by Hermann Goering. Translated from the Third Reich original published in 1934, this book covers the Nazi party rise to power and the first year of rule, including a chapter on Goering’s tasks.
I welcome this opportunity of presenting to the English-speaking peoples a few of my ideas about the struggle of the German people for freedom and honour. I hope that these words will also be accepted by our opponents as a frank expression of my boundless love for my country, to whose service alone 1 have pledged my whole life.
Hermann Göring – Berlin, February, 1934.
1. GERMANY’S HERITAGE
The lack of understanding and sympathy which many foreign peoples show for Germany is very largely due to ignorance of the special and peculiar character of german history.
‘Human history is the history of war,’ and the history of the German people is also a long tale of cruel wars: ‘From the battle against Ariovistus to the struggle of the unarmed on the Ruhr an iron chain stretches’ (Stegemann). Since the idea of Germany and a German people has been known in history, we see that the bond which it implies has been only the bond of blood and of common culture and a common language. Now and then the loose conglomerate has seemed to take on a firmer form, but right down to modern times it has never coalesced to form a German Nation. This is one of the reasons why the German people as a whole has never taken part in great wars of conqest. Usually the different parts of Germany have fought against each other, very often to the advantage of other peoples. But for centuries the Germans were compelled to defend their own homes and their own land – the land first of their tribe and finally of the people. Germany possesses no natural boundaries. It was never a castle whose fortifications were sea and mountains, but lay like an open camp in the midst of Europe, protected only by the bodies of its men. And that is also the reason why the Germans never fought their wars for foreign crowns, but always for their own honour; not to conquer foreign countries, but to defend their own freedom; not to subdue others, but to ensure their own security.
The arduous path of the German people through their history begins with the partition of the German Empire by the Treaty of Verdun in the year 843 and leads past the ‘Testament of Richelieu’ and the Peace of Westphalia, which claimed to have assured for ever the ‘Libertés germaniques,’ to the Dictate of Versailles in the year 1919. These ‘German Freedoms’ meant nothing less than the perpetual partition of the Reich into countless little kingdoms and principalities, which were played off against one another by the neighbouring countries, according to Louis XI’s principle ‘Divide et impera.’
And then at last Prussia took over its great mission in world history. That was – to fight for the unity of the German Reich. That was a task formidable enough for that incomparable genius, Frederick II. Even his enemies called him ‘the Great.’ He was at once ‘the most kingly of men and the most human of kings.’ In a life of unexampled austerity he made of little Prussia the foundation of the coming Reich. As he lay on the simple camp-bed that had seen so many campaigns, and alone in the arms of his hussar breathed his last breath, his last words remained as a Testament to his successors, ‘I see the promised land from afar, but I shall not set foot in it.’
After Frederick the Great came the Reichsfreiherr vom Stein who fought passionately for his great ideal: ‘I know only one Fatherland – and that is called Germany!’ But he, too, after a valiant life of work, battles and defeats, the victim of slander and treachery, could only win a partial victory. He, too, knew of the coming unity, but was not to experience it.
After Stein – Bismarck. Born on an estate in the Mark Brandenburg, he continued and almost completed the gigantic task begun by Frederick and Stein. But Bismarck at the moment of death, as if death itself had torn a veil from his eyes, cried, full of sorrow and misgiving, these last words – ‘Germany – Germany’.
Under the flags in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, in which Bismarck’s Reich was born, stood Lieutenant von Hindenburg. He had fought on the battlefield of Königgrätz and in the war against France. In the greatest of all wars his imperial master called him to the head of the mighty army which for four years withstood a hostile world.
Somewhere in this vast bulwark of German men, there stood one who, unknown like the countless others, and brave as so many others were brave, was destined to write his name in the eternal book of History as the saviour of the German people, the man who was to consummate her solidarity and unity. That man was Adolf Hitler.
In the three great wars won by Prussia in the last century, Germany was born: on the battlefields of Leipzig and Waterloo, of Königgrätz and Sedan, men of German blood found each other again. Before the guns of Paris and in the palace of Louis XIV the age-old German dream of a German Empire was fulfilled. Through the concentration of all national forces an unprecedented advance took place. A peace of nearly 50 years under the protection of a strong army and a good fleet enabled the young Reich brilliantly to build up its industry and ensure prosperity.
Whereas the population of Germany in 1871 was 41 millions, in 1914 it had risen to nearly 70 millions. A vast host of human beings was pressing onward, was working in fields and factories, in laboratories and mines, behind counters and desks or in harbours and wharves all over the world. This great success is known to the world and can be statistically demonstrated.
Germany was first in the markets of the world as regards electrical apparatus, the glass and toy industry, and smelting and mining. The German chemical industry alone supplied four-fifths of the world market. German trade with harbours outside Europe had increased 500 per cent up to the beginning of the century. Thus Germany, in peaceful competition, by hard work, efficiency and organization, had grown to be a mighty factor in the economic life of the world. This position, won through peaceful work, led finally to the most terrible of all conflicts, the World War. The encirclement of Germany was complete, and the peoples of Europe plunged into a sea of blood and misery, and the whole world into a catastrophe of incalculable extent.
On the 28th June, 1914, a 19-year-old student in Sarajevo shot the Austrian heir apparent. This shot suddenly and pitilessly let loose the thunderstorm which had been brooding over Europe for years. The first rumblings were produced by the never ending railway trains which brought the already mobilized Russian army corps to the German frontier. The gigantic engine of war began its deadly pounding. Europe was mobilizing! The die had been cast. Threatened from all sides, Germany had the sword thrust into her hand. The German people, guiltless of the outbreak of this greatest of wars, had to fight in order to defend their life and honour.