Students of history are invited to investigate and understand how the Nazis' rise to power was influenced by their use of propaganda. The following speech by the nazi propaganda minister Dr. Josef Goebbels represents classic propaganda as a source of evidence for investigating the past. The most sinister materminds of history proved to be experts in manipulating national pride in support of peace, to justify torture, wars and death.
It has been a painful disappointment to the German nation to note in the past months that the birth of the national-socialist State and its positive repercussions on the economic and political development of the German nation have frequently been met in the world with a lack of comprehension, mistrust or even hostility. The German nation realizes, however, that this cannot be solely due to a lack of good will on the part of the world public opinion. The problem of national-socialism is so new and its practical evolution in German is so unprecedented in the world that it cannot be understood or appreciated without a very close study of its problems. National-socialism is in fact a unique and unprecedented attempt to direct the destiny of a country by other methods than those that have hitherto been used and to bring about within this country a satisfactory solution of the serious crisis which has overtaken all nations of Europe. It is therefore not surprising that this attempt should be misunderstood and that this misunderstanding should extend to the attitude towards the German nation as a whole. I think, therefore, that it is my most important task briefly to explain to this audience, which is so widely representative of world public opinion, the evolution of the nationalist-socialist State, I ts practical repercussions on home and foreign policy and thereby to bring about at least a certain amount of understanding for what has happened in Germany.
The world very largely still thinks that the national-socialist movement has seized power by force and ruthless terror in order to use this power brutally against its opponents in Germany. This conception is in contradiction to the actual course of events. Already before assuming power, the national-socialist movement was by far the largest and owing to the masses of its followers, the most influential party in parliamentary Germany. It was legally called upon to assume responsibility and it has legally consolidated its position of power in Germany. After the 30th January it was free to act according to its own judgment and without consulting the nation. It did not do so: on the contrary it consulted the nation, thus creating at the same time for its subsequent work of reconstruction the guarantees which were necessary within the democratic State. There was no question of applying terror and force. There has never before been any government in Germany which could claim to have realized such a large measure of agreement with the masses of the population as the national-socialist Government.
The elections of the 5th March which gave this government an absolute majority, the passing of the authorisation bill in the Reichstag by an overwhelming majority of two thirds, clearly prove the legality of our action, the complete harmony between the will of the nation and that of the government, as well as the undoubted concurrence of the views of the national-socialist leadership of the State with the conceptions of the German nation. What reason should there have been for us to impose our will upon the people by force and terror if this will was already in complete harmony with that of the German nation? Moreover, any unbiased visitor of Germany must admit that this process of adjusting the will has not remained stationary in the months after the last election nor moved backwards, but that on the contrary the whole German nation adjusts itself to an ever increasing extent to the programme of this government so that if we were to appeal again to the German nation according to democratic rules, at least 75 to 85 per cent of the German nation would freely take the side of the present government.
This must be stressed in the first place in order to create a possibility of understanding between the new authoritative Germany and the democratic world surrounding it. The nation and the government in Germany are one thing. The will of the people is the will of the government and vice versa. The modern structure of the German State is a higher form of democracy in which, by virtue of the people’s mandate, the government is exercised authoritatively while there is no possibility for parliamentary interference, to obliterate and render ineffective the execution of the nation’s will.
It was natural that in the course of the internal reconstruction of Germany new methods had to be employed also in shaping public opinion. The great attempt to overcome the crisis in Germany could not from the very outset be exposed to criticism dictated by bad faith and by subversive, destructive intentions. This had to be avoided in view of the gravity of the crisis. The greatest sacrifices were made by the German nation in this great attempt. We took over the government in Germany at a moment when unemployment had reached its peak, when bolshevism stood threatening at the doors of the Reich and when the moral crisis of the German nation had already destroyed all national bonds. Can anyone be surprised that the national-socialist leaders have in the first place done their utmost to substitute a new optimism of faith for the feeling of despair which had seized large quarters of the German nation; that, in the course of this process of restoration, they sought to eliminate all elements which for party reasons were hostile to the great plan and its successful execution and were therefore bound to be highly prejudicial.
