German Propaganda Archive Calvin College

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Background: Goebbels gave a speech every year on the eve of Hitlerís birthday. This is the speech for Hitlerís 48th birthday in 1937

The source: Joseph Goebbels, “Unser Hitler. Goebbels zum 48. Geburtstag des Führers, Wetterleuchten (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1939), pp. 388-392.


Our Hitler

Goebbels’ 1937 Speech on Hitlerís 48th Birthday


There are words the Führer has spoken that are unforgettable for the German people. They live beyond the moment and its particular significance. Among these are the words he spoke on 8 November 1936 to his old fighting comrades in the Munich Bürgerbräukeller [the site of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch]. He described the great difficulties he faced in fighting for the renewal of German freedom and security. To breathless silence, he then said that for the first time in his political life his work had progressed to the point that he could look to the future without grave concerns. That was deeply moving not only for us, his old fighting comrades, but for the entire German people. We shared one of those rare moments in which the Führer opened his heart to the nation. Each German suddenly had a personal insight into the great historic mission that the Führer had fulfilled, depending entirely and only on himself.

People in the democracies sometimes say that authoritarian governments have it easy. They do not need to worry about parties and parliaments, but rather make the decisions they think best and are not hindered by any majority or minority. In truth, that is hard, not easy. An authoritarian leadership certainly enjoys freedom of action. If it takes its responsibilities seriously, however, it has more to bear than the governments of parliamentary democracies. It has not only the power, but also sole and full responsibility. If problems mount up and there seems no escape from the difficulties, it cannot resign. It cannot hide behind an anonymous parliamentary majority that has no true responsibility. It stands or falls according to its historic mission; like the soldier in war, it must stand at its post.

Such responsibility is too heavy for an individual to bear, were not the people behind him. That is why the Führer saw his first political task as seeking out the entirety of the people and going with them on his tiring and difficult path. Perhaps it was good that the people did not immediately fall into his arms, that he had to fight bitterly for 14 years to win the nation. Only thus did the nation come to belong to him so thoroughly and completely.

There are men whom the people fear, men whom they respect, men whom they honor. But the greatest fortune of an historic personality is to be loved by a people. The greatest honor a man can hold is to be so bound and united with his people that he can at any time and in any situation speak in their name.

That is the case with the Führer. He is in fact the bearer of the German national will. His voice is the voice of the people.

People often ask for an explanation of this wonderful miracle. Evil-minded critics abroad would like the world to believe that it is a matter of conscious and determined popularity chasing. They know neither the Führer nor the German people. During Germanyís democratic episode from 1918 to 1933, popularity was in fact chased. The parliamentary governments found no means too tasteless or too crude. But the nation failed to support them, viewing them only with contempt, scorn and mockery. The Führer, to the contrary, has simply done his duty since he has stood at the head of the people, placing the full force of his strong heart in service of his historic mission. He has worked for his great goals without posturing or big talking. He has acted where others only talked, he spoke where others were silent. In his own cause he not only spoke, but let his actions speak for him. His actions are not determined by the nervous haste of a nine day wonder, who reaches for momentary success because he has missed the decisive hour. Never before has Germany taken such a long view as today. And never before has there been a man who worked at the head of the nation in so calm and disciplined a manner and in so sensitive and clear a way.

In all that happens in Germany today, whether economically, socially, or culturally, whether domestically or in foreign policy, one senses clearly that behind it all is the ordering and ruling hand of the Führer. There is no area of public life that is hidden from him, or with which he is unfamiliar. His clear gaze reaches far, and he is involved in everything that happens.

He is the best expert one can imagine. It is entirely impossible to deceive him with Potemkin villages.

There are those who have learned that by guiding him through exhibitions, or by giving speeches at conferences about future plans and projects. Perhaps they believed they were on safe ground, but they soon learned to their shame and embarrassment that even the tiniest error in statistics or facts was immediately noted. Suddenly they found themselves in an unexpected crossfire of questions that displayed a startling understanding and surprising knowledge of an apparently esoteric topic.

