Background: This article was published in Das Reich in late February 1945. Goebbels doesn’t really have any arguments to make any longer. The Russians are nearing Berlin and the Western Allies are plunging into Germany. Goebbels himself knows that the war can no longer be won. As a result he relies on the argument that German determination can still win the war, whatever the situation, and that to lose the war would mean death anyway, so Germans may as well go down fighting.
The source: “Unsere Chance” Das Reich, 18 February 1945.
by Joseph Goebbels
A war is lost only when a people and its leadership decide that it, and they themselves, are lost. Until then they have a chance of victory at any point, even when the momentary military or political situation seems to speak against it. The outcome of a war is determined only by the final battle. All previous battles are but preludes, and all depends on the moral behavior, political will, and life strength of a warring people and its leadership as to whether past victories remain a lasting gain or defeats remain a lasting fate. As long as the war continues, nothing is irremediable. Only when the mouths of cannons are silent and the final trumpet blows comes the time when the balance is taken on both sides, finally and unchangeably. Everything is open until then. There are countless examples when a military situation seemed to be leading inevitably to the collapse of a warring party was at a certain point transformed, changing for the good. This war, too, is not lacking in such dramatic changes. Such events do not happen naturally; the fortunes of war can be altered only by superhuman exertions by leadership and people. If they succeed, the result is an enormous increase in strength for the party presumed already defeated, and an enormous loss of strength on the part of the presumed victors. This is the mystery of war, which gives a chance to any people in any situation.
Here and there someone may say that this war is already too far advanced and has lasted too long to offer us such a major opportunity. The opposite is true. The nearer the end of the war seems, the more confident they are of its outcome. The length of the war affects both warring sides, and the more persuaded the presumed victor is of his final triumph, the more crushing is a change in the war situation. He is, therefore, more susceptible to setbacks, which strike him particularly hard because they are entirely unexpected. It is, therefore, not important if we have won or lost something particular in this war; it is much more important how we react to the unfortunate events of the war and what effects they have on our moral and material war potential. If a war always ended as looked probable or threatening at various phrases, then we, the English and Americans, or the Soviets would have won. That did not happen. Military developments are fluid and will remain so until one of the warring sides lays down its weapons. We alone must decide whether that will be us or our enemy. The side on which one is fighting is not by itself decisive. At one point we stood on the Atlantic coast, outside Moscow and Leningrad, and on the Volga, but the enemy did not capitulate. Today they are at the Rhine and the Oder; why should we do at this point what they did not do?
We often hear that our enemies back then could mobilize greater material resources, allowing them to hope for a complete change in the general military situation. This is not accurate. It is true that the enemy camp today has a more extensive military potential than we do, but only in a material sense, not a moral sense. The world on the enemy’s side is a chaotic jumble of hate, primitive lust for revenge, mutual betrayal, and/or capitalist-Bolshevist greed for theft and profit. They have no ideals, and therefore will and must fail. Everywhere that conditions force them to attempt to realize their hollow agitational promises, hunger, misery, and political and economic anarchy result. They are completely sterile and damned to political impotence. That will be evident everywhere, tomorrow if not today.
The betrayed peoples are beginning to see that; the contrast between the enemy’s agitational promises and cold reality is so crass and evident that even the dumbest and most naive can see. It cannot even be concealed from the peoples in the enemy camp forever. They have no war aim that is worth fighting and dying for. We have one. It has been forced upon us by our enemies, the defense of our very right to exist, a right that they threaten. A people that is no longer ready and able to assure them, to escape the insolent attacks of its enemies, has given up and is lost. It has no right to exist any longer and will, therefore, be seen and treated by the victorious powers as defenseless booty. We learned what that means in 1918 and 1919. Our enemies agree that the vile and brutal indignities that they inflicted on us then as a result of our gullibility and weakness were much too gentle, and that this time if they win must be increased in devilish ways. There is no doubt that they would carry out these threats if they could, if we lay down our weapons and give ourselves up to their power. We must, therefore, recognize that even the worst war is better and more bearable than a peace forced upon us by our enemies. A scoundrel without honor, he who reaches out his hand!
