My German Nation! In November 1918, when the German nation laid down its arms trusting implicitly in the assurances contained in President Wilson's 14 Points, this marked the end of a disastrous struggle for which some individual statesmen could be blamed but certainly not the people of the warring nations.
The German People fought so heroically only because they were completely convinced that they had been wrongfully attacked and were therefore justified in fighting. The other nations had hardly any idea of the immense sacrifice which Germany, almost entirely without allies, was forced to make at that time. If in those months the rest of the world had held out its hand to its defeated enemy in a spirit of fairness, mankind would have been spared a great deal of suffering and countless disappointments.
The German People suffered the most profound disappointment. Never had a defeated nation tried more sincerely to assist in healing the wounds of its former enemy than the German People did in the long years when it complied with the dictates imposed upon it. The fact that all these sacrifices could not genuinely pacify the other nations was due to a treaty which, by attempting to perpetuate the status of victor and vanquished, could only perpetuate hatred and enmity. The nations of the world had a right to expect that people would have learned from the greatest war in history that the sacrifices - particularly those of the European nations - far exceed any potential gain. So when this treaty forced the German People to destroy all its armaments in order to achieve world-wide general disarmament, many people believed that this was merely a sign that an awareness capable of saving the world was spreading.
The German nation destroyed its weapons. Counting on its former enemies to honour the terms of the treaty, it complied with their demands with almost fanatical conscientiousness. On land, air and sea an enormous quantity of war material was deactivated, destroyed and scrapped. In accordance with the wishes of the powers which were dictating the terms, the former army of millions was replaced by a small professional army equipped with weapons of no military significance. At that time the political leaders of the nation were men whose intellectual roots were entirely within the world of the victorious powers. For this very reason the German People were entitled to expect that the rest of the world would keep its word, for the German People were trying to fulfil their treaty obligations by the sweat of their brow under immense hardship and indescribable deprivation.
No war can remain a permanent human condition. No peace can be the perpetuation of war. At some point the victor and the vanquished must find a way to join in mutual understanding and trust. For fifteen years the German People have waited and hoped that the end of the war would also bring an end to the hatred and enmity. But it seemed that the aim of the Treaty of Versailles was not to bring mankind lasting peace but instead to keep it in a state of permanent hatred.
The consequences were unavoidable. When right finally yields to might a state of permanent uncertainty disturbs and inhibits the course of normal international relations. In concluding this treaty it was completely forgotten that the world could not be rebuilt by the slave labour of a violated nation; that this could be ensured only by the cooperation of all nations in mutual trust; that the basic prerequisite for such cooperation is the removal of the war psychosis; that historical clarification of the problematical question of war guilt cannot be achieved by the victor forcing the defeated nation to sign a peace treaty which begins with a confession of the defeated nation's war guilt. On the contrary, for then the ultimate responsibility for the war emerges most clearly from the contents of a dictate like this!
The German People are utterly convinced that they are not responsible for the war. The other participants in this tragic disaster may well be equally convinced of their innocence. This makes it all the more urgent to ensure that this situation, in which all sides are convinced that they are not to blame, does not become a state of permanent enmity. We must also ensure that the memories of this world-wide catastrophe are not artificially kept alive, and that, by unnaturally perpetuating the idea of a "victor" and a "vanquished", a permanent state of inequality is not created, causing on the one side understandable arrogance and on the other bitter resentment.
It is no coincidence that after such a protracted and artificially prolonged sickness of the human race certain consequences must manifest themselves. A shattering collapse of the economy was followed by a no less dangerous general political decline. But what possible meaning did the World War have, if the consequences were an endless series of economic disasters not only for the vanquished but also for the victors? The well-being of the nations is not greater, nor has there been a genuine improvement in their political fortunes or a profound increase in human happiness! Armies of unemployed have formed a new social class and the disintegration of the economic structure of the nations is accompanied by the gradual collapse of their social structure.
It is Germany which suffered the most from the consequences of this peace treaty and the general uncertainty which it has created. The number of unemployed rose to one third of the normal national work force. That, however, meant that, including all family members, approximately twenty million out of sixty-five million people in Germany were without any livelihood and faced a hopeless future. It was only a question of time before this host of economically disenfranchised people would become an army of politically and socially alienated fanatics.
One of the oldest civilized countries in the contemporary human community with over six million Communists was on the brink of a disaster which only the indifferent and ignorant could ignore. If the red menace had spread like a raging fire throughout Germany, the Western civilized nations would have been forced to recognize that it does matter whether the banks of the Rhine and the North Sea coast are guarded by the advance troops of a revolutionary expansionist Asiatic empire, or by peaceful German farmers and working men who, genuinely conscious of a common bond with the other civilized European nations, are struggling to earn their daily bread by honest labour. The National Socialist movement, in rescuing Germany from this imminent catastrophe, saved not only the German nation but rendered the rest of Europe a historic service.
