Germany Could No Longer Remain Idle
I WILL AGAIN PUT ON MY UNIFORM
By ADOLF HITLER, Chancellor of Germany
Address made to the Reichstag, September 1, 1939
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. 5, 706-708
DELEGATES and men of the German Reichstag: For months long we have been suffering under the torturing problem which the Versailles treaty, that is the dictate of Versailles, once left us, a problem which in development and distortion has become unbearable for us.
Danzig was and is a German city. The Corridor was and is German. All these territories owe their cultural development only to the German people. Without the German people, the lowest barbarism would reign in all these eastern districts.
Danzig was separated from us. The Corridor with her German districts in the East was annexed by Poland, and above all the German minority living there was mistreated in the most fearful fashion.
About 1,000,000 people of German blood were forced to leave their homeland in 1919 and 1920. As always, I attempted here also to achieve alteration of this unbearable situation by peaceful proposals and revision. It is a lie when it is maintained abroad that we realized our revisions only through pressure.
Fifteen years before National Socialism came to power there was opportunity to carry out revision by the most peaceful agreements, by peaceful understanding. This was not done. In every single case, I then later, not once but many times, made proposals for revision of the unbearable conditions.
All these proposals were, as you know, refused. I need not singly enumerate proposals for arms limitation—yes, even if necessary the abolition of arms—proposals for restrictions of waging war, for elimination of what in my eyes were methods of waging war incompatible with international law.
You know the German proposals for re-establishment of German sovereignty over German Reich territory, you know the endless attempts which I made in order to come to a peaceful settlement of the Austrian and later the Sudeten, Bohemian, Moravian problems—they were all in vain.
One thing is impossible: that an impossible situation be settled by way of peaceful revision and then absolutely decline this revision.
It is also impossible to say that he who, in such a situation, takes revision into his own hands is violating law, for Versailles is no law for German people.
It is impossible to force some one at pistols point and threat, let millions starve to death and then proclaim a solemn law document with a thusly enforced signature. Therefore, I also tried, apropos of the Danzig Corridor, to solve problems by proposing peaceful discussion. That these problems must be solved was clear. It is understandable to us that for Western powers the date of such settlement might perhaps be uninteresting. But to us Germans the date is not immaterial—could not be immaterial—could not be immaterial to victims who suffered the most.
In discussions with Polish statesmen I have ventilated and talked over such ideas as you heard here from my latest, previous Reichstag speech. I formulated the German proposals and I must repeat once more there could be nothing fairer or more modest than these proposals.
I wish to say here before the world that I alone was in a position to make such proposals because I know that thereby I opposed the ideas of millions of Germans. These proposals were rejected. Not only that, they were answered firstly with mobilization, with increased terrorism and pressure against Germans in this territory and with a steady campaign of strangulation against the city of Danzig, first economic and political, and, in recent weeks, military.
Poland has engaged in a struggle against the free state of Danzig. Poland was not ready to settle the Corridor problem in a way satisfactory to both parties nor did she intend to carry out her obligation to the minorities. I must here make clear that Germany has honored her obligations toward minorities in Germany.
For four months I watched these developments calmly, although not without repeated warnings. I strengthened these warnings recently. I caused the Polish Ambassador
to be informed over three weeks ago that if Poland continued to deliver ultimative notes to Danzig and used further measures of pressure against Germans there, or if she sought to destroy Danzig economically through a customs war, then Germany could no longer remain idle.
And I left no one in doubt that in this connection Germany of today could not be confused with the Germany that preceded. An attempt was made to excuse actions against Germans by claiming these Germans had engaged in provocations. I did not know what provocations these women and children committed who were mistreated or dragged off or what those provocations were on the part of those who were mistreated and killed in terrorizing, sadistic fashion.
I do not know that, but I do know that there is no great power with honor that would watch such a situation indefinitely.
I even attempted for the last time, although I admit I was innerly convinced that the Polish government, perhaps of its dependence on now wildly unleashed Soldateska [a scornful term for Slavic soldiery which was also used in reference to Czech soldiers], was not seriously inclined to achieve real understanding. I attempted for the last time to accept an offer of mediation on the part of the British government. The British government proposed that itself should not conduct negotiations but proposed to establish direct contact between Germany and Poland in order in this way to initiate conversation.
I now must state the following: I accepted this proposal. I worked out the basic points for the conversations which are known to you, and I and my government now sat there for two full days and waited until it should suit the Polish government to at last send us a man with full powers.
By last night they had not sent a plenipotentiary, but they let us know through their Ambassador they were now contemplating whether and how far they were able to consider British proposals. They would let England have their decision.
My deputies: If it was possible to make the German Reich and its head of state take this, and if the German Reich and its head of state would suffer it, then the German nation would not deserve anything better than to disappear from the political stage. And there's where they have been essentially wrong. My love of peace and endless patience would not be confounded with weakness or even cowardice. Hence, I decided last night to communicate also to the British government that I could not find any inclination on the part of the Polish government to enter with us into any really serious conversation.
Therewith, an attempt at mediation had failed. Meantime general mobilization was given as Poland's first answer to this proposal for mediation and, as further answer, there were new atrocities. These events have been repeated today. After recently in a single night twenty-one frontier incidents occurred, last night fourteen were perpetrated, including three extremely serious ones. I, therefore, decided to answer Poland in the same language it already was employing against us for several months. If now western statesmen declare that this is touching on their interests, then I can only regret such a statement. It can, however, not shake me for a second from fulfilling my duty.
