He then went on to say:Basically I did not organize the armed forces in order not to strike.
Hitler's fixed intention to start a war is a fact frequently contested by revisionist historians and amateurs today.The decision to strike was always in me. Earlier or later I wanted to solve the problem [of living space for Germany].
Document 789-PS, Fuehrer conference of 23 November 1939, in Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume III, US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1946, pp. 572-580.
Readers interested in this subject may want to take a look at the thread "The Hossbach conference (Text)" at:[Penciled note:] Duplicate
23 November 1939, 1200 hours. Conference with the Fuehrer, to which all Supreme Commanders are ordered. The Fuehrer gives the following speech:
The purpose of this conference is to give you an idea of the world of my thoughts, which governs me in the face of future events, and to tell you my decisions. The building up of our armed forces was only possible in connection with the ideological [weltanschaulich] education of the German people by the Party. When I started my political task in 1919, my strong belief in final success was based on a thorough observation of the events of the day and the study of the reasons for their occurrence. Therefore, I never lost my belief in the midst of set-backs which were not spared me during my period of struggle. Providence has had the last word and brought me success. On top of that, I had a clear recognition of the probable course of historical events, and the firm will to make brutal decisions. The first decision was in 1919 when I after long internal conflict became a politician and took up the struggle against my enemies. That was the hardest of all decisions. I had, however, the firm belief that I would arrive at my goal. First of all, I desired a new system of selection. I wanted to educate a minority which would take over the leadership. After 15 years, I arrived at my goal, after strenuous struggles and many set-backs. When I came to power in 1933, a period of the most difficult struggle lay behind me. Everything existing before that had collapsed. I had to reorganize everything beginning with the mass of the people and extending it to the armed forces. First reorganization of the interior, abolishment of appearances of decay and defeatist ideas, education to heroism. While reorganizing the interior, I undertook the second task: to release Germany from its international ties. Two particular characteristics are to be pointed out: secession from the League of Nations and denunciation of the disarmament conference. It was a hard decision. The number of prophets who predicted that it would lead to the occupation of the Rhineland was large, the number of believers was very small. I was supported by the nation, which stood firmly behind me, when I carried out my intentions. After that the order for rearmament. Here again there were numerous prophets who predicted misfortunes, and only a few believers. In 1936 the introduction of compulsory armed service. After that militarization of the Rhineland, again a process believed to be impossible at that time. The number of people who put trust in me, was very small. Then the beginning of the fortification of the whole country especially in the west.
One year later, Austria came, this step also was considered doubtful. It brought about a considerable reinforcement of the Reich. The next step was Bohemia, Moravia and Poland. This step also was not possible to accomplish in one campaign. First of all, the western fortification had to be finished. It was not possible to reach the goal in one effort. It was clear to me from the first moment that I could not be satisfied with the Sudeten-German territory. That was only a partial solution. The decision to march into Bohemia was made. Then followed the erection of the Protectorate and with that the basis for the action against Poland was laid, but I wasn't quite clear at that time whether I should start first against the east and then in the west or vice-versa. Moltke often made the same calculations in his time. Under pressure the decision came to fight with Poland first. One might accuse me of wanting to fight and fight again. In struggle I see the fate of all beings. Nobody can avoid a struggle if he does not want to lose out. The increasing number of people requires a larger living space [Lebensraum]. My goal was to create a logical relation between the number of people and the space for them to live in. The struggle must start here. No people can get away from the solution of this task or else it must yield and gradually die out. That is taught by history. First migration of peoples to the southwest, then adaptation of the number of people to the small space by emigration. In the last years, adaptation of the people to insufficient space, by reducing the number of births. This would lead to the death and weakening of the blood of the people. If a people chooses that course all their weaknesses are mobilized. One yields to the force of the outside and uses this force against one's self by killing of the child. This means the greatest cowardice, decimation of the number, and loss of value. I decided a different way: adaptation of the living space to the number of people. One acknowledgement is important. The state has a meaning only if it supports the maintenance of its