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By the summer (1923) we had already realized that the dice would have to fall one way or another in Germany.
At that time we were aware that, although we were perhaps weakest in terms of numbers, in terms of quality we were at the top by a long margin. When the fall came and the events began to pile up, it became more and more evident that unscrupulous scoundrels were aiming, under the pressure of the occupation of the Ruhr, to ultimately tear Germany apart. At that point there grew in us-I can admit, there grew in me the resolve that, if things were ever to progress that far, we would take the law of action into our own hands at least twenty-four hours before and not wait until the other side found the courage to make a decision and thus take action. One thing was clear: whoever summoned up the courage to take action in that inflationary time when absolutely everything was collapsing, was certain to have the Volk behind him.
Had a different flag been raised, the foreign powers would have immediately declared: we will no longer tolerate that this “liberation”-for that was how Germany’s fragmentation was described-is halted yet again by the attempt to restore the hegemony of one or the other Federal States. We knew that. And it was out of this urgent feeling for the hour and out of the need of this hour that we resolved to take action.
Today there is no reason for me to reveal all the details. I will do so when I no longer live. What happened then is something one not yet need know today, but one thing I can surely say is: it was the most daring decision of my life.
When I think back on it now, it makes me dizzy. The decision to strike a blow at a part of Germany and to capture the enemy’s consolidated forces at one fell swoop-it was a bold decision, bold because one needed the courage to take over power with the existing means-and they were limited. Yet this decision was necessary and unavoidable. It was the only thing that could be done.
In that hour, someone had to take a stand against the treason and confront those traitors with the national slogan. Who did it was of no consequence in the end. We did it. I dared to do it.
Then Fate was on our side. It did not allow an action to succeed which, had it succeeded, would necessarily have failed in the end due to the inner immaturity of the Movement and the defects of its organizational and intellectual foundations at the time. Today we know this! Our own deeds back then were manly and brave. And Providence acted wisely. But those brave deeds were not in vain. For in the end, the great national Movement came of them; in other words, this explosion attracted the attention of Germany as a whole to the Movement at one fell swoop. And while our opponents believed they had destroyed us, in reality the seed of the Movement had been hurled out to fall all over Germany at one fell swoop.
When the big trial took place, we were able-for the first time before such a tremendous German and international forum-to stand up for our ideals.
We scorned to say as the others did: we didn’t mean it like that; no, we said: we want to destroy Germany’s traitors. Unfortunately we did not succeed. At that time we solemnly declared, “We have the responsibility, and we bear the responsibility. We regret only one thing: that we did not succeed.” When we were engaged in the first trial and were waging that battle, it was still natural-because they were all, in fact, leaders-that each individual was to stand up for his actions and take the entire responsibility. But there was one thing I feared. Following us were nearly 100 Party comrades to come, men from minor combat patrols, members of certain SA storm troops. They, too, would be dragged before the judge. I was already in the fortress when these trials began to unwind. And I had only one fear, namely that under the pressure of being held in detention etc. or of all these methods of conducting trial, one or the other of them might perhaps weaken and try to save himself by declaring, “But I’m innocent, was forced to do it, I had no choice.” My heart overflowed when I saw the first report of these trials and when I read in the Muncbener Post (at that time it was delivered to us): “The people from the combat patrols are just as brazen and impertinent as their lord and master.” Then I knew: Germany is not lost. The spirit will find a way to survive! It was one thing they would not be able to stamp out.
And these same people from the combat patrols and these same SA men later became the largest organizations of the German Movement, the SA and the SS. And the spirit has remained and proven itself ten thousand times over, hundreds of thousand times over.
Because you see, that is what we owe to these dead: the example they gave us in a most terrible time in Germany. As we marched forth from here, we knew that it was no longer a triumphal march. We went forth in the conviction that it was the end, one way or another. I remember one man who said to me outside on the stairs as we were leaving, “This is the end.” Each of us carried this conviction with him.
