Adolf Hitler's speech to the German Reichstag - September 1, 1939
Adolf Hitler's speech to the German Reichstag, Berlin - September 1, 1939 is the famous speech given by Hitler in which war is declared on Poland. Poland had already started war against Germany without a war declaration for several months by attacking the border guards and fleeing ethnic Germans, pursuing them finally across the border into Germany. Hitler used the language: "We are shooting back." From the speech, it is clear that it was a conflict over the Danzig /Gdansk dispute; however, the returning of fire was in response to the attacks on the German/Polish border and the entering of German territory by the poles which had nothing to do with the corridor dispute. The speech was given in the German language; an English translation is given here.
"For the first time last night, Polish military invaded our territory and attacked from our soil. We have now been returning fire since 5:45 a.m.! And from now on, we shall repay bomb for bomb!"
...We are all suffering for months in agony over a situation that, partially, the contract, actually diktat, of Versailles has brought upon us. This is a calamity that in its depravity and degeneracy has now become unbearable. Danzig was a German city and is a German city! The Corridor was German and is German!...
German minority suffering The German minorities living there are abused in harrowing ways... this time table is not indifferent to us, and most of all, it was not and could not be indifferent to the victims, who suffered the most... I do not know what type of "provocations" those women and children had allegedly perpetrated who were abused and abducted. Nor can I imagine what provocations had been perpetrated by those who were most sadistically and most bestially tortured and murdered.
I tried to negotiate As always, I also tried here with peaceful revision proposals to bring about a change in this unbearable situation... In every single case, I initiated the proposals, not once but frequently, to revise these intolerable conditions. As you know, all my proposals were rejected... You know of my proposals regarding the necessity to restore German sovereignty over German Reich territory. You know of the endless attempts I made for a peaceful resolution... It was all futile.
Response from Poland These proposals have been refused. But not only that, they were answered 1. by mobilization, and 2. with increased terror ...I accepted this [latest] proposal. I worked out fundamentals for these talks that you are familiar with. And so I sat here for two full days with our government waiting if it would please the Polish government to send us an authorization or not... In my heart I know that the Polish government is not interested in a settlement.
...These incidents were repeated tonight. After we already had twenty-one attacks at the border in just one single night, we had fourteen incidents tonight, three of them very serious. That is why I have resolved to speak to Poland in the same language Poland has been speaking to us for months now!.. I want to remove this element of insecurity, these eternal civil-war-like conditions from the German [Polish] borders! I want to ensure that our borders in the East enjoys the same stability as our other borders.
Russia You know that Russia and Germany are governed by two different doctrines... Germany has no intention to export its doctrine... At the moment that Soviet Russia no longer thinks of exporting its doctrine to Germany, in that same moment I no longer see any cause to take up positions against each other. Hence we have decided to enter into a pact that shall preclude the use of force between us for all times!
As I called up this Wehrmacht, and when I now call for sacrifice from the German people, and if necessary, all sacrifices, then I have a right to do so. There shall be no sacrifice in Germany that I would not take upon myself immediately... As a National Socialist and German soldier, I go into this battle with a strong heart! My whole life was but one continuous struggle for our people, for our resurrection, for Germany. This struggle was governed by only one principle, faith in our people!
Full speech (translated into English)
Deputies, Men of the German Reichstag!
For months a problem has tormented all of us. Long ago the Diktat of Versailles bestowed this problem on us. In its depravity and degeneracy it has now become insufferable. Danzig was a German city and is a German city! The Corridor was German and is German! These regions owe their cultural development exclusively to the German Volk. Without the German Volk, these eastern regions would still be plunged in the depths of barbarism.
Danzig was torn from us! Poland annexed the Corridor along with other German territories in the East! The German minorities living there are being persecuted in the vilest manner imaginable. Already in the years 1919 and 1920 over one million ethnic Germans were forced off their lands.
As always, I also sought here to bring about a change by peaceful means, by offering proposals to remedy this situation which meanwhile had become unbearable. It is a lie when others in the world claim that we proceeded only with pressure. Fifteen years before National Socialism’s rise to leadership, there was ample opportunity to carry out these revisions by peaceful means. Nothing of the sort was done. In every single case, I made proposals for a revision not once, but many times to revise these intolerable conditions.
