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THE LAST DAY OF THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC
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Berlin, March 23, 1933
Ladies and Gentlemen of the German Reichstag! By agreement with the Reich Government, today the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and the German National People’s Party have presented to you for resolution a notice of motion concerning a “Law for Removing the Distress of Volk and Reich.” The reasons for this extraordinary measure are as follows: In November 1918, the Marxist organizations seized the executive power by means of a Revolution. The monarchs were dethroned, the authorities of Reich and Länder removed from office, and thus a breach of the Constitution was committed. The success of the revolution in a material sense protected these criminals from the grips of justice. They sought moral justification by asserting that Germany or its government bore the guilt for the outbreak of the War.
This assertion was deliberately and objectively untrue. In consequence, however, these false accusations in the interest of our former enemies led to the severest oppression of the entire German Volk, and the violation of the assurances given to us in Wilson’s Fourteen Points then led to a time of boundless misfortune for Germany, that is to say the working German Volk.
All the promises made by the men of November 1918 proved to be, if not acts of intentional deception, then no less damnable illusions. The “achievements of the Revolution” were, taken in their entirety, agreeable for only the smallest of fractions of our Volk, but for the overwhelming majority, at least insofar as these people were forced to earn their daily bread by honest work, they were infinitely sad. It is understandable that the survival instinct of those parties and men guilty of this development invents a thousand euphemisms and excuses. An objective comparison of the average outcome of the last fourteen years with the promises once proclaimed is a crushing indictment of the responsible architects of this crime unparalleled in German history.
In the course of the past fourteen years, our Volk has suffered deterioration in all sectors of life, which could inconceivably have been greater. The question as to what, if anything, could have been worse than in these times is a question which cannot be answered in light of the basic values of our German Volk as well as the political and economic inheritance which once existed.
In spite of its lack of mobility in political feelings and positions, the German Volk itself has increasingly turned away from concepts, parties, and associations which, in its eyes, are responsible for these conditions.
The number of Germans who inwardly supported the Weimar Constitution in spite of the suggestive significance and ruthless exploitation of the executive power dwindled, in the end, to a mere fraction of the entire nation.
Another typical characteristic of these fourteen years was the fact that- apart from natural fluctuations-the curve of developments has shown a constant decline. This depressing realization was one of the causes of the general state of despair. It served to promote the insight into the necessity of thoroughly rejecting the ideas, organizations, and men in which one gradually and rightly began to recognize the underlying causes of our decay.
The National Socialist Movement was thus able, in spite of the most horrible oppression, to convert increasing numbers of Germans in terms of spirit and will to defensive action. Now, in association with the other national leagues, it has eliminated the powers which have been ruling since November 1918 within a few short weeks and, by means of a revolution, transferred public authority to the hands of the National Government. On March 5, the German Volk gave its approval to this action.
The program for the reconstruction of the Volk and the Reich is determined by the magnitude of the distress crippling our political, moral and economic life.
Filled with the conviction that the causes of this collapse lie in internal damage to the body of our Volk, the Government of the National Revolution aims to eliminate the afflictions from our völkisch life which would, in future, continue to foil any real recovery. The disintegration of the nation into irreconcilably opposite Weltanschauungen which was systematically brought about by the false doctrines of Marxism means the destruction of the basis for any possible community life.
The dissolution permeates all of the basic principles of social order. The completely opposite approaches of the individuals to the concepts of state, society, religion, morality, family, and economy rips open differences which will lead to a war of all against all. Starting with the liberalism of the past century, this development will end, as the laws of nature dictate, in Communist chaos.
The mobilization of the most primitive instincts leads to a link between the concepts of a political theory and the actions of real criminals. Beginning with pillaging, arson, raids on the railway, assassination attempts, and so on-all these things are morally sanctioned by Communist theory. Alone the method of individuals terrorizing the masses has cost the National Socialist Movement more than 350 dead and tens of thousands of injured within the course of a few years.
The burning of the Reichstag, one unsuccessful attempt within a large-scale operation, is only a taste of what Europe would have to expect from a triumph of this demonical doctrine. When a certain press, particularly outside Germany, today attempts, true to the political lie advanced to a principle by Communism, to link Germany’s national uprising to this disgraceful act, this can only serve to strengthen my resolve to leave no stone unturned in order to avenge this crime as quickly as possible by having the guilty arsonist and his accomplices publicly executed! Neither the German Volk nor the rest of the world has become sufficiently conscious of the entire scope of the operation planned by this organization.
Only by means of its immediate action was the Government able to ward off a development which would have shaken all of Europe had it proceeded to its disastrous end. Several of those who fraternize with the interests of Communism both within and outside of Germany, motivated by hatred for the national uprising, would themselves have become victims of such a development.
It will be the utmost goal of the National Government to stamp out and eliminate every trace of this phenomenon, not only in the interest of Germany, but in the interest of the rest of Europe.
