Germany’s enemies maintain today that Adolf Hitler is the greatest disturber of peace known to history, that he threatens every nation with sudden attack and oppression, that he has created a terrible war machine in order to cause trouble and devastation all around him. At the same time they intentionally conceal an all-important fact: they themselves drove the Leader of the German people finally to draw the sword. They themselves compelled him to seek to obtain at last by the use of force that which he had been striving to gain by persuasion from the beginning: the security of his country. They did this not only by declaring war on him on 3 September 1939, but also by blocking step for step seven years the path to any peaceful discussion.
The attempts repeatedly made by Adolf Hitler to induce the governments of other states to collaborate with him in a reconstruction of Europe resemble an ever-recurring pattern in his conduct since the commencement of his labors for the German Reich. But these attempts were wrecked every time by reason of the fact that nowhere was there any willingness to give them due consideration, because the evil spirit of the Great War still prevailed everywhere, because in London and Paris and in the capitals of the Western Powers’ vassal states there was only one fixed intention: to perpetuate the power of Versailles.
A rapid glance at the most important events will furnish incontrovertible proof of this statement.
When Adolf Hitler came to power, Germany was as gagged and as helpless as the victors of 1918 wanted her to be. Completely disarmed, with an army of only 100,000 men intended solely for police duties within the country, she found herself within a tightly closed ring of neighbors all armed to the teeth and leagued together. To the old enemies in the West, Britain, Belgium, and France, new ones were artificially created and added in the East and the South: above all Poland and Czechoslovakia. A quarter of the population of Germany were forcibly torn away from their mother country and handed over to foreign powers. The Reich, mutilated on all sides and robbed of every means of defense, at any moment could become the helpless victim of some rapacious neighbor.
Then it was that Adolf Hitler for the first time made his appeal to the common sense of the other powers. On 17 May 1933, a few months after his appointment to the office of Reichskanzler, he delivered a speech in the German Reichstag, from which we extract the following passages:
“. . . Germany will be perfectly ready to disband her entire military establishment and destroy the small amount of arms remaining to her, if the neighboring countries will do the same thing with equal thoroughness.
“. . . Germany is entirely ready to renounce aggressive weapons of every sort if the armed nations, on their part, will destroy their aggressive weapons within a specified period, and if their use is forbidden by an international convention.
“. . . Germany is at all times prepared to renounce offensive weapons if the rest of the world does the same. Germany is prepared to agree to any solemn pact of non-aggression because she does not think of attacking anybody but only of acquiring security.”
No answer was received. Without paying any heed, the others continued to fill their arsenals with weapons, to pile up their stores of explosives, to increase the numbers of their troops. At the same time, the League of Nations, the instrument of the victorious powers, declared that Germany must first pass through a period of “probation” before it would be possible to discuss with her the question of the disarmament of the other countries. On 14 October 1933, Hitler broke away from this League of Nations with which it was impossible to come to any agreement. Shortly afterwards, however, he came forward with a new proposal for the improvement of international relations. This proposal included the following six points:
1. Germany receives full equality of rights.
2. The fully armed States undertake amongst themselves not to increase their armaments beyond their present level.
3. Germany adheres to this agreement, freely undertaking to make only so much actual moderate use of the equality of rights granted to her as will not represent a threat to the security of any other European power.
4. All States recognize certain obligations in regard to conducting war on humane principles, or to the elimination of certain weapons for use against the civilian population.
5. All States accept a uniform general control which will watch over and ensure the observance of these obligations.
6. The European nations guarantee one another the unconditional maintenance of peace by the conclusion of non-aggression pacts, to be renewed after ten years.
Following upon this, a proposal was made to increase the strength of the German army to 300,000 men, corresponding to the strength required by Germany “having regard to the length of her frontiers and the size of the armies of her neighbors,” in order to protect her threatened territory against attacks. The defender of the principle of peaceable agreement was thus trying to accommodate himself to the unwillingness of the others to disarm by expressing a desire for a limited increase of armaments for his own country. Any exchange of notes, starting from this and continuing for years, finally came to a sudden end with an unequivocal “no” from France. This “no,” moreover, was accompanied by tremendous increases in the armed forces of France, Britain, and Russia.