population potential. In our case 82 millions of people were concerned. That means the greatest responsibility. He who does not want to assume this responsibility is not worthy of belonging to the mass of the people. That gave me the strength to fight. It is one eternal problem to bring the number of Germans to a proper relationship to the available space. Security of the needed space. No calculated cleverness is of any help, solution only with the sword. A people unable to produce the strength to fight must withdraw. Struggles are different than those of 100 years ago. Today we can speak of a racial fight. Today we fight for oilfields, rubber, treasures of the earth, etc. After the peace of Westphalia Germany disintegrated. Disintegration, impotence of the German Reich was determined by decree. This German impotence was removed by the creation of the Reich when Prussia realized her task. Then the opposition between France and England began. Since 1870 England has been against us. Bismarck and Moltke were certain that there would have to be one more action. The danger at that time was of a two-front war. Moltke was at times in favor of a preventive war. To take advantage of the slow progress of the Russian mobilization. German armed might was not fully employed. Insufficient sternness of the leading personalities. The basic thought of Moltke was the offensive. He never thought of the defense. Many opportunities were missed after Moltke's death. The solution was only possible by attacking a country at a favorable moment. Political and military leadership always declared that it was not yet ready. In 1914 there came the war on several fronts. It did not bring the solution of these problems. Today the second act of this drama is being written. For the first time in 67 years it must be made clear that we do not have a two-front war to wage. That which has been desired since 1870 and considered as impossible of achievement has come to pass. For the first time in history we have to fight on only one front, the other front is at present free. But no one can know how long that will remain so. I have doubted for a long time whether I should strike in the east and then in the west. Basically I did not organize the armed forces in order not to strike. The decision to strike was always in me. Earlier or later I wanted to solve the problem. Under pressure it was decided that the east was to be attacked first. If the Polish war was won so quickly, it was due to the superiority of our armed forces. The most glorious appearance in history. Unexpectedly small expenditures of men and material. Now the eastern front is held by only a few divisions. It is a situation which we viewed previously as unachievable. Now the situation is as follows: The opponent in the west lies behind his fortifications. There is no possibility of coming to grips with him. The decisive question is: how long can we endure this situation? Russia is at present not dangerous. It is weakened by many incidents today. Moreover, we have a pact with Russia. Pacts, however, are only held as long as they serve the purpose. Russia will hold herself to it only so long as Russia considers it to be to her benefit. Even Bismarck thought so. Let one think of the pact to assure our back. Now Russia has far-reaching goals, above all the strengthening of her position in the Baltic. We can oppose Russia only when we are free in the West. Further Russia is striving to increase her influence on the Balkans and is striving toward the Persian Gulf. That is also the goal of our foreign policy. Russia will do that which she considers to benefit her. At the present moment it has retired from internationalism. In case she renounces this, she will proceed to Pan-Slavism. It is difficult to see into the future. It is a fact that at the present time the Russian army is of little worth. For the next one or two years the present situation will remain.
Much depends on Italy, above all on Mussolini, whose death could alter everything. Italy has a great goal for the consolidation of her empire. Those who carry this idea are fascism and the Duce, personally. The court is opposed to that. As long as the Duce lives, then it can be calculated that Italy will seize every opportunity to reach her imperialistic goal. However, it is too much to ask of Italy, that it should join in the battle before Germany has seized the offensive in the west: Just so Russia did not attack until we had marched into Poland. Otherwise Italy will think that France has only to deal with Italy, since Germany is sitting behind its West Wall. Italy will not attack until Germany has taken the offensive against France. Just as the death of Stalin, so the death of the Duce can bring danger to us. Just how easily the death of a statesman can come I myself have experienced recently. The time must be used to the full, otherwise one will suddenly find himself faced with a new situation. As long as Italy maintains this position then no danger from Jugoslavia is to be feared. Just so is the neutrality of Rumania achieved by the position of Russia. Scandinavia is hostile to us because of Marxistic influences, but is neutral now. America is still not dangerous to us because of its neutrality laws. The strengthening of our opponents by America is still not important. The position of Japan is still uncertain, it is not yet certain whether she will join against England.