What more does one want? I have solemnly declared and I repeat: we do not want anything of the western states and we never shall. I even assured them that the frontier between France and Germany is a definite one. Time and again I offered England friendship and if necessary, closest cooperation. Yet love cannot be offered from one side only, it must be reciprocated by the other. Germany has no interests in the west. Our western wall is simultaneously and for all times the Reich frontier in the west. We have also no aspiration for the future. This attitude of the Reich will not be changed. Other European states partly understand our attitude. I wish to thank here especially Italy which supported us during the entire period. But you will also understand that in carrying through my struggle I do not want to appeal to foreign assistance.
We will ourselves solve our task. Neutral states of their own volition have reaffirmed their neutrality exactly as we previously had guaranteed it to them. This assurance is our sacred earnest, and as long as no other violates their neutrality we ourselves will scrupulously respect it. What should we wish or want of them? I am happy, however, to report to you a far-reaching event. You know that Russia and Germany are ruled by two different doctrines. There was only one question that remained to be cleared. Germany does not intend to export its doctrine to Russia. I see no reason that we ever again will take stand against one another.
We both realize this, that every fight of our peoples against one another would be advantageous only for others. We, therefore, agreed to conclude a pact which excludes for all the future any application of force between us, which obligates us to consultation in certain European questions and makes possible economic collaboration and, above all, assures that the forces of these two great states are not spent with each other or against each other. Any attempt of the West to alter this will fail. I would like to assure here that this political decision means a tremendous change for the future and that it will be conclusive.
I believe the entire German people will welcome my political attitude, because both Russia and Germany fought against each other in the World War and in the end both were left holding the bag. This shall not happen again. The non-aggression consultation pact which was in force the day it was signed, yesterday received ultimate ratification in Berlin and also at Moscow, where the pact was welcomed the same as you welcome it here.
I can indorse word for word a speech by the People's Commissar, Molotov, the Russian Foreign Minister. As to our aims: I am firstly determined to solve the Danzig problem; secondly, to settle the problem of the Corridor, and thirdly, take care that German-Polish relations will be changed in a way permitting peaceful living side by side. I, therefore, am determined to fight until either the Polish government is ready to bring about such connections or until another Polish government is inclined to do so.
I want to banish from the German boundaries the element of insecurity, the atmosphere of permanent conditions that approximate civil war. I want to achieve that peace on our eastern border which will be no different than peace as we know it on our other borders. I want to undertake the necessary action in fashions that will not contradict what I announced here as proposals. I will not wage a fight against women and children. I similarly have given my air force orders to restrict its actions to military objectives. But if the enemy attempts to construe from this a permission for him to fight with opposite methods, then he will receive an answer that will strike him dumb and blind.
Poland last night for the first time shot at our territory with regular soldiers. Since 5:45 a.m. [12:45 a.m., New York daylight time] we have been returning fire and from now on we will answer bomb with bomb and he who fights with poison will be fought with poison gas. He who does not follow the rules of humane war can expect nothing from us but that we take the same step. I will wage this fight—no matter against whom—until the security of the Reich and its rights are achieved.
I now have labored over six years on construction of the German armed forces. During this time over 90,000,000,000 marks [nominally $36,000,000,000] have been spent for construction of armed forces. It today is the best equipped and far above comparison with the forces of 1914. My trust in it is unshakable. I am justified if I now call up this armed force, and when I now demand sacrifice and, if necessary, all sacrifices from the German people.
I myself am today as ready as I once was to make every personal sacrifice. I expect no more of any German than what I for four years was voluntarily prepared to do. There shall be no privations in Germany which I myself will not immediately endure. My whole life from now on belongs to my people. I now do not want to be anything but the first soldier of the German Reich.
I, therefore, again put on the uniform which once had been most sacred and dearest to me. I will take it off only after victory.
Should something happen to me during battle my successor will be party chief Goering. [Air Marshal Hermann Wilhelm Goering.] Should something happen to Goering his successor will be Hess. [Rudolf Hess, deputy chief of the Nazi party.] You then would be pledged to this Fuehrer in the same blind loyalty and obedience as to me.
Should something happen to him, I will, through law, have the Senate called, which will choose the worthiest, that is the bravest, from its midst. I enter this fight with a strong heart as a National Socialist and a German soldier. My whole life was nothing more than a single struggle for my people. I never learned one word—capitulation—and if any one believes we perhaps are approaching a difficult time, then I ask him to consider that once a Prussian king with a ridiculously small state rose against one of the greatest coalitions and was successful after three battles because he had a heart strong in its faith such as we need in these times.
I therefore want to assure the entire world that November, 1918, will never again be repeated in German history.
I am ready at any time to stake my life. Any one may take it for my people and Germany. I demand that of every other. Whoever believes himself able directly or indirectly to withstand this national command will fall. Traitors can expect nothing but death. We all recognize an old fundamental principle. It is totally unimportant whether we live, but it is essential that Germany lives. I expect of you, as deputies of the Reich, that each of you at his post performs his full duty. You must be flagbearers of the cause, cost what it may. You are vehicles of that sentiment in your districts and I am responsible for the sentiment of the entire German people. We are not to concern ourselves with this or that sentiment but exclusively with our duty, which is clear. Sacrifice which is asked of us is no greater than that which has been asked of others. Other men who entered the cause for Germany trod the hard and bitter road of sacrifice which we must tread. Their sacrifice was not easier, less painful, than the sacrifice required of us.
I also expect from German women that they enter this common struggle in a spirit of iron discipline. German youth will fulfill with glowing hearts that which the National Socialist state expects and demands. If we construct this community resolved to never capitulate on our demands, then our wills can master every situation. And I want to close with a confession I once made when I commenced my struggle for power. I said then that when our will-power is so strong that no calamity could force it down, then our willpower and our steel would also be able to conquer any emergency.
Deutschland sieg heil!