September 26, 1938 – As the crisis ramped-up and peaceful diplomacy was struggling, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler staged one of his customary demonstrations of mass adoration and military strength as a way of bullying Czech President Benes into submitting to his demands for Czech territory. Joining Hitler at this demonstration and rally was Sudenten President Konrad Henlein, a figure very much part of the undermining of the Czech position over the disputed territory, who was taking an active part in the negotiations for Germany‘s seizure of the region.
Hitler’s address, a long and rambling affair, peppered with threats and drama directed at the Czech people was a way of preparing Germany for a possible armed confrontation:
Adolf Hitler: “And you know: if Germany today is great, free and strong again, then it has only its own strength to thank for it! The outside contributed nothing to it. On the contrary, it attempted to blackmail us and oppress us, as long as it could, until finally the strength grew out of the German people itself, to put an end to this unworthy existence and once again to take the path worthy of a free and great nation.
We had hardly begun the restoration of German equality, when I suggested a series of agreements to the other countries, related, most of all, to disarmament, as the most visible symbol of the relinquishment of “Revanche”.
My first proposal was: Germany demands equality, under all circumstances, but is prepared to relinquish all further means of defence and weapons, provided the other nations do the same, i.e., general disarmament, if necessary, right down to the last machine gun! This proposal was not even considered worth discussing.
I made a second proposal: Germany is ready to limit its army to 200,000 men, on the condition that the other States disarm to the same extent. That was rejected, too!
Although today we are now free and strong, we are not motivated by any hatred of other nations.
We don’t bear a grudge; we know what happened; because we also know that the citizens of the other nations cannot be held responsible for it, rather, only a small unscrupulous clique of international profiteers and wheeler-dealers, who do not hesitate, if necessary, to allow entire nations to perish for their villainous interests.
We therefore nourish no hatred against the nations around us and have also proven it. The German love of peace is demonstrated by facts.
I made yet another proposal: Germany is prepared, provided the other nations agree, to relinquish all heavy weapons, so-called “attack” weapons: tanks, bombers, even, if necessary, all airplanes, as well as heavy and extra-heavy artillery. This, too, was rejected.
I went further, and now proposed an international agreement for all European countries for an army of 300,000 men. This proposal was rejected, too.
I made more proposals: the restriction of air fleets, the elimination of bombing; absolute prohibition of gas warfare, the protection of all areas not located in the line of battle, the elimination of at least of the heaviest artillery, the elimination of the heaviest tanks. This too was rejected. It was all in vain.
After making offer after offer to the world for two years, experiencing only rejection and repeated refusal, I gave the order to upgrade our German armed forces to the strongest position which could possibly be achieved. And now I can admit it openly:
We have carried out an armaments program anyway, such as the world has never seen. I offered to remain defenceless, insofar as possible. But when they rejected that, I quit making half-way decisions. I am a National Socialist and an old German frontline soldier!
If they don’t want a world without weapons, well, then, now, you, too, the German people, will possess weapons of their own!
In the last five years, I really rearmed. I spent billions on it, the German people ought to know that! I took care to ensure that a new army would be armed with the most modern weapons in existence. I gave my friend Goring the order: build me an air force that will protect Germany against every conceivable attack.
We built up our armed forces into something which the German people can be proud of, and which the world will respect, if it ever makes its appearance.
We have created the best anti-aircraft defences, the best anti-tank defences, in the world. We worked on this day and night for the past five years.
It was impossible for me to reach an understanding regarding anything. I will speak of that a bit further on.
Despite all this, I continued to pursue the notion of armaments limitations and disarmament policy.
In actual fact, I implemented a practical peace policy in all these years. I approached all apparently insoluble problems with the iron determination to solve them peacefully, even at the risk of more or less serious German relinquishments.”
The speech lasted some 2 hours and is presented here complete and with the events leading up to the address. It’s presented as a historic record of an event as it took place, under uncertain conditions, taking advantage of the newly established communication medium, Shortwave.
Here is that entire speech.