Everything is determined by the fact that the moment is favorable now; in 6 months it might not be so anymore.
As the last factor I must name my own person in all modesty: irreplaceable. Neither a military nor a civil person could replace me. Assassination attempts may be repeated. I am convinced of the powers of my intellect and of decision. Wars are always ended only by the destruction of the opponent. Everyone who believes differently is irresponsible. Time is working for our adversary. Now there is a relationship of forces which can never be more propitious, but can only deteriorate for us. The enemy will not make peace when the relationship of forces is unfavorable for us. No compromise. Sternness against ourselves. I shall strike and not capitulate. The fate of the Reich depends only on me. I shall deal accordingly. Today we have a superiority such as we have never had before. After 1914 our opponents disarmed themselves of their own accord. England disregarded the construction of her fleet. The fleet is no longer sufficiently large to safeguard the shipping lanes. Only two modern new constructions: Rodney and Nelson. New construction activity only in the cruisers of the Washington class, which were, however, an unsatisfactory type. The new measures can become effective only in 1941. In the Abyssinian war England did not have enough strength to occupy the Tana Sea. At Malta, Gibraltar and London little anti-aircraft protection. Since 1937 a renewal of rearmament. At present however, only a small number of divisions, which must form the nucleus of new divisions. Material for the army being gathered together from all over the world. Not before next summer is a positive action to be expected. The British army has only a symbolic meaning. Rearmament in the air is proceeding. The first phase will end in the spring of 1940. Antiaircraft has only guns from the last war. A German flyer is safe from English anti-aircraft fire at 6000 meters altitude. The navy will not be fully rearmed before one to two years [1-2 Jahren]. I have the greatest experience in rearmament and I know the difficulties which must be overcome therein.
After 1914 France reduced the length of service. After 1914 decrease of military might. Only in some special branches are we inferior. Only the French Navy was modernized. In the time after the war the French army deteriorated. There were no changes until Germany rearmed and announced her demands.
1. The number of active organizations in Germany is greatest.
2. Superiority of the Luftwaffe.
3. Anti-aircraft beyond all competition.
4. Tank corps.
5. Large number of anti-tank guns, five times as many as 1914 machine guns.
6. German artillery has great superiority because of the 10.5 gun.
7. French superiority in howitzers and mortars does not exist.
Numerical superiority, but also the value of the individual soldier is greater than for the others. I am most deeply pained when I hear the opinion that the German army is not individually as valuable as it should be. The infantry in Poland did not accomplish what one should have expected from it. Lax discipline. I believe that the soldiers must be judged in their relative value in comparison with the opponent. There is no doubt that our armed forces are the best. Every German infantryman is better than the French. Not the exhilaration of patriotism but tough determination. I am told that the troops will only advance if the officers lead the way. In 1914 that was also the case. I am told that we were better trained then. In reality we were only better trained on the drill field, but not for the war. I must pay the present leadership the compliment that it is better than it was in 1914. Mention of the collapse while storming Liege. There was nothing like this in the campaign in Poland.
Five million Germans have been called to the colors. Of what importance if a few of them collapse. Daring in the army, navy and Luftwaffe. I can not bear it when one says the army is not in good shape. Everything lies in the hands of the military leader. I can do anything with the German soldier if he is well led. We have succeeded with our small navy in clearing the North Sea of the British. Recognition of the small navy, especially the High Command of the Navy.
We have a Luftwaffe which has succeeded in safeguarding the entire living space of the Germans.
The land army achieved outstanding things in Poland. Even in the West it was not shown that the German soldier is inferior to the French.
Revolution from within is impossible. We are superior to the enemy numerically in the West. Behind the Army stands the strongest armament industry of the world.
