Invasion of Poland
Danzig, September 19, 1939
My District Leader, My Dear Danzigers:
Not only you experience this moment with deepest emotion; nay, the entire German nation experiences it with you, and I, too, am aware of the greatness of the hour when I, for the first time, tread on the soil which German settlers occupied five centuries ago and which for five centuries was German, and which - thereof you may rest assured - will remain German.
The fact that a province was torn from the German Reich and that other German territories were given to the Polish State was explained on the grounds of national necessity. Later, plebiscites everywhere showed that no one wished to become a part of the Polish State - that Polish State which arose out of the blood of countless German regiments. It then expanded at the expense of old settlement areas and above all at the expense of intelligence and economic possibility.
One thing has been clearly proved in the last twenty years; the Poles who had not founded that culture also were not able to maintain it. It has been shown again that only he who is himself culturally creative can permanently maintain real cultural performance.
Thirty years would have been sufficient to reduce again to barbarism those territories which the Germans, painstakingly and with industry and thrift, had saved from barbarism. Everywhere traces of this retrogression and decay were visible.
Poland itself was a 'nationalities State.' That very thing had been created here which had been held against the old Austrian State. At the same time Poland was never a democracy. One very thin anemic upper class here ruled not only foreign nationalities but also its so-called own people.
It was a State built on force and governed by the truncheons of the police and the military. The fate of Germans in this State was horrible. There is a difference whether people of lower cultural value has the misfortune to be governed by a culturally significant people or whether a people of high cultural significance has forced upon it the tragic fate of being oppressed by an inferior.
In this inferior people all its inferiority complexes will be compensated upon a higher culture-bearing people. This people will be horribly and barbarically mistreated and Germans have been evidence of this fate for twenty years.
It was, as already emphasized, tragic and painful. Nevertheless, as everywhere else, I tried to find a solution here which might have led to a fair adjustment. I have tried in the West and then later in the South to maintain final frontier delineations in order thus to deliver region upon region from uncertainty and assure peace and justice for the future. I made the greatest efforts to attain the same thing here also. . .
The world, which immediately sheds tears when Germany expels a Polish Jew who only a few decades ago came to Germany, remained dumb and deaf toward the misery of those who, numbering not thousands but millions, were forced to leave their home country on account of Versailles - that is, if these unfortunates were Germans. What was for us and also for me most depressing was the fact that we had to suffer all this from a State which was far inferior to us; for, after all, Germany is a Great Power, even though madmen believed the vital rights of a great nation could be wiped out by a crazy treaty or by dictation.
Germany was a big power and had to look on while a far inferior people of a far inferior State maltreated these Germans. There were two especially unbearable conditions: First, this city whose German character nobody could deny was not only prevented from returning to the Reich but in addition an attempt was made to Polonize it by all kinds of devices; second, the province [East Prussia] severed from the German Reich had no direct contact with the Reich, but traffic with this province was dependent upon all kinds of chicanery or upon the good will of this Polish State.
No power on earth would have borne this condition as long as Germany. I do not know what England would have said about a similar peace solution at its expense or how America or France would have accepted it. I attempted to find a solution - a tolerable solution - even for this problem. I submitted this attempt to the Polish rulers in the form of verbal proposals. You know these proposals. They were more than moderate.
I do not know what mental condition the Polish Government was in when it refused these proposals. I know, however, that millions of Germans sighed with relief, since they felt I had gone too far. As an answer, Poland gave the order for the first mobilization. Thereupon wild terror was initiated, and my request to the Polish Foreign Minister to visit me in Berlin once more to discuss these questions was re- fused. Instead of going to Berlin, he went to London. For the next weeks and months there were heightened threats, threats which were hardly bearable for a small State but which were impossible for a Great Power to bear for any length of time.
We could read in Polish publications that the issue at stake was not Danzig but the problem of East Prussia, which Poland was to incorporate in a short time. That increased. Other Polish newspapers stated that East Prussia would not solve the problem, but that Pomerania must, under all circumstances, come to Poland.
Finally it became questionable in Poland whether the Oder would be enough as a boundary or whether Poland's natural boundary was not the Oder but the Elbe. It was debated whether our armies would be smashed before or behind Berlin.
The Polish Marshal, who miserably deserted his armies, said that he would hack the German Army to pieces. And martyrdom began for our German nationals. Tens of thousands were dragged off, mistreated, and murdered in the vilest fashion. Sadistic beasts gave vent to their perverse instincts, and this pious democratic world watched without blinking an eye.
I have often asked myself: Who can have so blinded Poland? Does anyone really believe that the German nation will permanently stand that from such a ridiculous State? Does anyone seriously believe that? It must have been believed because certain quarters described it as possible to the Poles, certain quarters which general warmongers have occupied decades long, yes, hundreds of years long and which they occupy even today.