In this way, Germany’s position became still worse than before. The danger to the Reich was so great that Adolf Hitler felt himself compelled to act. On 16 March 1935 he reintroduced conscription. But in direct connection with this measure he once more announced an offer to agreements of an extensive nature, the purpose of which was to ensure that any future war would be conducted on humane principles, in fact, to make such a war practically impossible by eliminating destructive armaments. In his speech of 21 May 1935 he declared:
“The German Government is ready to take an active part in all efforts which may lead to a practical limitation of armaments. It regards a return to the former idea of the Geneva Red Cross Convention as the only possible way to achieve this. It believes that at first there will be only the possibility of a gradual abolition and outlawing of weapons and methods of warfare which are essentially contrary to the Geneva Red Cross Convention, which is still valid.
“Just as the use of dumdum bullets was once forbidden and, on the whole, thereby eliminated in practice, so the use of other certain arms should be forbidden and eliminated. Here the German Government has in mind all those arms which bring death and destruction not so much to the fighting soldiers as to non-combatant women and children.
“The German Government considers as erroneous and ineffective the idea to do away with aeroplanes while leaving the question of bombing open. But it believes it possible to proscribe the use of certain arms as contrary to international law and to excommunicate those nations which still use them from the community of mankind – its rights and its laws.
“It also believes that gradual progress is the best way to success. For example, there might be prohibition of the dropping of gas, incendiary, and explosive bombs outside the real battle zone. This limitation could then be extended to complete international outlawing of all bombing. But as long as bombing as such is permitted, any limitation of the number of bombing planes is questionable in view of the possibility of rapid substitution.
“Should bombing as such be branded as a barbarity contrary to international law, the construction of bomber aircraft will soon be abandoned as superfluous and of no purpose. If, through the Geneva Red Cross Convention, it turned out possible as a matter of fact to prevent the killing of a defenseless wounded man or prisoner, it ought to be equally possible to forbid, by an analogous convention, and finally to stop, the bombing of equally defenseless civilian populations.
“In such a fundamental way of dealing with the problem, Germany sees a greater reassurance and security for the nations than in all pacts of assistance and military conventions.
“The German Government is ready to agree to any limitation which leads to abolition of the heaviest arms, especially suited for aggression. Such are, first, the heaviest artillery, and, second, the heaviest tanks. In view of the enormous fortifications on the French frontier, such international abolition of the heaviest weapons of attack would ipso facto give France 100 per cent security.
“Germany declares herself ready to agree to any limitation whatsoever of the calibre-strength of artillery, battleships, cruisers, and torpedo boats. In like manner, the German Government is ready to accept any international limitation of the size of warships. And, finally, it is ready to agree to limitation of tonnage for submarines, or to their complete abolition in case of international agreement.
“And it gives the further assurance that it will agree to any international limitation or abolition of arms whatsoever for a uniform period of time.”
This time again, Hitler’s declarations did not find the slightest response. On the contrary, France made an alliance with Russia in order to increase her prepondering influence on the Continent still further, and to augment to a gigantic degree the pressure on Germany from the East. In view of the evidently destructive intentions of his opponents, Adolf Hitler was therefore obliged to take new measures to ensure the safety of the German Reich. On 3 March 1936 he occupied the Rhineland, which had been without military protection since Versailles, and thus closed the wide gate through which the Western neighbor could carry out an invasion. Once again he followed the defensive step which he had been obliged to take with a liberal appeal for general reconciliation and for the settlement of all differences. On 31 March 1936 he formulated the following peace plan:
“1. In order to give to future agreements securing the peace of Europe the character of inviolable treaties, those nations participating in the negotiations do so only on an entirely equal footing and as equally esteemed members. The sole compelling reason for signing these treaties can only lie in the generally recognized and obvious practicability of these agreements for the peace of Europe, and thus for the social happiness and economic prosperity of the nations.
“2. In order to shorten, in the economic interest of the European nations, the period of uncertainty, the German Government proposes a limit of four months for the first period up to the signing of the pacts of non-agression guaranteeing the peace of Europe.
“3. The German Government gives the assurance not to add any reenforcements whatsoever to the troops in the Rhineland during this period, always provided that the Belgian and French Governments act in the same way.
“4. The German Government gives the assurance not to move the troops presently stationed in the Rhineland closer to the Belgian and French borders during this period.
