Adolf Hitler – speech before the Reichstag
in the Kroll Opera
Berlin, March 18, 1938
Deputies, Men of the German Reichstag!
I have had you summoned to attend this short session today, myself moved to the depths of my heart, in order to give you a report on the events whose significance you all appreciate. Furthermore, I must inform you of decisions affecting the German Volk and the German Reichstag itself.
When I was able to speak to you a few weeks ago, I gave you an account of the five-year work of constructing the National Socialist State, which may well be described, in terms of overall outcome, as beyond compare.
Wilson’s right of self-determination of the peoples, which was used in part to persuade our Volk to lay down its arms, was replaced by the most brutal national violation of countless millions of German Volksgenossen. Rights which were self-evidently accorded to the most primitive colonial tribes were withheld from one of this world’s old civilized nations for reasons as unacceptable as they were insulting.
In my speech on February 20, I explained that it will hardly be possible to reach a settlement concerning the volkisch and territorial conditions in Europe to the satisfaction of everyone involved; i.e. we do not believe that it should be the objective of a national leadership of state to use every means available, be they protests or actions, of enforcing territorial claims which, although motivated by national necessities, ultimately cannot lead to general national justice. The countless volkisch enclaves in Europe make it, to a certain degree, simply impossible to establish borders which do equal justice to all the interests of the peoples and states. However, there do exist political structures that so strongly embody the character of conscious and intentional national injustice that they cannot be maintained for any length of time except by means of the most brutal force.
The formation of a new, mutilated Austrian state was also a measure which signified a naked violation of the right of self-determination of six and a half million people belonging to the German race. This violation was admitted with cynical frankness-for it was of no importance whatsoever at that time, either to the reputed inventors of the right of self-determination, the independence, and the freedom of nations, nor to the extremely curious, pious world rulers who otherwise profess to be so very concerned about justice being done on this earth-that the free will of six-and-a-half million people was simply cut off by the so-called peace Diktats and that these people were being coerced by force to surrender to the robbery of their right of self-determination and to accept their unnatural separation from the great common motherland.
When the decision was nonetheless made in Austria at that time to hold referenda on the Anschluss-and I might particularly remind the Mister Democrats in London and Paris of the fact that this was a tune at which National Socialism existed neither in Germany nor in Austria-and the referenda resulted in more than 95 percent of all votes in favor of unification, the apostles of the new international law simply made use of the power of brutal force to prohibit without further ado this peaceful demonstration of the true desire of unhappy people who are separated from their Volk.
The tragic part about it was that, from the very beginning, this state of Austria was simply not viable! The economic distress was horrendous as could be anticipated; the annual mortality rate rose alarmingly. Alone in a city such as Vienna, there were 24,000 fatalities and only 10,000 births. I am not saying this in the belief that it might make an impression on democratic world Philistines, because I know that their hearts are completely hardened to such things. They can calmly look on while half a million people are butchered in Spain without being moved in the least. At the same time, they are equally capable of feigning profound indignation without blushing in the least, when in Berlin or in Vienna some Jewish agitator is divested of his means of doing business. No, I mention this only in order to ascertain in all objectivity how the perpetrators of the peace Diktats succeeded, by the simple fact of establishing this inviable figment of state, in passing a sentence of slow but sure death for millions of people.
The fact that the Saar-with the exception of a few thousand people of French nationality-is inhabited exclusively by Germans was proven in the plebiscite conducted there under international supervision. However, the fact that these few percent nonetheless sufficed to coerce a territory to submit to a plebiscite before its reunification with the Reich was allowed is a crass contradiction to the attitude taken when millions upon millions of German beings are involved. In that case, complying with their wish to return to their fatherland is simply rejected as inopportune for the democracies, and indeed the mere hope is virtually branded as a crime. In the long run, a violation of rights of this sort cannot be glossed over with the transparent morals of certain international institutions! Justice will be done, even if Germans are concerned! And who would not be surprised that the peoples who are being stubbornly denied this right ultimately see themselves compelled to procure their human rights for themselves. The nations are created according to God’s will and are everlasting, but the League of Nations is a highly dubious construction of human fallibility, human greed, and human bias.
And one thing is certain: just as the peoples have been existing for countless millenniums without a League of Nations, there will come a time when the League of Nations is a thing of the distant past, and the peoples will nevertheless prevail throughout the millenniums.
Germany has once again become a world power. Yet which power in the world would calmly tolerate for any length of time that, before its very gates, a mass of millions (Millionenmasse) belonging to its own national race are so bitterly abused? There are moments when it becomes simply impossible for a self-confident nation to bear that sight any longer!
It was for these reasons I had decided to arrange for that conference in Berchtesgaden with the former Chancellor Schuschnigg of which you are all aware. In all earnestness, I confronted him with the fact that a regime totally lacking in legitimation, which was governing virtually by force alone, would, in the long run, necessarily come into ever greater conflict with the will of the Volk running diametrically opposed to its own currents. I endeavored to make it clear to him that this situation must ultimately lead to an ever increasing opposition on the one hand and to an ever mounting use of force on the other.
