheless, the Lebensraum is of primary importance, of course. For while a Volk of great industry may be able to fashion a bearable existence from even the most modest of Lebensraums, there will come a time when the discrepancy between the Volk’s numbers and the Lebensraum becomes too great. This then leads to a restriction of life, even to an ending of life.
And thus, ever since there has been a history of man, this history has consisted of nothing other than the attempt to bring into harmony the naturally increasing numbers of a Volk with the Lebensraum. This meant either to adapt the Lebensraum to the Volk’s numbers or to adapt the Volk’s numbers to the Lebensraum. These are the two ways of establishing a tolerable relationship here.
I will begin with the first alternative: people adapt to the Lebensraum. This can occur naturally as the insufficient Lebensraum cannot provide for people.
Weak peoples then begin to capitulate in the face of necessity and to abandon the foundation of their existence. This means that they start to reduce their numbers, primarily due to need.
There is yet another way of adapting the Volk’s numbers to the Lebensraum. It is called emigration. In both ways, Germany has lost human material of immense value throughout the centuries. In centuries past already, need had been great in the German lands. Often this has led to a virtual decimation of men. The second way robbed us of yet more German blood.
Throughout centuries, pressured by insufficient Lebensraum of their own, German men left their homeland and helped to build up those foreign states which now face us as enemies.
Another, third way was found of adapting the Volk’s numbers to the given Lebensraum. It is called: voluntary reduction of birth rates. After the first way-that of hunger-no longer appeared tolerable and the second way-that of emigration-was blockaded by the Peace Treaties of Versailles, people turned to the third way in increasing numbers. It was even hailed as a virtue to voluntarily limit the strength of one’s own Volk, to reduce the Volk’s numbers. I need not tell you where this led. In the end, the result of all these attempts was that the potential for natural selection in a people was severely curtailed.
And, in the end, it begins to surrender its forces to better peoples. For it is emigration above all which, like a magnet, draws the active element out of a race, a Volk, and leaves behind only the weak, the cowardly, the meek. And if such a state of affairs is allowed to persist over the centuries, then a formerly important people will slowly but surely lose its steel and turn into a weak, a cowardly mass of men, willing to accept any fate.
This is the first way of establishing balance between a Volk’s numbers and the Lebensraum. This way, no matter what the circumstances, will always lead to the destruction of a Volk. In the future, this will lead to a reduction of such a Volk in comparison to those peoples who choose the second way, namely, not to adapt the Volk’s numbers to the Lebensraum, but rather to adapt the Lebensraum to the Volk’s numbers. This is the way chosen by all vigorous nations of this earth. It is the natural way since Providence has placed man upon this earth and has given him this earth as his playground, as the basis for his existence. Providence has not initiated man in its designs. It has not assigned peoples certain Lebensraume. Instead Nature has placed these beings on this earth and has given them freedom. He who wants to live asserts himself.
He who cannot assert himself does not deserve to live. He will perish. This is an iron, yet also a just principle. The earth is not there for cowardly peoples, not for weak ones, not for lazy ones. The earth is there for him who takes it and who industriously labors upon it and thereby fashions his life. That is the will of Providence. That is why it has placed man upon this earth, along with the other beings, and has paved the way for him, has freed him to make his own decisions, to lead his own struggle for survival.
And should he fail in this struggle, should he become weak in asserting his existence, then Providence will not rush to his aid. Instead, it will sentence him to death. And rightly so. Other men will come. The space will not remain empty. What the one man loses, another will take. And life continues in accordance with its own eternal rhythm without consideration for the weakling.
The earth is a challenge cup. It is a challenge cup which passes into the hands of those peoples who deserve it, who prove themselves strong enough in their struggle for existence, who secure the basis for their own existence. It is a challenge cup which is taken from those peoples who become weak, who are not willing, at the risk of the life of one generation, to secure the life of later generations. The right to this soil is given equally to all these peoples. On this earth, no Englishman has more rights than a Frenchman, no Frenchman has more rights than a Russian, no Russian has more rights than a German, no German has more rights than an Italian, and so on. Strength (Kraft) determines right on this soil. And strength is nothing other than an expression of a healthy sense of self-assertion. Peoples who start to lose this strength are no longer healthy and therefore lose their right to this earth. And to be able to exercise this strength, which is first of all a question of will, it is necessary to create certain organizational prerequisites. Foremost amongst these is the inner unity of a Volk. In Germany, we have witnessed the long, almost tragic evolution which was necessary to lead us from inner political conflicts once more to the core not of a new philosophy of state, but to the creation of a new state.