You know that all these proposals were rejected. There is no need for me to enumerate them: my proposals on the limitation of arms; if necessary, even for the complete elimination of weaponry; my proposals for limited warfare, for the abolition of methods employed in modern warfare which, in my eyes, are hardly reconcilable with international law. You know of my proposals on the necessity of restoring German sovereignty over German Reich territory. You know of the endless attempts I made for a peaceful resolution and coming to some understanding regarding the Austrian situation, and later over the issues regarding the Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia. It was all for naught.
There is one thing that is simply not possible: to demand that an unworkable condition be resolved by means of peaceful revision-and then to consistently deny resolution by peaceful means.
It is likewise not possible to claim that the one who, under the circumstances, resorts to resolving this situation by himself, who undertakes the revisions on his own, is in breach of the law. For the Diktat of Versailles does not constitute law for us Germans. It was forced on us!
You simply cannot uphold and proclaim a signature to represent sanctified law when it was extorted by holding a pistol to the signatory’s head and threatening to starve millions of human beings if he failed to comply! Thus I attempted, also in the case of Danzig and the Corridor, to obtain a resolution to the deteriorating conditions by means of proposals and their peaceful discussion. That these problems had to be resolved was entirely clear. That the western states were possibly unconcerned with the time table is understandable. Yet this time table is not indifferent to us, and most of all, it was not and could not be indifferent to the victims, who suffered the most.
In my talks with Polish statesmen I once more expounded those thoughts which you already heard in my last speech before the Reichstag. No man can accuse me of employing inappropriate methods or of applying undue pressure. It was I who had the German proposals formulated in the end, and I must repeat here that there is nothing more modest or loyal than these proposals. I should like to say this to the world: I alone was in the position to make such proposals! I know very well that in doing so I brought myself into opposition to millions of Germans.
These proposals have been rejected. And not only that! They were answered by
- mobilization, and
- with increased terror,
and with an intensified force on the ethnic Germans in those regions. Further, a deliberate throttling assault took place in the free city of Danzig commercially and politically with customs duty maneuvers. Then finally, in the last few weeks, exploits in military and traffic logistics took hold. Poland has unleashed a battle against the free city of Danzig! It was further not willing to solve the Corridor question in the least costly way that would have rendered justice to the interests of both parties. And ultimately it has not been concerned with upholding its responsibilities toward its ethnic minorities.
And here I must establish the fact that Germany has fulfilled its obligations! The minorities living within the Reich are not subject to persecution. There is not one Frenchman who can stand up to claim that the 50,000 to 100,000 French living in the Saar territory are being oppressed, tortured, or robbed of their rights. Not one can claim as much! I have been silently standing by and observing the situation for four months now. Yet I have issued warnings repeatedly. And I have intensified these warnings of late.
As long as three weeks ago, I already had the Polish Ambassador informed that if Poland should send further notes to Danzig, in the nature of an ultimatum; if it should implement further repression measures against the Germans there; or if Poland should attempt to destroy Danzig economically by imposing high customs on it; then Germany could simply no longer be expected to stand by without taking action.
I left no doubt that it would be a grave mistake in this context to compare the Germany of today to the Germany of days past.
There were attempts to justify their actions against ethnic Germans by claiming that these constituted a response to prior “provocations.” I know not what type of “provocations” those women and children had allegedly perpetrated who were abused and abducted. Nor can I imagine what provocations had been perpetrated by those who were most sadistically and most bestially tortured only to be murdered in the end. That I do not know.
Yet there is one thing I do know: no honorable great country could calmly tolerate such a state of affairs in the long run! Nevertheless, I made one last effort. And this even though, in my heart, I was convinced that the Polish Government-especially given its dependence on the rabble of soldiers now freed of inhibitions-was not serious about attaining a true understanding. Nevertheless, I tried one last time to accepted a mediation proposal from the British Government. The British suggested that while they were not willing to negotiate themselves, they suggested and guaranteed to open a direct line of communication between Poland and Germany to initiate talks once more.
And now I am forced to state the following: I accepted this proposal! It was for this new round of negotiations that I drafted the proposals known to you. For two whole days I sat with my Government and waited to see whether it was convenient for the Polish Government to send a plenipotentiary or not. Up to last night, it has not commissioned any such plenipotentiary. Rather it has informed us, through the offices of its Ambassador, that it is presently contemplating whether or not it is in a position to consider the English proposals and that they would let England know.
