Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and dictator of Nazi Germany (as Führer und Reichskanzler) from 1934 to 1945. Hitler is commonly associated with the rise of fascism in Europe, World War II, and the Holocaust.
A decorated veteran of World War I, Hitler joined the German Workers’ Party, precursor of the Nazi Party, in 1919, and became leader of the NSDAP in 1921. In 1923 he attempted a coup d’état, known as the Beer Hall Putsch, in Munich. The failed coup resulted in Hitler’s imprisonment, during which time he wrote his memoir, Mein Kampf (My Struggle). After his release in 1924, Hitler gained support by promoting Pan-Germanism, antisemitism, and anticommunism with charismatic oratory and Nazi propaganda. After his appointment as chancellor in 1933, he transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich, a single-party dictatorship based on the totalitarian and autocratic ideology of Nazism. His avowed aim was to establish a New Order of absolute Nazi German hegemony in continental Europe.
Hitler’s foreign and domestic policies had the goal of seizing lebensraum (“living space”) for the Germanic people. He oversaw the rearmament of Germany and the invasion of Poland by the Wehrmacht in September 1939, which led to the outbreak of World War II in Europe. Under Hitler’s direction, in 1941 German forces and their European allies occupied most of Europe and North Africa. These gains were gradually reversed after 1941, and in 1945 the Allied armies defeated the German army. Hitler’s supremacist and racially motivated policies resulted in the systematic murder of eleven million people, including nearly six million Jews.
In the final days of the war, during the Battle of Berlin in 1945, Hitler married his long-time mistress, Eva Braun. On 30 April 1945—less than two days later—the two committed suicide to avoid capture by the Red Army, and their corpses were burned.
In his telegram to Hitler and Mussolini the President of the United States had addressed a blunt question: “Are you willing to give assurance that your armed forces will not attack or invade the territory of the following independent nations?”
There had followed a list of thirty-one countries…
In a circular telegram of April 17 Germany put two questions of its own to all the states mentioned by Roosevelt except Poland, Russia, Britain and France: Did they feel themselves in any way threatened by German? Had they authorized Roosevelt to make his proposal?
… The replies were potent ammunition for Hitler, and he made masterly use of them as he swung into his speech to the Reichstag on the pleasant spring day of April 28, 1939. It was the longest major public speech he ever made, taking more than two hours to deliver. In many ways, especially in the power of its appeal to Germans and to the friends of Nazi Germany abroad, it was probably the most brilliant oration he ever gave. For sheer eloquence, craftiness, irony, sarcasm and hypocrisy, it reached a new level that he was never to approach again. And though prepared for German ears, it was broadcast not only on all German radio stations but on hundreds of others throughout the world; in the United States it was carried by the major networks. Never before or afterward was there such a world-wide audience as he had that day.
William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1961)
Address to German Parliament, 28 April 28 1939
Deputies, Men of the Reichstag!
The President of the United States of America has addressed a telegram to me, with the curious contents of which you are already familiar. Before I, the addressee, actually received this document, the rest of the world had already been informed of it by radio and newspaper reports, and numerous commentaries in the organs of the democratic world press had already profusely enlightened us as to the fact that this telegram was a very skillful tactical document, designed to impose upon the states, in which the people govern, the responsibility for the warlike measures adopted by the plutocratic countries.
In view of these facts I decided to summon the German Reichstag so that you, Gentlemen, might have an opportunity of hearing my answer first and of either confirming that answer or rejecting it. But in addition, I considered it desirable to keep to the method of procedure initiated by President Roosevelt and, for my part, to inform the rest of the world of my answer in our way.
But I should like also to take this opportunity of giving expression to the feelings with which the tremendous historical happenings of the month of March inspire me. I can give vent to my inmost feelings only in the form of humble thanks to Providence which called upon me and vouchsafed it to me, once an unknown soldier of the Great War [1914-1918], to rise to be the Leader of my people, so dear to me.