The core which gave us not only political unity, but above all the foundation of ethnic unity. Hereby it created the prerequisites for the inner unity of the German nation. What has come to pass in this realm within these seven years is the greatest of chapters in German history. Not only have countless political forms, old, no longer viable structures, been broken down, but also, in the realm of society, the birth of a new Volksgemeinschaft and hence of a new German Volk became apparent. In the course of the last years, we were able to observe how the toughness and the power of resistance of this new formation passed the test. I do not doubt that it will hold its own in emerging victoriously from this greatest trial in German history. And hence out of this social and moral revolution grew the new German Volksstaat.
Since 1933, this new German Volksstaat has undergone change, strengthened its inner formation, through numerous acts of a lawgiving nature.
And thus, this Volksstaat has now begun to create the elements necessary for its external liberation. What has been attained in this area within these seven years, is one of the greatest chapters in German history. In these seven years-I feel free to avow this openly before history-we have not wasted a single month in securing that power, without possession of which a people is doomed in its search for justice on this earth.
Its lack has shown us how helpless a Volk is when it depends upon the insight or mercy, the compassion or goodwill of other peoples whom it must implore and for which it must beg. And thus the Greater German Reich has fashioned its own arms. And with the increases in its arms and its power, the Greater German Reich itself has been strengthened. And today, we find ourselves in the midst of a great historic conflict, the second phase in a gigantic struggle. The initial phase we once lost not because our arms were bad by themselves, rather we lost it because the leadership failed and the German Volk in its inner formation was not yet prepared to see through such a struggle, as it lacked inner cohesion and strength. I have striven to make up for this within twenty years’ time. And, so I believe, I succeeded. Whereas once the German soldier fought a lonely battle at the front, today he knows behind him the united force of a uniformly led and orientated Volk. This Volk today expects of the German soldier that he fulfill the mission of his life. The German soldier today can rest assured that the Volk standing behind him will recognize his needs and fulfill his wants.
And then comes the question which will plague every small skeptic, every apprehensive man, one time or another, and which might well make you ill-atease also in the most trying of hours: “Is it actually possible to win this fight?” And, from the depths of my convictions, I would like to give you the following reply. I give it to you not as a pale theoretician, not as a man who is a stranger to the demands facing you at present. I face them myself. I am acquainted with all the needs, all the worries, all the cares, and all the hardships, which you will encounter and which some of you have already encountered.
I have experienced them all myself. And in spite of this, after the greatest of collapses then suffered, I already immediately knew the answer to this question.
I found it for myself. At no moment was there any doubt in my heart that Germany would survive and that it would win this most difficult of struggles in its history.
Reasons for this belief lie not with some sort of fanatical hope, rather they are founded in recognition. For one, the numbers of the Volk. Even the most expert and most worthy of peoples can fail in their struggle for survival if the discrepancy of their numbers is too great and too obvious in view of the tasks faced and especially, of the forces of the environment. Antiquity furnishes us with two great, tragic examples: Sparta and Hellas. They were both doomed to failure in the end because the world in which they lived was numerically so superior to them that even the most successful of struggles was bound to tax their forces beyond measure.
When we look at today’s Germany in light of this consideration, then, my young friends, we recognize a fact which occasions great joy: certainly, there is a British Empire, but there are only forty-six million Englishmen in the motherland. There is a huge American state, but amongst its 130 million inhabitants, there are barely sixty-five million true Anglo-Saxons, and that’s that. The rest are Negroes, Jews, Latins, Irishmen, and Germans, and so on.
There is a huge Russian state. However, it has not even sixty million true Great Russians as its bearers. The rest consists of, in part, greatly inferior races.
There is also France, spanning over nine million square kilometers of earth and with more than 100 million men, but amongst them are perhaps at most thirtyseven million true Frenchmen who must uphold this structure.
Well, here we stand, my young friends, a state of a total of 82 million German Teutons (deutsche Germanen). At present, we are the ethnically most numerous political structure of one race which exists on this earth, with the exception of China. This fact is not new. In former times as well, the German Volk determined, thanks to the force of its numbers, Europe’s destiny.
And now there arises a second question, one of equal decisiveness, namely, that of the value of the Volk. For all of us know that numbers by themselves are not in the final instance decisive. And here, my young friends, we are able these days to proudly acknowledge: there is no Volk better on this earth than the German one. Believe me, in the days and months of the collapse of 1918, one thought uplifted me, put me back on my feet again, and returned to me my faith in Germany. It made me strong internally to begin and to take up this gigantic struggle. It was the conviction that even the World War had not proven us to be second class. On the contrary, it had proved us to be undoubtedly the best Volk, especially insofar as this was a question of soldierly virtues. And this is apparent again these days. Here is a Volk which in terms of numbers is the strongest state people on this earth. And beyond this, it is also the best Volk in terms of value, for this value in the end becomes apparent in the soldier. A Volk which does not cherish soldierly virtues is like straw on this earth; it will be blown away by the wind. However, a Volk which possesses as much metal as the German one needs only to develop its values and to apply these subsequently. Then no one can take its future from it.
