Adolf Hitler's Speech for the Heroes' Memorial Day (16 March 1941)
For the second time we enter this room for a memorial service to our people. Even more than a year ago we appreciate how inadequate are words to express the nation's thankfulness to its heroes. In times of long peace the memory of the terrible experiences of war, out of which rises heroism, gradually grows dim. It even happens that a whole generation knows nothing of war as such and honors its heroes without being in the least worthy of them.
In such a circumstance the greatest sacrifice of man is acknowledged with superficial phrases. There is even danger that, while remembering heroes of times past, the men of the present regard themselves as free of the obligation to conduct themselves with a similar spirit of heroism.
But if the German people in the year 1941 honors its heroes, it does so at a time and under circumstances that give it a right to hold up its head with pride as it pays tribute to men of the near and distant past who sacrificed their lives for the State.
As twelve months ago in this consecrated hall we turned our thoughts to our heroes, there lay behind us the thoroughly successful beginning of a war that Germany did not want, but that was forced on us by the same forces that were responsible before in history for the great war of the peoples in 1914 to 1918.
They were the elements whose goal that time was to rob the German nation of the most primitive right of life, who in the years of the Versailles dictate raised as the dogma of the new world order political enslavement and economic impotence, and now are opposed to the revival of our people with the same hatred with which they once pursued the Second Reich.
In complete misjudgment of the situation, in a sadly false estimate of their own and Germany's power, and in complete ignorance of the will and determination of the new German leadership, they expected a second crushing of our people would be as easy as the first attempt.
The fact that the American General Wood, before the investigation committee of the American Senate, testified that as early as 1936 Churchill told him Germany was getting too strong again and must be destroyed in a new war established firmly in history the real responsibility for present developments.
England and France alone wanted war-not so much the people as a thin stratum of political and financial leadership behind which, wielding its last power, stood international Jewry and its world conspiracies of democracy and Freemasonry.
But it was the hope of these responsible war makers that thrust Poland forward not only to attain outward justification for war but also to make sure in advance that Poland would play its World War role of dividing German strength.
The eighteen-day campaign in Poland was but the precipitous end of these hopes. Under these circumstances the German people were able to enter the year 1940 with proud confidence. But our people did not deceive themselves as to the year lying ahead. The battle in the west, which remains in the memory of every living German World War soldier as an episode of suffering without end, had to be decided.
In exact knowledge of our preparations and plans, in boundless confidence in the German soldier, his armament and leadership and ability and before all in his attitude, I dared on Memorial Day, 1940, to predict that the battle before us would end in the most glorious victory in our history. Eight weeks later this battle started.
But before the defense forces struck in the west, what was probably the most important decision of the war was taken. On April 9, with just a few hours to spare, a dangerous British attempt to strike German defense powers in the heart from the north was anticipated. At dawn on May 10 this perhaps most dangerous threat to our military and political position had been swept aside. So the battle to a decision in the west could begin. It followed a course previously mapped out.
What could not be done in four years of indescribable sacrifice in the World War was accomplished in a few weeks: the crushing of the British-French front.
Despite the conclusion of the guilty British Prime Minister of that time, the year 1940 will go down in history as one of the most decisive and significant. Because in this year there was a shift of power of truly historic importance. If in the year 1918 we could have had only a portion of this success the World War would have been won.
Today German forces stand throughout the world, men and material strengthened to an inconceivable degree, ready to complete joyfully and confidently what was begun in the epochal year 1940.
So we approach with still greater right than in 1940 the German heroes of the past. All of us remember what they accomplished and endured in the World War. But we bow before their sacrifice, ourselves no longer unworthy. As the German divisions started the advance in the West, today's memorial service has its most fitting beginning, because in countless soldiers' cemeteries in the West victorious sons stood for a moment of tribute at the graves of their heroic fathers.
The German people have recovered everything that once was sacrificed in a foolish delusion. So today we can recall with lightened hearts the sacrifice of life in the World War. But in the illustrious events of the present we must not overlook the vast spiritual powers for which the German people and its soldiers must thank the heroism of their ancestors.
The soldiers of the World War did not fall in vain. If at that time the sacrifice was not immediately crowned by success, their heroic conduct left a heritage that an ever worthy German generation will prize with deepest emotion and that paralyzes the memories of our enemies.
It is perhaps this consciousness of strength that enabled the German people today to achieve such greatness. The people feel they are carrying out the will of heroic ancestors.
Beside the dead of the World War lie now the fallen in continuation of this battle. And again, as then, the sons of our people lie in distant places, in the sea everywhere as courageous fighters for their great German home. It is the same German man-be it in World War work or in the present fight that has been thrust upon us-who risks and gives his life to win for his people a greater future, a surer peace, a better organization and human comradeship than that given us by the dictators of Versailles.
But we think also of the Italian soldiers, who as allies also must give up their lives in distant parts of the world. Their ideals and objectives are the same as ours: The world is not here for a few people, and an order based eternally on the distinction between the haves and the have-nots does not exist any more because the have-nots have determined to lay claim to their portion of God's earth.
The home front, too, in this war must make a greater sacrifice than formerly. The heroism of the home front contributes its bit to the most decisive battle in German history. And here it is not only the man who must show the power of his resistance but the woman, too. The nation has become a battling unity. And not because they sought this fight but because it was forced on them.
Behind us lies a Winter of work. What remained to be improved has been done. The German Army is now the strongest military instrument in our history. In the months of this Winter our allies bore the brunt of the whole power of the British attack, but from now on German forces again will resume their share of this load.
No power and no support coming from any part of the world can change the outcome of this battle in any respect. England will fall. The everlasting Providence will not give victory to him who, merely with the object of ruling through his gold, is willing to spill the blood of men.
Germany demanded nothing of England and France. All of the Reich's denunciations, its disarmament and peace suggestions, were vain. International finance and plutocracy want to fight this war to the finish. So the end of this war will and must be its destruction. Then may Providence find a way to lead their people, from whom the chains will be struck, into a better order!
When England and France declared this war, England immediately began a fight against civil life. To the blockade of the World War, that war against women and children, it added this time air and fire war against peaceful villages and cities. In both of these modes of war England will be defeated. The air war that Churchill started will destroy not Germany but England itself. Just so, the blockade will not strike Germany but its inventor.
While the coming of winter limited battle actions on land, the fight in the air and on the sea continued. The heroism of submarine and ship crews goes hand in hand with that of our fliers.
We cannot crown observance of Memorial Day more worthily than to make a renewed determination to change the battle that our international enemies started as a war to our destruction into a final German victory.
So we enter the year 1941, cool and determined to end what started the year before. It is quite immaterial what part of the earth or in which sea or in what air space our German soldiers fight. They will know they battle for fate and freedom and the future of our people forever.
But while we end this battle victoriously we thank our heroes of the past, for we are saving that for which they fell: Germany, our people and its great German Empire.