Yet particularly in consideration of the great power of the resurrected German Reich, revolutionary uprisings were impossible to be ruled out. Under these circumstances, the only consequence was a further increase in terror. And in the end, a situation would arise making it impossible for a major power with a sense of national honor to patiently stand by any longer, much less to take an indifferent standpoint.
I left no doubt in Herr Schuschnigg’s mind that there was not a single German-born Austrian with national decency and a sense of honor who would not, at the bottom of his heart, yearn and be willing to strive for a unification with the German Volk. I asked him to spare German-Austria, the German Reich and himself a situation that, sooner or later, would inevitably lead to very serious disputes. In this context, I suggested a path to him which could lead to a gradual lessening of tensions internally and, hence to a slow reconciliation not only among the people within Austria themselves, but also between the two German states!
I pointed out to Herr Schuschnigg that this would be the final attempt on my part and that I was resolved, in the event that this attempt were to fail, to protect the rights of the German Volk in my homeland with the only means ever left on this earth when human insight closes itself off from the precepts of common justice: for no decent Volk has ever sacrificed its life for the sake of democratic formalities. And, by the way, this is something which is out of the question in precisely those democracies where there is the most talk about it.
On February 20, I offered my hand to former Chancellor Schuschnigg before the German Reichstag. Even in his initial reaction, he rejected my offer of reconciliation. Indeed, he began to only haltingly fulfill the obligations he had assumed as soon as it became evident that certain other states were propagating a negative attitude. Moreover, we are now in a position to know that a part of the campaign of lies being launched against Germany was inspired by Herr Schuschnigg’s own press office. There could no longer be any doubt that Herr Schuschnigg, who had no legal justification whatsoever for his existence and who had been ravaging German-Austria with a dwindling minority’s reign of terror, was determined to violate this agreement.
On Tuesday, March 8, the first reports on plans for a referendum appeared. They were so fantastic and so unbelievable that they could only be dismissed as rumors. Then on Wednesday evening, by way of a truly astonishing speech, we were made aware of an attempted assault not only against the agreements reached between us, but above all, against the majority of the Austrian population. In a country which has not held a single election for years, in which there are neither voters’ registration nor lists of voters, an election was scheduled to take place within scarcely three days’ time. The question at issue was to be worded such that a rejection would seem to be punishable as a criminal offense according to the prevailing legislation in Austria at the time.
There were no voters’ lists; hence it was impossible to examine such lists from the very beginning; there was no way of contesting the results; secrecy was neither guaranteed nor desired; the “nay” voters were stigmatized from the very beginning; the “yea” voters were provided with every opportunity to falsify the results; in other words: Herr Schuschnigg, who was perfectly aware that only a minority of the population was behind him, attempted to procure for himself, by means of an unprecedented election fraud, the moral justification for an open breach of the obligations he had undertaken. He wanted a mandate for continuing to oppress-with even more brutal force- the overwhelming majority of the German-Austrian Volk.
The fact that he both broke his word and resorted to this measure could but lead to rebellion. Only someone who was crazy and blind could believe this could possibly serve to silence a tremendous majority of the Volk, allowing him to create a legal foundation upon which he could present his illegal regime to the world. Yet the rebellion which was undoubtedly to come and which did, in fact, announce itself immediately, would have led to renewed-and this time terrible-bloodshed. For once the embers of a passion fanned by such a permanent state of injustice begin to flame, experience has always shown that they can only be extinguished by blood. Of this, history has given us sufficient examples.
I was thus resolved to put an end to the further violation of my homeland! Hence I immediately initiated that the requisite measures be taken designed to ensure that Austria could be spared the fate of Spain.
The ultimatum which the world suddenly began to complain of consisted solely of the firm assurance that Germany would no longer tolerate any further oppression of German-Austrian Volksgenossen-and hence of a warning not to choose a path which could only have led to bloodshed.
The fact that this attitude was right is proven by the fact that, in the midst of the intervention which had nonetheless become necessary, within the space of three days my entire homeland came rushing to meet me without a single shot having been fired and without a single casualty, as far as I know- naturally to the great disappointment of our international pacifists. Had I not complied with the wishes of the Austrian Volk and its new National Socialist Government, in all probability circumstances would have evolved in such a manner that our intervention would subsequently have been necessary in any case. I wanted to spare this magnificent country endless misfortune and suffering. For when hatred has once begun to smolder, reason is obscured.
Then a just assessment of crime and punishment becomes a thing of the past.
National wrath, personal vindictiveness, and the primitive instincts of egotistical drives together raise the torch and frenziedly go about their mad hunt for victims with total disregard for what is right and total ignorance of the consequences! Perhaps Herr Schuschnigg did not believe it possible that I could make the decision to intervene. He and his followers can thank the Lord God for that.
For it was my resolve alone that probably saved his life and the lives of tens of thousands of others, a life they by far do not deserve, given their complicity in the deaths of innumerable Austrian victims of the Movement, but which the National Socialist State generously gives them as a sovereign victor! I am also happy that I have thereby now become the one to fulfill this supreme historic assignment.