Our enemies cannot inflict such a peace on us if we do not help. They know that very well, else they would not constantly try to talk us into becoming weak and capitulating. A people that is determined to defend its life with every means, even the most bold and audacious, simply cannot be defeated. The war may continue for a long time, at least until our enemies realize that they cannot reach their own goal without at the same time endangering their own existence. This is a real chance for our victory, aside from all the other real and achievable means that are available to us even in the present war situation. The enemy peoples have been bled to a degree that most of us cannot imagine. They grant that they cannot bear this in the long term. One may reply that the same is true for us. Yes, but with this difference: as is clear from the threats of our enemies, we would have nothing more to lose if we gave up. The war for us is, therefore, more unlimited and radical. If one takes their proclamations seriously, each German will be able to choose the manner in which he will be liquidated or have his intellectual, spiritual, and physical existence wiped out. He can choose between a bullet in the back of the neck, deportation to Siberia, starvation, slave labor, or plague. There is no hate-filled punishment that they have not considered for us. One might almost believe that they would like to bring us back to life a few times after killing us in order to apply yet another of their threatened tortures to us. That is how they imagine the end of the war.
Is there a German man with honor, a German woman who loves her children, a German boy or girl whose whole life lies ahead, give any other answer than a burning and unshakable affirmation or further struggle, of standing up to danger? The agitation agencies of our enemies should not try lazy slogans with us. Even what they claim is mild in order to mislead us is simply not discussable. We spit on it. We would rather endure worse, even the worst, than to even consider such thoughts. We are determined to resist their shameless and malicious ideas at any price. The enemy may not deceive himself. We will resort to the most desperate measures rather than offer our hand in a way that would sell the life of the German people, its children and children’s’s children, forever. Germany is not India and our continent is no wild and unexplored part of the earth to which the world’s exploiters can do whatever they wish. What do our enemies think we are? Do they think that our misfortunes have so unnerved and weakened us that we have forgotten honor and are willing to sell our land for eternity for a pot of soup? In this point more than an other, we feel ourselves the representative of our people’s national will. What have we done in this war to deserve such a base and cowardly evaluation by our enemies?
Three world empires are attempting to throw us to the ground. Despite great superiority they have not yet succeeded, and will not succeed. Instead of feeling superior, they should be ashamed that even with a ten-to-one advantage in this war they have not succeeded in finishing us off. What would have happened to the English, the Americans, or the Soviets if we had had such an advantage! We would chase them to the ends of the earth. Has there ever been a people with such moral superiority, which was ready to bear any sorrow of war with Stoic equanimity, that had a reason to despair? Is it not much more justified to trust a higher Providence that rewards those who fight bravely with a just verdict? Frederick II stood with his four million Prussians against forty million enemies, but they were not able to defeat him even in the most hopeless situations. That is why he is called “the Great.” To make possible what seems to be impossible is a matter of political and military genius. If each war turned out the way everyday thinking expected, history would have no surprises, but also no great transformations. It would then be a series of insignificant and stupid conflicts the outcome of which could be easily predicted, more a matter for statisticians than great men. The opposite is the case. Why does history record at the most a dozen outstanding historic geniuses whose brilliant names lasted over the centuries and millennia? Because they did titanic deeds that sometimes seemed desperate to their contemporaries but are admired forever by posterity.
Here we have more than enough chances for victory. We find ourselves in the best company imaginable as we fight with iron determination for the life and future of our people, regardless of hard and painful setbacks and threats, willing to pay any price until total victory. Were we to weaken, we would join the ranks of Badolgio and Mannerheim, who plunged their peoples into the deepest misery, always in the mistaken belief that cowardice and lack of character are the best councillors amidst the storms of history. We, however stand tall, looking to the future, because we know that the bridges behind us that might provide shameful opportunity to retreat are burned, and before us is not only a more beautiful, freer German future, but also the greatest eternal glory that fate has ever given to men and peoples. Steadfastness is indeed a matter of political idealism, but it is also the most valuable factor in war. It must be in our flesh and blood. We must never even raise the possibility that we could end this battle of the peoples by cowardly surrender. Even the slightest whisper of that would be a departure from the clear and uncompromising policy of our war leadership, with which we stand or fall. There is only one way to save ourselves, and that is through bravery at all times,
That will in the end result not only in laurel wreaths, but also in victory. He in the enemy camp who believes that he has stunned us with his blows deceives himself and does not know who we are. We wipe the blood from our eyes and look directly and without fear at the enemy. His seductive phrases find only deaf ears with us. Our salvation is in weapons. We forge and wield them for the final battle that will decide everything. That is our great chance today. It depends entirely on us whether tomorrow will be our great victory.
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