These quarters declared that Germany was not even to be considered as a Power. The Poles were told that they would easily be able to resist Germany, and, going a step further, assurance was given that if their own resistance was not enough they could depend on the resistance and assistance of others. The guarantee was given which put it into the hands of a small State to begin a war, or again perhaps not to do so.
For these men Poland, too, was only a means to an end. Because today it is being declared quite calmly that Poland was not the primary thing, but that the German regime is. I always warned against these men. You will recall my Saarbruecken and Wilhelmshaven speeches. In both these speeches I pointed out the danger that in a certain country such men could rise and unmolested preach the necessity of war - Herren Churchill, Eden, Duff-Cooper, etc.
I pointed out how dangerous this is, especially in a country where one does not know whether these men may not be the Government in a short time. I was then told that that would never happen. In my opinion they are now the Government. It happened exactly as I then foresaw. I then decided for the first time to warn the German nation against them. But I also have left no doubt that Germany, under no circumstances, will capitulate to the threats or coercion of these people.
On account of this answer I have been strongly attacked: because certain practices have gradually been developed in democracies: namely, in democracies war may be advocated. There foreign regimes and statesmen may be attacked, calumniated, insulted, sullied because there reign freedom of speech and the press. In authoritarian States, on the other hand, one may not defend one's self because there reigns discipline.
You know, of course, of those August days. I believe it would have been possible in those last August days, without the British guarantee and without agitation by these warmongers, to have reached an understanding. At a certain moment England herself offered to bring us into direct discussion with Poland. I was ready. Of course it was the Poles who did not come.
I came to Berlin with my Government and for two days waited and waited. Meanwhile, I had worked out a new pro- posal. You know it. I had the British Ambassador informed of it on the evening of the first day. It was read to him sentence by sentence and the Reich Foreign Minister gave him a supplementary explanation. Then came the next day and nothing occurred except for Polish general mobilization, renewed acts of terror, and finally attacks against Reich territory.
Now in the life of nations, patience must not always be interpreted as weakness. For years I patiently looked on these continuous provocations. What keen suffering I underwent in these years only few can imagine, because there was hardly a month or week in which deputations from these districts did not come to me depicting unbearable conditions and imploring me to interfere.
I have always begged them to try again. This continued for years, but I have recently also warned that this could not go on forever. After again waiting and even receiving new proposals I finally decided, as I declared in the Reichstag, to talk with Poland in the same language as they talked to us, or believed they could talk to us - the language which alone they seem to understand.
Also, at this moment peace could have been saved. Friendly Italy and I1 Duce came in and made a suggestion for mediation. France agreed. I also expressed my agreement. Then England rejected also that suggestion and replied that, instead, Germany might be served with a two-hour ultimatum with impossible demands. England erred in one thing. There once was a government in Germany in November, 1918, that was kept by England, and they confound the present German regime with one they kept and confound the present German nation with the misled and blinded nation of that time.
One does not send ultimatums to the Germany of today. - May London make note!
In the last six years I had to stand intolerable things from States like Poland - nevertheless I sent no ultimatum. The German Reich is not inclined and will not be addressed in such a tone. I knew if Poland chose war she chose it because others drove her into war, those others who believed they might make their biggest political and financial killing in this war. But it will not be their biggest killing, but their biggest disappointment.
Poland chose to fight and she received a fight. She chose this fight light-heartedly because certain statesmen assured her they had detailed proof of the worthlessness of Germany and her armed forces, of the inferiority of our armament, of the poor morale of our troops, of defeatism within the Reich, of a discrepancy between the German people and its leadership.
The Poles were persuaded that it would be easy not only to resist but also to throw our army back. Poland constructed her campaign on these assurances of the Western general staffs. Since then eighteen days have passed, and hardly elsewhere in history can the following be said with more truth: The Lord has struck them down with horse, with man and with wagon.
As I speak to you our troops stand along a great line from Brest-Litovsk to Lwow, and at this moment endless columns of the smashed Polish Army have been marching as prisoners from that sector since yesterday afternoon. Yesterday morning there were 20,000; yesterday afternoon 50,000; this morning 70,000. I do not know how great the number is now, but I know one thing: what remains of the Polish Army west of that line will capitulate within a few days, they will lay down their arms or be crushed. At this moment, our thankful hearts fly to our men. The German Army gave those genius-statesmen, who were so well-informed as to conditions within the Reich, a necessary lesson.
