Background: Karl Hanke was Gauleiter of Niederschlesien from 1941-1945. He left Breslau just before its fall in early May 1945 upon being appointed successor to Heinrich Himmler, but was killed soon after.
The source: “Männliche Worte aus der Festung Breslau,” Vôlkischer Beobachter (Vienna Edition), 6 March 1945, p. 1. This is taken from a newspaper article available on ANNO, an Austrian project to digitize a wide range of newspapers.
Berlin, 5 March. Amidst the hardest defensive battle, the German people could hear the strong and clear voice of one of the unshaken tens of thousands of Germans fighting in Fortress Breslau. In simple and concise sentences he gave a passionate affirmation of the future of the Reich. It was Lower Silesia’s Gauleiter Karl Hanke, who gave a report over the radio.
Gauleiter Hanke said that the defenders of Breslau did not want to be compared to comrades along the Atlantic, whose battle is much harder. Still, less than fifty kilometers from Breslau at Zobten, German regiments and divisions are defending against Bolshevism. He remembers a question he asked earlier, however: where do comrades in the Atlantic bases find the strength to speak with such confidence and faith.
“Today the defenders of Fortress Breslau know the reasons. Today we think and feel as they do. The reason is that we have tossed aside all the ballast that we carried through life that we previously and wrongly called culture, but was really only cheap civilization. Often we believed that the destruction of these outward signs of bourgeois life also meant our destruction. That is not true. Tens of thousands of men and women in Fortress Breslau have learned through experience that everything that once seemed absolutely necessary for their personal existence, their home, their memories, their collections, a thousand little things dear to their hearts, these they have all given up without breaking down.
What is now important for us and between us is the strength of our fists that gives support to the fighters in the fortress. This discovery draws on sources that one formerly did not know. It is faith in our manly work, the knowledge that what human hands have built and the enemy has destroyed can also be rebuilt. We know that it will be no problem for us to rebuild what the battle today has destroyed, and that in comparison to slave labor under Bolshevism it will be a joy for us to rebuild our villages and cities, making them better and more beautiful than they ever were before.
Now we have learned that even after suffering the greatest defeat, after the greatest shock, all of us — myself included — have found that we can mobilize more strength in Fortress Breslau than we had ever imagined. I do not ignore the difficulty of our battle. Tens of thousands of dutiful men and women step onto the streets each morning to remove the rubble, soot, and ashes from the roads so that messengers, military ambulances, and trucks can move freely. I speak in all their names when I say that it has become clear to the last woman and the last man in Breslau, even if he is not yet a soldier, what our fighters in battle in the East have accomplished over the years. We thought we knew how to value their efforts, but only today have we come to understand what they did for us in the past.
The fact that we in Fortress Breslau now have the opportunity to defend ourselves against this new Mongol storm is thanks only to them, these old tested fighters in the East. The many Volksturm battalions in our fortress at the beginning were often poorly armed, but are proud when recognized by the commanders of the old eastern battalions and are seen more and more each day as dependable comrades. Sixty-year-olds have often fought like young soldiers, and beyond all praise are the young men from the Hitler Youth. These youths bearing the iron cross have given us a sense of our struggle as never before. He who has looked these youths in the eye knows the truth of these words: “We are bringing on the new age.” We do not know what fate has in store for us and Fortress Breslau, but this we do know when we look into the eyes of the youngest and most faithful of our fanatic youth:
Whatever happens, things will be built here in Breslau and Lower Silesia, and it will be easy for those who come after us to make this city more beautiful and greater than it was before, just as it was for the colonists of 1241 [after Breslau had been destroyed by invading Mongols]. One thing that those who follow us do not deserve, however, and what we must not leave them, are the ashes and ruins of a cowardly flight and a surrender without battle.
We do not think it will come to that, because we believe in our own strength. There are things that affect us personally. Modestly and realistically we know that our resistance holds back enemy forces, and that we can prove that determined resistance can also stop the Bolshevist opponent. For he who has lost all material ties, the words of Jakob Böhner apply: “He who does not die before he dies perishes when he does die.”
All of our thoughts, whether in Fortress Breslau or Fortress Glogau, or at the front near Zobten, at Goldberg, Lauban, or the Laustitz Nieße, are with our women and children on treks through Lower Saxony seeking refuge in other Gaue. We men here give all we have and are ready for anything. But in any moment we have to spare, we think of our families, our women and children, who are now depending on the protection and aid of those they encounter on their way to the interior of the Reich.
Our request, and my request as well as Gauleiter of Lower Saxony to all other Gaue, is to meet our Silesians with the camaraderie that is the demand of the hour for our whole people. And I call on all who have evacuated from our region, even if you have for weeks been on long treks and train trips — I know this — to join the front of all those who are working for victory. That is the best that you could do for us.
We in Fortress Breslau pledge to stand with unshakable faith in the Reich and the Führer, not to waver, even if still harder days come for us, and to fight as long as there is even a spark of strength in us!”
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