I took the first step when I made the decision to found the Movement. And it was a very difficult decision indeed for me to imprison the Bavarian Government and proclaim a national revolution in Germany.
For the first time one was forced to make a decision on life and death without having been given any orders. And I believe that was a good thing; in the past three-and-a-half years I have had to make very difficult decisions [on life and death] in which, at times, the fate of the entire nation was on the line. Unfortunately, I never had that famous fifty-one-percent certainty when doing so. Often enough there was a ninety-five-percent chance of failing and merely a five-percent chance of succeeding. Yet perhaps that eighth of November 1923 helped me to later be able to decide on issues fraught with danger. Moreover, that decision became an important lesson for the future.
Perhaps that is the achievement of which I am personally most proud and for which history will surely one day give me the most credit: the fact that I succeeded not only in not shattering the Army, but in forming it into cadres for the new German Volksarmee.
And this gives us all a deep sense of inner satisfaction: when I appeared in this hall for the first time, I myself was still a soldier. All of us came from the old army, we all wore this garb, and it was because we were all so very attached to this gray garb that we were unable to ever reconcile ourselves with the revolution that had sullied this garb! It was as soldiers we began this struggle, and as politicians we won it out! Yet the wonderful thing about this struggle is that we have now been able to present the German Volk with a new gift of the old army. And just as the old army once fought for the old Reich, so shall the new army-if ever the hour so require-fight and prevail for the new Reich.
There is but a single difference: when the old army went off to war, it was armed with weapons against everything but the propaganda of infiltration and decay. Today the Army carries with it the talisman of political immunity against every attempt to infiltrate this Army.218 Never again will our opponents succeed there. This Army is the National Socialist Army of the new Reich, and by virtue of the fact that, year for year, we send one generation after another from our National Socialist offspring into this Army, it becomes ever more closely bound up with our modern Volk and its spirit. We are increasingly endowing it with the strength of our Weltanschauung. This is perhaps the greatest achievement of all we have accomplished after these many long years.
This is the one thing of which I am personally most proud. I believe that one day posterity will give me the most credit that I did not confine Germany to defenselessness for fifteen years, but that I succeeded in creating, in scarcely four years’ time, a great German National Socialist Volksarmee from the army of 100,000; that all those who might otherwise have become our enemies are working and helping us in this Army. When the trial came to a close in 1924, I predicted-back then-that the hour would come in which both phenomena would unite to become one. And that prediction has now come to pass! Cannot we thus quite rightly say that those who were killed in 1923 did not die in vain; that their sacrificial death was worth it? I hold that, were they to rise from the dead, theirs would be eternal bliss were they to see what has now come to be. [---] There are perhaps those who say, “You’re virtually making them into martyrs!” Yes, that is my intention. I want to make of these dead the first sixteen martyrs of the National Socialist Movement, sixteen persons who were killed believing in something completely new that would only become a reality ten years later. Sixteen persons who marched under a completely new flag to which they pledged their oath of allegiance sealed with their blood. These sixteen made the utmost sacrifice and deserve that we keep them in constant remembrance.
Hence it is my wish that for all time, beyond centuries and millenniums, the National Socialist Party and with it the whole of Germany shall always commemorate this sacrifice on this day, that they may thus remember these men again and again. [-] That is also why we are gathered together here once more today, thirteen years after that day. This year in particular we have very strong reasons to evoke a recollection of that former time. For today I can assure you: this is the first time I am celebrating this day of commemoration without deep concern for our German Volk. I can already see the time coming in which our own numbers will slowly decrease and the young circle of new and coming generations will rise up around us. Yet one thing I know is that even after the last one of us has fallen from our ranks, the youth will hold our flag clenched firmly in their hands and be ever mindful of those men who believed-in the age of Germany’s deepest humiliation-in a shining resurrection.