Background: This was the penultimate of Goebbels’s annual speeches
on Hitler’s birthday. The news of the war was increasingly grim, but once
more the Propaganda Minister explained why, in his view, the person of
Adolf Hitler was sufficient assurance of final victory.
The source: The German text can be found in any German
paper dated 20 April 1944. Helmut Heiber also includes the text in his
two-volume Goebbels Reden, based on a tape of the speech. His version
is a more accurate text of what Goebbels actually said (some minor modifications
were made in the printed version I use).
Goebbels’ 1944 Speech on Hitler’s
Not only fortune, but also reputation is always shifting during
a war between great men and nations. It is therefore difficult,
perhaps even impossible, to determine the political and military
importance of individual events in the midst of war. What yesterday
seemed a brilliant move can within several weeks or months prove
a major mistake, and that which seemed short-sighted and mistaken
can later become a decision of deep wisdom. Only when a war is
over, and usually some time after that, once its lasting results
have become clear to all, is it possible to objectively weigh
and evaluate its individual events.
That was true of every past war, and presumably of this one
as well. The war can be evaluated only as a whole. Beside the
events of the moment, a war has larger historical significance.
Only a trained and practiced eye can understand that larger significance
during the war itself. For example, consider the vast differences
in Frederick the Great’s reputation during the Seven Year War,
particularly from 1760 to 1763. His personal reputation and that
of his work during his day was influenced by partisan considerations,
but today we evaluate him historically, that is, objectively
and justly. His individual actions and decisions were evaluated
in various ways. Given the circumstances of the time, some seemed
to lead to victory, others to defeat. Even those in his entourage
could not properly evaluate them.
A genius acts from instinct, sometimes consciously but often
unconsciously, which raises his actions out of the ordinary sphere.
Great, timeless personalities have to fulfill not only the tasks
of the moment, but larger historical missions as well. Unfortunately,
the two do not always agree. A war of vast historical significance
brings with it the heaviest sacrifices and burdens. The less
these problems are seen by people in their broader historical
significance, the likelier the struggling generation will be
misunderstand them, or even to think them avoidable.
This explains why those at the time and posterity evaluate
historical events differently. We can think of numerous historical
examples. We can hardly understand today why the contemporaries
of Alexander the Great or Caesar or Frederick the Great did not
understand their true significance. To us there are no secrets
It is somewhat surprising that those who may get the most
excited about historical misunderstandingss are also the ones
who are least able to make the proper historical judgment regarding
their own day. They are people who have the ability to evaluate
the events and developments of earlier eras, but who lack the
capacity to judge the historical happenings of their own era
in a way that posterity will respect.
Which of the events of the present war will be significant
in a hundred years? It is difficult to judge individual events,
but even today one can with some assurance predict the factors
that will influence posterity’s evaluation of this great drama
of the European peoples. It is not a matter of things whose traces,
even by our present understanding, will have vanished several
years after the war is over. For example, few signs of the damage
to Germany’s cities caused by enemy air terror are likely to
remain ten years after peace comes. What is likely to be recalled
are the attitudes and behavior of those who withstood the terror.
Whether Europe becomes Bolshevist or whether we succeed in
rescuing our continent and its people from this deadly threat
will influence the future of many, perhaps all, future generations.
This is the decisive historical significance of this war. The
man who in the end frees our continent from its spiritual and
military difficulties will be at the conclusion of the vast struggle,
from the standpoint of history, the man of the war.
That does not change the fact that his opponents have done
and are doing everything in their power to hinder the historical
mission of the man who stands above his times. They are using
their material superiority in population and weapons in an attempt
to bring his work to naught. But all this will only increase
the honor history will give him and add immortal fame to his
name. Once the foul mist of vile and despicable wartime polemics
has lifted, he will suddenly appear as the great historical figure
of this enormous international drama, both to the living and
even more to the coming generations.
And what of his opponents, who were ready and willing to throw
the two thousand year history and civilization of our continent
into chaos? They will be of interest only as the dark background
to the greatness and foresight of this shining figure.
Was not this also true when we were fighting for power? How
often did the Führer battle long-forgotten political parties
when rescuing the Fatherland? How often did cowardly journalists
attempt to persuade us that they were not only his equal, but
his political superiors! Today even their names are forgotten.
All that remains is the historical personality, one who stands
above his times, and who despite all the challenges that sometimes
seemed insurmountable found the solution to the German dilemma
and saved the nation.
Victory determined everything then, as it will today. The
end of this war will bring with it either the end of European
history and any historical meaning from our point of view, or
our victory will give our continent a chance for a new beginning.
The fame belongs alone to the man who saved Europe from its most
terrible danger, who despite the turns of triumph and defeat
came through at the end and thereby saved not only his own nation,
but the continent. This conclusion springs not from any desire
for fame or national superiority, which is granted nonetheless
by the sense of justice of the best in every nation who understand
the graveness of the hour.
I am sure that I speak to the heart not only of every old National Socialist,
but to that of every German. We all feel part of a historic mission. For
us, the goal of the war is not only clear, it is also unalterable and
unchangeable. The longer the war lasts, the more fanatically and committedly
we pursue it. To seek the goal means to follow the Führer, to do
his work with loyalty and devotion, to turn in the midst of the storms
of the war every personal thought and deed toward him. We are happy to
have him on our side, for he incorporates not only our firm faith in victory,
but also the constancy of our national leadership, the character of our
war outlook, and the integrity of our war aims.
