Background: Goebbels gave a speech every year on the eve of Hitler’s birthday. The 1940 speech was the first of those given during the war. It takes a less personal tone than previous speeches, presenting Hitler as a superhuman figure. In his diary entry for 20 April, Goebbels recorded: “Last evening I spoke over the radio on the Führer’s birthday. With great success, I believe. Unfortunately one can’t tell on the radio.”
Good treatments of the development of the Hitler myth are provided by Bramsted and Kershaw.
The source: I use the published version of the text from Goebbels’ wartime book Die Zeit ohne Beispiel (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1941). The text of the speech is also available in any German newspaper of 20 April 1940.
Goebbels’ 1940 Speech on Hitler’s Birthday
On 3 September last year, two hours after English plutocracy declared war on the German Reich, the British Prime Minister Chamberlain gave a radio speech to the German people in the most broken German. One might call it the first English act of war, and it proved to be the first, worst, and most fateful psychological error that the British plutocracy could make. Chamberlain did not betray who had given him the right to speak to the German nation. He was of the opinion that the German people he was attempting to speak to was in about the same intellectual and spiritual condition as it was after the capitulation of 9 November 1918, when it gave itself up to the arbitrary lust for revenge of the Western powers. The point of the speech was that England had no intention of waging war against the German people, but rather intended to help them. Germany needed only to accept the simple British proposal to get rid of the Führer or so-called Hitlerism, and the result would be a quick and easy peace. We can remark in passing that during the seven months of the war, British plutocracy had long since stopped telling the world such hypocritical platitudes. Its best and most eloquent publicists have long since made it clear that the goal of British plutocracy is to destroy the German people and the German Reich. They wish to return it to its state after the Peace of Westphalia in the year 1648.
At the beginning of the war, however, they sang the same old song. It was a bit too familiar to our ears to be effective. Its melody was dull and worn out. British plutocracy had tried to persuade the Boers during the South African war of the same thing. Britain was only fighting Krugerism. As is well known, that did not stop them from allowing countless thousands of women and children to starve in English concentration camps. During the World War as well, England was supposedly fighting only against the Kaiser, not the German people. Yet after we fell for the British swindle, we were forced at Versailles in 1919 to accept the most disgraceful and humiliating peace treaty of modern history.
But that is aside from the point. If the German people took any notice at all of the whining remarks of the English prime minister, it observed the lying tone even in the first days of the war. It took only a psychological interest in the speech. Mr. Chamberlain probably did not realize that the German people were fully aware that their struggle for existence had begun, and that they would think it infamous and entirely foolish for the head British plutocrat, of all people, to attempt to persuade them to give up their sharpest and best defensive weapon, namely the relationship between the Führer and the nation. It was really the most stupid thing that London could have done at that critical time. In his encouragement to separate from the Führer, Chamberlain hit the most sensitive part of the German people’s soul. One might just as well try to persuade a believing and trusting child that he should leave his parents in the lurch at a moment of danger.
It is really more proof of the unlimited stubbornness with which the leading and governing English plutocratic class likes to see the world outside England. It has not the least idea of the transformation the German people has undergone since 1918, and particularly in the last seven years. It may be that in more peaceful times our people have debated minor and trivial issues heatedly, even fought about them. One likes something, the next one does not. We Germans obviously come from the most varied political camps. We adult Germans were around before National Socialism. We had rather vague political positions and worldviews. Countless Germans were then members of other parties and adherents of other worldviews. It is even possible that some of us still have remnants of former views. That may be true, and is not all that bad. We Germans do all agree on one thing, though: There is nothing that can separate us from the love, obedience and confidence we have in and for the Führer. We all know that that is the strongest weapon that the German nation has in its battle for existence.
For the first time in German history, the political instinct of our people finds its expression and fulfillment in a leading personality. That is why the connection we feel to the Führer is to deeply rooted, and why particularly in challenging times this relationship of confidence between Führer and people reaches a degree that is incomprehensible to the so-called democratic peoples.
We face a hard test today. Modern war is fought not only with weapons. We see in the recent past a growing comprehensiveness to military thinking. War today is waged on all fronts, on the economic front and above all on the front of the struggle for the souls of nations. This war is a gigantic struggle that affects every area of popular life. It is not unknown to us that the British plutocratic class has won its past victories by destroying the spiritual foundations of its enemies, using selfish and dirty means to advance its own interests.