What importance has the formal principle of an exaggerated and unlimited freedom of opinion, valuable only for the limited number of persons who actually seemed to be able to express their opinions freely owing to their financial or professional standard, compared to a work of reconstruction through which millions of men were to be reinstated in the process of production and by which a whole nation is moving away from a feeling of despair over the hopelessness of the situation towards a new faith? Public criticism may be a good thing for those who exercise it in good faith and with a pure conscience. It is a danger for the nations if it is merely destructive instead of being constructive. It produces devastating effects if it is exercised for the sake of criticism alone, paralysing and undermining the last possibilities of saving the nation. It could not be our task to give a few clever writers a chance to destroy by their criticism the work of regeneration, which we are carrying on in Germany. The German nation had on the contrary given us the mandate to make an ultimate attempt to save our country and to stop everything, which might in any way impair this effort. Perhaps other nations will sooner or later learn from this example that it is necessary in a period of severe crisis to concentrate all the forces of a nation on one single aim and that governments to whom the nations have given the mandate to overcome the crisis and not to be submerged by it must not fail on account of formal principles to hear the call of destiny and must not place the well-being of their nations at stake.
During the period of opposition the driving force of the national-socialist movement on its way to power was one continuous struggle with the problem of marxism or bolshevism; victory or defeat of one side of [sic] the other was therefore bound to decide also the existence or the destruction of one side or the other. Success has been on our side, and this put an end to the further existence of Marxist ideas and their party organisations. We believe that we have acted in the best interest of Europe’s future by erecting in Germany a solid wall against anarchy and chaos: we knew that if Germany were to be submerged by chaos this could not be stopped at the frontiers of our country but would flood the whole western civilization. Those who think that the methods by which we met the bolshevist attack were too rigorous, should, in order to get a just opinion on this question, remember what would have happened if the course of events had been the reverse, and against what dangers national-socialism has protected Germany and Europe.
A political movement having the object of establishing a rule of madness over a whole continent, of destroying all moral and political bonds, of frightening the nations by fire and terror in order to seize power when general disorder prevails, such a movement deserves to be destroyed; and when the German Government preserved our nation from chaotic anarchy, when it excluded the antisocial leaders of such a movement from the community of the nation and when it is now trying to reconvert them in concentration camps in useful members of human society, this is an act of self-defence which, in view of the seriousness of the immediate danger, has after all been carried through most humanely.
Any foreigner may visit German concentration camps to find out for himself that anything but cruelty and brutality prevail in the camps. How beneficial our measures have been for the security and the internal peace of the German nation can be gathered from the fact that they have restored internal peace to Germany, that the disintegration of the German nation by its political parties has been terminated and that the stability of German internal and external authority is guaranteed. National-socialism, just like any other genuine movement of political determination, aims at totality. Either it is convinced that its philosophy of life and its practical repercussions are correct and then it cannot suffer anybody else beside it, or it is not convinced of this, then it does not deserve to exercise power. But national-socialism has the former conviction, and out of this conviction it was bound to strive for a condition in which no other element would exist beside it which might be a serious competitor in the control of power. The marxist organisations having been dissolved by the State, the bourgeois parties dissolved out of their own initiative. Thus national-socialism assumed the whole power and the whole responsibility.
What the world finds most difficult to understand is the fact that this process was carried through without friction or opposition, and that it did not bring about an estrangement between government and nation but led on the contrary to a deeper understanding between them. The multiple party-system has never been popular in Germany. It was not until our Government did away with that system that the joyful cooperation of the whole nation was secured. The removal of the parties was the beginning of an organic political and economic reconstruction of the German nation, which is at present taking place, whose elements are the government and the nation and whose sole object is to overcome the paralysing crisis, to provide work for the people and to give the country peace.
