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"We Germans Fear God and Nothing Else in the World!": Bismarck Addresses the Reichstag (February 6, 1888)

The text below is an extract from one of Bismarck’s most famous speeches. “We Germans fear God and nothing else in the world!” – this line was remembered and commemorated ad nauseum by German nationalists. But in fact this stirring phrase comes at the very end of the speech and is preceded by Bismarck’s declaration that the German Empire, a “satiated nation,” must avoid getting embroiled in dangerous coalitions and conflicts. Moreover, the famous line is immediately followed by one that most Germans ignored: “It is this fear of God which makes us love and cherish peace.” This was Bismarck’s last major Reichstag speech on foreign policy before his dismissal from office in March 1890.

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Great complications and all kinds of coalitions, which no one can foresee, are constantly possible, and we must be prepared for them. We must be so strong, irrespective of momentary conditions, that we can face any coalition


with the assurance of a great nation which is strong enough under circumstances to take her fate into her own hands. We must be able to face our fate placidly with that self reliance and confidence in God which are ours when we are strong and our cause is just. And the government will see to it that the German cause will be just always.


We must, to put it briefly, be as strong in these times as we possibly can be, and we can be stronger than any other nation of equal numbers in the world.


I shall revert to this later – but it would be criminal if we were not to make use of our opportunity. If we do not need our full armed strength, we need not summon it. The only problem is the not very weighty one of money – not very weighty I say in passing, because I have no wish to enter upon a discussion of the financial and military figures, and of the fact that France has spent three milliards for the improvement of her armaments these last years, while we have spent scarcely one and one half milliards, including what we are asking of you at this time.

(Hear, hear! to the right.)

But I leave the elucidation of this to the minister of war and the representatives of the treasury department.

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