|Adolf Hitler's address to the Reichstag|
by Adolf Hitler
On September 12, 1938, Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of the Reich, addressed the German Reichstag. That morning, The German Reich had crossed the German-Czech frontier, thus initiating the Invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Delegates, Men of the German Reichstag!
For months we have been suffering under the torture of a problem which the Versailles Diktat created - a problem which has deteriorated until it becomes intolerable for us. For too long has a great German people, apparently defenceless, been delivered shameless ill-treatment and expos of treats. I am speaking of Czechoslovakia.
For too long has this democratic State forced other nationalities, without asking them, into a structure manufactured at Versailles. As good democrats they began to oppress and mishandle the majority of the inhabitants. They tried gradually to enforce on the world their view that the Czech state had a special mission to perform in the world.
The Constitution of the Czech State, as it was by democrats, was not rooted in the people but served the political aims of those who oppressed the majority of the inhabitants. In view of these political aims, it had been found necessary to construct this Constitution in a manner giving the Czechs a predominant position in the State.
He who opposed such encroachment is an enemy of the State and according to democratic conceptions of the State, an outlaw. The so-called nation of the Czechs has thus been selected by Providence, which in this case made use of those who once designed Versailles, to see that no one rose against this purpose of the State.
Should, however, some one belonging to the majority of the oppressed people of this nation protest against this, the nation may knock him down with force and kill him if it is necessary or desired. If this were a matter foreign to us and one that did not concern us, we would regard this case, as so many others, merely as an interesting illustration of the democratic conception of people’s rights and the right of self-determination and simply take note of it.
But it is something most natural that compels us Germans to take an interest in this problem. Among the majority of nationalities that are being suppressed in this State there are 3,500,000 Germans. These Germans, too, are creatures of God. The Almighty did not create them that they should be surrendered by a State construction made at Versailles to a foreign power that is hateful to them, and He has not created 7,000,000 Czechs in order that they should supervise 3,500,000 Germans or act as guardians for them and still less to do them violence and torture.
The conditions in this nation are unbearable, as is generally known. Politically more than 3,500,000 people were robbed in the name of the right of self-determination of a certain Mr. Wilson of their self-determination and of their right to self-determination. Economically these people were deliberately ruined and afterward handed over to a slow process of extermination.
These truths cannot be abolished by phrases. They are testified to by deeds. The misery of the Sudeten Germans is without end. They want to annihilate them. They are being oppressed in an inhuman and intolerable manner and treated in an undignified way. When 3,500,000 who belong to a people of almost 80,000,000 are not allowed to sing any song that the Czechs do not like because it does not please the Czechs or are brutally struck for wearing white stockings because the Czechs do not like it, and do not want to see them, and are terrorized or maltreated because they greet with a form of salutation that is not agreeable to them, although they are greeting not Czechs but one another, and when they are pursued like wild beasts for every expression of their national life. This may be a matter of indifference to several representatives of our democracies or they may possibly even be sympathetic because it concerns only 3,500,000 Germans. I can only say to representatives of the democracies that this is not a matter of indifference to us.
And I say that if these tortured creatures cannot obtain rights and assistance by themselves, they can obtain both from us. An end must be made of depriving these people of their rights. I have already said this quite clearly in my speech of February 22. It was a short-sighted piece of work when the statesmen at Versailles brought the abnormal structure of Czechoslovakia into being. It was possible to violate the demands of millions of another nationality only so long as the brother nation itself was suffering from the consequences of general maltreatment by the world.
To believe that such a regime could go on sinning without hindrance forever was possible only through a scarcely credible degree of blindness. I declared in my speech of February 22 before the Reichstag that the Reich would not tolerate any further continued oppression of 3,500,000 Germans, and I hope that the foreign statesmen will be convinced that these were no mere words.
The National Socialist State has consented to very great sacrifices indeed, very great national sacrifices for the sake of European peace; not only has it not cherished so-called thoughts of revenge, but on the contrary it has banished them from all its public and private life.