This National Socialist revolution has but one goal, namely to restore order within its own nation, to give our hungry masses work and bread, to champion the concepts of honour, loyalty and decency as the basis of a moral code which cannot harm other nations but only contribute to their general welfare. If the National Socialist movement did not represent a body of ideas and ideals, it could never have succeeded in saving our People from ultimate disaster. It remained true to these ideals not only in the course of its struggle to obtain power but also after it came to power! We have waged war on all the depravity, dishonesty, fraud and corruption which had festered and spread within our nation since the disastrous Treaty of Versailles. This movement is dedicated to the task of restoring loyalty, faith and decency without regard to person.
For the last eight months we have been engaged in a heroic struggle against the Communist threat to our nation, against the subversion of our culture, the destruction of our art and the corruption of our public morality. We have put an end to atheism and blasphemy. We humbly thank Providence for granting us success in our struggle to alleviate the distress of the unemployed and to save the German farmer. In just under eight months, in the course of a program which we calculated would require four years, more than two and a quarter million of the six million unemployed have been returned to useful production.
The most persuasive evidence of this enormous achievement is provided by the German People themselves. They will show the world how firmly they support a regime which has no other goal than - through peaceful labour and acts of civilized morality - to assist in the reconstruction of a world which is anything but happy today...
...I regard it as a sign of a noble sense of justice that in his most recent speech the French Premier, Daladier, used words that reflected a spirit of conciliatory understanding, for which countless millions of Germans thank him. National Socialist Germany desires only to redirect the rivalry between the European nations to those fields of endeavour where through the noblest form of competition they gave the entire human race those magnificent gifts of civilization, culture and art which today enrich and adorn the world.
We also note with hope and emotion the assurance that the French Government under its present Head does not intend to insult or humiliate the German People. We are deeply moved by the reference to the all too sad fact that these two great nations have in the course of history so often sacrificed the lives of their best youths and men on the field of battle. I speak on behalf of the entire German People when I offer my assurance that we genuinely desire to overcome an enmity which has resulted in sacrifices which far outweigh any potential benefit to either side.
The German People are convinced that their military honour has remained pure and unstained in a thousand battles and we likewise regard the French soldier only as an old and valiant foe. We and the entire German People would be happy at the thought of sparing the children and children's children of this nation the suffering and pain which we ourselves as honourable men were forced to see and experience in long and bitter years. The history of the last 150 years with all its vicissitudes should have taught both nations one thing: namely, that with all the bloodshed permanent and significant changes are no longer possible. As a National Socialist I and all my supporters, as a matter of national principle, reject the idea of shedding the blood and sacrificing the lives of those who are dear and precious to us, to win over people of a foreign nation who will not love us. It would be a momentous event for the entire human race if the two nations were able to eliminate once and for all the use of force from the life which they share. The German People are ready to do this.
In claiming without reservation the rights granted us in the treaties themselves, I wish to state without reservation that as far as Germany is concerned no further territorial conflicts exist between the two countries. After the return of the Saar only a madman could conceive of a war between the two states, for which from our point of view there would then no longer be any moral or rational justification. For no one could demand the extermination of millions of young lives in order to achieve a correction of the present frontiers which would be questionable both in its extent and value.
When the French Premier asks why German youth are marching in rank and file, our reply is that this is not to demonstrate against France. It is to display and document the political will required to defeat Communism and which will be necessary to keep Communism in check. In Germany only the army bears arms. And the National Socialist organizations have only one enemy and that is Communism. But the world must accept the fact that when the German People organize themselves so as to protect our Nation from this danger, they select the only forms which can guarantee success. While the rest of the world is digging in behind indestructible fortifications, building vast fleets of aircraft, enormous tanks, huge pieces of artillery, it cannot speak of a threat when German National Socialists bearing absolutely no arms march in columns of four, thus providing visible evidence and effective protection of the German national community!
When, however, the French Premier asks why Germany is demanding weapons which would have to be destroyed later, this is an error. The German People and the German Government never demanded weapons but only equal rights. If the world decides that all weapons down to the last machine gun are to be destroyed, we are prepared to sign a convention to this effect immediately. If the world decides that specific weapons are to be destroyed, we are prepared to forgo them. If, however, the world approves of certain weapons for every nation, we are not prepared to be excluded as a nation deprived of the same rights.
