Adolf Hitler was forced into a war with Poland and deceived by Stalin. But he recognized the double game Stalin played in time and made a preemptive strike that saved all of Western Europe… The European people should be grateful to the Germans for that instead of accusing them falsely of starting a war and accusing them falsely of genocide!
Speech of Adolf Hitler at the Great German Reichstag Berlin, December 11, 1941
Deputies, Men of the German Reichstag!
…The revolt in Belgrade, which led to the overthrow of the former Regent and his Government, was decisive for the further course of events in this part of Europe, for England was also a party to this putsch. But the chief role was played by Soviet Russia. What I refused to Mr. Molotov on his visit to Berlin, Stalin now thought he could achieve by a revolutionary movement, even against our will. Without consideration for the agreements which had been concluded, the intentions of the Bolsheviks in power grew still wider. The Pact of Friendship with the new revolutionary regime illuminated the closeness of the threatening danger like lightning.
The feats achieved by the German Armed Forces were given worthy recognition in the German Reichstag on the 4th of May. But what I was then unfortunately unable to express was the realization that we were progressing at tremendous speed toward a fight with a State which was not yet intervening because it was not yet fully prepared, and because it was impossible to use the aerodromes and landing grounds at that time of year on account of the melting snow.
My deputies, when in 1940 I realized from communication in the English House of Commons and the observation of the Russian troop movements on our frontiers that there was the possibility of danger arising in the East of the Reich, I immediately gave orders to set up numerous new armored, motorized infantry divisions. The conditions for this were available from the point of view both the material and personnel. I will give you, my Deputies, and indeed the whole German people, only one assurance: the more the democracies speak much about armaments, as is easily understandable, the more National Socialist Germany works. It was so in the past, it is not different today. Every year that brings us increased, and above all, improved weapons, there are decisions to be made. In spite of my determination under no circumstances to allow our opponent to make the first stab us in our heart-in spite of that, my decision was a very difficult one. If democratic newspapers today declare that: had I known the strength of our Bolshevik opponent more accurately, I would have hesitated to attack, then they understand the position just a little as they understand me. I sought no war. On the contrary I did everything to avoid it. But I would have been forgetful of my duty and responsibility if, in spite of realizing the inevitability of a fight by force of arms, I had failed to draw the only possible conclusions. In view of the mortal danger from Soviet Russia, not only to the German Reich, but to all Europe, I decided, if possible a few days before the outbreak of this mortal struggle, to give the signal to attack myself.
Today, we have overwhelming and authentic proof that Russia intended to attack; we are also quite clear about the date on that the attack was to take place. In view of the great danger, the proportions of that we realize perhaps only today to the fullest extent. I can only thank God that He enlightened me at the proper time and that He gave me the strength to do what had to be done!
To this, not only millions of German soldiers owe their lives, but Europe its very existence. This much I may state today: had this wave of over 20,000 tanks, hundreds of divisions, tens of thousands of guns, accompanied by more than 10,000 aircraft, suddenly moved against the Reich, Europe would have been lost. Fate has destined a number of nations to forestall this attack, to ward it off with the sacrifice of their blood. Had Finland not decided immediately to take up arms for the second time, the leisurely bourgeois life of the other Nordic countries would soon have come to an end.
Had the German Reich not faced the enemy with her soldiers and arms, a flood would have swept over Europe, that once and for all would have finished the ridiculous British idea of maintaining the European balance of power in all its senselessness and stupid tradition. Had Slovaks, Hungarians, Rumanians not taken over part of the protection of this European world, the Bolshevik hordes would have swept like Attila’s Huns over the Danubian countries, and at the cost of the Ionic Sea, Tartars and Mongols would have enforced today the revision of the Montreux Agreement. Had Italy, Spain and Croatia not sent their divisions, the establishment of a European defense Front would have been impossible, from that emanated the idea of the New Europe as propaganda to all other nations.
Sensing and realizing this, the volunteers have come from Northern and Western Europe-Norwegians, Danes, Dutchmen, Flemings, Belgians, even Frenchmen-volunteers who gave the struggle of the United Powers of the Axis the character of a European crusade-in the truest sense of the world.
