Every German must burn with shame all the more in recognizing that the German people share a significant part of the guilt and responsibility for the war and its consequences. It is not only Hitler who is guilty of crimes against humanity! The guilt is shared by the ten million Germans who voted for him in free elections in 1932, although we Communists warned, “Voting for Hitler means voting for war!” It is further shared by all those German men and women who passively watched as Hitler usurped power, as he broke up all the democratic organizations – especially working-class organizations – and had the best Germans imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded. Guilt is borne by all those Germans who saw “Germany’s greatness” in the armaments program, who saw the nation’s only true salvation in savage militarism, in marching and military drills. It was our misfortune that millions upon millions of Germans were seduced by Nazi demagogy, that the toxins of that beastly racial doctrine, of the “fight for living space” [Lebensraum], could poison the organism of the people. It was our misfortune that broad segments of our population lost their most basic sense of decency and justice and followed Hitler when he promised them a well-laid lunch and dinner table at the expense of other peoples, through robbery and war.
Thus the German people became the tool of Hitler and his imperialistic sponsors. German workers! German working-class youth! German working people!
Hitler would never have been able to seize power, consolidate it, and wage his criminal war against the will of a unified people willing to fight. We German Communists declare that we, too, feel responsible. For despite the bloody sacrifices of our best fighters – and because of a series of failures – we were unable to forge an anti-fascist unity between the worker, the farmer, and the intelligentsia against all opposition, to gather the strength of the working population to overthrow Hitler, to successfully lead the working population into battle, and to avoid that very situation in which the German people failed historically.
Today, at the end of the “Third Reich,” after all the suffering and misfortune, all the shame and disgrace, after the darkest era in German history, the Social Democratic German worker will agree with us that the fascist plague was only able to spread through Germany because in 1918 those who were responsible (for the war), and those who had committed war crimes, went unpunished, because the struggle for a genuine democracy was not waged, because the Weimar Republic gave free rein to reactionary forces, because the anti-Soviet agitation of a few democratic leaders paved the way for Hitler, and because the rejection of a unified anti-fascist front paralyzed the people.
Therefore we demand: Let us not repeat the mistakes of 1918! No more driving a wedge into the working population! No leniency for Nazism and reactionary forces! Never again shall there be agitation and hostility toward the Soviet Union, for where such agitation appears, imperialistic reaction rears its head!
The German Communist Party was and is the party of the resolute struggle against militarism, imperialism, and imperialistic wars. The party has never deviated from this path. The party has always kept pure the banner of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, Ernst Thälmann, and Jonny Schehr. We Communists look back with pride on these struggles, which claimed the lives of our best and most faithful comrades. We warned early on and insistently against the imperialistic path, warned that the path of Hitler Fascism would inevitably lead Germany into catastrophe.
In January 1933, the Communist Party called for a united general strike to prevent Hitler from taking power. In June 1933, we warned, “War is imminent! Hitler is leading Germany into catastrophe!” In January 1939, the Bern conference of the KPD issued a call to the German people: “In both east and west, the Hitler regime is creating a situation in which the German people could be pushed into the catastrophe of war overnight – a war against the mighty front consisting of all nations threatened and attacked by Hitler and the war axis.” In October 1941, when Hitler boastfully proclaimed that the Soviet Union had been decisively defeated and would never rise up again, the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued an appeal to the German people and the German army: “The German people have no chance in this war. Hitler’s defeat is inevitable. The only salvation for the German people lies in putting an end to this war. But in order to put an end to this war, Hitler must be overthrown. And woe to our people if it ties its fate to Hitler to the very end!”