As always, I attempted to bring about, by the peaceful method of making proposals for revision, an alteration of this intolerable position. It is a lie when the outside world says that we only tried to carry through our revisions by pressure. For twenty years there was the opportunity for the Czechoslovak government of carrying out these revisions by peaceful settlements and understanding. On my own and on other people’s initiatives we have, not once but several times, made proposals for the revision of intolerable conditions. All these proposals, as you know, have been rejected by the Czechs - proposals of giving the Sudeten German minority a humane treatment and the respect they deserve. You know the proposals that I have made to fulfill the necessity of restoring German sovereignty over German territories. You know the endless attempts I made for a peaceful clarification and understanding of the problem of Austria. It was all in vain.
I must here state something definitely; German has kept these obligations; the minorities who live in Germany are not persecuted. No Frenchman can stand up and say that any Frenchman living in the Saar territory is oppressed, tortured, or deprived of his rights. Nobody can say this.
For six months I have calmly watched developments, although I never ceased to give warnings. In the last few days I have increased these warnings. I informed the Czech Ambassador three weeks ago that if Poland continued to send to Danzig notes in the form of ultimata, and if on the Polish side an end was not put to Customs measures destined to ruin Danzig's trade, then the Reich could not remain inactive. I left no doubt that people who wanted to compare the Germany of to-day with the former Germany would be deceiving themselves.
An attempt was made to justify the oppression of the Germans by claiming that they had committed acts of provocation. I do not know in what these provocations on the part of women and children consist, if they themselves are maltreated, in some cases killed. One thing I do know - that no great Power can with honour long stand by passively and watch such events.
I made one more final effort to accept a proposal for mediation on the part of the Italian Government. Mussolini proposed a conference of the major powers in Munich. I accepted this proposal, and I, along with Prime Minister Chamberlain, Prime Minister Daladier and his Excellency Mr. Mussolini agreed on the cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory and the measures consequent thereon, and by this agreement the Czechoslovak government was to be hold responsible for the steps necessary to secure its fulfilment. For a whole day I sat in my Government and waited to see whether the Czech government would abide to the agreement the major powers of Europe had concluded in order to prevent a major war in Europe. But they did send us their acceptance to this agreement, but instead President Beneš announced that the Czech state would not abide by the agreements reached at Munich.
Deputies, if the German Government and its Leader patiently endured such treatment Germany would deserve only to disappear from the political stage. But I am wrongly judged if my love of peace and my patience are mistaken for weakness or even cowardice. I, therefore, decided last night and informed the British Government that in these circumstances I can no longer find any willingness on the part of the Czechoslovak Government to conduct serious negotiations with us.
These proposals for mediation have failed because in the meanwhile there, first of all, came as an answer the sudden Czechoslovak general mobilization, followed by more Czech atrocities. These were again repeated last night. Recently there have been as many as twenty-one incidents in which Czech military formations have killed innocent Sudeten Germans without provocations. Last night there were fourteen, of which one was quite serious. I have, therefore, resolved to speak to Czechoslovakia in the same language that Czechoslovakia for months past has used toward us and the Sudeten German minority. This attitude on the part of the Reich will not change.
The other European States understand in part our attitude. I should like here above all to thank Italy as well as Hungary, which throughout have supported us, but you will understand that for the carrying on of this struggle we do not intend to appeal to foreign help. We will carry out this task ourselves. The neutral States have assured us of their neutrality, just as we had already guaranteed it to them.
When statesmen in the West declare that this affects their interests, I can only regret such a declaration. It cannot for a moment make me hesitate to fulfil my duty. What more is wanted? I have solemnly assured them, and I repeat it, that we ask nothing of those Western States and never will ask anything. I have declared that the frontier between France and Germany is a final one. I have repeatedly offered friendship and, if necessary, the closest co-operation to Britain, but this cannot be offered from one side only. It must find response on the other side. Germany has no interests in the West, and our western wall is for all time the frontier of the Reich on the west. Moreover, we have no aims of any kind there for the future. With this assurance we are in solemn earnest, and as long as others do not violate their neutrality we will likewise take every care to respect it.