Providence showed me the way to free our people from the depths of its misery without bloodshed and to lead it upward once again. Providence granted that I might fulfill my life’s task-to raise my German people out of the depths of defeat and to liberate it from the bonds of the most outrageous dictate of all times. This alone has been my aim.
Since the day on which I entered politics I have been moved by no other idea than that of winning back the freedom of the German Nation, restoring the power and strength of the Reich, overcoming the internal disruption of the nation, remedying its isolation from the rest of the world, and safeguarding the maintenance of its independent economic and political existence. I have worked only to restore that which others once broke by force. I have desired only to make good that which satanic malice or human unreason destroyed or demolished. I have, therefore, taken no step which violated the rights of others, but have only restored that justice which was violated twenty years ago.
The present Greater German Reich contains no territory which was not from the earliest times a part of this Reich, bound up with it or subject to its sovereignty. Long before an American continent had been discovered – not to say settled – by white people, this Reich existed, not merely with its present boundaries, but with the addition of many regions and provinces which have since been lost.
Twenty-one years ago, when the bloodshed of the war came to an end, millions of minds were filled with the ardent hope that a peace of reason and justice would reward and bless the nations which had been visited by the fearful scourge of the Great War. I say “reward”, for all those men and women – whatever the conclusions arrived at by the historians – bore no responsibility for these fearful happenings. In some countries there may still be politicians who even at that time were chargeable with the responsibility for this, the most atrocious massacre of all times, but the vast numbers of the combatant soldiers of every country and nation were by no means guilty, but rather deserving of pity.
I myself, as you know, had never played a part in politics before the war, and only, like millions of others, performed such duties as I was called upon to fulfill as a decent citizen and soldier. It was therefore with in absolutely clear conscience that I was able to take up the cause of the freedom and future of my people, both during and after the war. And I can therefore speak in the name of millions and millions of others equally blameless when I declare that all those, who had only fought for their nation in the loyal fulfillment of their duty, were entitled to a peace of reason and justice, so that mankind might at last set to work to make good by joint effort the losses which ail had suffered. But the millions were cheated of this peace; for not only did the German people or the other peoples fighting on our side suffer through the peace treaties, but these treaties had a devastating effect on the victor countries as well.
That politics should be controlled by men who had not fought in the war was recognized for the first time as a misfortune. Hatred was unknown to the soldiers, but not to those elderly politicians who had carefully preserved their own precious lives from the horrors of war, and who now descended upon humanity in the guise of insane spirits of revenge.
Hatred, malice and unreason were the intellectual forbears of the Treaty of Versailles.* Territories and states with a history going back a thousand years were arbitrarily broken up and dissolved. Men who have belonged together since time immemorial have been torn asunder; economic conditions of life have been ignored while the peoples themselves have been converted into victors and vanquished, into masters possessing all rights and slaves possessing none.
This document of Versailles has fortunately been set down in black and white for generations to come, for otherwise it would have been regarded in the future as the grotesque product of a wild and corrupt imagination. Nearly 115,000,000 people have been robbed of their right of self-determination, not by victorious soldiers, but by mad politicians, and have been arbitrarily removed from old communities and made part of new ones without any consideration of blood, origin, common sense or the economic conditions of life.
The results were appalling. Though at that time the statesmen were able to destroy a great many things, there was one factor which could not be eliminated; the gigantic mass of people living in Central Europe, crowded together in a confined space, can only ensure its daily bread by the maximum of employment and resultant order.
But what did these statesmen of the so-called democratic empires know of these problems?
A horde of utterly stupid and ignorant people was let loose on humanity. In districts in which about 140 people per square kilometer have to gain a livelihood, they merely destroyed the order which had been built up over nearly 2,000 years of historical development, and created disorder, without themselves being capable or desirous of solving the problems confronting the communal life of these people-for which, moreover, as dictators of the new world order, they had at that time undertaken responsibility.