“5. The German Government proposes the creation of a Commission composed of the two guarantor powers, Britain and Italy, and a disinterested third neutral power, to guarantee this assurance to be given by both parties.
“6. Germany, Belgium, and France are each entitled to send a representative to this commission. If Germany, France, or Belgium think that for any particular reason they can point to a change in the military situation having taken place within this period of four months, they have the right to inform the Guarantee Commission of their observations.
“7. Germany, Belgium, and France declare their willingness in such an event to permit this Commission to make the necessary investigations through the British and Italian military attaches, and to report thereon to the participating Powers.
“8. Germany, Belgium, and France give the assurance that they will bestow the fullest consideration to the objections arising therefrom.
“9. Moreover, the German Government is willing, on a basis of complete reciprocity with Germany’s two western neighbors, to agree to any military limitations on the German western border.
“10. Germany, Belgium, France, and the two Guarantor Powers agree to enter into negotiations under the leadership of the British Government at once or, at the latest, after the French elections, for the conclusion of a 25-year non-aggression or security pact between France and Belgium on the one hand, and Germany on the other.
“11. Germany agrees that Britain and Italy shall sign this security pact as Guarantor Powers once more.
“12. Should special engagements to render military assistance arise as a result of these security agreements, Germany on her part declares her willingness to enter into such engagements.
“13. The German Government hereby repeats its proposal for the conclusion of an air-pact to supplement and consolidate these security agreements.
“14. The German Government repeats that, should the Netherlands so desire, it is willing to include that country too in this West-European security agreement.
“15. In order to seal this peace-pact, voluntarily entered into between Germany and France as the reconciliatory conclusion of a centuries-old dispute, Germany and France pledge themselves to take steps to see that in the education of the young, as well as in the press and publications of both nations, everything shall be avoided which might be construed to poison the relationship between the two peoples, whether it be a derogatory or contemptuous attitude, or improper interference in the internal affairs of the other country. They agree to establish, at the headquarters of the League of Nations at Geneva, a joint commission whose function it shall be to lay all complaints received before the two Governments for information and investigation.
“16. In pursuance of their intention to give this agreement the character of a sacred pledge, Germany and France undertake to ratify it by means of a plebiscite of the two nations.
“17. Germany expresses her willingness, on her part, to establish contact with the states on her south-eastern and north-eastern borders, in order to invite them directly to conclude the pacts of non-aggression already proposed.
“18. Germany expresses her willingness to re-enter the League of Nations, either at once, or after the conclusion of these agreements.
“At the same time, the German Government again expresses as its expectation that, after a reasonable time and by the method of amicable negotiations, the question of colonial equality of rights and that of the separation of the Covenant of the League of Nations from its foundations in the Versailles Treaty will be cleared up.
“19. Germany proposes the establishment of an International Court of Arbitration, which shall be responsible for the observance of the various agreements concluded, and whose decision shall be binding on all parties.
“After the conclusion of this great work of securing European peace, the German Government considers it urgently necessary to endeavor by practical measures to put a stop to the unlimited competition in armaments. In her opinion, this would mean not merely an improvement in the financial and economic position of the nations, but above all a diminution of the psychological tension.
“The German Government, however, has no faith in the attempt to bring about universal settlements, as this would be doomed to failure from the outset, and can therefore be proposed only by those who have no interest in achieving practical results. On the other hand, it is of the opinion that the negotiations held and the results achieved in limiting naval armaments should have an instructive and stimulating effect.
“The German Government therefore proposes that future conferences shall have one clearly defined objective.
“For the present, it believes the most important task is to bring aerial warfare into the moral and humane atmosphere of the protection afforded to non-combatants or the wounded by the Geneva Convention. Just as the killing of defenseless wounded, or prisoners, or the use of dumdum bullets, or the waging of submarine warfare without warning, have been either forbidden or regulated by international conventions, so it must be possible for civilized humanity to prevent the senseless abuse of any new type of weapon, without running counter to the object of warfare.
“The German Government therefore puts forward the proposal that the immediate practical tasks of this conference should be:
“1. Prohibition of dropping gas, poison, or incendiary bombs.
“2. Prohibition of dropping bombs of any kind whatsoever on open towns and villages outside the range of the medium-heavy artillery of the fighting fronts.
“3. Prohibition of the shelling with long-range guns of towns more than 20 km distant from the battle zone.