It will not lose sight of the realization that, in doing so, it is not the negative problem of this organization with which it is dealing, but rather the implementation of the positive task of winning the German worker for the National State. Only the creation of a real Volksgemeinschaft, rising above the interests and conflicts of Stände und Klassen, is capable of permanently removing the source of nourishment of these aberrations of the human mind. The establishment of such a solidarity in Weltanschauung in the body of the German politic is all the more important, for only this will make it possible to maintain friendly relations with the non-German powers without regard to the tendencies or Weltanschauungen to which they are subject, for the elimination of Communism in Germany is a purely domestic German affair. It should be in the interests of the rest of the world as well, for the outbreak of Communist chaos in the densely populated German Reich would lead to political and economic consequences particularly in the rest of western Europe, the proportions of which are unfathomable. The inner disintegration of our Volksgemeinschaft inevitably resulted in an increasingly alarming weakening of the authority of the highest levels of leadership. The sinking reputation of the Reich Government- which is the inevitable product of unstable domestic conditions of this type-led to ideas on the part of various parties in the individual Länder which are incompatible with the unity of the Reich. The greatest consideration for the traditions of the Länder cannot erase the bitter realization that the extent of the fragmentation of national life in the past was not only not beneficial, but positively injurious to the world and life status of our Volk.
It is not the task of a superior national leadership to subsequently surrender what has grown organically to the theoretical principle of an unrestrained unitarianization. But it is its duty to raise the unity of spirit and will of the leadership of the nation and thus the concept of the Reich as such beyond all shadow of a doubt.
The welfare of our communities and Länder-as well as the existence of each German individual-must be protected by the State. Therefore the Reich Government does not intend to dissolve the Länder by means of the Enabling Act. However, it will institute measures which will guarantee the continuity of political intention in the Reich and Länder from now on and for all time. The greater the consensus of spirit and will, the lesser the interest of the Reich for all time in violating the independent cultural and economic existence of the separate Länder. The present habit of the Governments of the Länder and the Reich of mutually belittling each other, making use of the modern means of public propaganda, is completely outrageous. I will under no circumstances tolerate-and the Reich Government will resolve all measures to combat-the spectacle of ministers of German Governments attacking or belittling each other before the world in mass meetings or even with the aid of public radio broadcasts.
It also results in a complete invalidation of the legislative bodies in the eyes of the Volk when, even assuming normal times, the Volk is driven to the polls in the Reich or in the individual Länder almost twenty times in the course of four years. The Reich Government will find the way to ensure that the expression of the will of the nation, once given, leads to uniform consequences for both the Reich and the Länder.
A further reform of the Reich will only ensue from ongoing developments.
Its aim must be to design a constitution which ties the will of the Volk to the authority of a genuine leadership. The statutory legalization of this reform of the Constitution will be granted to the Volk itself.
The Government of the National Revolution basically regards it as its duty, in accordance with the spirit of the Volk’s vote of confidence, to prevent the elements which consciously and intentionally negate the life of the nation from exercising influence on its formation. The theoretical concept of equality before the law shall not be used, under the guise of equality, to tolerate those who despise the laws as a matter of principle or, moreover, to surrender the freedom of the nation to them on the basis of democratic doctrines. The Government will, however, grant equality before the law to all those who, in forming the front of our Volk against this danger, support national interests and do not deny the Government their assistance.
Our next task, in any case, is to call upon the spiritual leaders of these destructive tendencies to answer for themselves and at the same time to rescue the victims of their seduction.
In particular, we perceive in the millions of German workers who pay homage to these ideas of madness and self destruction only the results of an unforgivable weakness on the part of former governments who failed to put a stop to the dissemination of these ideas, the practical implementation of which they were forced to punish. The Government will not allow itself to be shaken by anyone in its decision to solve this problem. Now it is the responsibility of the Reichstag to adopt a clear standpoint for its part. This will change nothing as to the fate of Communism and the other organizations fraternizing with it. In its measures, the National Government is guided by no other factor than preserving the German Volk, and in particular the mass of millions making up its working populace, from unutterable misery.
Thus it views the matter of restoring the monarchy as out of the question at present in light of the very existence of these circumstances. It would be forced to regard any attempt to solve this problem on the part of the individual Länder as an attack on the legal entity of the Reich and take respective action.