I am disturbed by the stronger and stronger appearance of the English. The English are a tough enemy. Above all on defence. There is no doubt that England will be very much represented in France at the latest in six to eight months.
We have an Achilles heel: The Ruhr. The progress of the war depends on the possession of the Ruhr. If England and France push through Belgium and Holland into the Ruhr, we shall be in the greatest danger. That could lead to the paralyzing of the German power of resistance. Every hope of compromise is childish: Victory or defeat! The question is not the fate of a national socialistic Germany, but who is to dominate Europe in the future. The question is worthy of the greatest efforts. Certainly England and France will assume the offensive against Germany when they are armed. England and France have means of pressure to bring Belgium and Holland to request English and French help. In Belgium and Holland the sympathies are all for France and England. Mention of the incident at Venlo: The man who was shot was not an Englishman, but a Dutch General Staff officer. This was kept silent in the press. The Dutch government asked that the body of the Dutch officer be given up. This is one of their greatest stupidities. The Dutch press does not even mention the incident anymore. At a given time I shall use that to motivate my action. If the French army marches into Belgium in order to attack us, it will be too late for us. We must anticipate them. One more thing. U-boats, mines, and Luftwaffe (also for mines) can strike England effectively, if we have a better starting point. Now a flight to England demands so much fuel that sufficient bomb loads cannot be carried. The invention of a new type mine is of greatest importance for the Navy. Aircraft will be the chief mine layers now. We shall sow the English coast with mines which cannot be cleared. This mine warfare with the Luftwaffe demands a different starting point. England cannot live without its imports. We can feed ourselves. The permanent sowing of mines on the English coasts will bring England to her knees. However, this can only occur if we have occupied Belgium and Holland. It is a difficult decision for me. None has ever achieved what I have achieved. My life is of no importance in all this. I have led the German people to a great height, even if the world does hate us now. I am setting this work on a gamble. I have to choose between victory or destruction. I choose victory. Greatest historical choice, to be compared with the decision of Frederick the Great before the first Silesian war. Prussia owes its rise to the heroism of one man. Even there the closest advisers were disposed to capitulation. Everything depended on Frederick the Great. Even the decisions of Bismarck in 1866 and 1870 were no less great. My decision is unchangeable. I shall attack France and England at the most favorable and quickest moment. Breach of the neutrality of Belgium and Holland is meaningless. No one will question that when we have won. We shall not bring about the breach of neutrality as idiotically as it was in 1914. If we do not break the neutrality, then England and France will. Without attack the war is not to be ended victoriously. I consider it as possible to end the war only by means of an attack. The question as to whether the attack will be successful no one can answer. Everything depends upon the favorable instant. The military conditions are favorable. A prerequisite however, is that the leadership must give an example of fanatical unity from above. There would not be any failures if the leaders always had the courage a rifleman must have.
Individual acknowledgments: The enemy must be beaten only by attack. Chances are different today than during the offensive of 1918. Numerically we can use more than 100 divisions. With respect to men, reserves can be supplied. The material situation is good. Moreover that which is not ready today must be ready tomorrow. The whole thing means the end of the World War, not just of a single action. It concerns not just a single question but the existence or non-existence of the nation.
I ask you to pass on the spirit of determination to the lower echelons.
1. The decision is irrevocable.
2. The only prospect for success, if the whole armed forces are determined.
The spirit of the great men of our history must hearten us all. Fate demands from us no more than from the great men of German history. As long as I live I shall think only of the victory of my people. I shall shrink from nothing and shall destroy everyone who is opposed to me. I have decided to live my life so that I can stand unshamed if I have to die. I want to destroy the enemy. Behind me stands the German people, whose morale can only grow worse. Only he who struggles with destiny can have a good intuition. In the last years I have experienced many examples of intuition. Even in the present development I see the prophecy.
If we come through this struggle victoriously -- and we shall come through victoriously -- our time will enter into the history of our people. I shall stand or fall in this struggle. I shall never survive the defeat of my people. No capitulation to the outside forces, no revolution from the interior forces.