“4. Abolition and prohibition of artillery of the heaviest calibre.
“As soon as possibilities for further limitation of armaments emerge from such discussions and agreements they should be utilized.
“The German Government hereby declares itself prepared to join in every such settlement, in so far as it is valid internationally.
“The German Government believes that if even a first step is made on the road to disarmament, this will be of enormous importance to the relationship between the nations, and to the recovery of confidence, trade, and prosperity.
“In accordance with the general desire for the restoration of favorable economic conditions, the German Government is prepared immediately after the conclusion of the political treaties to enter into an exchange of opinions on economic problems with the other nations concerned, in the spirit of the proposals made, and to do all that lies in its power to improve the economic situation in Europe, and the world economic situation which is closely connected with it.
“The German Government believes that with the peace plan proposed above it has made its contribution to the reconstruction of a new Europe on the basis of reciprocal respect and confidence between sovereign states. Many opportunities for such a pacification of Europe, for which Germany has so often in the last few years made her proposals, have been neglected. May this attempt to achieve European understanding succeed at last!
“The German Government confidently believes that it has opened the way in this direction by submitting the above peace plan.”
Anyone who today reads this comprehensive peace plan will realize in what direction the development of Europe, according to the wishes of Adolf Hitler, should really have proceeded. Here was the possibility of truly constructive work; this could have been a real turning point for the welfare of all nations. But once more he, who alone called for peace, was not heard. Only Britain replied with a rather scornful questionnaire which avoided any serious consideration of the essential points involved. Incidentally, however, she disclosed her actual intentions by setting herself up as the protector of France and by instituting and commencing regular military staff conversations with the French Republic just as in the period before the Great War.
There could no longer be any doubt now that the Western Powers were following the old path towards an armed conflict and were steadily preparing a new blow against Germany, although Adolf Hitler’s whole thoughts and endeavors were directed toward proving to them that he wanted to remain on the best possible terms with them. In the course of the years he had undertaken numerous steps in this direction, of which a few more shall be referred to here. He negotiated the Naval Agreement of 18 June 1935 with Great Britain, which provided that the German Navy should only have a strength of 35% of that of the British Navy. By this he wanted to demonstrate that the Reich, to use his own words, had “neither the intention nor the means, nor was it necessary” to enter into any rivalry as regards naval power, such as had had so fateful an influence on its relations to Great Britain in the well-remembered days before the Great War.
He assured France on every possible occasion of his desire to live at peace with her. He repeatedly renounced in plain terms any claim to Alsace-Lorraine. On the return to the Reich of the Saar territory as the result of the plebiscite, he declared on 1 March 1935:
“It is our hope that through this act of just compensation, in which we see a return to natural reason, relations between Germany and France have permanently improved. Therefore, as we desire peace, we must hope that our great neighbor is ready and willing to seek peace with us. It must be possible for two great peoples to join together and collaborate in opposing the difficulties which threaten to overwhelm Europe.”
He even endeavored to arrive at a better understanding with Poland, the eastern ally of the Western Powers, although this country had unlawfully incorporated millions of Germans in 1919 and had subjected them to the worst oppression ever since. On 26 January 1934 he concluded a non-aggression pact with her in which the two Governments agreed “to settle directly all questions of whatever kind which concern their mutual relations.”
Thus was his determination to preserve peace, and the way he strove to protect Germany in this manner. When, however, he saw that London and Paris were arming for attack, he was once more obliged to undertake fresh measures of defense. The enemy camp, as we have seen above, had been enormously extended through the alliance between France and Russia. In addition to this, the two powers had secured a line of communication to the south of the Reich through Czechoslovakia having concluded a treaty with Russia, which put her in the position of a bridge between east and west. Czechoslovakia, however, was in control of the high-lying country of Bohemia and Moravia, which Bismarck had called the citadel of Europe, and this citadel projected far into German territory. The threat to Germany thus assumed truly overpowering proportions.
