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"Love Cannot Remain a One-Sided Affair!" — September 1, 1939, in Berlin

Returning Fire
(German: Es wird jetzt zurückgeschossen)


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Hitler's Returning Fire Speech.

It follows the English translation of the German full text transcript of Adolf Hitler's Returning Fire speech, delivered before the Reichstag in Berlin, Germany, on September 1, 1939.

Source: Domarus' The Complete Hitler / DNB text, September 1, 1939. Domarus' footnotes to this speech are added in blue.

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German version of the speech.


Adolf Hitler - Speech Deputies, Men of the German Reichstag!

For months a problem has tormented all of us. Long ago the Diktat of Versailles bestowed this problem on us. In its depravity and degeneracy it has now become insufferable. Danzig was a German city and is a German city! The Corridor was German and is German!

These regions owe their cultural development exclusively to the German Volk. Without this Volk, these eastern regions would still be plunged in the depths of barbarism.

Danzig was torn from us! Poland annexed the Corridor! The German minorities living there are being persecuted in the vilest manner imaginable. In the years 1919 and 1920 over one million men of German blood were forced to leave their homeland.

As always, I sought to bring about a change by peaceful means, by offering proposals to remedy this situation which meanwhile had become unbearable. It is a lie when others in the world claim that we sought to carry out our revisions by the use of force exclusively. Fifteen years before National Socialism's rise to power, there was ample opportunity to carry out these revisions by peaceful means. Nothing of the sort was done. In any event, I made proposals for a revision not once, but many times.

You know that all these proposals were rejected. There is no need for me to enumerate them: my proposals on the limitation of arms; if necessary, even for the complete elimination of weaponry; my proposals for limited warfare, for the abolition of methods employed in modern warfare which, in my eyes, are hardly reconcilable with international law. You know of my proposals on the necessity of restoring German sovereignty to the territory of the German Reich. You know of the endless attempts I made for a peaceful resolution of the problem of Austria, and later of the problem of the Sudetenland, of Bohemia, and Moravia. It was all for naught.

There is one thing that is simply not possible: to demand that an impossible situation be resolved by means of peaceful revision — and then to consistently deny resolution by peaceful means.

It is likewise not possible to claim that the one who, under the circumstances, resorts to resolving this situation by himself, who undertakes the revisions on his own, is in breach of the law. For the Diktat of Versailles does not constitute law for us Germans.

You simply cannot uphold and proclaim a signature to represent sanctified law when it was extorted by holding a pistol to the signatory's head and threatening to starve millions of human beings if he failed to comply!

Thus I attempted, also in the case of Danzig and the Corridor, to obtain a resolution by means of proposals and their peaceful discussion. That these problems had to be resolved was entirely clear. That the western states were unconcerned with the time table is understandable. Yet it is of concern to us. It was — and had to be — of concern especially to those suffering.

In my talks with Polish statesmen I once more expounded those thoughts which you already heard in my last speech before the Reichstag. [1] No man can accuse me of employing inappropriate methods or of applying inappropriate pressure in an uncalled-for manner. It was I who had the German proposals formulated in the end, and I must repeat here that there is nothing more modest or loyal than these proposals. I should like to say this to the world: I alone was in the position to make such proposals! I know very well that in doing so I brought myself into opposition to millions of Germans.

These proposals have been rejected. And not only this! They were answered by mobilization, augmented terror, increasing pressure on ethnic Germans in these regions. The previously slow and exclusively economic and political throttling of the Free City of Danzig within the last few weeks has spilled over into an outright war against it, a choking off of traffic there and military isolation.

Poland has unleashed this war against the Free City of Danzig! It was not willing to settle the question of the Corridor in one manner or another, in a manner both reasonable and rendering justice to the interests of both states. And ultimately this meant that it was not willing to uphold its obligations toward minorities.

And here I must establish the fact that Germany has fulfilled its obligations! The minorities living within the Reich are not subject to persecution. There is not one Frenchman who can stand up to claim that the French in the Saar territory are being oppressed, tortured, or robbed of their rights. Not one can claim as much!

I have been silently standing by and observing the situation for four months now. Yet I have issued warnings repeatedly. And I have intensified these warnings of late.

As long as three weeks ago, I already had the Polish Ambassador informed that if Poland should send further notes to Danzig, in the nature of an ultimatum; if it should implement further discriminatory measures against the Germans there; of if it should attempt to destroy Danzig economically by imposing high customs on it; then Germany could simply no longer be expected to stand by without taking action.

I left no doubt that it would be a grave mistake in this context to compare the Germany of today to the Germany of days past.

There were attempts to justify recriminations against ethnic Germans by claiming that these constituted a response to prior "provocations." I know not what type of "provocations" those women and children had allegedly perpetrated who were abused and abducted. Nor can I imagine what provocations had been perpetrated by those who were sadistically and bestially tortured only to be murdered in the end.

Yet there is one thing I do know: no honorable great power could calmly tolerate such a state of affairs in the long run!

Nevertheless, I made one last effort. And this even though, in my heart, I was convinced that the Polish Government - especially given its dependence on the rabble of soldiers now freed of inhibitions - was not serious about attaining a true understanding. Nevertheless, I accepted the proposal at mediation of the British Government. The British suggested that while they were not willing to negotiate themselves, they would open a direct line of communication between Poland and Germany to initiate talks once more.