Simultaneously with this political purification of our public life, the Reich Government intends to undertake a thorough moral purging of the German Volkskörper. The entire system of education, the theater, the cinema, literature, the press, and radio-they all will be used as a means to this end and valued accordingly. They must all work to preserve the eternal values residing in the essential character of our Volk. Art will always remain the expression and mirror of the yearning and the reality of an era. The cosmopolitan contemplative attitude is rapidly disappearing. Heroism is arising passionately as the future shaper and leader of political destinies. The task of art is to give expression to this determining spirit of the age. Blut and Rasse will once more become the source of artistic intuition. The task of the government, particularly in an age of limited political power, is to ensure that the internal value of life and the will of the nation to live are given that much more monumental artistic expression in culture. This resolve entails the obligation to grateful appreciation of our great past. The gap between this past and the future must be bridged in all sectors of our historical and cultural life. Reverence for the Great Men must be instilled once more in German youth as a sacred inheritance. In being determined to undertake the political and moral purification of our public life, the government is creating and securing the requirements for a genuinely profound return to religious life.
The advantages in personnel policy which might result from compromises with atheist organizations do not come close to offsetting the results which would become apparent in the general destruction of basic moral values.
The National Government perceives in the two Christian confessions the most important factors for the preservation of our Volkstum. It will respect any contracts concluded between these Churches and the Länder.
Their rights are not to be infringed upon. But the Government expects and hopes that the task of working on the national and moral regeneration of our Volk taken on by the Government will, in turn, be treated with the same respect.
It will face all of the other confessions with objective fairness. However, it cannot tolerate that membership in a certain confession or a certain race could mean being released from general statutory obligations or even constitute a license for committing or tolerating crimes which go unpunished. The Government’s concern lies in an honest coexistence between Church and State; the fight against a materialist Weltanschauung and for a genuine Volksgemeinschaft equally serves both the interests of the German nation and the welfare of our Christian faith.
Our legal institutions must above all work to preserve this Volksgemeinschaft. The irremovability of the judges on the one hand must ensure a flexibility in their judgments for the welfare of society on the other.
Not the individual but the Volk as a whole must be the focal point of legislative efforts. In future, high treason and betrayal of the Volk (Landes- und Volksverrat) will be ruthlessly eradicated. The foundations on which the judiciary is based can be none other than the foundations on which the nation is based. Thus may the judiciary always take into consideration the difficult burden of decision carried by those who bear the responsibility for shaping the life of the nation under the harsh dictates of reality.
Great are the tasks of the National Government in the sphere of economic life.
Here all action shall be governed by one law: the Volk does not live for the economy, and the economy does not exist for capital, but capital serves the economy and the economy serves the Volk! In principle, the Government protects the economic interests of the German Volk not by taking the roundabout way through an economic bureaucracy to be organized by the State, but by the utmost promotion of private initiative and a recognition of the rights of property.
A fair balance must be established between productive intention on the one hand and productive work on the other. The administration should respect the results of ability, industriousness and work by being thrifty. The problem of our public finances is also a problem which is, in no small part, the problem of a thrifty administration.
The proposed reform of our tax system must result in a simplification in assessment and thus to a decrease in costs and charges. In principle, the tax mill should be built downstream and not at the source. As a consequence of these measures, the simplification of the administration will certainly result in a decrease in the tax burden. This reform of the tax system which is to be implemented in the Reich and the Länder is not, however, an overnight matter, but one to be contemplated when the time is judged to be right.
As a matter of principle, the Government will avoid currency experiments.
We are faced above all with two economic tasks of the first order. The salvation of the German peasant must be achieved at all costs.
The annihilation of this class in our Volk would bring with it the most severe consequences imaginable. The restoration of the profitability of the agricultural operations may be hard on the consumer. But the fate which would descend upon the entire German Volk should the German peasant perish would stand no comparison with these hardships. Only in connection with the profitability of our agriculture which must be achieved at all costs can the problems of stays of execution or debt relief be solved. Were this to prove unsuccessful, the annihilation of our peasants would inevitably lead not only to the collapse of the German economy per se, but above all to the collapse of the German Volkskörper.
The maintenance of its health is, however, the first requirement for the blossoming and flourishing of our industry, German domestic trade, and the German export industry. Without the counterweight of the German peasantry, Communist madness would already have overrun Germany by now and thus conclusively destroyed the German economy. What the entire economy, including our export industry, owes to the healthy common sense of the German peasant cannot be compensated by any kind of sacrifice in terms of business. Thus our greatest attention must be devoted to the further settlement of German land in future.
Furthermore, it is perfectly clear to the National Government that the removal of the distress in both agricultural and urban economy is contingent upon the integration of the army of unemployed in the process of production.
This constitutes the second and most monumental economic task. It can be solved only by a general pacification in implementing sound natural economic principles and all measures necessary, even if, at the time, they cannot expect to enjoy any degree of popularity. The creation of jobs and compulsory labor service are, in this connection, only isolated measures within the scope of the offensive as a whole.
The attitude of the National Government toward the Mittelstand is similar to its attitude toward the German peasants.