If we fight for the things in which we sincerely believe, we shall be more honourable partners within the family of nations than if we were prepared to accept humiliating and dishonourable conditions. For by our signature we pledge the honour of an entire nation, whereas a dishonest and unscrupulous negotiator will only be rejected by his own People. If we conclude treaties with Englishmen, Frenchmen or Poles, we want to conclude them only with men who consider themselves to be 100% Englishmen, Frenchmen or Poles and who are acting on behalf of their nation. For we have no wish to conclude pacts with negotiators; we want to sign treaties with nations. And the only reason why we are fighting against an unscrupulous hate campaign today, is because it will unfortunately not be those who incite animosity but the people of the nations who will pay with their blood for the sins of these poisonous agitators.
The former German governments confidently joined the League of Nations hoping to find there a forum where they could achieve a just resolution of conflicting national interests, and above all genuine reconciliation with their former enemies. This presupposed, however, the ultimate recognition of equal rights for the German nation. Their participation in the disarmament conference was based on the same assumption. Demotion to the status of membership without equal rights in an institution or conference of this nature is an intolerable humiliation for a nation of 65 million people which values its honour and for a government which attaches no less importance to its honour!
The German People more than fulfilled its obligation to disarm. It should now be the turn of the nations who are armed to show no less willingness to fulfil the same obligations. In taking part in this conference the German Government's goal is not to negotiate for a few canons or machine guns for the German People, but to work towards universal world peace as an equal partner. Germany has no less a right to security than any other nation. Since Mr Baldwin, the English Minister, takes if for granted that disarmament means only that better-armed states disarm while England continues to arm until parity between them is achieved, it would be unfair to heap criticism on Germany if, as an equal partner at the conference, it ultimately adopted the same position with regard to itself. This demand by Germany cannot possibly mean the least threat to the other powers. For the other nations have defence installations designed to withstand the heaviest assault weapons, whereas Germany is not asking for assault weapons but only for those defence weapons which will not be prohibited in the future and which all other nations are permitted. Here, too, Germany is quite prepared to accept a minimum number, which bears no relationship to the enormous arsenal of assault and defence weapons of our former enemies. The deliberate demotion of our nation, by granting every nation of the world an automatic right which we alone are denied, is in our view a perpetuation of intolerable discrimination. In my speech about peace in May I already stated that under these circumstances, to our great regret, we would not be able to remain within the League of Nations or to participate in international conferences.
Germany's current leaders have nothing in common with the paid traitors of November 1918. All of us - like every decent Englishmen and Frenchmen - have risked our lives to do our duty to our fatherland. We are not responsible for the war, we are not responsible for what happened in it. We feel responsible only for what every man of honour had to do, and we did, at a time of national crisis. The boundless love we feel for our nation is matched by our ardent desire to reach an understanding with the other nations and we will attempt to achieve this wherever possible. It is impossible for us, as the representatives of an honest nation and as honest people, to participate in institutions under conditions which would be acceptable only to a dishonest person. In the past men may well have existed who even under such intolerable conditions may have believed that they could be party to international agreements. There is no point in examining whether they were the best elements in our nation, but beyond any doubt the best elements in our nation did not support them. The world can only be interested in negotiating with the honest men rather than the questionable elements within a nation, and in signing treaties with the former rather than the latter. The world must, however, in turn make allowance for the sense of honour of a regime of this nature, just as we in turn are grateful that we are able to deal with honest men. This is all the more vital, because only in this kind of atmosphere can the solution be found which will lead to genuine peace between the nations. Unless a conference of this nature is conducted in a spirit of sincere understanding it is doomed to failure. Having gathered from the statements of the official representatives of a number of major powers that they have no intention of granting Germany equal rights at the present time, Germany at this time and in such a humiliating position finds it impossible to impose its presence upon other nations. The implementation of the threats to use force can only constitute violations of international law.
The German Government is absolutely convinced that its appeal to the entire German nation will prove to the world that the Government's desire for peace and its concept of honour are shared by the entire nation. In order to document this claim I have decided to request the President of the Reich (Reichspräsident) to dissolve the German Parliament (Reichstag) and in new elections and a plebiscite provide the German People with the chance to make a historical statement, not merely by approving of their government's principles but by showing total solidarity with them.
May this statement convince the world that the German People have expressed their total solidarity with their government in this struggle for equal rights and honour; that both sincerely desire only to play their part in ending an epoch of tragic human error, regrettable discord and strife between the nations which dwell in the most civilized continent in the world and have a common mission to accomplish for all mankind. May this powerful demonstration of our People's desire for peace and honour succeed in providing the relationships between the European states with the necessary basis not only for an end to a century of discord and strife but for the foundation for a new and better community: namely, the recognition of a common higher duty based on equal rights for all!