A genius is able to see what is essential in things, situations, and people, to leave the nonessential to the experts, to think in fundamentals, and to carry the fundamentals through amidst a confusing mass of specialized knowledge. The Führer has this ability in great measure. His greatest gift is to distinguish the essential from the nonessential. He has an astonishing memory that always amazes even his closest comrades. He knows the important dates of Greek, Roman, English, French, and, of course, Prussian and German history. He knows even the most obscure names in every area of human activity. Without a momentís thought, he can draw the outlines of the Paris Opera, the Viennese Parliament or the Dresden Zwinger Opera.

During discussions on the rebuilding of the Reich capital, we saw that he knows Berlin better than any Berliner.

He understands every modern weapon. He knows the tonnage of all warships, our own, of course, but also those of foreign nations.

He is one might say a specialist in every area, but the wonderful thing is that while most specialists never go beyond their knowledge, his knowledge is the raw material for understanding and action.

His victories have stature.

Recently in a speech to a small group of his Gauleiter, he quoted Field Marshall von Schlieffenís distinction between ordinary and great victories. His victories are of the latter variety. He does not like causing feuds, and hates bombastic phrases that can only benefit our many enemies. He seeks his enemies out and joins battle when it is unavoidable; then he brings to bear his full strength and energy. He does not concern himself with minor, ordinary problems. He chooses tasks that are worth his while, and solves them in ways that are always simple and surprising. The victories he wins are truly grand. That is true above all of his successes in foreign policy, which even his most stubborn critics abroad cannot deny him.

Flexible tactics — firm principles.

Typical of his working style is to go the heart of a matter, ignoring trivial and side issues. Tactics are always only the means to an end. But his political strategy is aimed at great national goals. It rests on firm moral foundations that are realized step by step, proving that great policies do not ruin character, but rather makes it hard and firm.

Fools are mostly stubborn both in tactics and principles. Intelligent and experienced political strategy, to the contrary, follows a clear and direct set of principles, but uses flexible tactics that change according to the situation. They are elastic and adjustable.

During the past four years we have an unbroken and effective example of this in the Führerís work. During the first stages, he certainly had to make some risky decisions. Nothing would be more unjust, however, than to think he made such a decision carelessly, even once. Before every action, in worried days and sleepless nights, he thought through every option and possibility. Once he made a decision, he acted as a man confident in his star.

Only his closest comrades know of the unending worries, worries that at times seemed unbearable. Only they know of the nervous and tortured hours when he alone bore the full responsibility.

The successes in all areas of our political life that seem almost self-evident to us today are the fruit of what came before. A united people, a strong nation in possession of weapons and able to defend its territory and honor, these are towering monuments. Every day, and especially on holidays, the people surround him with all their love. This perhaps springs from a need to be near to him, to live with him, to share his worries. This love comes to clearest expression during national holidays or in trying times.

Today is such a holiday. The whole nation joins in celebrating his 48th birthday. A flood of love, confidence, devotion, and thankfulness flows toward him. The mountains of letters and telegrams, the countless gifts that even today, and more so tomorrow, will pour into the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, give evidence of this love. They all carry the same wish, whether spoken or unspoken. One might almost say it is the prayer of the nation to the Almighty: May the Führer remain with us in strength, health, and power for many years as the flag bearer of the people, as the first among the millions of workers, soldiers, farmers and citizens, as the friend and protector of the youth, the patron of the arts, the supporter of culture and science, the architect of the united new nation!

We, his closest comrades, stand beside him on his day of honor. We lay our whole love and strong confidence at his feet. We are of one heart and one mind with him and the whole nation. We are filled with wonderful joy to know that one of the great ones of our history is with us, to know that we serve and help him in his work that will survive the ages.

Under his hand, Germany has lifted itself from shame and impotence. The German people, encouraged and called by him, are once more aware of their mission. We all share the happy feeling of working to realize an ideal that makes life worth living.

The Germany that bears his name will be great and strong. Its people will again learn to be a great people and to act accordingly. Our children and childrenís children will find in it the homeland that encompasses all the Germans of the world, the strong protector of our life, our nature, and our work.

From all the Reich, from all German hearts on every continent, in foreign nations and on the wide oceans, the thanks and praise of millions rise united. May he remain to us what he always was and is: Our Hitler!

 

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