However, when this new world order turned out to be a catastrophe, the democratic peace dictators, American and European alike, were so cowardly that none of them ventured to take the responsibility for what occurred. Each put the blame on the others, thus endeavoring to save himself from the judgment of history. However, the people who were maltreated by their hatred and unreason were, unfortunately, not in a position to share in this escape with those who had injured them.
It is impossible to enumerate the stages of our own people’s sufferings. Robbed of the whole of its colonial possessions, deprived of all its financial resources, plundered by so-called reparations, and thus impoverished, our nation was driven into the blackest period of its national misfortune. Be it noted that this was not National Socialist Germany, but democratic Germany the Germany which was weak enough to trust even for a single moment the promises of democratic statesmen.
[Hitler mentioned the problems caused to Germany by the Jews, by the Treaty of Versailles that brought about inequality and suffering to Germans, by the greed for spoils of victorious countries that aimed to impoverize Germany and the partition of Germany, etc. Then came the reply on England and Poland: Hitler stated the demand on Danzig and the Polish Corridor that represent “Germany’s greatest whereas Poland had refused this “single proposal”.]
[Hitler next turned to President Roosevelt, and here the German dictator reached the summit of his oratory. To a normal ear, to be sure, it reeked with hypocrisy and deception. But to the hand-picked members of the Reichstag, and to millions of German, its masterly sarcasm and irony were a delight. The paunchy deputies rocked with raucous laughter as the Fuehrer uttered with increasing effect his seemingly endless ridicule of the American President. One by one he took up the points of Roosevelt’s telegram, paused, almost smiled, and then, like a schoolmaster, uttered in a low voice one word, ‘Answer’ – and gave it. Hitler paused time after time to say quietly, ‘Antwort,’ while above the rostrum in the President’s chair Goering tried ineffectually to stifle a snicker and the members of the Reichstag prepared, as soon as the Antwort was given, to roar and laugh.]
As I mentioned at the beginning, on April 15, 1939, the world was informed of the contents of a telegram which I myself did not see until later. It is difficult to classify this document or to place it in any known category. I will, therefore attempt, Gentlemen, to present to you – and so to the whole German people-an analysis of the contents of this amazing document and in your name and in the name of the German people to give the appropriate answers to it.
Mr. Roosevelt is of the opinion that I, too, must realize that throughout the world hundreds of millions of human beings are living in constant fear of a new war or even a series of wars. This, he says, is of concern to the people of the United States, for whom he speaks, as it must also be to the peoples of the other nations of the entire Western Hemisphere.
In reply to this, it must be said in the first place that this fear of war has undoubtedly existed among mankind from time immemorial, and justifiably so.
For instance, after the Peace Treaty of Versailles, 14 wars were waged between 1919 and 1938 alone, in none of which Germany was concerned, but in which states of the “Western Hemisphere” in whose name President Roosevelt also speaks, were certainly concerned.
In addition, there were in the same period 26 violent interventions and sanctions carried through by means of bloodshed and force. Germany played no part whatever in these either.
The United States alone has carried out military interventions in six cases since 1918. Since 1918 Soviet Russia has engaged in 10 wars and military actions involving force and bloodshed. Again, Germany was concerned in none of these, nor was she responsible for any of these.
It would therefore be a mistake in my eyes to assume that the fear of war inspiring European and non-European nations can at this present time be directly traced back to actual wars at all.
The reason for this fear lies simply and solely in an unbridled agitation on the part of the press, an agitation as mendacious as it is base in the circulation of vile pamphlets against the heads of foreign states […]
I believe that as soon as the governments responsible impose upon themselves and their journalistic organs the necessary restraint and truthfulness as regards the relations of the various countries to one another, and in particular as regards internal happenings in other countries, the fear of war will disappear at once […]
In his telegram Mr. Roosevelt expresses the belief that every major war, even if it were confined to other continents, must have serious consequences not only while it lasts, but for generations to come.
Answer: No one knows this better than the German people. For the Peace Treaty of Versailles imposed burdens on the German people, which could not have been paid off in a hundred years, although it has been proved conclusively by American teachers of constitutional law, historians and professors of history that Germany was no more to blame for the outbreak of the war than any other nation.