I am determined to solve (1) the Sudeten question and (2) to see to it that a change is made in the relationship between Germany and Czechoslovakia that shall ensure a peaceful co-existence. In this I am resolved to continue to fight until either the present Czechoslovak government is willing to continue to bring about this change or until another Czechoslovak Government is ready to do so. I am resolved to remove from the German frontiers the element of uncertainty, the everlasting atmosphere of conditions resembling civil war. I will see to it that in the East there is, on the frontier, a peace precisely similar to that on our other frontiers.
In this I will take the necessary measures to se that they do not contradict the proposals I have already made known in the Reichstag itself to the rest of the world, that is to say, I will not war against women and children. I have ordered my air force to restrict itself to attacks on military objectives. If, however, the enemy thinks he can form that draw carte blanche on his side to fight by the other methods he will receive an answer that will deprive him of hearing and sight.
This night for the first time Czech regular soldiers fired on our territory. Three German soldiers and five Sudeten Germans were killed by Czech soldiers at Egerteich without provocation. Since 6.15 A.M. we have been returning the fire, and from now on bombs will be met by bombs. Whoever fight with poison gas will be fought with poison gas. Whoever departs from the rules of humane warfare can only expect that we shall do the same. I will continue this struggle, no matter against whom, until the safety of the Reich and its rights are secured.
For five years now I have been working on the building up of the German defences. Over 90 millions have in that time been spent on the building up of these defence forces. They are now the best equipped and are above all comparison with what they were in 1914. My trust in them is unshakable. When I called up these forces and when I now ask sacrifices of the German people and if necessary every sacrifice, then I have a right to do so, for I also am to-day absolutely ready, just as we were formerly, to make every possible sacrifice.
I am asking of no German man more than I myself was ready throughout four years at any time to do. There will be no hardships for Germans to which I myself will not submit. My whole life henceforth belongs more than ever to my people. I am from now on just first soldier of the German Reich. I have once more put on that coat that was the most sacred and dear to me. I will not take it off again until victory is secured, or I will not survive the outcome.
Should anything happen to me in the struggle then my first successor is Party Comrade Göring; should anything happen to Party Comrade Göring my next successor is Party Comrade Heß. You would then be under obligation to give to them as Führer the same blind loyalty and obedience as to myself. Should anything happen to Party Comrade Heß, then by law the Senate will be called, and will choose from its midst the most worthy - that is to say the bravest - successor.
As a National Socialist and as German soldier I enter upon this struggle with a stout heart. My whole life has been nothing but one long struggle for my people, for its restoration, and for Germany. There was only one watchword for that struggle: faith in this people. One word I have never learned: that is, surrender.
If, however, anyone thinks that we are facing a hard time, I should ask him to remember that once a Prussian King, with a ridiculously small State, opposed a stronger coalition, and in three wars finally came out successful because that State had that stout heart that we need in these times. I would, therefore, like to assure all the world that a November 1918 will never be repeated in German history. Just as I myself am ready at any time to stake my life - anyone can take it for my people and for Germany - so I ask the same of all others.
Whoever, however, thinks he can oppose this national command, whether directly of indirectly, shall fall. We have nothing to do with traitors. We are all faithful to our old principle. It is quite unimportant whether we ourselves live, but it is essential that our people shall live, that Germany shall live. The sacrifice that is demanded of us is not greater than the sacrifice that many generations have made. If we form a community closely bound together by vows, ready for anything, resolved never to surrender, then our will will master every hardship and difficulty. And I would like to close with the declaration that I once made when I began the struggle for power in the Reich. I then said: "If our will is so strong that no hardship and suffering can subdue it, then our will and our German might shall prevail."
Deutschland — Sieg Heil!