At this point I must pay tribute to a man who is not with us today, whom I asked at the time not to march at the head-General Ludendorff-and who replied to me, “I will stand at the head.” And who then took his place in the foremost rank.
But that was the point, that in spite of this premonition the company was determined. When that blood had been shed, the first act of the German drama came to an end. There was nothing else one could do. Now the legal power stood armed against the national liberation movement. And it was then the realization had to dawn that this path could no longer be taken in Germany.
That was over. And now comes the second infinite accomplishment of those who died. For nine years I was forced to fight legally for power in Germany.
Many were those who had tried that before me. But because they preached legality, they got only weaklings, only the cowardly, to join their movement.
The revolutionary men, the men of action, stood outside their ranks. Had I not attempted this revolution in November 1923, staged a coup, and had blood not been shed and so many killed in the process, I would not have been able to say for nine years, “From now on there will be legal fighting only.” Or I, too, would have got only the half-men.
Only thus did I later have the energy to persist in adhering to my course, which was now obviously the only right one. As we know from the history of the Party, there were many who opposed me, who reproached me, saying, “How can it be done legally?” But I was able to tell them, “Gentlemen! What do you want, do you want to teach me how to fight? Where were you when we launched our attack? I don’t need you to tell me anything about revolutions or legality. I’ve done all that myself. You couldn’t summon up the courage. So hold your tongues now!” In this way I was able to build up a movement made of men, a movement which took the only path it was possible to take. And we are infinitely grateful for that. For we are not alone in this world. Surrounding us are huge states looking upon every type of German uplifting with suspicion. We can only hold our own against them if we are strong not only in terms of Weltanschauung but also in terms of weapons. And there was no doubt about that. That was not to be accomplished by our destroying the existing arms institution, but by reconciling it absolutely and in its entirety as a unified whole with the National Socialist idea and the realization of this idea, and hence founding this new federation which allows Germany once more to become so strongly manifest for all the world to see.
I saw that the moment the echoes of those shots here died. If you go back and read my final speech in the major trial, you will most likely be able to say that I prophetically foresaw the only possible course of events; I voiced it, and I adhered to that course persistently for nine years. I was only able to adhere to it because this action had taken place before, and because men had died for this course before.
The fact that a new naval ensign was raised yesterday in the German Reich constitutes a tremendous event. Just imagine: we can follow the German Volk throughout history for nearly 2,000 years, and never was the Volk as united in the form of its inner convictions and its actions as it is today. For the first time since Germans have inhabited the world there is one Reich, ruled by one Weltanschauung, shielded by one army-and all this joined under one flag.
Truly the palls of these sixteen fallen soldiers have celebrated a resurrection unique in world history. They have become the freedom banners of their Volk.
And the most wonderful thing is that this great unity in Germany, this victory of a movement, of an idea, followed by the obligation of the entire Volk, evolved from this sacrifice. And all of this we owe to these first men. For if I had found no one at that time to support this Reich with life and limb, it would also have been impossible at a later point. All of the ensuing blood sacrifices were inspired by the sacrifices of those first men.
That is the reason why we are bringing them forth from the depths of oblivion to stand for all time before the great public eye of the German Volk. In killing these sixteen, the opponents believed they had killed the National Socialist Movement. But they succeeded only in stirring the river of blood which has been flowing ever more strongly since. Today, this tie, this armband from back then, embraces the whole of the German Volk and reaches far beyond. For today Germans everywhere-and that is the miraculous thing-recognize no other symbol of fraternity than what you, my Party comrades and Volksgenossen, wore even then on your arms. And it is truly a miracle to follow the evolution of our Movement. It will seem like a fairytale to posterity.
A Volk is shattered; then a mere handful of unknown men stands up and embarks upon a crusade whose beginning is zealous and whose course continues to be zealous. Only a couple of years later, these few people and unknown nameless have given rise to numerous battalions, and a few more years later these battalions have already become regiments and divisions; Ortsgruppen become districts (Kreise) and Gaus. And again but a few years later, this Movement sends numerous deputies to the representative bodies.