Mr. Roosevelt declared that he had already appealed to me on a former occasion for a peaceful settlement of political, economic and social I problems, without resort to arms.
Answer: I myself have always been an exponent of this view and, as history proves, have settled necessary political, economic and social problems without force of arms-without even resorting to arms.
Unfortunately, however, this peaceful settlement has been made more difficult by the agitation of politicians, statesmen and newspaper representatives who were neither directly concerned nor even affected by the problems in question.
Mr. Roosevelt believes that the “tide of events” is once more bringing the threat of arms with it, and that if this threat continues, a large part of the world is condemned to common ruin.
Answer: As far as Germany is concerned, I know nothing of this kind of threat to other nations, although I read lies about such a threat every day in the democratic newspapers.
Every day I read of German mobilizations, of the landing of troops, of extortions – all this in connection with states with whom we are not only living absolutely peacefully, but with whom we are also in many cases, the closest friends.
Mr. Roosevelt believes further that in case of war, victorious, vanquished and neutral nations will all suffer alike.
Answer: In the course of my political activity, I have been the exponent of this conviction for twenty years, at a time when responsible statesmen in America, unfortunately, could not bring themselves to make the same admission as regards their participation in the Great War and its issue.
Mr. Roosevelt believes that in the end it lies with the leaders of the great nations to preserve their peoples from the impending disaster.
Answer: If that is true, then it is culpable neglect, not to use a stronger word, if the leaders of nations in authority fail to control their newspapers which agitate for war […]
I cannot understand, further, why these responsible leaders instead of cultivating diplomatic relations between nations, make them more difficult and indeed disturb them by such actions as the recall of ambassadors without any reason.
Mr. Roosevelt declared finally that three nations in Europe and one in Africa have seen their independent existence terminated.
Answer: I do not know which three nations in Europe are meant. Should it be a question of the provinces reincorporated in the German Reich, I must draw the attention of Mr. Roosevelt to a mistake in history on his part.
It was not now that these nations sacrificed their independent existence in Europe, but rather in 1918. At that time, in violation of solemn promises, their logical ties were torn asunder and they were made into the nations which they never wished to be and never had been. They were forced into an independence which was no independence but at most could only mean dependence upon an international foreign world which they detested.
Moreover, as to the allegations that one nation in Africa has lost its freedom – that, too, is erroneous. It is not a question of one nation in Africa having lost its freedom. On the contrary, practically all the original inhabitants of this continent have lost their freedom through being made subject to the sovereignty of other nations by bloodshed and force.
Moroccans, Berbers, Arabs, Negroes, and the rest have all fallen victim to the swords of foreign might, which, however, were not marked “Made in Germany” but “Made by Democracies”.
Mr. Roosevelt then speaks of the reports which he admittedly does not believe to be correct, but which state that still further acts of aggression are contemplated against other independent nations.
Answer: I consider every such unfounded insinuation as an attempt against the tranquility and peace of the world. I also see in them an effort calculated to alarm smaller nations or at least to put them on edge.
If Mr. Roosevelt really has any specific instances in mind in this connection I would ask him to name the states which are threatened with aggression and to name the aggressor in question. It will then be a simple matter to refute these preposterous general charges quite briefly.
Mr. Roosevelt states that the world is plainly moving towards the moment when this situation must end in catastrophe unless a rational way of guiding events is found.
He also declares that I have repeatedly asserted that I and the German people have no desire for war and that if this is true there need be no war.
Answer: I should like to point out in the first place that I have not waged any war; in the second, that for years I have expressed my abhorrence of war and, no less, of warmongers; and, thirdly, that I do not know for what purpose I should wage a war at all.
I would appreciate if Mr. Roosevelt would give me some explanation in this regard.
Mr. Roosevelt is further of the opinion that the peoples of the world could not be persuaded that any governing power has any right or need to inflict the consequences of war on its own or any other people, save in the self-evident cause of home defense.