The genius of Adolf Hitler found a way of meeting this danger. The conditions in German Austria, which, under the terror of the Schuschnigg Government, were tending towards civil war, offered him the opportunity of stepping in to save the situation, and to lead back into the Reich the sister nation to the south-east that had been sentenced by the victorious powers to lead the life of a hopelessly decaying “Free State.” After he had thus established himself near the line of communication between France and Russia mentioned above, a process of dissolution set in in the mixed state of Czechoslovakia, which had been artificially put together from the most diverse national elements, until after the liberation of the Sudetenland and the secession of Slovakia, the Czechs themselves asked for the protection of the German Reich. With this the enemy’s bridge came into Adolf Hitler’s possession; and at the same time direct connection was made possible with Italy, whose friendship had been secured some time previously.
While he was gaining this strategical success for the security of his country, Adolf Hitler was again endeavoring with great eagerness to reach a peaceful understanding with the Western Powers. In Munich, directly after liberation of the Sudeten-Germans, approved by Britain, France, and Italy, he made an agreement with the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, the text of which was as follows:
“We had a further meeting today and have agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for the two countries and for Europe.
“We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never again to go to war with one another.
“We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe.
“September 30, 1938.
signed: Adolf Hitler Neville Chamberlain.”
Two months later, on Hitler’s instructions, the German Foreign Minster, von Ribbentrop, made the following agreement with France:
“Herr Joachim von Ribbentrop, Reichsminister for Foreign Affairs,
and Monsieur Georges Bonnet, French Minister of Foreign Affairs,
acting in the name and by order of their Governments, are, at their meeting in Paris, on 6 December 1938, agreed as follows:
“1. The German Government and the French Government fully share the conviction that peaceful and good-neighborly relations between Germany and France constitute one of the most essential elements for the consolidation of the situation in Europe and the maintenance of general peace. The two Governments will in consequence use all their efforts to ensure the development of the relations in this direction between their countries.
“2. The two Governments recognize that between the two countries there is no territorial question outstanding, and they solemnly recognize as final the borders between their countries as they now exist.
“3. The two Governments are resolved, while leaving unaffected their particular relations with other powers, to remain in contact with regard to all questions concerning their two countries, and mutually to consult should the later evolution of those questions lead to international difficulties.
“In token whereof the representatives of the two Governments have signed the present Declaration, which comes into immediate effect. Prepared in two original Documents in the French and German language respectively, in Paris, 6 December 1938.
Joachim von Ribbentrop Georges Bonnet Reichsminister for Foreign Affairs Minister for Foreign Affairs”
According to all calculations, one should have been able to assume that the way was clear for collaborative reconstruction in which all leading powers would participate, and that the Fuehrer’s endeavors to secure peace would at last meet with success. But the opposite was true. Scarcely had Chamberlain reached home when he called for rearmament on a considerable scale and laid plans for a new and tremendous encirclement of Germany. Britain now took over from France the leadership of this further encirclement of the Reich, in order to obtain a substitute for the lost Czechoslovakia many times its value. She opened negotiations with Russia, granted Poland a guarantee and also Rumania, Greece, and Turkey. These were alarm signals of the greatest urgency.
Just at this time Adolf Hitler was occupied with the task of finally eliminating sources of friction with Poland. For this purpose, he had made an uncommonly generous proposal by which the mostly German-inhabited Free City of Danzig would return to the Reich, and a narrow passage through the Polish Corridor, which since 1919 had torn asunder the north-eastern part of Germany to an unbearable extent, would provide communication with the separated area. This proposal, which moreover afforded Poland the prospect of a 25-year non-aggression pact and other advantages, was nevertheless rejected in Warsaw, because there it was believed, conscious as the authorities were of forming one of the principal members of the common front set up by London against Germany, that any concession, however minor, could be refused. This was not all! With the same consciousness Poland then started to be aggressive, threatened Danzig, and prepared to take up arms against Germany.
Thus the moment was close at hand for the attack on the Reich by the countries which had been brought together for the purpose. Adolf Hitler, making a final extreme effort in the interests of peace, saved what he could. On 24 August 1939, Ribbentrop succeeded in reaching an agreement with Moscow for a non-aggression pact with Russia. Two days later, the Fuehrer himself made a final and truly remarkable offer to Britain, declaring himself ready “to enter into agreements with Great Britain,” “which. . .would not only, on the German side, in any case safeguard the existence of the British Empire, but, if necessary, would guarantee German assistance for the British Empire, irrespective of where such assistance might be required.”
At the same time he was prepared “to accept a reasonable limitation of armaments, in accordance with the new political situation and economic requirements.”