That is why London has always been particularly active in the battle for the popular soul. It does not cost much, and saves a lot of blood and money. Until the arrival of National Socialism, the German people were particularly susceptible in this regard. That explains why we first failed spiritually on 9 November 1918, collapsing only after that in all other areas. The Führer’s educational work has made the German people forever immune to such attempts in the future. Plutocratic England is whistling in the wind when it even attempts to speak to the German people, which explains why it increasingly is giving up the numbing and seductive phrases it tried during the first weeks of the war. The German people simply laughs at them. It will accept neither orders nor advice or even good cheer from London. The whole flood of lies that London has unleashed against the Reich vanishes without having any effect at all.
Instead, the German people see in the Führer the incarnation of its national strength and a shining example of its national goals. He is a people’s leader in the truest sense of the word. We recall a scene from a newsreel from the first weeks of the Polish campaign. The Führer and his generals are gathered around a map in a conference room. Ideas are weighed and plans forced. Anyone can see immediately that serious military problems are being discussed. The camera moves slowly away from the generals and focuses on the Führer, off to one side. The eye is struck by the man to whom we all look, his face worn with cares, weighed down by his thoughts, an historical personality, great and alone. We saw this scene from the Polish campaign much later at the premiere of the Luftwaffe film “Baptism of Fire” in a large Berlin theater. One generally does not credit the Berliners with much respect for their leaders, but as the Führer’s face appeared on the screen, a deep, quiet, silent movement spread through the packed theater. No one said a word, but all felt the same. Millions of people have seen the picture since then, and still this picture has a deep impression on viewers, as countless letters and messages tell us.
During the Polish campaign, people quickly browsed through the columns covering the huge battle of annihilation against the Polish army, then looked for information about where the Führer was, how he was feeling, what he was doing. Seldom has a people been so interested in the life and thoughts and wishes of a man. That is entirely natural, indeed it could not be otherwise. Every German instinctively senses the seriousness and dangers of the hour. His word, even his wish, is for we Germans an order.
How could an English merchant’s soul understand that? Mr. Chamberlain recently said at an opulent breakfast held in his honor by the City of London that the polite applause he received was not the result of orders, as was the fashion in Germany. We could only laugh. How little the present British prime minister understands the German people that he has in a careless moment unscrupulously compelled to fight for its existence, and how this people will disappoint him and the British plutocratic class that stands behind him! He is leading an old and sinking world against a young and modern people, a people that since 1918 has survived a terrible lesson and has finally found itself. It is deeply conscious of its good fortune in having found in National Socialism the realization of its political faith and in the Führer the embodiment of its desire for a leading personality.
We are living in a great and decisive age. The German nation is gathering its whole strength together to defend its national life. The front and the homeland form a closed unity in common brotherhood, knowing that the fate of the German people is at stake. That is why, as foreign observers and reporters constantly note with astonishment, all Germans are filled with a calm, almost sovereign confidence. Today, we are fighting and working, that is all. No one complains and no one asks why. Our people certainly as war-related burdens and difficulties to deal with. All wait nonetheless for the Führer’s order. When he calls, all are there.
We want to trust him and follow him! That is what the German people say today. This resolve gives us as a people and a nation enormous power, which other countries call the German miracle. It is a riddle to the world, but obvious to us! We can hardly imagine how things once were or how they could be any different.
Tomorrow we celebrate the 51st birthday of the man who brought this miracle about. We will not do so in loud and noisy parties, but rather as a people in the midst of battle and work. In the past, in Berlin above all, we gathered along the sidewalks of the east-west avenue to watch his soldiers march past, and greeted him with storms of heils. This time there will be no parade, no uproar. Yet the love that binds us to him and the confidence we gave him is even more passionate, even deeper.
Tomorrow he may see in spirit a great parade of our people march past, both from the Front and the homeland soldiers, farmers, and workers all, all those who are filled with his spirit and who are defending Germany’s life.
One wish fills the entire nation, whether at the front or at home, be they German soldiers in Norway and Denmark or the men of our U-boats and warships, or the soldiers up against the Western Front or the millions in the bunkers and interior positions, or the dead-tired flyer high in the heavens, or the farmer plowing his field, or the worker at the roaring machine, or the thinkers of the mind and spirit, or above all the millions of German mothers and their children:
The entire people has one thought: Long live the Führer!
May he lead us as he always has though grave and difficult times to a shining German victory. May he remain what he is to us and always was:
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