Answer: I should think that every reasonable human being is of this opinion, but it seems to me that in almost every war both sides claim that theirs is a case of unquestionable home defense. I do not believe there is an authority ‘in this world, including the American President himself, who could decide this question unequivocally. There is hardly any possibility of doubt, for example, that America’s entry into the Great War was not a case of unquestionable home defense. A research committee set up by President Roosevelt himself has examined the causes of America’s entry into the Great War, and reached the conclusion that the entry ensued chiefly for reasons that were exclusively capitalistic. Nevertheless, no practical conclusions have been drawn from this fact.
Let us hope, then, that at least the United States will in the future act according to this noble principle herself, and will not go to war. against any country except in the cause of unquestionable home defense.
Mr. Roosevelt says further that he does not speak from selfishness, fear, or weakness, but with the voice of strength and friendship for mankind.
Answer: If this voice of strength and friendship for mankind had been raised by America at’ the proper time, and particularly if it had had any practical value, then at least that treaty which was to become the source of the direst derangement of humanity and history, the Dictate of Versailles, could have been prevented.
Mr. Roosevelt declares further that it is clear to him that all international problems can be solved at the council table.
Answer: Theoretically one ought to believe in this possibility, for common sense would correct demands on the one hand and show the compelling necessity of compromise on the other.
For example, by the logic of common sense and the general principles of a higher human justice, indeed, according to the laws of a divine will, all peoples ought to have all equal share in the world’s goods.
It ought not then to happen that one people needs so much space to live in that it cannot get along with 15 inhabitants to the square kilometer, while others are forced to sustain 140, 150 or even 200 on the same area.
But in any event these fortunate peoples should not curtail the existing space allotted to those who ire already suffering, by robbing them of their colonies for instance. I should therefore be more than happy if these problems could really find their solution at the council table.
My scepticism, however, is based oil the fact that it was America herself who gave sharpest expression to her mistrust in the effectiveness of conferences. For the greatest conference of-all time was without doubt the League of Nations.
This authoritative body, representing all the peoples of the world, created in accordance with the intentions of an American President, was supposed to solve the problems of humanity at the council table.
The first state, however, that shrank from this endeavor was the United States-the reason being that President Wilson himself even then cherished the greatest doubts of the possibility of really being able to solve decisive international problems at the conference table.
We honor your well-meant expression of opinion, Mr. Roosevelt, but over against your opinion stands the actual fact that in almost twenty years of the activity of the greatest conference in the world, the League of Nations, it has proved impossible to solve one single decisive international problem. Contrary to Wilson’s promise, Germany was prevented for many years by the Peace Treaty of Versailles from participating I in this great world conference. In spite of the bitterest experience there was one German Government that believed that there was no need to follow the example of the United States, and that it should therefore take a seat at this conference table.
It was not till after years of purposeless participation that I resolved to follow the example of America and likewise leave the largest conference in the world. Since then I have solved my people’s problems, which, like all others, were, unfortunately not solved at the conference table of the League of Nations – and solved them without recourse to war in any instance.
Apart from this, however, as already mentioned, numerous other problems have been brought before world conferences in recent years without any solution having been found.
If, however, Mr. Roosevelt, your belief that every problem can be solved at the conference table is true. then all nations, including the United States, have been led in the past seven or eight hundred years either by blind men or by criminals.
[Hitler reminded Roosevelt that German once laid down its weapons and went unarmed to the conference table, but they were subjected to even greater degradation than can ever have been inflicted on the chieftains of Sioux tribes.]
The President of the United States believes that in conference rooms as in courts it is necessary that both sides enter in good faith, assuming that substantial justice will accrue to both.
Answer: German representatives will never again enter a conference that is for them a tribunal. For who is to be the judge there? At a conference there is no accused and no prosecutor, but two contending parties. If their own good sense does not bring about a settlement between the two parties, they will never surrender themselves to the verdict of other powers whose interests are wholly foreign to theirs.
