Adolf Hitler Explains His Reasons for Invading the Soviet Union
German men and women, if I speak today again after many long months to you it is not to reply to one of those statesmen who recently wondered why I had been silent for such a long time. Posterity will one day be able to weigh up which was more important in the past three and a half months, the speeches of Churchill or my actions.
I have come here today to deliver a short introductory address on the Winter Help scheme. This time it was particularly difficult for me to come here because in the hours in which I can be here a new, gigantic event is taking place on our eastern front.
For the last forty-eight hours an operation of gigantic proportions is again in progress, which will help to smash the enemy in the East. I am talking to you on behalf of millions who are at this moment fighting and want to ask the German people at home to take upon themselves, in addition to other sacrifices, that of Winter Help this year.
Since June 22 a battle of decisive importance for the world has been taking place. Only posterity will clearly see its dimensions and depth and will realize that it marked a new era.
I did not want this struggle. Since January, 1933, when Providence entrusted me with the leadership of the German Reich, I had an aim before my eyes which was essentially incorporated in the program of our National Socialist party. I have never been disloyal to this aim and have never abandoned my program.
I made efforts to bring about the construction of a people who, after a war lost through its own fault, had experienced the deepest collapse in its history. This in itself was a gigantic task. And I began this task at a moment when others had either failed in it or no longer believed in the possibility of ever accomplishing such a task. What we achieved in these years in the way of peaceful reconstruction is unparalleled.
It is for me and my collaborators an offense to be compelled to have dealings with those democratic entities who are not in a position to look back even upon one single true great work in their lives. I and all of us did not need this war to perpetuate our names. Moreover, we were not at the end of our achievements, but in some fields still at the beginning.
We succeeded in internally restoring our Reich although under difficult conditions for in Germany 140 people per square kilometer have to be fed. Yet we have solved our problems, while others foundered on the problem.
We had the following principles: First, the internal consolidation of the German nation; second, the attainment of equal rights externally; third, the unity of the German people and thus the restoration of natural conditions which had been interrupted only artificially.
Our external program, therefore, was laid down in advance. This did not mean that we would ever strive for war. But one thing was certain, that we would in no circumstances renounce the restoration of German freedom and thus one of the conditions of the German revival.
I have submitted to the world many proposals along these lines. I need not repeat them here. This is done by my publicist collaborators. How many peace offers have I made to the world and disarmament proposals for a peaceful, new sound world economic order? All these were rejected by those who could not hope that such peaceful work would keep their regime at the helm.
In spite of that we gradually succeeded through long years of peaceful work in carrying through not only great internal reforms but also the unity of the German nation in creating the German Reich and in bringing back millions of Germans to their homeland.
During this period I succeeded in gaining a number of allies. These were headed by Italy, with whose statesmen I am linked by ties of personal and cordial friendship. Our relations with Japan continue to improve. In Europe, too, there were a number of nations and States which maintained their old friendship and sympathy, in particular Hungary and some Nordic States. New nations have been added to a number of these.
Unfortunately there is not among them the nation I wooed most strongly, Britain. The British people as a whole do not bear the sole responsibility. On the contrary, there are a few people who, in their deep hatred, in their senselessness, sabotage every attempt at such an understanding supported by that enemy of the world whom you all know, international Jewry.
We did not succeed in bringing about such a link between Great Britain, especially the English people, with the German people as I had always hoped for. Just as in 1914 the moment came when a hard decision had to be taken. I did not shrink from it, for I realized one thing, that if it were impossible to gain the friendship of England it would be better if Germany experienced her enmity at a time when I was still the leader of Germany.
If the friendship of England could not be won by the measures I had taken and the advances I had made, then it could never be won in the future. There was no other choice then but to fight.
I am grateful to fate that I may lead this fight. I am convinced that no understanding can be reached with these men. They are mad fools, men who for ten years had not spoken another word but "We want another war with Germany." When I endeavored to bring about an understanding, Churchill cried, "I want war!"