My Deputies! Should someone have the impertinence to expect the German Reich and its head of state to tolerate this? And should the German Reich and its head of state tolerate this, then truly the German nation would deserve no better than to take leave of the political stage! For I am wrongly judged if my love for peace and my patience are mistaken for weakness or even cowardice! Last night I informed the British Government that, under the circumstances, I no longer see any willingness by the Polish Government to enter into serious negotiations with us. And thus all attempts at mediation must be considered to have failed. For we had indeed received a response to our proposals which consisted of: 1. general mobilization in Poland and 2. renewed, heinous atrocities.
These incidents repeated themselves in the course of the night. And this after the recent perpetration of twenty-one border transgressions in the span of just one single night. Yesterday fourteen additional violations of the border were recorded, among them three of a most serious nature. I have therefore resolved to speak to Poland in the same language that Poland has employed towards us in the months past!
Now that statesmen in the West go about declaring that this infringes on their interests, I can only regret this position. This cannot and will not, however, make me waver for a minute in the fulfillment of my duty. What more is wanted from us? I have solemnly assured the Western states, and I repeat this here, that we desire nothing of them. We shall never demand anything of them in the future. I have assured them that the border separating France and Germany is a final one. Time and time again I have offered friendship, and if necessary closest cooperation, to England. But love cannot be offered from one side only. It must be met with reciprocation by the other side.
Germany is not pursuing any interests in the West. The West Wall delineates the Reich’s border for all time. Our ambitions for the future are no different. And nothing shall ever change the Reich’s standpoint in this matter. The other European states, in part, comprehend our stance. Here I wish, above all, to thank Italy, which lent us support during this entire time. You will understand that we do not wish to appeal to a foreign power for assistance in this struggle. This is our task, and we shall carry out our responsibilities by ourselves.
The neutral states have already assured us of their neutrality. We earlier guaranteed them our neutrality. Our assurances are made in sacred earnestness. As long as other powers do not violate this neutrality, we shall likewise respect them scrupulously. For how could we wish to, or desire to, conduct ourselves differently towards these states? I am happy to be able to inform you of a special development at this point.
You know that two different doctrines govern Russia and Germany. There remained but one question that needed to be clarified: Germany has no intent of exporting its doctrine, and at the moment that Soviet Russia no longer contemplates exporting its doctrine to Germany, I no longer see any compelling reason, not even once, why we should continue to take opposing stances. To both of us it is completely clear that any struggle between our two peoples would merely benefit others. Hence we have determined to enter into a pact which shall preclude the application of force between us for all times. It also obliges us to seek mutual consultation in certain European questions. Moreover, it shall render possible economic cooperation and, above all, ensure that the strength of the two great states is not squandered in rivalry with each other. Any attempt by the West to change this is doomed to failure! And of one thing I would like to assure all of you here today: this decision signals a fundamental change for the future and is a final one!
I believe the entire German Volk welcomes this political resolve. Russia and Germany fought each other in the World War only for both to become victims in the end. This shall not and will not happen a second time! Yesterday in Moscow and Berlin, the Non-Aggression and Mutual Consultation Pact-which had originally entered into force upon signature-was accorded final ratification. In Moscow this pact was as warmly received as you receive it here. I second every word of the Russian Foreign Commissar Molotov’s speech.
Our goals: I am determined to resolve:
- the question of Danzig and
- the question of the Corridor, and to see to it that
- a change of German-Polish relations, so as to warrant peaceful coexistence.
I am equally determined to wage this war until the present Polish Government is willing to bring about these conditions, or another Polish Government shall be willing to do so.
I will cleanse Germany’s borders of this element of insecurity, this civil-war-like circumstance. I will take care that our border in the East enjoys the same peace as along any other of our borders.