Incidentally, the United States herself declined to enter the League of Nations and to become the victim of a court which was able, merely by a majority vote, to give a verdict adverse to individual interests. But I should be much obliged to President Roosevelt if he would explain to the world what the new World Court is to be like.
Who are the judges here? According to what procedure are they selected? On what responsibility do they act? And above all, to whom can they be made accountable for their decision?
The American President further declares that he would then communicate information received by him concerning the political aims of Germany to other nations now apprehensive as to the course of our policy.
Answer: How has Mr. Roosevelt learned which nations consider themselves threatened by German policy and which do not?
Or is Mr. Roosevelt in a position, with the enormous amount of work which he must have to do in his own country, to recognize of his own accord all the inmost thoughts and feelings of other peoples and their governments?
Finally, Mr. Roosevelt asks that assurances be given him that the German armed forces will not attack, and above all, not invade, the territory or possessions of the following independent nations. He then names as those to whish he refers: Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iraq, the Arabias, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Iran.
Answers: I have first taken the trouble to ascertain from the states mentioned, firstly, whether they feel themselves threatened, and, what is most important, secondly, whether this inquiry by the American President was addressed to us at their suggestion or at least with their consent.
The reply was in all cases negative, in some instances strongly so. It is true that there were certain ones among the states and nations mentioned, whom I could not question because they themselves – as for example, Syria – are at present not in possession of their freedom, but are under occupation by the military agents of democratic states and consequently deprived of their rights.
Apart from this fact, however, all states bordering on Germany have received much more binding assurances and particularly, more binding proposals than Mr. Roosevelt asked from me in his curious telegram.
But I must also draw Mr. Roosevelt’s attention to one or two mistakes in history. He mentions Ireland, for instance, and asks for a statement to the effect that Germany will not attack Ireland. Now, I have just read a speech delivered by Mr. de Valera, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), in which strangely enough, and contrary to Mr. Roosevelt’s opinion, he does not charge Germany with oppressing Ireland, but reproaches England with subjecting Ireland to continuous aggression.
Similarly the fact has obviously escaped Mr. Roosevelt’s notice that Palestine is at present occupied not by German troops but by the English; and that the country is undergoing restriction of its liberty by the most brutal resort to force, is being robbed of its independence and is suffering the cruelest maltreatment for the benefit of Jewish interlopers.
The Arabs living in that country would therefore certainly not have complained to Mr. Roosevelt of German aggression, but they are voicing a constant appeal to the world, deploring the barbarous methods with which England is attempting to suppress a people which loves its freedom and is merely defending it.
This, too, is perhaps a problem which in the American President’s view should be solved at the conference table, that is, before a just judge, and not by physical force or military methods, by mass executions, burning down villages, blowing up houses and so on.
For one fact is surely certain. In this case England is not defending herself against a threatened Arab attack, but as an uninvited interloper, is endeavoring to establish her power in a foreign territory which does not belong to her.
A whole series of similar errors which Mr. Roosevelt has made could be pointed out, quite aside from the difficulty of military operations on the part of Germany in states and countries, some of which are from 2000 to 5000 kilometers away from us. Lastly I have the following statement to make:
The German Government is in spite of everything prepared to give each of the states named an assurance of the kind desired by Mr. Roosevelt, on condition of absolute reciprocity, provided that such state wishes it and itself addresses to Germany a request for such an assurance, together with correspondingly acceptable proposals.
In the case of a number of the states included in Mr. Roosevelt’s list, this question can probably be regarded as settled from the very outset, since we are already either allied with them or at least united by close ties of friendship.
As for the duration of these agreements, Germany is willing to make terms with each individual state in accordance with the wishes of that state.
But I should not want to let this opportunity pass without above all giving to the President of the United States an assurance regarding those territories which would, after all, give him most cause for apprehension, namely the United States herself and the other states of the American continent.
And I here solemnly declare that all the assertions which have in any way been circulated concerning an intended German attack or invasion on or in American territory are rank frauds and gross untruths, quite apart from the fact that such assertions, as far as the military possibilities are concerned, could only be the product of the silliest imagination.