At this moment we want to give the Polish soldier absolute justice. At many points the Pole fought bravely. His lower leadership made desperate efforts, his middle-grade leadership was too unintelligent, his highest leadership was bad, judged by any standard. His organization was - Polish
I ordered the German Air Force to conduct humanitarian warfare - that is, to attack only fighting troops. The Polish Government and army leadership ordered the civilian population to carry on the war as francs-tireurs from ambush. It is very difficult under these circumstances to hold one's self back. I want to stress that the democratic States should not imagine it must be that way. If they want it otherwise, they can have it otherwise. My patience can have limits here also. . . .
So, we have beaten Poland within eighteen days and thus created a situation which perhaps makes it possible one day to speak to representatives of the Polish people calmly and reasonably.
Meantime, Russia felt moved, on its part, to march in for the protection of the interests of the White Russian and Ukrainian people in Poland. We realize now that in England and France this German and Russian co-operation is considered a terrible crime. An Englishman even wrote that it is perfidious - well, the English ought to know. I believe England thinks this co-operation perfidious because the co-operation of democratic England with bolshevist Russia failed, while National Socialist Germany's attempt with Soviet Russia succeeded.
I want to give here an explanation: Russia remains what she is; Germany also remain what she is. About only one thing are both regimes clear: neither the German nor the Russian regime wants to sacrifice a single man for the interest of the Western democracies. A lesson of four years was sufficient for both peoples. We know only too well that alternately, now one then the other, would be granted the honor to fill the breach for the ideals of the Western democracies.
We therefore thank both peoples and both States for this task. We intend henceforth to look after our interests ourselves, and we have found that we best have been able to look after them when two of the largest peoples and States reconcile each other. And this is made simpler by the fact that the British assertion as to the unlimited character of German foreign policy is a lie. I am happy now to be able to refute this lie for British statesmen. British statesmen, who continually maintain that Germany intends to dominate Europe to the Urals now will be pleased to learn the limits of German political intentions. I believe this will deprive them of a reason for war because they profess to have to fight against the present regime because it today pursues unlimited political goals.
Now, gentlemen of the great British Empire, the aims of Germany are closely limited. We discussed the matter with Russia - they, after all, are the most immediately interested neighbor - and if you are of the opinion that we might come to a conflict on the subject - we will not.
Britain ought to welcome the fact that Germany and Soviet Russia have come to an understanding, for this understanding means the elimination of that nightmare which kept British statesmen from sleeping because they were so concerned over the ambitions of the present [German] regime to conquer the world. It will calm you to learn that Germany does not, and did not, want to conquer the Ukraine. We have very limited interests, but we are determined to maintain those interests despite all dangers, despite anyone.
And that we did not permit ourselves to be trifled with in those past eighteen days may have been proved sufficiently. How a definite settlement of State conditions in this conflict will look depends first and foremost upon the two countries which there have their most important vital interests.
Germany has there limited but unalterable claims, and she will realize those claims one way or another. Germany and Russia will put in place the hotbed of conflict in the European situation which later will be valued only as a relaxation of tension.
If the Western Powers now declare that this must not be, under any circumstances, and if especially England declares that she is determined to oppose this in a three- or five- or eight-year war, then I want to say something in reply:
Firstly, Germany, by extensive yielding and renunciation in the west and south of the Reich, has accepted definite boundaries. Germany tried by these renunciations to attain lasting pacification. And we believe we would have succeeded were it not that certain warmongers could be interested in disturbing the European peace.
I have neither toward England nor France any war claims, nor has the German nation since I assumed power. I tried gradually to establish confidence between Germany and especially its former war enemies. I attempted to eliminate all tensions which once existed between Germany and Italy, and I may state with satisfaction that I fully succeeded.
That ever closer and more cordial relations were established was due also to personal and human relations between Il Duce and myself. I went still further, I tried to achieve the same between Germany and France. Immediately after the settlement of the Saar question I solemnly renounced all further frontier revisions, not only in theory but in practice. I harnessed all German propaganda to this end in order to eliminate everything which might lead to doubt or anxiety in Paris.
You know of my offers to England. I had only in mind the great goal of attaining the sincere friendship of the British people. Since this now has been repulsed, and since England today thinks it must wage war against Germany, I would like to answer thus:
Poland will never rise again in the form of the Versailles Treaty. That is guaranteed not only by Germany but also guaranteed by Russia.