Its salvation can only be effected within the scope of general economic policy. The National Government is determined to find a far-reaching solution to this problem. It recognizes its historical task of supporting and promoting the millions of German workers in their struggle for their rights to exist. As Chancellor and National Socialist, I feel allied to them as the former companions of my youth. The increase in the consumer power of these masses will constitute a substantial means of reviving the economy. While maintaining our social legislation, the first step to its reform must be taken. In principle, however, every worker shall be utilized in the service of the public. The stagnation of millions of human working hours is madness and a crime which must inevitably lead to the impoverishment of all. Regardless of which values would have been created by the utilization of our surplus work force, for millions of people who today are going to waste in misery and distress, they could represent essential values of life. The organizational capabilities of our Volk must and will succeed in solving this problem.
We know that the geographic position of Germany, with her lack of raw materials, does not fully permit Autarkie for our Reich. It cannot be stressed too often that nothing is further from the Reich Government’s mind than hostility to exporting. We know that we need this connection with the world and that the sale of German goods in the world represents the livelihood of many millions of German Volksgenossen.
But we also know the requirements for a sound exchange of services between the peoples of the earth. For years, Germany has been compelled to perform services without receiving counter-services. Consequently, the task of maintaining Germany as an active partner in the exchange of goods is less a question of commercial than of financial policy. As long as we are not accorded any settlement of our foreign debts which is fair and appropriate to our strength, we shall unfortunately be forced to maintain our foreign exchange control policy (Devisenzwangswirtschaft). For this reason, the Reich Government is also obligated to maintain the dam built against the flow of capital across the borders.
If the Reich Government allows itself to be guided by these principles, one can surely expect the growing understanding of the foreign countries to ease the integration of our Reich in the peaceful competition of the nations.
The first step toward promoting transportation with the aim of achieving a reasonable balance of all transportation interests-a reform of the motor vehicle tax-will take place at the beginning of next month. The maintenance of the Reichsbahn and its reintegration under Reich authority, which is to be effected as quickly as possible, is a task which commits us not only in an economic, but also in a moral sense. The National Government will give every encouragement to the development of aviation as a means of peacefully connecting the peoples to one another.
For all this activity, the Government requires the support not only of the general powers in our Volk, which it is determined to utilize to the furthest possible extent, but also the devoted loyalty and work of its professional civil service. Only if the public finances are in urgent need will interferences take place; however, even in such a case, strict fairness shall have the highest priority in governing our actions.
The protection of the frontiers of the Reich, and with them the life of our Volk and the existence of our economy, is now in the hands of our Reichswehr which, in accordance with the terms imposed upon us by the Treaty of Versailles, can be regarded as the only really disarmed force in the world. In spite of its small size prescribed therein and its totally insufficient arms, the German Volk can regard its Reichswehr with proud satisfaction. This slight instrument of our national self-defense came into existence under the most difficult conditions. In its spirit, it is the bearer of our best military traditions. With painstaking conscientiousness the German Volk has thus fulfilled the obligations imposed upon it in the Peace Treaty; what is more, even the replacement of ships in our fleet to which we were authorized at that time has-I may be allowed to say, unfortunately-been carried out only to a small extent.
For years Germany has been waiting in vain for the redemption of the promise to disarm given us by the others. It is the sincere desire of the National Government to be able to refrain from increasing the German Army and our weapons insofar as the rest of the world is also finally willing to fulfill its obligation of radically disarming. For Germany wants nothing except equal rights to live and equal freedom.
However, the National Government wishes to cultivate this spirit of a will for freedom in the German Volk. The honor of the nation, the honor of our Army, and the ideal of freedom-all must once more become sacred to the German Volk! The German Volk wishes to live in peace with the world.
It is for this very reason that the Reich Government will use every means to definitively eliminate the separation of the peoples on earth into two categories.
Keeping open this wound leads the one to distrust, the other to hatred, and in the end to a general feeling of insecurity. The National Government is willing to extend a hand in sincere understanding to every people which is determined to once and for all put an absolute end to the tragic past. The distress of the world can only come to an end if the appropriate foundation is created by means of stable political conditions and if the peoples regain confidence in one another.
To deal with the economic catastrophe, the following is necessary: 1. an absolutely authoritarian leadership at home to create confidence in the stability of conditions; 2. safeguarding peace on the part of the major nations for a long time to come and thus restoring the confidence of the people in one another; and 3. the final triumph of the principles of common sense in the organization and leadership of the economy as well as a general release from reparations and impossible liabilities for debts and interest.
We are unfortunately confronted by the fact that the Geneva Conference, in spite of lengthy negotiations, has not yet reached any practical result. The decision to institute a real disarmament measure has repeatedly been delayed by questions on technical detail and by the introduction of problems which have nothing to do with disarmament. This procedure is unsuitable.
The illegal state of unilateral disarmament and the resulting national insecurity of Germany cannot last any longer.