There is yet another factor which must give all of us internal confidence: it is the ability of our Volk, also its economic ability. Here as well, great feats have been accomplished. The German Volk has wrought a miracle economically within these barely seven years. You all know of our great plans. They were inspired but by one thought.
Above all reigned the thought of the resurrection of the German Wehrmacht, the increasing independence of our economy, its freedom from exterior influences, its stability in the event of a blockade. These were the principles which moved us from day one to implement all these plans, which in the final instance found their realization in the Four-Year Plan. We have an economy in Germany today which ranks at the top of the world economy in particular as far as production in realms of vital importance to the war is concerned.
There is something else, too: the German organization. It is today’s organization of our Volkswesen, of our Volksgemeinschaft. Said organization which today encompasses the entire German Volk, which reaches into every home, into every village, and there again into every farmstead, into every factory, into every craftsman’s shop. There is no German who is not integrated into this gigantic organization. We have created a miracle instrument which enables us to issue a single directive and to drive it home into even the most remote hut within a few hours.
No Volk in the world today possesses a better form of organization than the German Volk; most do not even possess one nearly as good. A state of affairs which is accepted as a matter of course in other countries even today, we have long overcome. You need only think of the parliamentarian theatrics in these states and, as soldiers, apply this mentally to a company or a battalion.
You will laugh at the idea of being able to hold your own in battle with such a lot. With such peoples, you cannot score successes in the long run. And this is better, too: we are the state which has created the most profound harmony between political organization and its military implementation; the state in which soldierly principles have been applied in the buildup of the Wehrmacht and which, in turn, have already found their political translation therein. And thus we can say that between the Wehrmacht and its principles on the one hand, and the political organization and the constructive elements therein on the other hand, there exists complete harmony. To this we must add the German soldier as a warrior. His equipment-today we have the best-equipped soldier of the world in our Army and in our Luftwaffe.
And secondly, the German soldier and his training. When today we hear of so low-relatively low216-losses across the board, which stand in no relation to the losses which I myself had the opportunity to witness in the World War, then we owe this to the improved training of the individual soldier. But also we owe it to the leadership experienced in war, the more thorough training. Surely, today we have the best Wehrmacht there is in the world at this time.
And finally, and this ought to be almost at the top of the list, there is one more thing which ought to reinforce us in our belief in victory: trust in the German leadership; in the leadership on top and way down. Trust in a leadership that knows only the thought of winning this battle, which subordinates all other concerns to this, which is suffused with the fanatical will to do everything and to risk everything for success in this battle, which unlike the pitiful leadership of the World War does not stumble over threads or is unable to step across lines drawn in crayon.
Instead the German Volk and above all you, as soldiers and future officers, must know that at the helm of the Reich there stands a leadership which night and day knows only the one thought: to force the victory under all circumstances! And to risk everything for it. And beyond this, you must know that this leadership naturally can only accomplish what is provided for by the highest echelons of leadership. And that you yourselves form part of this total leadership. Every one of you will have to struggle with the same problems which are not spared the supreme leadership of today either. For when I look back upon the war myself, then I have not forgotten those difficult hours full of worries, the gnawing fear of death, and all those other sentiments which man experiences in face of these most horrendous stresses placed upon nerves and willpower, of physical strain. I have not forgotten these-yet, still, how easy do all the decisions of the soldier then appear to me as opposed to the decisions which one later has to take upon oneself in positions of responsible leadership.
How easy all of this is when it is merely a question of one’s own life as opposed to holding, in the final instance, the nation’s life and destiny in one’s hands.
Whatever situation you may encounter individually, never forget one thing: Every decision you make, every action you order, every stand you occupy, all this will not be any more difficult than the same decisions, the same stands, the same willpower asked of those who in other places have to bear the responsibility, and have to bear it overall. In this respect, a great community of leadership must take hold in which every one occupies his place, is ready to fulfill his mission, is ready to rejoice in taking on responsibility in the one thought: It is of no import whether the individual among us lives-what must live is our Volk! We now stand in the midst of the most decisive struggle for Germany’s entire future. Of what importance is it should the individual amongst us, every individual included, leave the stage? What is decisive is that our Volk can assert itself. And it will only then be able to assert itself when its leadership, at every instance, is willing to fanatically do everything for the one goal: To win this struggle. And believe me, my young friends, the individual man is always brave and valiant; the musketeer, he is always decent basically, he looks up to his leaders, he sees his company commander before him, his platoon leader. And let no one forget: The German is no such scoundrel (Hundsfott) that he will ever abandon his company commander. He would never do such a thing. He will follow his leader, but his leader must make it easy for him through his dedication, his daring, his courage. Such a leader will then always find a following and will chain it to himself-whatever his position may be, at the top or at the head of a group or platoon, or company. It will always be the same.