He has got it now. And all his co-warmongers, who say that this will be a "charming war," who congratulated each other on Sept. 1, 1939, on this coming "charming war," may now perhaps think differently about this "charming war," and should they not know yet that this war is no charming affair for England they will surely become aware of it in due course, as truly as I am here. These warmongers succeeded in pushing Poland forward, these warmongers not only of the Old World but also of the New World.
That was the time when England did not go about begging others for help, but still magnanimously promised help to everyone. This has since changed In those days I made proposals to Poland. Now that events have taken a course different from the one we wished, I must say that it was indeed Providence that prevented the acceptance of my offer at the time.
This conspiracy of democratic Jews and Free Masons dragged Europe into war two years ago. Arms had to decide.
Since then a struggle has been taking place between truth and lies and, as always, this war will end in the victory for truth. In other words, whatever lies British propaganda, international world Jewry and its democratic accomplices may concoct they will not change historical facts. And it is a historical fact that for two years now Germany has been defeating one opponent after another.
I did not want it. Immediately after the first conflict I again held out my hand. I have been a soldier myself and I know how difficult it is to win a victory.
My hand was rejected. And since then we have seen that each peace offer was immediately exploited by the warmonger Churchill and his confreres so that they could say it was proof of our weakness. I have, therefore, given up trying this way. I have laboriously reached this conclusion: a clear decision must be fought out, that is to say, a decision of importance for history for the next hundred years.
Always endeavoring to limit the scope of the war, I decided to do something which was difficult for me to do. In 1939 I sent my Minister to Moscow. That meant the most bitter triumph over my feelings. I tried to come to an understanding.
You yourselves know best how honestly we observed our obligations. Neither in our press nor at our meetings was a single word about Russia mentioned. Not a single word about bolshevism. Unfortunately, the other side did not observe their obligations from the beginning.
This arrangement resulted in a betrayal which at first liquidated the whole northeast of Europe. You know best what it meant for us to look on in silence as the Finnish people were being strangled, what it meant to us that the Baltic States were also being overpowered. What that meant can be judged by those who know German history and know that there is not a single square kilometer there of land which has not been opened up to culture and civilization by German pioneer work.
Yet I remained silent. I took a decision only when I saw that Russia had reached the hour to advance against us at a moment when we had only a bare three divisions in East Prussia, when twenty-two Soviet divisions were assembled there. We gradually received proof that on our frontiers one airdrome after another was set up, and one division after another from the gigantic Soviet Army was being assembled there.
I was then obliged to become anxious for there is no excuse in history for negligence. I am responsible for the present of the German people and as far as possible for its future. I was therefore compelled slowly to take defensive measures.
But in August and September of last year one thing was becoming clear. A decision in the West with England which would have contained the whole German Luftwaffe was no longer possible, for in my rear there stood a State which was getting ready to proceed against me at such a moment, but it is only now that we realize how far the preparation had advanced. I wanted once again to clarify the whole problem and therefore I invited Molotov [Russian Foreign Commissar] to Berlin.
He put to me the four well-known conditions. First, Germany should finally agree that, as Russia felt herself again endangered by Finland, Russia should be able to liquidate Finland. This was the first question which I found difficult to answer. But I could not do otherwise than refuse this.
The second question concerned Rumania, a question whether a German guarantee would protect Rumania against Russia. Here, too, I stand by my word. I do not regret it, for I have found in General Antonescu a man of honor who at the time blindly stood by his word.
The third question referred to Bulgaria. Molotov demanded that Russia should retain the right to send garrisons to Bulgaria and thus to give a Russian guarantee to Bulgaria. What this means we know from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
In this question I said that such a guarantee was conditioned by the wishes of the country whose guarantee was to be given and that I did not know anything about it and that I would have to make inquiries and to consult with my allies.
The fourth question referred to the Dardanelles. Russia demanded bases on the Dardanelles. If Molotov is now trying to deny this, that is not surprising. If tomorrow or the day after tomorrow he will be no longer in Moscow, he will deny that he is no longer in Moscow.
