Background: This is the final chapter of Eugen Hadamovsky’s World History on the March, a book published shortly before the outbreak of the War. Hadamovsky was an early Nazi who wrote one of the few Nazi-era books on propaganda. He directed German radio after the takeover, and served in a variety of other posts as well. He was not quite up to Goebbels’ standards, however. Goebbels mutters about him quite often in his diaries. Toward the end of the war, Hadamovsky joined an SS division and died in combat on the Eastern front early in 1945.
This book begins with a review of Third Reich history, then focuses on the events of 1938. The Memel district was a portion of Germany lost to Lithuania as a result of World War I. Hitler secured its return in 1939. It was Hitler’s last territorial gain before the war broke out.
A brief biography is available.
The source: Eugen Hadamovsky, Weltgeschichte im Sturmschritt (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP., 1939), pp. 342-350.
Memel is Free!
The people who live along the Memel River are taciturn. They are tough, hard-working farmers, capable fishermen, cagey shopkeepers, brave soldiers.
It is hard for them to say what they think. It is almost impossible for them to say what they feel, to express their inmost feelings.
They belong to one of those serious German tribes that does not show its feelings. The Führer spoke along the East Prussian coast once during the period of struggle. East Prussia seemed then a distant island, ignored by the powers in Berlin.
The serious farmers and fishermen greeted the Führer silently in an empty factory, with arms raised. They listened in silence. If one did not know them, one might think that the speaker had failed to reach them.
But after that, East Prussia voted National Socialist and had probably the best vote totals in the whole country.
The most distant bastion of Germandom is the Memel District. It has the most serious and most silent of these people. As Prussia collapsed in 1806 after the Battle of Jena and Napoleon’s other victories, and after cities like Magdeburg, Graudenz, and numerous fortresses had surrendered without a fight, Memel was the last refuge for the Prussian king and queen.
As the huge French army disintegrated in the vast wilderness of snow in Russia, Memel was the first German region after Tyrolia that resisted Napoleon with arms!
Hard and loyal, brave and tough the Prussians of Memel have always been that way. Also in the difficult years after 1918.
“There is at least a century of cultural distance between the Memel Germans and the masses of Lithuania.”
So someone said to the Inter-Allied Commission that came from Versailles.
But the war criminals of Versailles did not hesitate to tear down the boundary and turn the Memel Germans over to Lithuania.
Ever since 1252 when the Prussian knights established a castle in the large, empty wilderness, Memel has been the oldest East Prussian city. Beyond the border lived the Lithuanians, to whom the German knights brought German culture and carried on friendly trade relations, although they often faced Lithuanian war parties and robber bands.
During the 18th and 19th centuries the Lithuanians, under Russian domination, remained a century behind the Memel Germans. As the Russian Empire collapsed in 1917, Germany recognized Lithuania’s independence, which had been won with the weapons and blood of German soldiers.
The present Lithuanian President Smenona appeared in Berlin in January 1918 at the head of a Lithuanian delegation to express “heartfelt and eternal thanks for liberation from Russian oppression.” He promised that Lithuania would always be a friendly neighbor to Germany, and that there were no points of conflict between them.
The November Revolution broke out a half year later. The proud Reich was defenseless. The dictates of Versailles demanded that separation of the Memel District. Lithuania tore off the friendly mask it had worn when Germany was strong. Only strong peoples can reckon with loyalty and fidelity
German troops had to withdraw. French and English warships sailed into the harbor, and French troops took control of the district.
As French Black solders invaded the Ruhr in 1923, Lithuanian soldiers disguised as civilians attacked the Memel District. They instigated riots and faked a “popular uprising.” The French occupiers left the field, and the Lithuanian military proclaimed a state of emergency in the Memel District to ensure their domination of terror over the entirely German population. Memel became “Lithuanian.”
The adherents of Germandom spent the next fifteen years in Lithuanian prisons and jails. Dr. Neumann, the leader of the Memel Germans, was sentenced to ten years in prison by a Lithuanian military court in 1934, four years of which he served under the eyes of Lithuanian guards.
As the Sudetenland was freed in October 1939, something dreadful happened.
The Sehm, the Lithuanian parliament, declared martial law and new laws for the Memel District. The Reich stepped in.
On 1 November 1938 martial law had to be lifted. Neumann, Bertuleit, Böttchner, and others German freedom fighters were released after hard years of imprisonment.
The long suppressed free will of the Memel people broke loose. A new election for the Memel parliament was held on 11 December. It was an overwhelming affirmation of Germandom. Over night the area was transformed, in Memel, in Heidelkrug, in Pogegen, and the rest of the Memel District.
My assistant broadcasting head Boese, then in the Memel District, reported to me: The citizens responded to the big election victory much the same was as we in the Reich responded to 30 January 1933. A wave of enthusiasm swept the land. Both in the countryside and in the cities, people assumed a return to the Reich would quickly follow. Everyone was waiting for the Führer. Lithuania’s offices, provacateurs and spies kept to the background and avoided provoking the German population.
It was clear to everyone that the return of the Memel District depended on one decision and one will: that of the Führer.
Lithuania has a choice between the crazy, costly path that Prague had chosen, or a voluntary and decent coming to terms with Germany. The Lithuanian President Smetona was enough of a statesman to chose the second way, the way to the Führer. He recognized the inner logic of the words he had once spoken in Berlin: There are no natural points of conflict between Germany and Lithuania.
As English warmongering reached its height on 20 and 21 March, England sought to encircle Germany though negotiations with Moscow, Warsaw, Bucharest, Paris, and Washington. As English rage sought to stop the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the Führer decided the time had come for German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop to invite the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Urbsys to Berlin. England and the Jews believed they had intimidated the Reich. The Führer’s ice-cold rebuke was plain when, on the morning of 22 March 1939, Dr. Goebbels announced:
During the night of 21-22 March, the Lithuanian government decided to return the Memel District to the Reich. 24 hours later, on the morning of 23 March, Adolf Hitler sailed into the harbor at Memel at the head of a strong German naval force and spoke to the loyal people of the most remote German territory.
Germany and Lithuania now established bridges of friendship serving both their interests and which build on the traditions of the past.
The treaty of 23 March affirmed the return of the Memel District, which had been separated by the Treaty of Versailles, to Germany. Germany in term provided generous support for the economic needs of Lithuania and gave Lithuania the right to establish a Lithuanian Free Zone in the Memel harbor. The lease took account of the installations built by the Lithuanians in the preceding twenty years.
Article 4 of the state treaty renounced the use of force between Germany and Lithuania, and pledged that neither would support a third country against the other signatory.
In a single week in March, the Führer had cleared the storm clouds in Europe.
Prague became German.
Bohemia and Moravia belong once more to the Reich,
Slovakia is under German protection.
The Memel District is free.
Romania is working closely with Germany.
The air is clear once more in Central Europe, as long as the Reich’s enemies make no attempt either from outside or by subversive means to create tensions and conflict.
If they do so, however, Germany will respond with the same speed that is characteristic of National Socialism.
In his major speech to the Reichstag Adolf Hitler said:
It is good to remind the world of that.
World history does not stand still.
The German triumph guarantees the future of our people.
We stood at the edge of the abyss, from which we were saved by Adolf Hitler’s genius.
Now we fight for our lives and our future. We will treat anyone who helps as a friend. He will also be able to count on our help. He who opposes us is our enemy. We will treat him as such.
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