The result: he will love him who leads him! And even if life is wonderful and the sacrifice of life ever so hard, my young friends, many generations lived before us. That we are here today we do not owe to their peaceful existence, but to their placing at risk their own lives in the struggle. For the soil upon which we stand today was not given us by the Good Lord as a gift. It had to be gained in battle. And time and time again, there were Germans to be found who were willing to place their lives at risk in the past so that life might be given to later generations. And it is not as though placing one’s life at risk was any easier then than it is today. It was just as bitter and just as difficult.
When we speak of the dead of the World War, then we should never forget that every single one of these two million gave his life for the future of the nation just as this may be asked of us and of you individually at one point.
Another thing yet is certain: the more determined a Volk is in taking up a fight, the more ruthlessly it acts, the less the sacrifices will be! And thus, I expect of you in this era of an approaching great, world-historic decision that you shall first be valiant, courageous, and exemplary officers, that you shall be comradely and loyal not only amongst yourselves, but also with the men placed in your care. Today you have a Volk-not mercenaries, not vagrants caught along country roads. Rather Volksgenossen are entrusted to your leadership. And this you may never forget. These Volksgenossen will all the more attach themselves to you, the more they feel they can see in you true leaders of the German Volk, of the Volk in arms. Expand your horizon, for the soldier needs-beyond heroics and courage and enthusiasm-the true foundations of knowledge. Here, too, knowledge is power. Above all, apply this expertise and knowledge in the care for the Volksgenossen entrusted to you. It is because of the absolute authority this state grants you that you are obligated to carefully attend to this authority in the service of the leadership of the men entrusted to you. To be a leader means to truly care for all those with whose care one has been entrusted. Above all, be a man in the hours of great trial. Persevere and above all be persistent.
The great victories of world history were accorded to that party which commanded the last battalion on the battlefield, i.e. the men who knew how to carry their heads high to the last minute. It is not as though the dice fell during the first minute of any battle. It is not as though one could say in the first minute already: naturally there will be success for the one side, it will carry the victory, no one can deny it, while on the other side, there will be only destruction. Great world-historic decisions seldom look like successes from the start. Many times the struggle is a difficult one and victory appears elusive. In the end, it will bestow its favors upon him whose persistence, whose fanatical, indestructible stand makes him the more deserving one. And here we Germans can look with pride to one soldier who has entered the halls of history as an immortal.
If there are men who doubt success or the possibility of success, then all we can say to them is: today Germany fights as the strongest military state against a front of enemies inferior to it in terms of numbers and value. Once a man, with a state of 2.7 million, dared to attack the monarchy in the Reich of the day and, after three wars against a European coalition of over forty million men, he carried the victory in the end. His were not only victories. What was so wonderful in all this was his attitude in the most critical of situations, his attitude when he faced defeat. Everyone can suffer a defeat now and then. What is decisive is his character, how he takes it, and immediately goes on the offensive again. This, my young friends, must be instilled in your flesh and blood, and this you must instill in your soldiers: we may be defeated once perhaps, but vanquished-never! And in the end, the victory will be ours-one way or another!
I can look back upon a most eventful life. It was not as though this struggle for power in Germany, for the new Movement, had consisted of only victories.
You need only read the prophecies of my opponents. Who believed in my carrying the victory? Who believed in the certainty of the outcome of this struggle? It was a question of a great deal of persistence to overcome all these defeats, these blows, to emerge from them only to take power in the end. And in these last years as well-there have been many worries in countless realms.
Many setbacks. The mass of the people may well not even have realized all of this, for the leadership has learned to come to terms with these [setbacks].
It is one of the most uplifting tasks of leadership to allow one’s followers to mark only the victory; and to take upon oneself the entire responsibility at critical moments; to step in front of one’s followers to shield them against this responsibility.
And now I ask of you to be aware at every hour that in your hand lies the honor of a great Volk, the honor not only of your generation but that of generations past. At every hour, not only the eyes of millions of your living contemporaries follow you, but also the eyes of those who closed them before us upon this earth. They look upon you through the past and hence through immortality and they will seek to determine whether and to what extent you are fulfilling those duties which other men before us so gloriously fulfilled. They expect of us that posterity should have no more cause to be ashamed of us than we have cause to be ashamed of the great eras of our past. When we hold up this sacred banner of honor and hence of a sense of duty, and when we with faithful hearts follow this flag, then the goal we all pursue can be nothing other than the victory of Greater Germany!