We recognize it as a sign of responsibility and good will that the British Government has, with its disarmament proposal, attempted to finally move the Conference to arrive at speedy decisions. The Reich Government will support any efforts aimed at effectively implementing general disarmament and securing Germany’s long-overdue claim for disarmament. We have been disarmed for fourteen years, and for the past fourteen months we have been waiting for the outcome of the Disarmament Conference. Even more far-reaching is the plan of the head of the Italian Government, who is making a generous and foresighted attempt to ensure the smooth and consistent development of European politics as a whole. We attach the most earnest significance to this plan; we are willing to cooperate with absolute sincerity on the basis it provides in order to unite the four great powers, England, France, Italy, and Germany, in peaceful cooperation to courageously and determinedly approach those tasks upon the solution of which Europe’s fate depends.
For this reason we feel particularly grateful for the appreciative warmth which has greeted Germany’s national uprising in Italy. We wish and hope that the concurrence of spiritual ideals will be the basis for a continuing consolidation of the friendly relations between the two countries.
Similarly, the Reich Government, which regards Christianity as the unshakable foundation of the ethics and morality of the Volk, places great value on friendly relations with the Vatican and attempts to develop them. We are filled with a feeling of empathy for the troubles and distress of our Brudervolk in Austria. In all its doings, the Reich Government is conscious of the connection between the fate of all German tribes. The attitude toward the other individual foreign powers is evident from what has already been said. But there as well, where the mutual relations are already encumbered with difficulties, we shall endeavor to reach a settlement. However, the differentiation between victor and vanquished can never be the basis of an understanding.
We are nonetheless of the conviction that a settlement of this sort in our relations to France is possible if both governments really attack the problems confronting them with farsightedness. In regard to the Soviet Union, the Reich Government is determined to cultivate friendly relations which are productive for both parties. The Government of the National Revolution above all views itself capable of such a positive policy with regard to Soviet Russia. The fight against Communism in Germany is an internal affair, in which we will never tolerate outside interference. The national political relations to other powers to which we are related by mutual interests will not be affected by this. Our relationship with the other countries shall continue to warrant our most earnest attention in future, in particular our relationship to the major countries overseas, with which Germany has long been allied by friendly ties and economic interests.
We have particularly at heart the fate of the Germans living outside the borders of the Reich who are allied to us by language, culture, and traditions and who fight hard to retain these values. The National Government is resolved to use all the means at its command to support the rights internationally guaranteed to the German minorities.
We welcome the plan of the World Economic Conference and approve of its meeting soon. The Reich Government is willing to contribute to this Conference in order to finally achieve positive results.
The most important question is the problem of our short-term and longterm indebtedness abroad.
The complete change in the conditions of the commodity markets of the world requires an adaptation. Only by means of trusting cooperation is it possible to really remove the widespread problems. Ten years of honest peace will be more beneficial for the welfare of all nations than thirty years of drawnout stagnation in the terms of victor and vanquished.
In order to place itself in a position to fulfill the tasks falling within this scope, the Government has had the two major parties, the National Socialists and the German Nationalists, introduce the Enabling Act in the Reichstag.
Some of the planned measures require the approval of the majority necessary for constitutional amendments. The performance of these tasks and their completion is necessary. It would be inconsistent with the aim of the national uprising and it would fail to suffice for the intended goal were the Government to negotiate with and request the approval of the Reichstag for its measures in each given case. In this context, the Government is not motivated by a desire to give up the Reichstag as such. On the contrary: it reserves the right, for the future as well, to inform the Reichstag of its measures or to obtain its consent.
The authority and the fulfillment of the tasks would suffer, however, were doubts in the stability of the new regime to arise in the Volk. The Reich Government views a further session of the Reichstag as an impossibility under the present condition of a far-reaching state of excitation in the nation. Rarely has the course of a revolution of such great magnitude run in such a disciplined and unbloody manner as the Erhebung of the German Volk during these past weeks. It is my will and my firm intention to provide for this smooth development in future as well.
However, this makes it all the more necessary that the National Government be accorded that position of sovereignty which is fitting, in such an age, to put a halt to developments of a different sort. The Government will only make use of this authorization insofar as this is requisite for the implementation of vital measures. The existence of neither the Reichstag nor the Reichsrat is endangered. The position and the rights of the Reich President remain inviolate.
It will always be the first and foremost task of the Government to bring about inner consensus with his aims. The existence of the Länder will not be abolished.
The rights of the Churches will not be curtailed and their position vis-ā-vis the State will not be altered. The number of cases in which there is an internal necessity for taking refuge in such a law is, in and of itself, limited. All the more, however, the Government insists upon the passage of the bill. Either way, it is asking for a clear decision. It is offering the parties of the Reichstag the chance for a smooth development which might lead to the growth of an understanding in future. However, the Government is just as determined as it is prepared to accept a notice of rejection and thus a declaration of resistance. May you, Gentlemen, now choose for yourselves between peace or war!
