No. 21: Extract from Speech by Herr Hitler to the Reichstag
I believe that it is a good thing for millions and millions of people that I, thanks to the last-minute insight of responsible men on the other side, succeeded in averting such an explosion, and found a solution which I am convinced has finally abolished this problem of a source of danger in Central Europe.
The contention that this solution is contrary to the Munich Agreement can neither be supported nor confirmed. This agreement could, under no circumstances, be regarded as final, because it admitted that other problems required and remained to be solved. We cannot really be reproached for the fact that the parties concerned-and this is the deciding factor-did not turn to the four Powers, but only to Italy and Germany; nor yet for the fact that the State as such finally split up of its own accord, and there was, consequently, no longer any Czecho-Slovakia. It was, however, understandable that, long after the ethnographic principle had been made invalid, Germany should take under her protection her interests dating back a thousand years, which are not only of a political but also of an economic nature.
The future will show whether the solution which Germany has found is right or wrong. However, it is certain that the solution is not subject to English supervision or criticism. For Bohemia and Moravia, as the remnants of former Czecho-Slovakia, have nothing more whatever to do with the Munich Agreement. Just as English measures in, say, Northern Ireland, whether they be right or wrong, are not subject to German supervision or criticism, this is also the case with these old German electorates.
However, I entirely fail to understand how the agreement reached between Mr. Chamberlain and myself at Munich can refer to this case, for the case of Czecho-Slovakia was settled in the Munich protocol of the four Powers as far as it could be settled at all at that time. Apart from this, provision was merely made that if the interested parties should fail to come to an agreement they should be entitled to appeal to the four Powers, who had agreed in such a case to meet for further consultation after the expiration of three months. However, these interested parties did not appeal to the four Powers at all, but only to Germany and Italy. That this was fully justified, moreover, is proved by the fact that neither England nor France have raised any objections thereto, but have themselves accepted the decision given by Germany and Italy. No, the agreement reached between Mr. Chamberlain and myself did not relate to this problem but exclusively to questions which refer to the mutual relationship between England and Germany. This is clearly shown by the fact that such questions are to be treated in future in the spirit of the Munich Agreement and of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, that is, in a friendly spirit by way of consultation. If, however, this agreement were to be applied to every future German activity of a political nature, England too should not take any step, whether in Palestine or elsewhere, without first consulting Germany. It is obvious that we do not expect this; likewise we refuse to gratify any similar expectation of us. Now, if Mr. Chamberlain concludes from this, that the Munich Agreement is for this reason annulled, as if we had broken it, then I shall take cognisance of the fact and proceed accordingly.
During the whole of my political activity I have always expounded the idea of a close friendship and collaboration between Germany and England. In my movement I found innumerable others of like mind. Perhaps they joined me because of my attitude in this matter. This desire for Anglo-German friendship and co-operation conforms not merely to sentiments which result from the racial origins of our two peoples, but also to my realisation of the importance for the whole of mankind of the existence of the British Empire. I have never left room for any doubt of my belief that the existence of this empire is an inestimable factor of value for the whole of human cultural and economic life. By whatever means Great Britain has acquired her colonial territories-and I know that they were those of force and often brutality-nevertheless, I know full well that no other empire has ever come into being in any other way, and that in the final resort it is not so much the methods that are taken into account in history as success, and not the success of the methods as such, but rather the general good which the methods yield. Now there is no doubt that the Anglo-Saxon people have accomplished immeasurable colonising work in the world. For this work I have a sincere admiration. The thought of destroying this labour appeared and still appears to me, seen from a higher human point of view, as nothing but the effluence of human wanton destructiveness. However, this sincere respect of mine for this achievement does not mean forgoing the securing of the life of my own people. I regard it as impossible to achieve a lasting friendship between the German and Anglo-Saxon peoples if the other side does not recognise that there are German as well as British interests, that not only is the preservation of the British Empire the meaning and purpose of the lives of Britishers, but also that for Germans the freedom and preservation of the German Reich is their life purpose. A genuine, lasting friendship between these two nations is only conceivable on the basis of mutual regards. The English people rules a great empire. It built up this empire at a time when the German people was internally weak. Previously Germany had been a great empire. At one time she ruled the Occident In bloody struggles and religious dissensions, and as a result of internal political disintegration, this empire declined in power and greatness, and finally fell into a deep sleep. But as this old empire appeared to have reached its end, the seeds of its rebirth were springing up. From Brandenburg and Prussia there arose a new Germany, the second Reich, and out of it has grown at last the German People's Reich. And I hope that all English people understand that we do not possess the slightest feeling of inferiority to Britishers. Our historical past is far too tremendous for that!
England has given the world many great men and Germany no fewer. The severe struggle for the maintenance of the life of our people has in the course of three centuries cost a sacrifice in lives which far exceeds that which other peoples have had to make in asserting their existence.
If Germany, a country that was for ever being attacked, was not able to retain her possessions, but was compelled to sacrifice many of her provinces, this was due only to her political misdevelopment and her impotence as a result thereof! That condition has now been overcome. Therefore, we Germans do not feel in the least inferior to the British nation. Our self-esteem is just as great as that of an Englishman for England. In the history of our people, now of approximately two thousand years' standing, there are occasions and actions enough to fill us with sincere pride.
Now, if England cannot understand our point of view, thinking perchance she may look upon Germany as a vassal State, then our love and friendly feelings have, indeed, been wasted on England. We shall not despair or lose heart on that account, but-relying on the consciousness of our own strength and on the strength of our friends-we shall then find ways and means to secure our independence without impairing our dignity.
I have heard the statement of the British Prime Minister to the effect that he is not able to put any trust in German assurances. Under the circumstances I consider it a matter of course that we no longer wish to expect him or the British people to bear the burden of a situation which is only conceivable in an atmosphere of mutual confidence. When Germany became National Socialist and thus paved the way for her national resurrection, in pursuance of my unswerving policy of friendship with England, of my own accord I made the proposal for a voluntary restriction of German naval armaments. That restriction was, however, based on one condition, namely, the will and the conviction that a war between England and Germany would never again be possible. This wish and this conviction is alive in me to-day.
I am, however, now compelled to state that the policy of England is both unofficially and officially leaving no doubt about the fact that such a conviction is no longer shared in London, and that, on the contrary, the opinion prevails there that no matter in what conflict Germany should some day be entangled, Great Britain would always have to take her stand against Germany. Thus a war against Germany is taken for granted in that country. I most profoundly regret such a development, for the only claim I have ever made, and shall continue to make, on England is that for a return of our colonies. But I always made it very clear that this would never become the cause of a military conflict. I have always held that the English, to whom those colonies are of no value, would one day understand the German situation and would then value German friendship higher than the possession of territories which, while yielding no real profit whatever to them, are of vital importance to Germany.
Apart from this, however, I have never advanced a claim which might in any way have interfered with British interests or have become a danger to the Empire and thus have meant any kind of damage to England. I have always kept within the limit of such demands as are intimately connected with Germany's living space and thus the eternal property of the German nation. Since England to-day, both by the press and officially, upholds the view that Germany should be opposed under all circumstances, and confirms this by the policy of encirclement known to us, the basis for the Naval Treaty has been removed. I have therefore resolved to send to-day a communication to this effect to the British Government. This is to us not a matter of practical material importance-for I still hope that we shall be able to avoid an armaments race with England-but an action of self-respect. Should the British Government, however, wish to enter once more into negotiations with Germany on this problem, no one would be happier than I at the prospect of still being able to come to a clear and straightforward understanding. ww2dbase
Source: Yale Law School Avalon Project
Added By: C. Peter Chen
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945