I will take the measures necessary in an approach that does not contradict what I have pronounced to be my proposals to the world before you, my Deputies, and the Reichstag. This means I do not wish to lead this war against women and children. I have ordered my Luftwaffe to limit its attacks to military objectives. Should, however, the enemy regard this as giving him license to employ reverse measures against us, then he shall receive an answer that will knock him senseless!! Last night for the first time Polish regular soldiers invaded our territory and attacked from our soil. We have now been returning fire since 5:45 a.m.! (Seit 5.45 Uhr wird jetzt zuruckgeschossen!)Henceforth, bomb will be met with bomb. He who fights with poison shall be fought with poison gas. He who distances himself from the rules for a humane conduct of warfare can only expect us to take like steps. I will lead this battle, whoever the adversary may be, until the security of the Reich and its rights have been assured.
For over six years I've worked on the rearmament of the German Wehrmacht. I have spent over 90 billion Reichsmark for this. Today it is the best-equipped in the entire world and defies comparison to our military of 1914! My confidence in it is unshakeable! When I call up this Wehrmacht, and when I now demand sacrifice from the German Volk, even the ultimate sacrifice should there be need, then I have a right to do this, because today I am as willing as I was before to make any personal sacrifice. I am asking of no German man more than I volunteered for and was ready to do for four years! Germans should not be asked to make any sacrifices I myself would not make without an instant’s hesitation! I now wish to be nothing other than the first soldier of the German Reich.
Therefore I have put on that tunic which has always been the most holy and dear to me. I shall not take it off again until after victory is ours, or-I shall not live to see the day! Should something happen to me in this war, then my immediate successor shall be Party comrade Goring.
Should anything happen to Party comrade Goring, then his successor shall be Party comrade Hess. You shall owe this man-as your Fuhrer-the same loyalty and blind obedience you owe to my person! Should anything happen to Party comrade Hess, then through the offices of law I shall call upon the Senate, which is to determine the most worthy, i.e. the most valiant from its midst.
As a National Socialist and a German soldier I enter into this struggle with a strong heart! My life was but one continuous struggle for the German Volk, for its resurrection, for Germany. This struggle was governed by only one creed: faith in this Volk! There is one word which I have never known and this word is: capitulation! If some now believe that we are facing hard times, then I would like to ask them to bear in mind that once a Prussian king with a ludicrously small state faced off the greatest coalition. And three battles later he stood victorious in the end, for he possessed that strong, believing heart, the kind which we need in these times as well. I would like to assure the world around us of one thing: there shall never ever be another November 1918 in German history!
Since I myself stand ever ready to lay down my life for my Volk and Germany, I demand the same of everyone else! Whoever believes he can oppose this national commandment shall fall! We will have nothing to do with traitors! And all of us pledge ourselves to the one ancient principle: it is of no importance if we ourselves live-as long as our Volk lives, as long as Germany lives! This is essential.
I expect of all of you as the Reich’s emissaries henceforth that you shall do your duty wherever you may be assigned! You must carry the banner of resistance forth regardless of the cost. May no one approach me to report one day that morale is low in his district, his circuit, with his troupes or in his cabin. The one responsible for morale is you - the responsibility is yours! I am the one responsible for the morale of the German Volk. You are responsible for morale in district and circuits! No one has the right to cast off this responsibility. We are now not asking so much about any kind of good morale but exclusively about duty. And the duty is lined up. The sacrifices demanded of us today are no greater than those made by countless earlier generations. All men who have set out on this most bitter and strenuous of paths for Germany have accomplished nothing else than what we must also accomplish. Their sacrifice was not made without cost or suffering. It was no easier to make than the one demanded of us.
I expect every German woman that she will be a role model and integrate herself into the great community-in-struggle in an exemplary fashion and with iron discipline! It goes without saying that the German youth will fulfill, with a radiant heart, the tasks the nation, the National Socialist state, expects and demands of it. Provided all of us form part of this community, sworn together, determined never to capitulate, then our will shall master all need.
I conclude with the declaration I once made as I began my struggle for leadership in the Reich. Back then I said: When our will is strong enough that need can no longer vanquish it, then our will and our German 'steel' will vanquish and conquer need.Deutschland-Sieg Heil!
- ↑ These incidents were repeated tonight. After we already had twenty-one attacks at the border in just one single night, we had fourteen incidents tonight, three of them very serious.
- ↑ Last night for the first time Polish regular soldiers invaded our territory and attacked from our soil.
- ↑ We have now been returning fire since 5:45 a.m.! (Seit 5.45 Uhr wird jetzt zuruckgeschossen!