Can there be a prouder satisfaction for a man in this world than to have joined the people of his own homeland to the greater Volksgemeinschaft? And you can all appreciate my feeling of joy that I did not need to conquer a field of corpses and ruins for the German Reich, but that I have been able to bestow upon it an intact Land filled with overjoyed people! I have acted in the only way for which I can assume responsibility as a German before the history of our Volk, before the past and living witnesses to our Volksgemeinschaft, before the holy German Reich, and before my cherished homeland! Seventy-five million people are standing behind the decision I have made, and before them stands, from now on, the German Wehrmacht!
It is almost tragic that an event that, at bottom, merely eliminated a tension in Central Europe which in time would have become unbearable, has met with such an utter and complete lack of understanding, particularly on the part of our democracies. Their reactions were in part incomprehensible and in part insulting. However, a number of other states had declared from the very beginning that the matter was no interest of theirs, while others expressed their hearty approval. This was the case as regards not only the majority of the smaller European countries, but many of the larger states as well. Of these, I might mention the dignified and sympathetic attitude of Poland, the warm-hearted approval of Hungary, the declarations submitted by Yugoslavia in cordial friendship, and the assurances of absolutely sincere neutrality on the part of many other countries.
Yet I cannot conclude my enumeration of these votes of friendship without going into more detail on the stand taken by Fascist Italy. I had felt myself under an obligation to explain in a letter to the leader of the great Fascist state, who is a close personal friend of mine, the reasons for my actions and, moreover, to assure him that not only would nothing change in Germany’s attitude toward Italy subsequent to this event, but that moreover, just as this was the case as concerned France, Germany would regard the existing borders to Italy as given.
At this time I would like to express our warmest thanks to this great Italian statesman, on behalf of the German Volk and on my own behalf! We know what Mussolini’s attitude during this time has meant for Germany. If any further reinforcement had been possible in the relations between Italy and Germany, it has now come about. What was originally a mutuality based on Weltanschauung and interests has now become, for us Germans, an indissoluble friendship. For us, the land and borders of this friend are inviolable.
I may repeat that I will never forget Mussolini for taking this attitude! Let the Italian Volk know that the German nation backs up my word! Hence once again the axis which joins our two countries has done a supreme service for the cause of world peace. Germany desires only peace. It does not intend to do harm to other peoples. Yet under no circumstances will it tolerate that harm is done to itself; it is prepared at all times to go to the bitter end in defense of its honor and its existence. May no one believe that these are empty words, and may it be, above all, understood that no great Volk with a sense of honor can sit by idle and look on while great masses of millions who share its blood are subjected to unremitting oppression!
I believe that-in these great and historic hours when, thanks to the power of the National Socialist idea and the strength which it gives to the Reich, an ageold dream of Germans has come true-not only one part of our people can be called upon to verify, by its affirmation, the tremendous feat of the long-awaited foundation of a truly great Reich of the German Volk. On April 10, millions of German-Austrians will make their pledge before history to the great German common destiny and the great German Volksgemeinschaft. And they shall not be alone in taking this first great step in the new German Reich. They will be accompanied from now on by the whole of Germany. For beginning with March 13, their path will be the same as the one taken by all the other men and women of our Volk. Hence on April 10, for the first time in history, the entire German nation, to the extent that it is today a part of the great Reich of the Volk, will come forward and make its solemn vow. Not six and a half million will be asked, but seventy-five. [-] I am thereby dissolving the Reichstag of the old German Reich and ordering elections to be scheduled for the representatives of Greater Germany. This date I am also setting for the 10th of April.
I am thereby calling upon nearly fifty million of our Volk eligible to vote and asking them to give me a Reichstag which will enable me, with the generous help of the Lord God, to accomplish our great, new tasks. Now the German Volk shall once more weigh and consider what I have achieved with my staff in the five years since the first Reichstag election in March of 1933. It will come to the conclusion that these achievements are historically beyond compare. I expect of my Volk that it has the insight and the power to make a decision both honorable and unique! Just as I asked the German Volk in 1933, in view of the tremendous work lying ahead of us, to give me four years’ time to solve the greatest problems, I must now request of it a second time: German Volk, give me another four years so that I can consummate the consolidation which has now been performed externally in an internal sense as well, for the benefit of all. When this term has expired, the new German Reich of the Volk shall have grown to become an indissoluble unit, firmly anchored in the will of its Volk, under the political leadership of the National Socialist Party, protected by its young National Socialist Wehrmacht, and rich from its flourishing economic life.
When today we see the boldest dreams of so many generations coming true before our very eyes, we are filled with a feeling of boundless gratitude to all those who have done their part, by their labors and above all by their sacrifices, to help us achieve this highest goal. Every German tribe and every German landscape has made its own painful contribution to make this work a success. In this moment, let there rise from the dead before us those who constitute the last victims for the cause of German unification-all those many fighters who, in the old Ostmark which has now come home to the Reich, were the faithful heralds of the German unity we have achieved today and, as blood witnesses and martyrs, gasped with their dying breath those last words which shall, for us, be more sacred now than ever before: one Volk, one Reich.
Deutschland! Sieg Heil!