Adolf Hitler – speech at the opening of the new Winterhilfswerk



Berlin, October 10, 1939


German Volksgenossen!


The Winterhilfswerk belongs to those National Socialist institutions which today we have almost begun to regard as a matter of course. This relief campaign eases the worries of public relief organizations and the load of work of many public institutions of the State, the Lander, and local governments.


And the individual Volksgenosse has gotten used, over the years, to making a contribution to this institution. The masses do so willingly; only a minute percentage of them do so propelled by the fear of looking bad otherwise. But, in the end, it makes no difference why the individual contributes; the main thing is that he does make a contribution! The idea of this institution was to call on the Volk to help itself. We could have done things differently. Instead of appealing to the Volk’s willingness to sacrifice, we could have directed our appeal to the taxpayer. We consciously and deliberately did not do so because we wanted to educate the German Volk to come together in this common sacrifice, and therein to begin to understand the nature of the community; to comprehend the duties this community demands of us and to satisfy these of our own free accord without relying on the taxpayer.


Finally, our appeal was to afford the individual a lasting impression of the real poverty afflicting so many Volksgenossen. The persistent attracting of attention through the collection of donations served one goal: the individual realization that happiness and a life of luxury have not been lavished on all Volksgenossen, that perhaps this is not possible. Much help is still needed and infinitely much remains to be done and must be done! And finally this organization has afforded the individual member of its gigantic army of helpers not only an insight into the poverty of large circles of our Volk but, more important, also an insight into the possibility of remedying this situation. There has been poverty at all times. Perhaps poverty is actually a relative term. Only a few days ago, I saw areas where the average standard of living is far below what would be considered the depth of poverty here with us in Germany. Just how fortunate our Volk is, thanks to the efforts of the community, they seem to realize the least who do not have the opportunity to see beyond it.


One thing is certain: poverty has always existed. There is poverty even now and there will always be poverty. At all times, people have had the obligation to control this poverty, to counter it, and to alleviate it.


The voluntary nature of this sacrifice allows the individual to better assess himself and correspondingly his obligations than any governmental measures possibly could. In the context of this great social institution, we have created many things with the intent of wiping away all class differences in the German Volk and to awaken in it a pronounced consciousness of solidarity. If we look at the results of this social education within the last years, no one can deny that the course taken was the right one and a successful one. Our successes were so great that, perhaps, we can see in them reasons for a certain displeasure in the outside world. It is frightened at the thought that the national-socialist principles of our Reich could prove attractive beyond our borders and could perhaps rouse [the social] conscientiousness in this context in other countries. If at times the work of our collectors appears to be a little bit disagreeable to some Volksgenossen, may they not forget how much more disagreeable the work is to the collector. How much easier is it to be approached two or three times with the request to give than to suffer perhaps thousands of refusals of your request to receive. In the first instance, we have a momentarily disagreeable experience; in the second one, we have the repeated sacrifice of free time in the service of the Volksgemeinschaft.


Now destiny has forced us to take up arms in the defense of the Reich.


Within a few weeks, the most insolent of states, which thought it could freely threaten the interests of the Reich, was thrown to the ground.


And this thanks to a military feat unique in our history! Thanks to the brave heroism of our soldiers! Thanks to our brilliant leadership!


We do not know what the future will bring. But one thing we know for certain: no power in this world shall ever overpower Germany again! No one shall vanquish us militarily, destroy us economically, or trample on our souls! And no one shall see us capitulate-under any circumstances.


I have expressed our willingness for peace. Germany has no reason to wage war against the Western Powers. They have started this war on a threadbare pretext. In the event this willingness meets with rejection, Germany stands determined to take up the struggle and to fight it out-one way or another! Neither a momentary fright nor any proclamation regarding the length of the war shall weary us or make us despair. Before us we see the eternal life of our Volk. However long it may take to assist in the birth of this life, nothing shall shake us, stun us, or bring us to despair. On the contrary! Whatever the outside world shall choose, let it have its choice.


Once I set out on a most difficult path to uplift Germany from the destruction imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles. Since then, twenty years have passed. The Reich stands mightier today than ever before. The path lying before us can be no more difficult than the path lying behind us. If we did not lose heart striding forth on the path leading from then to now, then we shall no more lose heart striding out on the path leading from now to the future.


As we set out on this path, the community of the German Volk which we have now achieved gives us heart. The period now perhaps lying before us will reinforce and lend depth to the National Socialist Volksgemeinschaft. It will only speed up the social process of becoming this Volk. The wartime winter now facing us will find us ever the more prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to ease the struggle for existence for our Volk.


The wartime Winterhilfswerk (Kriegswinterhilfswerk) thereby becomes a relief organization for the Red Cross. The Red Cross itself will not be collecting this time. Instead, as an integral part of the wartime Winterhilfswerk, the Red Cross will receive allowances from this organization.


When I point to the Red Cross, all of us immediately realize how minuscule the sacrifices demanded of the individual are in comparison to the sacrifices many of our Volksgenossen are making at the front, and, if it so pleases the ill-will of our adversaries, the sacrifices they will have to continue to make.


May no one think any longer of the greatness of his own sacrifice. May he instead think of the greatness of the common sacrifice and of the unsurpassable sacrifice of those who have already given themselves for their Volk or who may still have to give themselves. Compared to these sacrifices, the sacrifices made at home are nothing. Nevertheless, they can help to underline in the consciousness of our Volk the bonds of our inseparable community.


Thus this wartime Winterhilfswerk must surpass everything which has previously been attained in this realm. Perhaps, this will best provide an answer to the stupidity of the world in thinking it can divide the German Volk internally.


We will show them the results of their stupid experiments! We will show them how they are just making the German Volk stand closer together, how they make it stick together all the more.


Perhaps it is in this manner that we can best rid them of the delusion that they can simply have their say on the state of mind of us Germans, just as it may happen to please one of them out there. We shall teach them the necessary respect for the state of mind of other peoples.


May the world rest assured: what we have to suffer as a community, we shall endure! I hope the others shall likewise be able to do this! The time will come when National Socialism can develop all the more its powers to shape, educate, and uphold the Volk.


War once carried us National Socialists forth. The experiences of war fashioned our intellectual world. And in time of war, if need be, we shall once more prove our worth! The final decision on this is no longer in our hands, but in those of the outside world. With us rests only the grim determination to take this decision upon ourselves. Then, however, we shall fight things out to their logical conclusion. And thus the wartime Winterhilfswerk must contribute to making this German Volksgemeinschaft stronger than ever before! A community in struggle, a community in victory, and, in the end, in peace! After all, the more determined and the more steeled we now are as we take upon our shoulders the sacrifices which war can entail, the more certain we will be to win this peace our Volk so longs for. At one point, this is also my conviction, this time of insecurity must have an end.


It must be possible for the German Volk to fashion its life according to its own wish and will, within the limits of its own Lebensraum, and without persistent harassment from others. It must be possible for the German Volk to partake in the goods of this world to the extent it can rightfully claim because of its numbers and value.


Hereby I open the Winterhilfswerk campaign for 1939–40. I ask the helpers to dedicate themselves to this work as I ask the German Volk to now prove itself worthy of its heroes, to atone for the sins which the homeland committed against the German Volk and its soldiers in the years 1914 through 1918.