It is said in England that this war, of course, is not for Poland. That is only secondary. More important is the war against the regime in Germany. And I receive the honor of special mention as a representative of this regime. If that is now set up as a war aim, I will answer the gentlemen in London thus:
It is for me the greatest honor to be thus classed. On principle I educated the German people so that any regime which is lauded by our enemies is poison for Germany and will therefore be rejected by us. If, therefore, a German regime would get the consent of Churchill, Duff-Cooper and Eden it would be paid and kept by these gentlemen and hence would be unbearable for Germany. That, certainly, is not true with us. It is, therefore, only honorable for us to be rejected by these gentlemen. I can assure these gentlemen only this: If they should praise, this would be a reason for me to be most crestfallen. I am proud to be attacked by them.
But if they believe they can thereby alienate the German people from me, then they either think the German people are as lacking in character as themselves or as stupid as themselves. They err in both. National Socialism did not educate the German people in vain during the past twenty years. We are all men who, in their long struggle, have been nothing but attacked. That only tended to increase the love of our followers and created an inseparable union. And as the National Socialist party took upon itself this years-long struggle, finally to win it, thus the National Socialist Reich and the German people take up the fight and those gentlemen may be convinced: By their ridiculous propaganda the German people will not be undermined. Those bunglers will have become our apprentices for many years before they can even attempt propaganda.
If peoples go to pieces it will not be the German people, who are fighting for justice, who have no war aims and who were attacked.
Rather, those peoples will break when they gradually find out what their misleaders plan, and gradually grasp for what little reason they are fighting, and that the only reasons for war are the profits or political interests of a very small clique. A part of it declared in Britain that this war will last three years. Then I can only say: My sympathies are with the French poilu. What he is fighting for he does not know. He knows only that he has the honor to fight at least three years. But if it should last three years, then the word capitulation will not stand at the end of the third, and at the end of the fourth year the word capitulation also will not be, and not in the fifth either, and also not in the sixth or seventh year.
These gentlemen should take note of the following: Today you have the Germany of Frederick the Great before you. These gentlemen can believe this. The German people will not split up in this fight but become more unified. If anything splits up it will be those States that are not so homogeneous, those empires built on the oppression of peoples. We are fighting only for our naked beings. We are not able ourselves to be misled by propaganda.
Just imagine! There are people who say there are those ruling in another land who do not please us, so now we have war with them. Naturally they do not carry on the war themselves, but look about for someone to conduct it for them. They provide cannon and grenades while others provide grenadiers and soldiers. Such an utter lack of conscience!
What would be said if one of us should say that the present regime in France or Britain does not suit us and consequently we are conducting a war? What immeasurable lack of conscience. For that, millions of persons are whipped into death. These gentlemen can say that calmly, for they themselves never have been on the battlefield for even an hour.
But we will see how long they keep nations at war. There can be no doubt of one thing. however. We will take up the gauntlet and we will fight as the enemy fights. England, with lies and hypocrisy, already has begun to fight against women and children. They found a weapon which they think is invincible: namely, sea power. And because they cannot be attacked with this weapon they think they are justified in making war with it against women and children - not only of enemies but also of neutrals if necessary.
Let them make no mistake here, however. The moment could come very suddenly in which we could use a weapon with which we cannot be attacked. I hope then they do not suddenly begin to think of humaneness and of the impossibility of waging war against women and children. We Germans do not like that. It is not in our nature. In this campaign I gave an order to spare human beings. When columns cross a market-place it can occur that someone else becomes the victim of attack.
In those places where insane or crazy people did not offer resistance not one windowpane was broken. In Cracow, except for the air field, railroads and the railroad station, which were military objectives, not one bomb fell. On the other hand, in Warsaw the war is carried on by civilian shootings in all streets and houses. There, of course, the war will take in the whole city. We followed these rules and would like to follow them in the future. It is entirely up to England to carry out her blockade in a form compatible with international law or incompatible with international law. We will adapt ourselves thereto.
But there should be no doubt about one thing:
England's goal is not 'a fight against the regime' but a fight against the German people, women and children. Our reaction will be compatible, and one thing will be certain: This Germany does not capitulate. We know too well what fate would be in store for Germany. Mr. King-Hall [Commander Stephen King-Hall, retired naval officer who writes a privately-circulated news letter] told us in the name of his masters: A second Versailles, only worse.
What can be worse? The first Versailles Treaty was intended to exterminate 20,000,000 Germans. Thus the second can only realize this intention. We received more detailed illustrations of what has been intended, what Poland shall have, what crowns will be placed on what heads in France, etc. The German people take notice of this and shall fight accordingly. . .
We are determined to carry on and stand this war one way or another. We have only this one wish, that the Almighty, who now has blessed our arms, will now perhaps make other peoples understand and give them comprehension of how useless this war, this d=E9b=E2cle of peoples, will be intrinsically, and that He may perhaps cause reflection on the blessings of peace which they are sacrificing because a handful of fanatic warmongers, persons who stand to gain by war, want to involve peoples in war. .