Berlin, March 23, 1933
President Göring: Deputy Wels has the floor.
Wels (SPD), Deputy: Ladies and Gentlemen! We Social Democrats approve of the Reich Chancellor’s foreign policy demand of German equality of rights even that much more emphatically because we have advocated it from the very beginning.
I may take the liberty, in this context, of making the personal remark that I was the first German to oppose the untruth of Germany’s blame for the outbreak of the World War before an international forum, to be precise, at the Bern Conference on February 3, 1919.
No basic principle of our party has ever been able or will ever be able to hinder us from representing the just claims of the German nation to the other peoples of the world.
The day before yesterday, the Reich Chancellor made a remark in Potsdam to which we also subscribe. He said, “The utter folly of the theory of eternal victors and vanquished gave birth to the utter absurdity of reparations and, as a consequence, the disastrous state of the world’s economy.” This statement applies to foreign policy; it applies no less to domestic policy.
Here too the theory of eternal victors and vanquished is, as the Reich Chancellor has noted, utter folly.
But the Reich Chancellor’s remark also recalls another remark which was made on July 23, 1919 in the National Assembly. It was said at that time, “We may be stripped of power, but not of honor.” It is clear that the opponents are after our honor, there is no doubt of that. But it will remain our belief to the last that this attempt at divesting us of our honor will one day rebound on those who instigated this attempt, for it is not our honor which is being destroyed in the worldwide tragedy.
That is part of a statement which a government led by Social Democrats submitted before the whole world on behalf of the German people, four hours before the Armistice ran out, in order to block any further enemy advances.This statement constitutes a valuable complement to the remark made by the Reich Chancellor.
No good can come of a dictated peace; and this applies all the more to domestic affairs.
A real Volksgemeinschaft cannot be established on such a basis. That requires first of all equality of rights. May the Government guard itself against crude excesses of polemics; may it prohibit incitements to violence with rigorousness for its own part. This might be achieved if it is accomplished fairly and objectively on all sides and if one refrains from treating defeated enemies as though they were outlaws.
Freedom and life they can take from us, but not honor.
Considering the persecution the Social Democratic Party has suffered recently, no one can fairly demand or expect of it that it cast its vote in favor of the Enabling Act introduced here. The elections of March 5 have resulted in a majority for the parties in government and thus given them the opportunity to govern, strictly as laid down in the letter and the intention of the Constitution.
But where this opportunity is given, it is coupled with an obligation.
Criticism is beneficial and necessary. Never in the history of the German Reichstag, however, has control over public affairs vested in the elected representatives of the people been eliminated to the extent to which this is now the case and will be even more so by means of the new Enabling Act. This type of governmental omnipotence is destined to have even more grave consequences due to the total lack of flexibility in the press.
Ladies and Gentlemen! A devastating picture has often been painted of the state of affairs prevailing in Germany today. As always in such cases, there is no lack of exaggeration. As far as my party is concerned, I wish to state that we did not ask for any intervention in Paris; we did not send off millions to Prague; we did not disseminate exaggerated news abroad.
It would be easier to counter such exaggerations if the type of reporting which differentiates between right and wrong were admissible at home.
It would be even better if we were able, with a clear conscience, to attest to the fact that the stability of the law has been restored for all.
And that, Gentlemen, is up to you.
The gentlemen of the National Socialist Party call the Movement they have unleashed a National and not a National Socialist Revolution. The only connection between their Revolution and Socialism has been confined until now to the attempt to destroy the Social Democratic Movement which has constituted the pillar of the Socialist body of thought for more than two generations, (Laughter from the National Socialists) and will continue to do so in future. If the gentlemen of the National Socialist Party intended to perform Socialist deeds, they would not need an Enabling Act to do so.
You would be certain of an overwhelming majority in this forum. Every motion you made in the interests of the workers, the peasants, the whitecollar employees, the civil servants, or the Mittelstand would meet with overpowering if not unanimous approval.
But you nevertheless first want to eliminate the Reichstag to proceed with your Revolution. Destroying what exists does not suffice to make up a revolution.
The people expect positive achievements. They are awaiting drastic measures to combat the economic distress prevalent not only in Germany, but everywhere in the world.
We Social Democrats have borne joint responsibility in the most difficult of times and have been stoned as our reward.
Our achievements in reconstructing the State and the economy and in liberating the occupied territories will prevail in history.
We have created equal rights for all and sociallyoriented labor legislation. We have aided in creating a Germany in which the path to leadership is open not only to counts and barons, but also to men of the working class.
You cannot retreat from that without exposing your own Führer.
Any attempt to turn back the wheels of time will be in vain. We Social Democrats are aware that one cannot eliminate the realities of power politics by the simple act of legal protests. We see the reality of your present rule. But the people’s sense of justice also wields political power, and we will never stop appealing to this sense of justice.
