On January 30, 1939, six years after he became chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler made a speech to the Reichstag that set forth his vision of the world’s future. He began by saying that other nations were hypocritical when they complained that Germany was mistreating Jews. 

In connection with the Jewish question I have this to say: it is a shameful spectacle to see how the whole democratic world is oozing sympathy for the poor tormented Jewish people, but remains hard-hearted and obdurate when it comes to helping them which is surely, in view of its attitude, an obvious duty. . . . For this is what they say: 

  1. “We,” that is the democracies, “are not in a position to take in the Jews.” Yet in these empires there are not 10 people to the square kilometer. While Germany, with her 135 inhabitants to the square kilometer, is supposed to have room for them!
  2. They assure us: We cannot take them unless Germany is prepared to allow them a certain amount of capital to bring with them as immigrants. For hundreds of years Germany was good enough to receive these elements, although they possessed nothing except infectious political and physical diseases. What they possess today, they have by a very large extent gained at the cost of the less astute German nation by the most reprehensible manipulations.

Today we are merely paying this people what it deserves. When the German nation was, thanks to the inflation instigated and carried through by Jews, deprived of the entire savings which it had accumulated in years of honest work, when the rest of the world took away the German nation's foreign investments, when we were divested of the whole of our colonial possessions, these philanthropic considerations evidently carried little noticeable weight with democratic statesmen. . . .

. . . In the course of my life I have very often been a prophet, and have usually been ridiculed for it. During the time of my struggle for power it was in the first instance the Jewish race which only received my prophecies with laughter when I said that I would one day take over the leadership of the State, and . . . that I would then among many other things settle the Jewish problem. . . . Today I will once more be a prophet: If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!1

Less than two months later, German troops occupied all of Czechoslovakia. World leaders were generally silent. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Britain spoke out only when Hitler threatened Poland. He vowed to come to that nation’s aid in case of an attack. President Roosevelt expressed greater concern. In April 1939, he asked Mussolini and Hitler to promise not to attack 30 specific countries. In another speech to the Reichstag two weeks after Roosevelt’s request, Hitler mockingly recited the list of those countries, to the laughter of everyone listening. He pointed to the irony of America suggesting that international disputes be settled through conferences, when it was the country that had refused to participate in the League of Nations. He ended the speech by demanding that the city of Danzig and part of Poland be returned to Germany and vowing once again that this would be his last territorial claim in Europe.

Citations

Connection Questions

  1. What was the purpose of Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag in January 1939?
  2. Why did Hitler call himself a “prophet”? What did he predict?
  3. How had Germany’s position in Europe and the world in January 1939 changed since Hitler had been appointed chancellor in 1933? How does Hitler’s speech excerpted here reflect this change? 

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