The reply to this was a pact of assistance signed the same day between Britain and Poland, which rendered the outbreak of war inevitable. Then a decision was made in Warsaw to mobilize at once against Germany, and the Poles began with violent attacks, not only on the Germans in Poland, who for some time had been the victims of frightful massacres, but on Germans in German territory.
But even when Britain and France had already declared war, as they intended, and Germany had overcome the Polish danger in the east by a glorious campaign without a parallel, even then Adolf Hitler raised his voice once more in the name of peace. He did so although his hands were now free to act against the enemy in the west. He did so, although the fight against him personally was proclaimed in London and Paris, in immeasurable hate, as a crusade. At this moment he possessed the supreme self-control to proclaim in his speech of 6 October 1939 a new plan for the pacification of Europe to public opinion throughout the world. This plan was as follows:
“By far the most important task, in my opinion, is the creation of not only a belief in, but also a sense of, European security.
“For this it is necessary that the aims of the foreign policy of each European state should be made perfectly clear. As far as Germany is concerned, the Reich Government is ready to give a thorough and exhaustive exposition of the aims of its foreign policy. In so doing, it begins by stating that the Treaty of Versailles is now regarded by it as obsolete, in other words, that the Government of the German Reich and with it the whole German people no longer see cause or reason for any further revision of the Treaty, apart from the demand for adequate colonial possessions justly due to the Reich, involving in the first place a return of the German colonies.
“This demand for colonies is based not only on Germany’s historical claim to her colonies, but above all on her elementary right to a share of the world’s resources of raw materials. This demand does not take the form of an ultimatum, nor is it a demand which is backed by force, but a demand based on political justice and sane economic principles.
“The demand for a real revival of international economic life coupled with an extension of trade and commerce presupposes a reorganization of the international economic system, in other words, of production in the individual states. In order to facilitate the exchange of goods thus produced, however, a new system of markets must be found and a final settlement of currencies arrived at, so that the obstacles in the path of unrestricted trade can be gradually removed.
“The most important condition, however, for a revival of economic life in and outside of Europe, is the establishment of an unconditionally guaranteed peace and of a sense of security on the part of the individual nations. This security will not be rendered possible by the final sanctioning of the European status, but above all by the reduction of armaments to a reasonable and economically tolerable level. An essential part of this necessary sense of security, however, is a clear definition of the legitimate use and application of certain modern armaments which can at any given moment strike straight at the heart of every nation and hence create a permanent sense of insecurity. In my previous speeches in the Reichstag I made proposals with this end in view. At that time they were rejected – presumably for the simple reason that they were made by me. I believe, however, that a sense of national security will not return to Europe until clear and binding international agreements have provided a comprehensive definition of the extent to which the use of certain weapons is permitted or forbidden.
“The Geneva Convention once succeeded in prohibiting, in civilized countries at least, the killing of the wounded, the ill-treatment of prisoners, war against non-combatants, etc., and just as it was possible gradually to achieve the universal observance of this statute, a way ought surely to be found to regulate aerial warfare, the use of poison gas, of submarines, etc., and also so to define contraband that war will lose its terrible character of a conflict waged against women and children and against non-combatants in general. The growing horror of certain methods of modern warfare will of its own accord lead to their abolition, and thus they will become obsolete. In the war with Poland, I endeavored to restrict aerial warfare to objectives of military importance, or only to employ it to combat resistance at a given point. But it must surely be possible to emulate the Red Cross in drawing up some universally valid international regulation. It is only when this is achieved that peace can reign, particularly on our densely populated continent – a peace which, uncontaminated by suspicion and fear, will provide the only possible condition for real economic prosperity. I do not believe that there is any responsible statesman in Europe who does not in his heart desire prosperity for his people. But such a desire can only be realized if all the nations inhabiting this continent decide to work together. To assist in ensuring this co-operation must be the aim of every man who is sincerely struggling for the future of his own people.