The Weimar Constitution is not a Socialist Constitution. But we adhere to the basic principles of a constitutional state, to the equality of rights, and the concept of social legislation anchored therein. We German Social Democrats solemnly pledge ourselves in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and Socialism.
No Enabling Act can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible. You yourself have professed your belief in Socialism. Bismarck’s Law against Socialists has not destroyed the Social Democratic Party. Even further persecution can be a source of new strength to the German Social Democratic Party.
We hail those who are persecuted and in despair. We hail our friends in the Reich. Their steadfastness and loyalty are worthy of acclaim. The courage of their convictions, their unbroken faith - are the guarantees of a brighter future.
President Göring: The Reich Chancellor has the floor.
Adolf Hitler: The pretty theories, which you, Mr. Deputy, have just expounded here, have been addressed to world history a little too late.
Perhaps these realizations, put to practice years ago, would have made the complaints you have today superfluous.
You declare that the Social Democratic Party subscribes to our foreign policy program; that it rejects the lie of war guilt; that it is against reparations. Now I may ask just one question: where was this fight during the time you had power in Germany? You once had the opportunity to dictate the law of domestic behavior to the German Volk. You were able to do it in other areas. It would have been equally possible to infuse in the German Revolution, which you played a part in initiating, the same momentum and the same direction which France once infused in its uprising in the year 1870.
It would have been at your discretion to shape the German uprising into one of true national character, and you still would have had the right, had the flag of the new Republic not returned triumphant, to say: we did everything in our power to avoid this catastrophe by a final appeal to the strength of the German Volk.
At that time you avoided the fight; now you suddenly feel an urge to talk about it to everyone around you.
You state that being stripped of power does not mean being stripped of honor.
You are right; that does not necessarily have to be the case. Even if we were divested of our power, I know we would not be divested of our honor. Thanks to having been oppressed by your party, our Movement had been stripped of power for years; it has never been stripped of honor.
It is my conviction that we shall inoculate the German Volk with a spirit that, in view of the Volk’s defenselessness today, Mr. Deputy, will certainly never allow it to be stripped of its honor.
Here, too, it was your responsibility, you who were in power for fourteen years, to ensure that this German Volk had set an example of honor to the world. It was your responsibility to ensure that, if the rest of the world insisted upon suppressing us, at least the type of suppression the German Volk was subjected to would be one of dignity. You had the opportunity to speak out against all of the manifestations of disgrace in our Volk. You could have eliminated this treason just as easily as we will eliminate it.
You have no right to even associate yourself with this claim; for you should never, at that hour when every revolution would have constituted the concurrence of the offenses of treason and high treason, have given your support, even indirectly, to such acts. And you should have prevented the German Volk from being subjected to a new constitution drawn up at the beck and call of foreign countries. That has nothing to do with honor, allowing the enemy to dictate one’s own internal structure.
And, moreover, at that time you should have professed your faith in the German tricolor and not in the colors on the handbills the enemy threw into our trenches, because more than ever in an age of distress and suppression by the enemy must one show one’s pride and even more pledge one’s support to one’s Volk and the symbols of one’s Volk. You would still have had the opportunity, even if the environment had forced us to denounce everything which had formerly been sacred to us, to allow the national honor to be evidenced to the world in domestic policy.
You say: equal rights! Just as we desire it abroad, we also desire it at home. It was for these ‘equal rights,’ Herr Wels, that we fought for fourteen years! You ignored these equal rights as far as national Germany was concerned! So do not talk to us today about equal rights! You say that the vanquished should not be labelled outlaws. Well, Mr. Deputy, we were outlaws as long as you were in power.
You talk about persecution. I think there are few of us here present who were not forced to pay in prison for the persecution you practiced. Few of us here present who were not made to feel the effects of that persecution in acts of harassment a thousand times over and incidents of suppression a thousand times over! And in addition to those of us here present, I know a company of hundreds of thousands who were at the mercy of a system of persecution which vent itself on them in a disgraceful, even in a positively despicable manner! You seem to have totally forgotten that, for years, our shirts were ripped off our backs because you did not approve of the color.
Let us stay within the realm of reality! Your persecution has made us strong! You also said that criticism is beneficial. We will take criticism from anyone who loves Germany. But we will take no criticism from anyone who worships the Internationale! Here too, you have come to your realization a good deal too late, Mr. Deputy.
You should have recognized the beneficial power of criticism when we were in the opposition. Back then, you had not yet been confronted with these words; back then our press was verboten and verboten and again verboten; our assemblies were banned; we were not allowed to speak, and I was not allowed to speak- and that went on for years! And now you say criticism is beneficial! (SPD hysterical cries)
President Göring: Stop talking and listen to this for once!