It cannot be the meaning and the purpose of democracy merely to discuss problems, while leaving them unsolved. Democracy would be the greatest disaster for the nations if it were to content itself with merely declaring that the crisis exists without attempting at the same time to overcome it. This applies both to home and world policy. There can be no doubt that if in the past 14 years democracy had been used to execute the mandate received from the nations authoritatively, to the benefit and happiness of the latter, Europe would now probably be in a better position that it actually is. Those, however, who say that the peoples should govern themselves completely misinterpret the principle of democracy. Nations cannot govern themselves, and they do not want to. Their sole desire is to be governed well and they are happy when they can have the conviction that their governments are working to their best ability and conscience for the benefit and welfare of the nations entrusted to them. The entire German nation is to-day filled with this happiness. Neutral observers who came to Germany full of mistrust have again and again told me after a few days’ study of our internal conditions that the most striking characteristic of the German situation was the fact that the German nation as a whole was again confidently and faithfully supporting its government and that it did not only approve of the gigantic efforts made to overcome the crisis, but cooperated in them wholeheartedly; that this nation, which a few months ago had been stricken with paralysing pessimism, had recovered its optimistic outlook upon life and the confidence in its own force, and that in spite of the depression the people were going back to work with optimistic faith and that that alone should be proof enough for the fact that the German government was on the right way.
Does anyone seriously believe that over 60 million people, a whole nation, which after all does not belong to the worst in the world, has been seized by a fit of madness, and does anyone really believe that a government in power could obtain the love and the sympathy of the people by force and terror. The reconstruction which we have undertaken with energy and youthful force is calculated for a long period ahead. The readjustment of economic conditions could not take place until the political elements of the crisis had been removed. It required tenacity, endurance, faith, a sense of national sacrifice. It would be doomed to failure if the government tried to carry it through without or even against the nation. If it begins to bear fruit already at this stage, this is due to the fact that in this reconstruction the will of the leaders of the State and the determination of the people are combining. The world however has every reason to deal honestly and without prejudice with this new phenomenon of State construction, whose only purpose is to get Germany out of the crisis by her own means and to relieve the world of its worries about the German situation.
This way of constructing a State is not as undemocratic as it may appear at first sight. It has found a new form of cooperation between government and nation. Under this new system the Government receives its mandate from the nation, but its execution is not controlled by an conglomeration of political parties. This mandate is a sovereign one. And to the great power which it confers upon the Government corresponds the great measure of responsibility which the government assumes. We are not governing against the nation nor without the nation. We are only the executors of the nation’s will. It has been the fatal tragic-comedy of the former traditional democratic parties in Germany that although they appealed to the people, their appeal found no echo in the heart of the nation. These political parties preferred to make mistakes with the masses rather than to do the right thing against the masses. We have the courage to tell the people the truth, although it may be a bitter truth and we are happy to see that the people understand us. If true democracy means to lead the nations and to show them the way to work and peace, then I believe this true democracy has been realised in Germany against the will of the parties which represented only a distortion of the ideal of true democracy.
One of the reproaches levelled most frequently against national-socialist Germany is connected with the treatment of Jews, which, it is said, is contrary to the laws of humanity and will therefore meet with absolute lack of understanding in the rest of the world. Let me say a frank word on this subject considering above all the fact that public opinion in the world is deeply moved by the Jewish question and that prejudiced reports often destroy from the very outset any possibility of understanding the new Germany. I frankly admit that in the course of the national revolution in Germany incidents caused by uncontrollable elements may have occasionally occured, but this is not decisive, particularly if one remembers that apart from these isolated incidents the German revolution, in contrast to many similar historic events, has been an act of discipline, of order and of authoritative leadership. The fact that we were opposed to Jewish predominance in Germany could well be expected to be generally known even before we assumed power. But it must be remembered that the Jews in Germany were exercising at that time a decisive influence on all intellectual life, that they were absolute and unlimited masters of the press, of literature, of the theatre and the cinema, and that in large cities, as for instance in Berlin, 75 per cent of all members of the medical and legal professions were Jews, that they made public opinion, exercised a decisive influence on the stock exchange and were the rulers of parliament and its parties. It will be understood that in these circumstances the action undertaken to remedy this situation was just as spontaneous as it was unavoidable. Is there another nation that would have in the long run accepted without contradiction this excessive influence of the Jews on its public life? By settling the Jewish problem legally, the German Government adopted the most humane and loyal method. What we do not understand, however, is that while protests are raised against Germany’s defensive action in this field, there is on the other hand an unwillingness to absorb the excess Jewish population emigrating from Germany. Moreover, it must not be overlooked that this question has been distorted precisely by those concerned in a manner which can only constitute an obstruction to its general settlement. Nothing is further from the intention of national-socialism that to exercise a cheap revenge. National-socialism would have had both the power and the possibility to do so. If it abstained from any such action it was because of its honest desire to find a real and practical solution of the Jewish problem, which would no doubt produce also in this respect a final settlement. We think, however, that it is intolerable that atrocity legends spread abroad by Jewish emigrants, even involving the unprecedented allegation that members of the German Government had themselves for party reasons set the Reichstag on fire, could have been blindly reproduced in certain sections of the world press. It would not only be to the advantage of the German people but would also be to the benefit of the whole world if criticism on German events could be limited to the actual state [sic] of facts and if any antipathy resulting from a different philosophy of life could be excluded from the very outset. We in Germany have no reason to be afraid of the truth, but we do wish and hope that the honest struggle for truth be not from the very outset poisoned by almost grotesque allegations which collapse before any objective examination.