“To achieve this great end, the leading nations on this continent will one day have to come together in order to draw up, accept, and guarantee a statute on a comprehensive basis which will ensure for them a sense of security, of calm, – in short, of peace. Such a conference could not possibly be held without the most thorough preparation, i.e., without exact elucidation of every point at issue. It is equally impossible that such a conference, which would determine the fate of this continent for many years to come, could carry on its deliberations while cannons are thundering, or mobilized armies are bringing pressure to bear upon it. Since, however, these problems must be solved sooner or later, it would surely be more sensible to tackle the solution before millions of men are first uselessly sent to their death, and billions of dollars’ worth of property destroyed. The continuation of the present state of affairs in the west is unthinkable. Each day will soon demand increasing sacrifices. Perhaps the day will come when France will begin to bombard and demolish Saarbruecken. The German artillery will in turn lay Muehlhausen in ruins. France will retaliate by bombarding Karlsruhe, and Germany in her turn will shell Strassburg. Then the French artillery will fire at Freiburg, and the Germans at Kolmar or Schlettstadt. Long-range artillery will then be set up, and from both sides destruction will strike deeper and deeper, and whatever cannot be reached by the long-range artillery will be destroyed from the air. And that will be very interesting for certain international journalists, and very profitable for the aircraft, arms, and munition manufacturers, etc., but appalling for the victims. And this battle of destruction will not be confined to the land. No, it will reach far out over sea. Today there are no longer any islands.
“And the national wealth of Europe will be scattered in the form of shells, and the vigor of every nation will be sapped on the battlefields. One day, however, there will again be a frontier between Germany and France, but instead of flourishing towns there will be ruins and endless graveyards.”
The fate of this plan was the same as that of all the previous appeals made by Adolf Hitler in the name of reason, in the interest of a true renascence of Europe. His enemies paid him no heed. On this occasion also no response was forthcoming from them. They rigidly adhered to the attitude which they had taken up in the beginning.
And then, on 9 July 1940, almost 11 months after the war had started, a war which had brought German colors victory after victory, Adolf Hitler made his last peace offer. The French armistice had been concluded a month before. Great Britain had already started her indiscriminate night bombing of open German towns, killing German women and children, when Hitler in his historic address before the German Reichstag acknowledged failure of one of his most important aims of foreign policy and one that had been closest to his heart – friendship with England:
“Ever since the commencement of the National Socialist regime, two points were prominent in the program of its foreign policy: the achievement of a real understanding and friendship with Italy, and, second, the achievement of the same relationship with England . . . Even today, I still regret that, in spite of all my efforts, I have not succeeded in achieving that friendship with England which, as I believe, would have been a blessing for both peoples. I was not successful in spite of determined and honest efforts. . .”
After recalling all his attempts to bring about friendship and a lasting peace with Great Britain, he went on to say:
“In this hour, I feel it to be my duty before my own conscience to appeal once more to reason and common sense in Great Britain as much as elsewhere. I consider myself in a position to make this appeal since I am not the vanquished begging favors, but the victor speaking in the name of reason. I can see no reason why this war must go on. I am grieved to think of the sacrifices which it will claim. I should like to avert them also from my own people. I know that millions of German men, young and old alike, are burning with the desire at last to settle accounts with the enemy who, for the second time, has declared war upon us for no reason whatever. But I also know that at home there are many women and mothers who, ready as they are to sacrifice all they have in life, are yet bound to it by their very heartstrings.
“Possibly, Mr. Churchill will again brush aside this statement of mine by saying that it is merely born of fear and of doubt in our final victory . . .
“Mr. Churchill ought perhaps, for once, to believe me when I prophesy that a great Empire will be destroyed – an Empire which it was never my intention to destroy or even harm. I do, however, realize that this struggle, if it continues, can end only with the complete annihilation of one or the other of the two adversaries. Mr. Churchill believes that this will be Germany. I know that it will be different . . .”
Hitler had hardly finished when his offer was rejected with sneers.
These are the historical facts. Does anyone need an explanation of why Germany’s enemies rejected Hitler’s peace offers again and again? They had created Versailles and when Versailles collapsed they wanted to replace it with a new Versailles. The responsibility and guilt is theirs. They are the disturbers of peace, they are the ones who meditate the forcible oppression of other peoples and seek to plunge Europe into devastation and disaster. If it were not so, they would have long ago grasped the hand that was held out to them, or at least made a gesture of honest desire to understand and cooperate on a basis of equality and thus spare the world so much “blood, sweat, and tears.” World history is the world court; and in this case, as always, when it reaches its decision, it will pronounce a just verdict.
SOURCE: The Liberty Bell, September 1985