Adolf Hitler made his first address as chancellor in February 1933. In this extract, Hitler condemns the previous government and outlines the focus of his new regime:
“More than 14 years have passed since that ill-fated day when, blinded by promises at home and abroad, the German volk [people] lost sight of the most valuable assets of our past and of our Reich, its honour and its freedom – and thus lost everything. Since those days of treachery, the Almighty has withheld His blessing from our Volk. Dissension and hatred have made their way into our midst. In the most profound distress, millions of the best German men and women from all walks of life watch as the unity of the nation vanishes and dissolves in a muddle of political and egotistical opinions, economic interests and differences…
The misery of our volk is appalling! The starving millions of unemployed proletarians in industry are being followed by the impoverishment of the entire Mittelstand [middle-class] and artisan professions. When this disintegration ultimately reaches the German peasants, we will be confronted by a catastrophe of unfathomable dimensions. For not only will the Reich disintegrate, but with it a 2000-year-old inheritance, the most valuable assets of human culture and civilisation.
The warning signs of this approaching disintegration are all about us. In a single gigantic offensive of willpower and violence, the communist method of madness is attempting to poison and disrupt the volk, which is shaken and uprooted to its innermost core…
Peasants, workers, and bourgeoisie must all join together to provide the building blocks for the new Reich. The government will therefore regard it as its first and foremost duty to re-establish Volksgemeinschaft – the unity of spirit and will of our volk. It will preserve and defend the foundations upon which the power of our nation rests. It will extend its strong, protecting hand over Christianity as the basis of our entire morality, and the family as the germ cell of the body of our volk and State. It will reawaken in our volk, beyond the borders of rank and class, its sense of national and political unity, and its resultant duties. It will establish reverence for our great past and pride in our old traditions as the basis for the education of our German youth. It will declare a merciless war against spiritual, political and cultural nihilism. Germany must not and will not drown in anarchistic communism…
Resolved and true to our oath, we will — in view of the present Reichstag’s inability to support this work — ask the German volk itself to take on this task we call our own. Reich President von Hindenburg has called upon us and given us the order to use our own unity to restore to the nation the chance for recovery. Thus we now appeal to the German volk to take part in signing this deed of reconciliation.
The government wants to work – and it will work. It was not this government which led the German nation into ruin for 14 years. This government wants to lead the nation to the top once more. It is determined to pay the debt of 14 years in four years. But it cannot make the work of reconstruction dependent upon the approval of those who are to blame for the collapse.
The Marxist parties and their fellow travellers have had 14 years to prove their prowess. The result is a heap of ruins. Now, German volk, give us four years, and then pass judgment upon us!
True to the order of the Field Marshal, we shall begin. May Almighty God look mercifully upon our work, lead our will on the right path, bless our wisdom, and reward us with the confidence of our volk. We are not fighting for ourselves, but for Germany!”