And it wages its battle untiringly on the street. Again and again there are new holes in its ranks, thousands are injured-but the river swells nonetheless and fights its way through to power. And then it raises its standard to fly over an entire state. A splendid crusade! It will go down as one of the most miraculous and remarkable phenomena in world history. And history will attempt to find analogues and parallels, but it will hardly find a parallel in which, beginning with such a birth, an entire Volk and a state could be totally conquered in so few years.
This miracle is something we have wrought. We are the fortunate ones who are not learning about it from books, but were chosen by Fate to live through it. We, my comrades in arms, can be proud that history has appointed us to accomplish such a mission. Many years ago I said to my followers, “Perhaps there are those among you who would ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’ My Party comrade: the day will come when you will be particularly proud of this armband, you will inscribe upon it the year of your enlightenment and be pleased to be able to say: I’ve been with the cause all this time.”’ This is what joins us all and welds us together; coming generations will learn it one day. But we can say: we were there. That is our accomplishment! Other generations learn from heroic sagas and heroic crusades. We have lived this saga and marched in this crusade. Whether the name of a certain individual among us lives on in posterity is of no consequence. We are all bound together in a single, great phenomenon. It will live on.
It will nevermore die out in Germany, and from the sacrifices of the first fighters will come forth the renewed strength to make sacrifices. Thus our gratitude to those who made the first sacrifices is undying. Undying because the Movement is undying and because it must always remember to whom it owes all this. One should not ask, “How many are dead or wounded?” but rather, “How many marched back then?” Only then can one get a picture of the dimensions of that instance. And one must also ask, “How many did they march against?” For was ever in Germany such a battle taken up against such superior forces? It certainly required courage. And because they demonstrated courage back then, we shall never forget them.
Just as it was clear to me that, if Fate were once to give me power, I would take these comrades out of their cemeteries and honor them and show them to the nation; just as I constantly kept sight of this resolve, so have I now fulfilled it. They are now attaining German immortality. Back then they could not yet see today’s Reich, but only sense its coming. Fate denied them the chance to personally witness this Reich. However, because they were no longer allowed to personally witness and see this Reich, we will make certain that this Reich sees them. And that is the reason why I have neither laid them in a vault nor banned them to some tomb. No, just as we marched back then with our chest free so shall they now lie in wind and weather, in rain and snow, under God’s open skies, as a reminder to the German nation. Yet for us they are not dead. These pantheons are not vaults but an eternal guardhouse. Here they stand guard for Germany and watch over our Volk. Here they lie as true witnesses of our Movement.
Back then we and our generation fulfilled our duty to these dead comrades. We did not forget them, but cherished them loyally in our hearts and, as soon as we could, we made certain that the entire Volk was once more made aware of their sacrifice, that the German nation would never forget this sacrifice.
To you yourselves, my old fellow fighters, I would now like to extend a welcome. Twelve years ago we were in this hall, and now we are here again.
But Germany has changed. What I was able to predict would follow the uplifting twelve years ago has come to pass. Today the German Volk is united in its political leadership and in the structuring of its inner life as well as in carrying the sword. We have once more become a strong state, a powerful Volk, no longer helplessly at the mercy of others. Today the flag is firmly anchored, pennant and standard for the German resurrection, for the new Reich.
And once again, as so often before, I would like to thank you for finding your way to me back then, for joining an unknown man, falling into his ranks and taking up the march with him; for sending representatives to my rallies and thus clearing the way for the weapon of the spirit. Hence I ask you to think back on this time again and again. For it is a wonderful thing to be able to harbor such memories.
It is something granted to but few generations in thousands of years. You have been chosen by Fortune. You have joined the right flag. And you shall stand by this flag as the Old Guard of the National Socialist Revolution.
Long live our National Socialist Germany! Long live our Volk! And may today the dead of our Movement, Germany and its men, living and dead, live on!
Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!