Adolf Hitler: You complain that in the end the world is told untrue facts about the state of affairs in Germany. You complain that the world is told that every day dismembered corpses are turned over to the Israelite cemeteries in Berlin. How that torments you; you would be so glad to do justice to the truth! Well, Mr. Deputy, it must be child’s play for your party, with its international connections, to find out the truth. And not only that. These past few days I have been reading the newspapers of your own Social Democratic sister parties in German-Austria. No one is hindering you from disseminating your realization of the truth there.
I would be curious as to how effective the power of your international connections really will be in this case as well.
Would you please let me finish, I didn’t interrupt you either! I have read your paper in the Saar, Mr. Deputy, and it does nothing other than commit constant acts of treason, Deputy Wels, it is constantly attempting to discredit Germany abroad, to shed a bad light upon our Volk with lies to the rest of the world.
You talk about the lack of stability of the law. Gentlemen of the Social Democratic Party! I too witnessed the Revolution in 1918. I really do have to say that if we did not have a feeling for the law, we would not be here today, and you would not be here either! In 1918 you turned against those who had done nothing to harm you.
We are restraining ourselves from turning against those who tortured us and humiliated us for fourteen years.
You say the National Socialist Revolution has nothing to do with Socialism, but rather that its “Socialism” exists only in the sense that it persecutes the “only pillar of Socialism in Germany,” the SPD.
You are sissies, Gentlemen, and not worthy of this age, if you start talking about persecution at this stage of the game. What has been done to you? You are sitting here and your speaker is being listened to with patience.
You talk about persecution. Who has been persecuting you? You say you are the only pillar of Socialism. You were the pillar of that mysterious Socialism of which, in reality, the German Volk never had a glimpse.
You are talking today about your achievements and your deeds; you are speaking of all the things you intended to do. By your fruits shall ye, too, be known! The fruits testify against you! If the Germany you created in fourteen years is any reflection of your socialist aims, then all I can say is give us four years’ time, Gentlemen, in order to show you the reflection of our aims.
You say: “You want to eliminate the Reichstag to proceed with your Revolution.” Gentlemen, if so, we would not have found it necessary to first go to this vote, to convene this Reichstag, or to have the draft of this bill presented.
God knows we would have had the courage to deal with you some other way as well! You also said that we cannot ignore the Social Democratic Party because it was the first one to clear these seats for the Volk, for the working people, and not only for barons or counts. In every instance, Mr. Deputy, you are too late! Why did you not advise your friend Grzesinski of your views in good time, why did you not tell your other friends Braun and Severing, who accused me for years of being nothing more than a house painter’s apprentice!- For years you claimed that on your posters.
(Renewed protest from the Social Democrats; cries of “Quiet!” from the National Socialists; the President’s bell calling for order)
President Göring: Now the Chancellor is getting even!
Adolf Hitler: And in the end I was actually threatened that I would be driven out of Germany with a dog whip! We National Socialists will now clear the path for the German worker leading to what is his to claim and demand. We National Socialists will be his advocates; you, Gentlemen (addressing the Social Democrats), are no longer necessary! You also state that not power, but a sense of justice is crucial. We have attempted to awaken this sense of justice in our Volk for fourteen years, and we have succeeded in awakening it. However, I now believe on the basis of my own political experiences with you - that unfortunately, justice alone is not enough-one has to be in power, too! And do not mistake us for a bourgeois world! You think that your star might rise again! Gentlemen, Germany’s star will rise and yours will fall.
You say you were not broken during the period of Socialist legislation. That was a period in which the German workers saw in you something other than what you are today. But why have you forgotten to mention this realization to us?! Everything that becomes rotten, old, and weak in the life of a people disappears, never to return.
Your death knell has sounded as well, and it is only because we are thinking of Germany and its distress and the requirements of national life that we appeal in this hour to the German Reichstag to give its consent to what we could have taken at any rate.
We are doing it for the sake of justice-not because we overestimate power, but because we may thus one day perhaps more easily join with those who, today, may be separated from us but who nevertheless believe in Germany, too.
For I would not want to make the mistake of provoking opponents instead of either destroying or becoming reconciled with them.
I would like to extend my hand to those who, perhaps on other paths, will also come to feel with their Volk in the end, (Cries of “Bravo!” from the Center Party) and would not want to declare an everlasting war, (Renewed cries of “Bravo!”) not because of weakness, but out of love to my Volk, and in order to spare this German Volk all what will perish with the rest in this age of struggles.
That you may never misunderstand me on this point: I extend my hand to everyone who commits himself to Germany.
I do not recognize the precepts of the Internationale.
I believe that you (addressing the Social Democrats) are not voting for this bill for the reason that you, in your innermost mentality, are incapable of comprehending the purpose which thereby imbues us.
I believe, however, that you would not do this were we really what your press abroad today makes us out to be, and I can only say to you: I do not even want you to vote for it! Germany will be liberated, but not by you!