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Excerpts from Hitler’s Speech before the first "Greater German Reichstag" (January 30, 1939)

With the dawning of the year 1939, Germany’s war preparations in the areas of armaments, economics, and diplomacy entered into their critical end phase. These preparations were also accompanied by intensified propaganda efforts. In this famous Reichstag speech, delivered on the 6th anniversary of his takeover of power, Hitler emphasizes his own wish for peace – one that apparently existed despite the Jews’ alleged international conspiracy against the German people. In advance, he presents the outbreak of war – which he himself would actually prompt a few months later – as Germany’s way of defending itself against Jewish aggression, and he promises retribution. It is unlikely that the Nazi regime had any concrete plans for the actual “annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe” at this time. But it must have been clear that war and the conquest of territory that it would entail in Eastern Europe, home to millions of Jews, would require the Nazis to formulate new policies toward the Jews.

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[ . . . ]

On January 30, 1933, I moved into Wilhelmstraße, filled with the deepest concern for the future of my Volk [people]. Today – six years later – I am able to speak to the first Reichstag of Greater Germany! We, perhaps more than any other generation, can truly appreciate the full meaning of the pious expression: ‘What a change brought about by the grace of God!’

Six years were enough to achieve the dreams of centuries. One year to bring our people the enjoyment of that unity that so many generations strove for in vain. Today, as I see you assembled around me as representatives of our German Volk from all Gaue [regions] of the Reich, and know that among you are the newly elected men of the Ostmark [Austria] and the Sudetenland, I am once more overwhelmed by the powerful impressions of the events of a year in which the work of centuries was realized.

How much blood has been shed in vain for this goal! Over the course of more than a thousand years, how many millions of German men have consciously or unconsciously traveled down the bitter road toward a quick or painful death in the service of this goal! How many others were condemned to end their lives behind the walls of fortresses and prisons – lives they would have gladly given to Greater Germany!

How many hundreds of thousands have poured forth into the whole wide world, an endless stream of German emigrants driven by need and worry! For decades they still thought of their unhappy Fatherland, but after generations they forgot it. And within a single year, this dream has been successfully realized.

Not without a fight, as some thoughtless bourgeois may perhaps like to think. This year of German unity was preceded by nearly two decades of fanatical struggle on behalf of a political idea. Hundreds of thousands, millions devoted their entire selves to this, their physical and economic existence; they accepted mockery and derision as readily as they did years of disgraceful abuse, vile defamation, and nearly unbearable terror. Countless blood-soaked dead and wounded in all the German Gaue were witnesses to this battle. Moreover: this success was hard-won through an immense exertion of will and through the power of brave decisions fanatically adhered to.

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