Adolf Hitler – speech at the funeral of Generaloberst Eduart Dietl
July 1, 1944
On June 23, 1944, Colonel General Dietl died in a plane accident. As an outstanding soldier in the struggle for our National Socialist Greater Germany, Colonel General Dietl stood out for his fight in Norway and Finland. He led his men from victory to victory. His battle for Narvik will remain unforgotten.
He fought against a greatly superior enemy and under the harshest conditions.
Colonel General Dietl will remain an embodiment of the belief in our National Socialist Germany and its victory for all our soldiers and the entire German Volk. He is an example of unyielding harshness and never-ending loyalty until death.
As the bravest of the brave, he was decorated with the Oak Leaf Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, as the first soldier of our proud Wehrmacht, on July 19, 1940. As a fanatical National Socialist, Colonel General Dietl personally dedicated himself to our movement for the Greater German Reich from the beginning, in unswerving loyalty and passionate faith. I therefore lose in him one of my most loyal comrades of a long, shared time of struggle. His name will live on in his proud mountain army and, beyond this, be tied with that of our brave Finnish ally. It will be regarded as a symbol of this brotherhood in arms.
His army bears his stamp in its spirit of sacrifice and unconditional belief in the final victory. In recognition of his constant heroic services, I award Colonel General Dietl the Oak Leaves with Swords to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. In proud mourning, the army lowers the Reich war ensign in honor of its “Hero of Narvik.”
It is very hard for me to speak on an occasion that has taken from me not only one of my best soldiers but also one of my most loyal friends. The military accomplishments of Colonel General Dietl will go done into history. His personality can be fully be appreciated only by a man who was so fortunate as to know him over many years.
When I faced this man for the first time, he made it possible for me in his company to influence a German regiment for the first time. As the first officer of the German Wehrmacht, he placed his unit at my disposal in order to exercise political influence upon it. One hour after I had spoken to the third company of his regiment, this man gave me his hand and said that he would from then on be my follower. And this he stayed, year after year. First, in the bitter years of our struggle, in which, as a completely unknown man, I faced a mountain of difficulties which could hardly be overcome. Our relationship remained the same, as he later became a member of the new Wehrmacht, and, in particular, when he was called on to play a leading role, which I had reserved for him at the time, based on my personal knowledge of the man and the soldier. Because, in questions of soldiership, you can never separate the man from his purely soldierly expertise. In the end, it is always the man and his mental attitude which lead his soldierly abilities to success.
As I personally made the decision at the time to put General Dietl in charge of the expedition to Narvik, I did so because I believed that I recognized the man in him who would be able to win an apparently lost cause by his faithful confidence. If today, in the fifth year of the war, we often face difficult situations, none of these situations can be compared with the mission that I gave this previously unknown German general. His mission was to take a handful of soldiers and advance to a harbor, through the middle of a superior enemy fleet. It was a harbor that seemed so very far away to the German Volk.
There, he would be completely on his own and would have to try not only to hold this harbor perhaps for weeks or months, but also to build up a position there so that later other units would be able to move up. Later joined by two thousand shipwrecked sailors and naval officers who had barely saved themselves, cut off from supplies, without provisions, ammunition, heavy weaponry, this man and twenty-five hundred soldiers, his mountain infantrymen, faced a far superior enemy on their own.
It is a miracle how he achieved all that at the time, and how he finally brought about a reversal of the situation in Germany’s favor. It is a miracle not only in terms of the deployment of great soldierly abilities, but also of a man’s personality. The quality of the man was made up by his rare ability to combine the love of the soldier, the attention to the individual with a merciless toughness-whenever necessary-in making demands. Colonel General Dietl achieved, perhaps most clearly, a synthesis in his person of being relentlessly tough in making demands on the one hand, and living the concern for his men on the other. And, for this reason, these men, from whom he had demanded and continued to demand the nearly impossible, were attached to him in boundless admiration and love.
Herewith, he created the stereotype of the National Socialist officer. He was an officer who was not soft when asking and demanding, not weak when deploying his men. Instead, he knew that no sacrifice was too great or too dear to be made for this struggle. On the one hand, an officer must make the toughest and harshest demands, while, on the other, he must make the fate of his subordinates his own, as their true friend and father. He was a National Socialist, not according to the cliche, but in will, mind, and heart. This is how I appraised him from the beginning. I believed I could expect this of him, and he later fulfilled this promise.
It was a matter of course that I had a close personal relationship with this officer for this reason. In my opinion, he was the first officer of the German Wehrmacht who penetrated my world of thought and declared himself for it blindly and uncompromisingly. Later, at a time when I was forced to make difficult and hard decisions, I came to respect him all the more.
Especially in the years from 1933 to 1936, when, with a view to the German future, I had to take endless risks, this man stood unshakably behind me. And he continued to do so to his last days.
When he visited me the last time-because of the new military situation in Finland-you could feel in his words the same unconditional confidence to be able to deal with any situation also in the future, no matter under what circumstances, and, if need be, to master even the most difficult tasks. He was inspired by the conviction that, of course, in the end there would be our joint victory. Yes, he was inspired by the knowledge that no great success has ever been scored on this earth that was not gained by the greatest sacrifices and pains, and that you must reject the views of those who imagine that the great men of world history and the success of their deeds had been predetermined as a matter of course. Colonel General Dietl belonged among those who felt deep down that the greatness of a feat grows in proportion to its difficulty. So he fashioned his life accordingly and fought for the German Volk and its future.
For me, this brave and loyal friend has been a support, a support above all in the German officer corps. He belonged to those who, in hard times, helped to radiate confidence and to make others firm and tough. I can never thank him enough for this. May his example inspire and fill many German officers and generals with enthusiasm.
May they all learn to become likewise tough and kind in individual instances, likewise merciless in their demands and understanding in their relations with the men and their cares. Above all, may they learn under any circumstances to radiate confidence, especially in times of crisis, in order to uplift the individual man and repel all thoughts that a struggle, behind which stands the entire fanaticism of a nation, could end in anything other than victory, no matter how the situation might look at the moment.
The most wonderful thing about him was that, in his own life and in his later struggle as a soldier, he successfully managed so many situations that almost made you and many other men despair. He did not teach us how to do this as a theoretician but, as one of the greatest practitioners in our recent German history, he exemplified it to us through his own life.
My personal friendship with him makes it especially painful for me to commemorate him. When I today take leave of this friend, I do so with the most bitter sentiments of a badly hit man, but, on the other hand, I do so with unbending zeal, so that this sacrifice on the altar of the fatherland will be a new obligation to all of us.