In this connection mention must also be made of the reproach that the new Germany pursues a policy of intellectual expansion which was only a preparation for an ultimate policy of expansion by force. We have by no means any intention of converting national-socialism into an article for world export. As I have already repeatedly emphasized national-socialism is a typically German phenomenon which for this reason can only be explained from the German environment, the German character and the German distress. It is very naïve and shortsighted to believe that we want to undermine and endanger other nations with this system. Apart from the fact that this would be contrary to all historic experience we are so busily engaged with German problems in the practical development of national-socialism that we have neither the time nor any reason to assume a more or less mystical world mission beyond the frontiers of our own country. We young Germans fully respect any other nation which organizes its internal life in accordance with its character and tasks. But we think we are not demanding too much when we wish and hope that the world should extend to us the same measure of respect in our endeavours to overcome the crisis by ourselves and for ourselves; although these efforts may follow new lines they are nevertheless certainly honest and not quite unsuccessful.
We have undertaken the solution of the German problems in a sober and realistic spirit. It has been contrary to our character and to our mentality to lay these problems before the world in so far as they were caused by German mistakes and omissions. Only where these German problems come into touch with the causes of the world crisis does it become necessary to solve them internationally. But we believe that this international solution can also in the interests of other nations best be prepared by our own efforts wherever we are concerned.
Does a nation which after a lost war and the most severe deteriorations of a moral, economic and political kind resorts to its own force, which tries in a tremendous effort to stop the decay, which makes every sacrifice to put its own house in order, which never fails in courage nor in diligence, does such a nation deserve the contempt and the hostile coldness of the world? Should not this other world, carrying the burden of its own difficulties and of the dark fate which the war and the post-war period have reserved for it, rather welcome any attempt to tackle the solution of the great problems of the day with new methods in order to make a contribution towards the re-introduction of reason and clearness in a situation of general confusion and intellectual disintegration?
What the young Germany has to settle with the world is solely the question of its national existence. In this respect Germany strives for a permanent solution, which does not avoid the problems but courageously faces them in a spirit of hard determination. The distress from which Europe is suffering is too great to allow anybody to overlook its causes or to leave any doubt as to its unavoidable consequences. That has nothing to do with revenge or war. It would be a good thing if these two words were completely eliminated from the international vocabulary. Germany has declared more than once that everybody, not only the vanquished but also the victors would be losers in a repetition of the great disaster of 1914 to 1918. The consequences of such madness are too unthinkable for serious people to deal with them at all. We want to provide employment for the German people. We need peace more than any other country in order to solve our economic crisis. But to trust in Germany’s peaceful intentions for the present merely to infer from them a readiness for war at a later stage, is an unfair procedure, which consists in deliberately casting suspicion on a great country for the mere purpose of suspicion. The German Chancellor went through the war as a simple lance corporal. He crept dozens of times through the mud of the deadly shellholes of great battlefields in the west. He experienced for himself more than the full measure of terrible moral and physical suffering, which such a dark disaster brings upon men. Who has the courage to doubt the honesty of his words when he said at Nuremberg in front of his comrades that Germany had never lost her honour in the war and that she therefore does not feel the necessity of restoring it in a war? Can anyone quote one single act of this Chancellor or his government, which would justify even the slightest suspicion of a desire for war? The whole work of reconstruction undertaken by the government is carried through in a spirit of peace. The German government wants to cooperate in restoring to Europe the tranquility, which the nations so ardently desire, in overcoming the traditional elements of crisis between the nations in order that this severely afflicted continent may finally begin the work of its reconstruction.