We only need to look over our borders to foreign and enemy
peoples to see what he means to the nation and what he is to
us all. It is easy and comfortable during times of great national
successes, especially when they have been achieved without great
cost of blood and sacrifice, to join the crowds of those shouting
praises for the accomplishments of the national leadership, which
everyone can see. It is harder to stay loyal to the cause in
the middle of a long struggle for a nation’s very existence.
Such a struggle demands the full energy of those who are not
spared periods of sleeplessness or even occasional nervous exhaustion.
But the harder and more bitter the circumstances, the more their
deeper historical significance is revealed.
We old National Socialists have never seen the Führer
in a different role. Our greatest honor was always to stand by
him in such hours, to protect his rear as he stepped forward
into still unknown and dangerous territory, to give him the certainly
that he was never alone. The National Socialist movement, the
core of our present national community, developed in circumstances
like these. The virtues of our movement, which overcame all barriers
and obstacles during the hard years of the struggle for power,
have become during this war the virtues of our fighting people,
tested a million-fold by trial and danger: Our loyalty to ourselves
finds its most visible but also its deepest expression in our
loyalty to the Führer.
When has there ever been such a fruitful relationship between a people
and its leader, and vice versa?
People of other countries see their leaders as the representatives
of class interests, of parliamentary majorities more or less
cleverly constructed, as necessary evils in the absence of a
better alternative, or as the result of blind mass terror that
stands upon millions of corpses.
For us, the Führer is the spokesman and the agent of
the will of the whole nation. Despite all the prophecies of the
enemy, there has not been a single case, from the beginning
of the war until today, in which a soldier broke his oath to
the Führer or in which a worker in the home front renounced
his loyalty to the Führer by ceasing his labors.
We know that the enemy is unable to understand this, and attributes
it to force or violence. But what we as a people and leadership
have accomplished cannot be brought about by such methods. Other
forces must be at work, forces of loyalty and community that
cannot be understood by people who are unable to perceive them.
That which we sowed before the war begun has grown to fruition:
the rich harvest of solidarity between the leadership and the
Permit me the freedom in this speech to say some things to
the entire German people, at home and at the front, about the
Führer personally. I have had the good fortune to be at
his side during the period of struggle for power and during this
great war, to be present at many, indeed most, of the particularly
happy and critical hours. I never saw him doubt or waver. He
always followed the call of his blood, and where it called he
went, regardless of the difficulties. He stands above all other
statesmen of our time in that he recognized danger at the proper
time and took courageous action. The German people thanks him
for that today, as will one day all of civilized humanity.
If there is a divine gift to leading peoples and nations which allows
great historical leaders to perceive instinctively the necessary and
right, and to combine this knowledge with an unerring sense of what
needs to be done at the moment, he is that blessed man. That the parliamentary
mayflies on the other side fail to realize this is more a proof of his
abilities than of their absence. Even the best leadership sometimes
suffers defeats and reverses. They are in fact the test that proves
its merits. For all people and nations, war is a hard and pitiless force
that separates the strong from the weak and the industrious from the
Has the Reich and its leadership ever failed the test? Have
we ever stood confused and desperate before approaching fate,
unsure of what to do? We have always stood ready. A man always
stood at the head of our people who was a bright and shining
example. Even under the hardest blows he stood firm and the confidence
of his heart turned the greatest misfortunes to our advantage.
We don’t speak about it often, but we all know it. Never has
the German people looked with such faith toward its Führer
as in the days and hours when it knew the full gravity of the
situation. It did not lose heart, but rather affirmed even more firmly
and strongly its goals.
When we looked back on November 1918, we could not rid ourselves
of the bitter feeling that it was in part our own responsibility.
But this time we have earned victory, and the goddess of history
will not withhold it from us. The price of our coming victory
is our loyalty. The war is not an occasion for loose talk and
empty promises. It is a time to realize what we have so often
said in the past. It depends on our oath to the flag and on the
silent oath in our hearts.
Wherever in Europe our soldiers stand in battle or on watch, wherever
Germans work, wherever German farmers sow and harvest, wherever inventors,
artists, and scholars ponder with crinkled brow the future of the Reich,
wherever mothers pray for victory and children trust in it with quiet
confidence, in distant nations and continents, on every ocean, wherever
Germans breathe, the warmest wishes from the truest hearts for the Führer
rise to the heavens.
The fact that he stands at the head of our nation is for us
all the surest sign of coming victory. Never was he so near to
us as in the moment of danger, never were we so bound to him
as when we felt that he needed us as we needed him.
Through this we have dashed the great hopes of our enemy.
They hoped that we would do what they could not. It was the only
way we could be defeated. We have done what is necessary for
I am happy to speak to the German people at this hour. We have affirmed
in the past year our support and our confidence in the Führer’s work.
On his birthday we want also to speak the words that come from the depths
of our heart. We want to tell him what he is to us all, both in the trials
of the moment and in the shining future.
We all wish him health and strength and a blessed hand. He
must know that he can always rely on his people. When trial and
danger is before him, we will stand more firmly behind him. We
believe in him and in his historical mission, and believe that
in the end he will be crowned with victory. He will be the man
of the century, not his opponents. He gave this century its meaning,
its content, its goal. Affirming the meaning and understanding
the content, we will reach the goal. He points the way. He commands,
we follow. We, his old and tested comrades, march in the first
row behind him. We are tested by danger, steeled by misfortune,
hardened by storm and trial, but also crowned with the first
victories and successes of the coming new world. We are at the
head of a countless multitude who carry and defend the future
of the Reich.
We defend the cause of the nation, which has found its visible
form in the Führer .
In this battle between life and death, he is and will remain
for us what he always was: Our Hitler!
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