Adolf Hitler’s December 11, 1941 speech to the Reichstag, delivered just hours after a formal declaration of war had been delivered to the U.S. ambassador in Berlin, marked a decisive turning point in the global tragedy of World War II.
This speech was more than just a declaration of war: it was an 88 minute personally written explanation by Hitler of the origin of the war, the background to the outbreak of the war in Poland, its subsequent dramatic developments, why he decided to attack the Soviet Union in June 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt’s hostile policies toward Germany, a short overview of Germany’s place in the struggle for all of Europe, and finally his earnest desire for peace at any cost.
The day after this speech was delivered, a highly inaccurate and edited version appeared in American newspapers.
This is the first complete and accurate translation of this massively historical speech, and provides a feast for historians of that great, and awful, conflict.
“What is Europe, my deputies? There is no geographical definition of our continent, but only an ethnic-national and cultural one. The frontier of this continent is not the Ural mountains, but rather the line that divides the Western outlook on life from that of the East . . . A horrific storm of cultureless hordes from the center of Asia poured deep into the heart of the European continent, burning, ravaging and murdering as a true scourge of God. On the Catalaunian fields , Roman and Germanic men fought together for the first time in a decisive battle of tremendous importance for a culture that had begun with the Greeks, passed on to the Romans, and then encompassed the Germanic peoples.
“What we call Europe is the geographic territory of the Occident, enlightened by Greek culture, inspired by the powerful heritage of the Roman empire, its territory enlarged by Germanic colonization. Whether it was the German emperors fighting back invasions from the East on the Unstrut or on the Lechfeld, or others pushing back Africa from Spain over a period of many years, it was always a struggle of a developing Europe against a profoundly alien outside world.
“Just as Rome once made her immortal contribution to the building and defense of the continent, so now have the Germanic peoples taken up the defense and protection of a family of nations which, although they may differ and diverge in their political structure and goals, nevertheless together constitute a racially and culturally unified and complementary whole.” –Adolf Hitler, December 11, 1941.