He made this demand and I rejected it. I had to reject it. This made things clear to me and further talks were without result. My precautions were called for.
After that I carefully watched Russia. Each division we could observe was carefully noted and counter-measures were taken.
The position in May had so far advanced that I could no longer dismiss the thought of a life and death conflict. At that time I had always to remain silent, and that was doubly difficult for me, perhaps not so difficult with regard to the German people for they had to realize there are moments when one cannot talk if one does not wish to endanger the whole nation.
More difficult was silence for me with regard to my soldiers, who, division by division, stood on the eastern frontier of the Reich and yet did not know what was actually going on. And it was just on account of them I could not speak.
Had I dropped one single word I would not have changed Stalin's decision. But the possibility of surprise, which remained for me as a last weapon, would then not have existed.
Any such indication, any such hint, would have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of our comrades. I was therefore silent until the moment when I finally decided to take the first step myself. When I see the enemy levering his rifle at me I am not going to wait till he presses the trigger. I would rather be the first to press the trigger.
This was the most difficult decision of my whole life for every such step opened up the gate behind which secrets are hidden so that posterity will know how it came about and how it happened. Thus one can only rely on one's conscience, the confidence of one's people, one's own weapons and what one asks of the Almighty. Not that He supports inaction but He blesses him who is himself ready and willing to fight and make sacrifices for his existence.
On June 22, in the morning, the greatest battle in the history of the world started. Since then something like three and a half months have elapsed and here I say this:
Everything since then has proceeded according to plan. During the whole period the initiative has not been taken even for a second out of the hand of our leadership. Up to the present day every action has developed just as much according to plan as formerly in the east against Poland and then against the west and finally against the Balkans.
But I must say one thing at this point: We have not been wrong in our plans. We have also not been mistaken about the efficiency and bravery of the German soldier. Nor have we been mistaken about the quality of our weapons.
We have not been mistaken about the smooth working of the whole organization at the front and extending over a gigantic area in the rear. Neither have we been mistaken about the German homeland.
We have, however, been mistaken about one thing. We had no idea how gigantic the preparations of this enemy were against Germany and Europe and how immeasurably great was the danger, how by the skin of our teeth we have escaped the destruction not only of Germany but also of Europe.
That I can say now. I say it only today because I can say that this enemy is already broken and will never rise again.
Her power had been assembled against Europe, of which unfortunately most had no idea and many even today have no idea. This would have been a second storm of Ghengis Khan. That this danger was averted we owe in the first place to the bravery, endurance and sacrifice of the German soldiers and also the sacrifice of those who marched with us.
For the first time something like a European awakening passed through this continent. In the north, Finland is fighting, a true nation of heroes, for in her wide spaces she relies on her own strength, her bravery and tenacity.
In the south, Rumania is fighting. It has recuperated with astonishing speed from one of the most difficult crises that may befall a country and the people are led by a man at once brave and quick at making decisions.
This embraces the whole width of this battlefield from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea. Our German soldiers are now fighting in these areas and with them in their ranks Finns, Italians, Hungarians, Rumanians, Slovaks, Croats and Spaniards are now going into battle. Belgians, Netherlanders, Danes, Norwegians and even Frenchmen have joined.
The progress of this unparalleled event is known to you in outline. Of the three German Army groups, one had the task to break open the center and to open up the way to the right and the left. Two flanking groups had the task, one to advance against Leningrad and the other to occupy the Ukraine. These first tasks have been substantially achieved.
During this time of great historical fighting the enemy is asking, "Why is nothing happening?" But something had always been happening. But because something was happening we could not talk.
If I were the British Prime Minister today, I would probably keep talking in the circumstances because there is nothing happening there and that is the difference. We could not, not because we did not pay homage to the everlasting achievements of our soldiers, but because we could not give any information to the enemy in advance of situations of which he, with his miserable news service, became aware only days or even weeks later.