[The Reichstag rocked with laughter; Hitler did not crack a smile, maintaining with great effect his solemn manner.]
The American President then goes on to declare in this connection that he regards the discussion of the most effective and immediate manner in which the peoples of the world can obtain relief from the crushing burden of armaments, as the most important factor of all.
Answer: Mr. Roosevelt perhaps does not know that this problem in so far as it concerns Germany was once already completely solved. Between 1919 and 1923 Germany had already fully disarmed as was expressly confirmed by the allied commission. This was the extent of the disarmament:
[Hitler mentioned the types and quantities of the military equipment destroyed, and his proposal for arm reduction.]
Mr. Roosevelt assures us further that he is prepared to take part in discussions to consider the most practical manner of opening up avenues of international trade to the end that every nation of the world may be enabled to buy and sell on equal terms in the world market, as well as to possess assurance of obtaining the raw materials and products of peaceful economic life.
Answer: It is my belief, Mr. Roosevelt, that it is not so much question of discussing these problems theoretically as of removing in practice the barriers which exist in international trade.* The worst barriers, however, lie in the individual states themselves.
Experience so far shows at any rate that the greatest world economic conferences have been shipwrecked simply because the various countries were unable to maintain order in their internal economic systems; or else because they brought uncertainty into the international financial market by currency manipulations, and especially by causing continual fluctuations in the value of their currencies to one another.
It is likewise an unbearable burden for world economic relations that it should be possible in some countries for one ideological reason or another to let loose a wild boycott agitation against other countries and their goods, and so in effect to eliminate them from the market.
It is my belief, Mr. Roosevelt, that it would be most commendable on your part, if you, with your great, influence, would, begin with the United States in the removal of these barriers to a genuinely free world trade. For it is my conviction that if the leaders of nations are not even capable of regulating production in their own countries or of removing boycotts pursued for ideological reasons, which can do so much damage to trade relations between,countries, there is much less prospect of achieving any really fruitful step towards the improvement of economic relations by means of international agreements. There is no other way to guarantee the equal right of all to buy and sell in the world market.
Further, the German people has made very concrete claims in this regard and I would appreciate it very much if you, Mr. Roosevelt, as one of the successors of the late President Wilson, would use your efforts to seeing that promises, on the basis of which Germany once laid down her arms and placed herself in the hands of the so-called victors, be at last redeemed.
I am thinking less of the countless millions extorted from Germany as so-called reparations than of the return of the territories stolen from Germany.
Germany lost approximately 3,000,000 square kilometers of territory in and outside Europe although the whole German colonial empire, in contrast to the colonies of other nations, was not acquired by means of war but solely through treaties or purchase.
President Wilson solemnly pledged his word that the German colonial claim like all others would receive the same just examination. Instead of this, however, the German possessions were given to nations who already have the largest colonial empires in history, while our people were subjected to great cares which are now-as they will continue to be in the future – particularly pressing.
It would be a noble act if President Franklin Roosevelt were to redeem the promises made by President Woodrow Wilson. This, above all, would be a practical contribution to the moral consolidation of the world and the improvement of its economic conditions.
Mr. Roosevelt also stated in conclusion that the heads of all great governments are in this hour responsible for the fate of humanity and that they cannot fail to hear the prayers of their peoples to be protected from the foreseeable chaos of war. And I, too, would be held accountable for this.
Mr. Roosevelt, I fully understand that the vastness of your nation and the immense wealth of your country allow you to feel responsible for the history of the whole world and for the fate of all peoples. My sphere, Mr. President, is considerably smaller and more modest. You have 130,000,000 people on 9,500,000 square kilometers. You possess a country with enormous riches, all mineral resources, fertile enough to feed half a billion people and to provide them with every necessity.