The time has not yet come to talk about the planning and the conduct of this campaign, but I believe that I may sketch in a few sentences what has been achieved in this most gigantic of all struggles, in that memories of the various impressions might so easily fade because of the vastness of the space and the great number of important events…
The attack began on 22nd of June; with irresistible daring. The frontier fortifications that were destined to secure the Russian advance against us were broken through, and on the 23rd Grodno fell. On the 24th Vilna and Kovoo were taken after Brest-Litovsk had been occupied. On the 26th Duenaburg was in our hands and on 10th July, the first two great pincer battles of Bialystok and Minsk were concluded: 324,000 prisoners, 3,332 tanks and 1,809 guns fell to us. Already, on 13th July, the Stalin Line was broken through on all important points. On the 16th Smolensk fell after heavy fighting, and on the 19th German and Rumanian formations forced the crossing of the Dniester. On the 6th of August, the Battle of Smolensk was concluded in many pockets and again 310,000 Russians fell into German captivity, while 3,205 tanks and 3,120 guns were destroyed or captured. Only three days later the fate of another Russian Army group was sealed and on 9th August another 103,000 Russians were taken prisoner in the Battle of Ouman; 317 tanks and 1,100 guns destroyed or captured. On 17th August Nicolaeff was taken, on the 21st, Kherson. On the same day the Battle of Gomel was concluded with 84,000 prisoners taken and 124 tanks, as well as 808 guns captured or destroyed. On the 21st August, the Russian positions between Lakes Peipus and Ilmen were broken through and on the 26th the bridgehead at Dniepropetrovsk fell into our hands. On 28th August German troops marched into Reval and Boltisk Port after heavy fighting, while on the 30th the Finns took Viipuri. By conquering Schluesselburg on the 8th September, Leningrad was finally cut off, also from the South. On 6th September we succeeded in establishing bridgeheads on the Dnieper and on the 8th Poltava fell into our hands. On 9th September German formations stormed the citadel of Kiev and the occupation of Oesel was crowned by taking the Capital. Only now the greatest operations matured into the expected successes; on 27th September the Battle of Kiev was concluded; 665,000 prisoners began to move westwards, 884 tanks and 3,178 guns remained as booty in the pockets. As early as 2nd October the break-through battle on the Central Front began, while on 11th October the battle on the Sea of Azov was successfully concluded; again 107,000 prisoners, 212 tanks and 672 guns were counted. On 16th October, German and Rumanian troops marched into Odessa after hard fighting. On 8th October the break-through battle on the Central Front was concluded with a new success, unique in history, when 663,000 prisoners were only part of its results; 1,242 tanks and 5,452 guns were either destroyed or captured. On 31st October, the conquest of Dagoo was concluded.
On 24th October, the industrial centre of Kharkov was taken. On 28th October, the entrance of the Crimea was finally forced at great speed, and on 2nd November already the capital Sinferopol was taken by storm. On 6th November we had pierced through the Crimea up to Kerch.
On 1st December, the total number of Soviet prisoners amounted to 3,806,865; the number of tanks destroyed or captured was 21,391, that of guns, 32,541 and that of airplanes, 17,322. During the same period 2,191 British planes were shot-down. The Navy sank 4,170,611 g.r.t. of British shipping, the air force 2,346,080 g.r.t.; a total of 6,516,791 g.r.t. was thus destroyed. [Note: Figures checked, as they do not tally.]
My Deputies, my German people, those are sober facts or perhaps dry figures. Yet, may they never disappear from the history and, above all from the memory and the consciousness, of our own German people. For behind those figures are hidden the achievements, the sacrifices, the privations, the everlasting heroic courage and the readiness to die of millions of the best men of our own nation and of the States allied to us.
All this had to be fought for by my staking health and life and by effort of that those at home can hardly have an idea. Marching for an endless distance, tormented by heat and thirst, often held up by the mud of bottomless roads that would drive them almost to despair, exposed, from the Black Sea to the Arctic Sea, to the inhospitability of a climate that from the blazing heat of the July and August days, dropped to the wintry storms of November and December, tortured by insects, suffering from dirt and vermin, freezing in snow and ice, they have fought-the Germans and the Finns, Italians, Slovaks, Hungarians and Rumanians, the Croats, the volunteers from the North and West European countries, all in all the soldiers of the Eastern Front.
The beginning of winter only will now check this movement; at the beginning of summer it will again no longer be possible to stop the movement. On this day I do not want to mention any individual section of the Armed Forces, I do not want to praise any particular command; they have all made a supreme effort. And yet, understanding and justice compel me to state one thing again and again; amongst our German soldiers the heaviest burden is born today, as in the past, by our matchless German infantry.
From 22nd June to 1st December the German Army lost in this heroic fight 158,773 killed, 563,082 wounded and 31,191 missing. The Air Force lost 3,231 killed, 8,453 wounded and 2,028 missing. The Navy lost 210 killed, 232 wounded and 115 missing. The total losses of the armed forces are thus 162,314 killed, 571,767 wounded and 33,334 missing. [Note: The figures for soldiers killed do not tally.] That is to say, in killed and wounded slightly more than the field of death of the Somme Battle, in missing a little less than half those missing at that time. But all fathers and sons of our German people…
Full Speech (includes part about Poland and Russia)