A German High Command communiqué is the report of truth even if some stupid British newspaper lout declares it must first be confirmed. German High Command communiqués have been thoroughly confirmed. We have defeated the Poles and not the Poles us, although the British press has been saying the opposite. There also is no doubt that we are in Norway, and not the British.
Nor is there any doubt we were successful in the Netherlands and Belgium and not the English. There is also no doubt that Germany has conquered France and that we are in Greece and not the English or the New Zealanders. Nor are they in Crete but we are there. Thus the German High Command spoke the truth.
It is not different in the East. According to the British version we have for three months suffered one defeat after another, yet we are 1,000 kilometers beyond our frontier. We are east of Smolensk, we are before Leningrad and are on the Black Sea. We are before the Crimea and the Russians are not on the Rhine.
If, therefore, the Russians have been continuously victorious they did not make use of their victories. Indeed, after every victory they marched back 100 or 200 kilometers, evidently to lure us deep into the area.
The magnitude of this battle is shown by the following figures. There are many among you who have experienced the World War and they know what it means to take prisoners and to advance hundreds of kilometers.
The number of prisoners has now risen to roughly 2,500,000 Russians. The number of captured or destroyed guns in our hands is, in round figures, 22,000. The number of captured or destroyed tanks in our hands amounts to over 18,000. The number of destroyed and shot-down planes is over 14,500.
Behind our front line is a Russian area twice as large as the German Reich when I took over leadership in 1933, or four times as large as England. The beeline covered by the German soldiers is from over 800 to 1,000 kilometers. The marching distance of this is often one and a half times or twice as great.
They are fighting on a front of gigantic length, and against an enemy who, I must say, does not consist of human beings but of animals or beasts. We have seen now what Bolshevism can make of human beings.
We cannot bring to the people at home the pictures we have at our disposal. They are the most sinister that human brains can imagine The enemy is fighting with a bestial lust of blood on the one hand and out of cowardice and fear of his commissars on the other hand.
Our soldiers have come to know the land after twenty-five years of Bolshevist rule. Those who went there and, in their hearts or bodies, have something of a communistic outlook in the narrowest sense of the term, have returned cured of this idea.
The pictures of this paradise of workers and peasants as I have always described it will be confirmed by five or six million soldiers after the end of this war. They will be witnesses upon whom I can call. They have marched through the streets of this paradise.
It is a single armaments factory against Europe at the expense of the standard of living of the people. Our soldiers have won victories against this cruel, bestial opponent, against this opponent with the mighty armaments.
I cannot think of a phrase that would do justice to them. What they are continually achieving in bravery, courage and immeasurable efforts cannot be imagined.
Whether we take our airmen or fighters, our dive-bombers, our navy crews which man our U-boats, whether we finally take our Alpine troops in the north, or whether we take men of the S. S. detachments, they are all alike. But above all, and I would like to emphasize this especially now, stand the achievements of the German infantrymen.
We have three divisions, my friends, which since Spring have marched from 2,000 to 3,000 kilometers. This includes numerous divisions which have covered 1,500 or 2,000 kilometers. This speaks for itself.
I can say that if one speaks of lightning war, then these soldiers deserve to have their deeds described as lightning, for such performances in marches forward have never been surpassed in history, except by the headlong flights of some English regiments.
There are only some historic, precipitated retreats which have surpassed these performances. In any case, there was no question of such long distances, for the enemy took care to keep near to the coast.
I do not mean thereby to disparage the enemy. I only want to render to the German soldier the justice he deserves. He has achieved the unsurpassable. All organizations associated with him are partly workers, but also partly soldiers. For in this mighty space almost everybody is a soldier today.
Every worker is a soldier. Every railway man is a soldier. In the whole of this area everybody must build with weapons, and it is a colossal area. What was achieved behind this front is just as grandiose as the achievements at the front.
Over 25,000 kilometers of Russian railways are again functioning. Over 15,000 kilometers of Russian railways have been converted to the German gauge. In the east the length of line which today has been converted into the German gauge is more than fifteen times as great as what used to be the longest trunk line in the Reich, that from Stettin to the Bavarian Alps, which is just short of 1,000 kilometers.