It is not to the interest of any other nation that this Germany should furthermore be treated as a second-rate nation and that it should be deprived of the possibility of defending its territory, which is necessary for the safeguarding of its national security. To infer that Germany desires war is as shortsighted as it is discouraging in view of the fact that everywhere else there is no disarmament but rearmament going on. But it is unjust and offensive to see that the circumstances accompanying the German revolution are used as arguments against Germany’s claim for security which any German Government, whatever its composition, is bound to put forward not only in Germany’s own interest but also in the interest of the whole world.
While the settlement of this international question seems to take an excessively long time, this has not prevented us from undertaking the settlement of our internal political problems. Animated by a serious desire to achieve progress we have tackled the problem of unemployment, which had fallen in particular upon Germany as a consequence of the great world crisis. We did not wait for help from abroad, which we should not have deserved as long as we remained inactive. If two million people have again found employment in Germany, if the government is moreover determined to maintain them in their employment also during the coming winter, these millions are the living witnesses for the incontestable determination of the new men not only to hold the power but also to use it to restore to the nation happiness and well-being.
That is the picture of the new Germany which we have created, looked at not through the spectacles of party hatred or deliberate distortion but with unbiased impartiality. I thought it my duty to draw this picture for you. I have made the truth speak for itself, because truth is the strongest ally in the struggle for a new idea. I have nothing to hide and nothing to colour, for this young Germany has no reason to fear the judgment of the world. When the new Germany speaks with frankness the intention is to help in clearing up the dull atmosphere which covers the whole of Europe. The new men who have come to power in Germany at such a young age have the conviction that only frankness can make the problems of Europe visible to those responsible. We shall not very much longer be able to hide behind traditional prejudices. The problems are too serious to suffer delay. The nations justly claim that their responsible statesmen should find a way to master the serious distress from which our poor continent is suffering. Europe must set to work unless it is willing to give up its position as the oldest cultural centre of the world and to allow itself to be submerged by chaos. Germany seriously desires impartially to cooperate in the solution of the great problems to the best of her ability. We have come to Geneva with a desire to help in tackling these problems in a spirit of manly honesty. We cannot and will not give up the hope that an understanding is possible if each considers the other as an honest partner and if all together are willing to guarantee a permanent state of peace and general welfare. This, however, is incompatible with the wish to deprive a nation of the air which it needs to breathe freely and to divide the world in all eternity into victors and vanquished.
What can the young Germany offer to the world?
The young Germany guarantees stability at home with a firm central power which is capable of and ready to negotiate. It has eliminated from its country the bolshevist inflammable material which threatened the whole of Europe, and has united in a uniform and determined development of its will.
In the clash between the national and the communist conception it has definitely taken the side of firmness and clarity. The wall which we have erected against anarchy is indestructible.
This Germany cannot sign unfulfillable treaties. But when it does sign treaties because they are fulfillable it is determined to respect them. This Germany is an honest partner in the safeguarding of the interests of the world if she receives and preserves the right to honour and the right to her daily bread.
This Germany is no longer a centre of permanent unrest nor an experimental ground for destructive ideologies or anticultural experiments. This Germany is a centre of order and secured authority.
The German nation itself however is far from any political resentment. It considers questions of international policy soberly, objectively and without prejudice. It is ready and determined to cooperate in the solution of the great crisis to the best of its ability. Just as it considers all other nations and their difficulties with sincere sympathy and understanding it hopes and wishes that the world will also endeavour to understand Germany and not to allow overheated passions to blind it to the true reality of things.
National-socialism, a new and modern form of State construction in Germany, a phenomenon which it is worth while to study. Behind the manifold manifestations of its ideas and its system which may sometimes be confusing to the outsiders, there is the clear and sober realization of the gravity of the situation in which Germany and Europe find themselves, combined with the firm determination not to capitulate before the crisis but to tackle it and eventually to overcome it.
May all these who are of good will unite in the noble intention to relieve the sorrows of the nations and to serve the common welfare. As for Germany, she has the honest desire to co-operate in the establishment of peace in Europe.