I took over the leadership of a state which was faced by complete ruin thanks to its trust in the Promises of the outside world and to the evil government of its own democratic regime. In this state there are roughly 140 people to each square kilometer- not 15, as in America. The fertility of our country cannot be compared with that of yours. We lack numerous minerals which nature has bestowed on you in unlimited quantities.
Billions of German savings accumulated in gold and foreign exchange during many years of peace were extorted from us. We lost our colonies. In 1933 I had in my country 7,000,000 unemployed, a few million part-time workers, millions of impoverished peasants, trade destroyed, commerce ruined; in short, general chaos.
Since then, Mr. Roosevelt, I have only been able to fulfill – one single task. I cannot feel myself responsible for the fate of a world, for this world took no interest in the pitiful fate of my own people.
I have regarded myself as called upon by Providence to serve my own people alone and to deliver them from their frightful misery. Thus, for the past six-and-ahalf years, I have lived day and night for the single task of awakening the powers of my people in face of our desertion by the rest of the world, of developing these powers to the utmost and of utilizing them for the salvation of our community.
I have conquered chaos in Germany, re-established order, immensely increased production in all branches of our national economy, by strenuous efforts produced substitutes for numerous materials which we lack, prepared the way for new inventions, developed transportation, caused magnificent roads to be built I It and canals to be dug, created gigantic new factories. I have striven no less to translate into practice the ideal behind the thought “community” and. to promote the education and culture of my people.
I have succeeded in finding useful work once more for all the 7,000,000 unemployed who are so close to our hearts; in keeping the.German peasant on his soil in spite of all difficulties and in saving it for him; in causing German trade to flourish once again; and in promoting transportation to the utmost.
To protect them against the threats of the outside world, I have not only united the German people politically but also rearmed them, I have likewise endeavored to rid them of that treaty, page by page, which in its 448 articles contains the vilest oppression which has ever been inflicted on men and nations.
I have brought back to the Reich the provinces stolen from us in 1919; 1 have led back to their native country millions of Germans who were torn away from us and were in abject misery; I have reunited the territories that have been German throughout a thousand years of history-and, Mr. Roosevelt, I have endeavored to attain all this without bloodshed and without bringing to my people and so to others, the misery of war.
This I have done, Mr. Roosevelt, though 21 years ago, I was an unknown worker and soldier of my people, by my own energy and can therefore claim a place in history among those men who have done the utmost that can be fairly and justly demanded from a single individual.
You, Mr. Roosevelt, have an immeasurably easier task in comparison. You became President of the United States in 1933 when I became Chancellor of the Reich. Thus, from the very outset, you became head of one of the largest and wealthiest states in the world.
It is your good fortune to have to sustain scarcely 15 people per square kilometer in your country. At your disposal are the most abundant natural resources in the world. Your country is so vast and your fields so fertile, that you can insure for each individual American at least ten times more of the good things of life than is possible in Germany. Nature at least has given you the opportunity to do this.
Although the population of your country is scarcely one-third larger than that of Greater Germany, you have more than fifteen times as much room. And so you have time and leisure – on the same huge scale as you have everything else – to devote your attention to universal problems. Consequently the world is undoubtedly so small for you that you perhaps believe that your intervention can be valuable anti effective everywhere. In this way, therefore, your concern and your suggestions cover a much larger and wider field than mine.
For my world, Mr. President, is the one to which Providence has assigned me and for which it is my duty to work. Its area is much smaller. It comprises my people alone. But I believe I can thus best serve that which is in the hearts of all of us – justice, well-being, progress and peace for the whole community of mankind.
As it turned out, this was the last great peacetime public speech of Hitler’s life. The former Austrian waif had come as far in this world as was possible by the genius of his oratory. From now on he was to try to make his niche in history as a warrior.
Neuschwabenland-Archiv – http://nsl-archiv.com/Buecher/Fremde-Sprachen/Hitler,%20Adolf%20-%20Speech%20before%20the%20Reichstag%20-%20A%20reply%20to%20US-President%20Roosevelt%20on%2028th%20April%201939%20(EN,%2038%20S.,%20Text).pdf
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