What this has cost in sweat and effort even the people at home may not appraise. And behind all this there are the labor battalions and labor services of our organization. The whole gigantic front of these services and of the Red Cross, medical officers, stretcher bearers and Red Cross nurses are all making sacrifices.
Behind this front a new administration is already being built to look after the whole of this gigantic area.
If this war lasts much longer, Germany and her allies will make use of it and its usefulness will be tremendous, for there is no doubt that we know how to organize it. If I give you now, in a few sentences, a picture of the unique achievements of the German soldiers and of all those who are today fighting or working in the East, I would also convey to you the gratitude of our soldiers for the excellent, first-class weapons the country has supplied to them and their gratitude for the munitions that are at their disposal in unlimited quantities as fast as they can be transported.
There is only the problem of transportation. We have seen to it that, in the midst of this huge war of material, the function of production has been organized in a large area, for I know that there is now no adversary who cannot be forced to yield by an available mass of munitions.
And if at times you read in the newspapers about the gigantic plans of other States, of what they intend to do, and to begin, and when you hear of sums running into billions, remember I now say, first, we place the whole continent in the service of this struggle; second, we do not talk of capital but of labor, and we place this labor 100 per cent in this service. If we do not talk about it, this does not mean that we are not doing anything.
I know perfectly well that the others are doing everything better than we do. They are building tanks that are invincible, that are faster than ours and do not need any gasoline. In the fighting we have everywhere put many of them out of action. That is decisive.
They build wonder planes; everything they do is amazing. All they do is incomprehensible, even technically incomprehensible, but they have no machines that can surpass ours, and the machines we drive or fly today, or with which we shoot today, are not the machines we shall drive, fly or shoot with next year.
I believe that will satisfy every German. Everything else will be seen to by our inventors and by our German workers and working women. Behind this front of sacrifice and bravery in the face of death there is also the home front, a front formed by city and country.
Millions of German workmen are laboring in the cities and in the country. An entire people is engaged in the struggle.
This united German people was confronted by two extremes in the world outside. In one the capitalist State denies the natural right to their people by lies and treachery and in which they keep solely their own vested interest. On the other side stood the Communist extreme, a state that has brought inconceivable misery to millions and desired to bring the same misery to the entire world.
In my opinion this imposes on us only one duty, to strive more than ever after our National Socialist ideals. For we must be clear on one point. When this war is concluded, it is the German soldier who will have won it, the German soldier who has come from the peasants and factories, who really represents the masses of the people.
It will have been won by the German home front, with millions of men and women workers and peasants, the creative men in the office and in the professions. All these millions of active people will have won it. Those who labor at home have the right to know that this new State will be built for them.
The experiences of the front will produce still more fanatic National Socialists. In Germany the system of justice reigns. He who has been able to lead, whether in the military, political or economic field, will be equally valuable and equally esteemed in Germany, but just so highly esteemed will be he who put out help, without whose assistance the greatest leadership would not be capable of anything. That is decisive.
The German people can be proud today. They have the best political leaders, the best generalissimos, the best engineers and economic organizers and also the best workmen, best peasants and best people.
To weld all these people into one indissoluble community was the task we set ourselves as National Socialists. This task confronts Germany more clearly today than ever before.
I shall emerge from this war one day again with my party program, the fulfillment of which is more important to me today than during those first days. I have come here to tell the German people that in the Winter Help scheme it has the opportunity to show the community spirit. What sacrifices those at the front are bearing cannot be made up by anything. What the German home front has achieved and will still achieve will stand before history.
Only when the entire German people become a single community of sacrifice can we expect and hope that Almighty God will help us. The Almighty has never helped a lazy man. He does not help the coward. He does not help a people that cannot help itself.
The principle applies here, help yourselves and Almighty God will not deny you his assistance.
- The Führer to the German People: 22 June 1941, Adolf Hitler's Proclamation of War with the Soviet Union
- Adolf Hitler's Declaration of War against the United States