And now I am forced to state the following: I accepted this proposal! It was for this new round of negotiations that I drafted the proposals known to you. For two whole days I sat with my Government [2] and waited to see whether it was convenient for the Polish Government to send a plenipotentiary or not. Up to last night, it has not commissioned any such plenipotentiary. Rather it has informed us, through the offices of its Ambassador, that it is presently contemplating whether or not it is in a position to consider the English proposals. It would impart as much to England later.

My Deputies! Should someone have the impertinence to expect the German Reich and its head of state to accept this, and should the German Reich and its head of state tolerate this, then truly the German nation would deserve no better than to take leave of the political stage! For I am wrongly judged if my love for peace and my patience are mistaken for weakness or even cowardice!

Last night I informed the British Government that, under the circumstances, I no longer see any willingness by the Polish Government to enter into serious negotiations with us. And thus all attempts at mediation must be considered to have failed. For we had indeed received a response to our proposals which consisted of:

1. general mobilization in Poland and
2. renewed, heinous atrocities.

Similar events repeated themselves in the course of last night. And this after the recent perpetration of twenty-one border transgressions in the span of one single night. Yesterday fourteen additional violations of the border were recorded, among them three of a most serious nature. I have therefore resolved to speak to Poland in the same language that Poland has employed towards us in the months past.

Now that statesmen in the West go about declaring that this infringes on their interests, I can only regret this position. This cannot and will not, however, make me waver for a minute in the fulfillment of my duty. I have solemnly assured the Western states, and I repeat this here, that we desire nothing of them. We shall never demand anything of them. I have assured them that the border separating France and Germany is a final one. Time and time again I have offered friendship, and if necessary close cooperation, to England. But love cannot remain a one-sided affair. It must be met by the other side.

Germany is not pursuing any interests in the West. The West Wall delineates the Reich's border for all time. Our ambitions for the future are no different. And nothing shall ever change the Reich's standpoint in this matter.

The other European states, in part, comprehend our stance. Here I wish, above all, to thank Italy, which lent us support during this entire time. You will understand that we do not wish to appeal to a foreign power for assistance in this struggle. This is our task, and we shall carry it out ourselves.

The neutral states have already assured us of their neutrality. We earlier guaranteed this neutrality. We are deadly serious (es ist us heiliger Ernst) in making this assertion. [3] As long as other powers do not violate this neutrality, we shall likewise respect it scrupulously. For how could we wish to, or desire to, conduct ourselves differently towards these states?

I am happy to be able to inform you of a special development at this point. You know that two different doctrines govern Russia and Germany. There remained but one question to be resolved: as Germany has no intent of exporting its doctrine, and at the moment that Soviet Russia no longer contemplates exporting its doctrine to Germany, I no longer see any compelling reason why we should continue to take opposite stances. Both of us are aware that any struggle between our two peoples would merely benefit third parties. Hence we have determined to enter into a pact which shall preclude the application of force between us for all time. [4] It also obliges us to seek mutual consultation in certain European questions. Moreover, it shall render possible economic cooperation and, above all, ensure that the strength of the two great states is not squandered in rivalry with each other. Any attempt by the West to change this is doomed to failure! And of one thing I would like to assure all of you here today: this decision signals a fundamental change for the future and is a final one!

I believe the entire German Volk welcomes this political resolve. Russia and Germany fought each other in the World War only to suffer its consequences equally in the end. This shall not happen a second time!

Yesterday in Moscow and Berlin, the Non-Aggression and Mutual Assistance Pact — which had originally entered into force upon signature — was accorded final ratification. In Moscow this pact was as warmly welcomed as you welcomed it here. I second every world of the Russian Foreign Commissar Molotov's speech.

Our goals: I am determined to resolve

1. the question of Danzig and
2. the question of the Corridor, and to see to it that
3. a change of tone comes about in German-Polish relations, so as to warrant peaceful coexistence.

Meanwhile I am equally determined to wage this war until the present Polish Government judges it opportune to assent to these changes, or another Polish Government shall be willing to do so.

I will cleanse Germany's borders of this element of insecurity, this civil-war-like circumstance. I will take care that our border in the East enjoys the same peace as along any other of our borders.

I will take the measures necessary in a fashion that does not contradict what I have pronounced to be my proposals to the world before you, my Deputies.

This means I do not wish to lead this war against women and children. I have instructed my Luftwaffe to limit its attacks to military objectives. Should, however, the enemy regard this as giving him license to employ reverse measures against us, then he shall receive so powerful a response that stars dance before his eyes!

This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our own territory. We have now been returning the fire since 5:45 a.m.! [5] (Seit 5.45 Uhr wird jetzt zurückgeschossen!) Henceforth, bomb will be met with bomb.

He who fights with poison shall be fought with poison gas. He who distances himself from the rules for a humane conduct of warfare can only expect us to take like steps. I will lead this struggle, whoever may be the adversary, until the security of the Reich and its rights have been assured.

For over six years I worked on the rearmament of the German Wehrmacht. I have spent over 90 billion [6] of the rearmament of the Wehrmacht. Today it is among the best-equipped in the entire world. It completely defies comparison to that of 1914!

My confidence in it is unshakeable! When I call on this Wehrmacht, and when I now demand sacrifice from the German Volk, even the ultimate sacrifice should there be need, then it is because I have a right to do this, because today I am as willing as I was before to make any personal sacrifice. I am asking of no German man more than I myself was ready to do through four years!

Germans should not be asked to make any sacrifices I myself would not make without an instant's hesitation! [7]

I now wish to be nothing other than the first soldier of the German Reich. Therefore I have put on that tunic which has always been the most holy and dear to me. [8] I shall not take it off again until after the victory is ours, or — I shall not live to see the day!

Should something happen to me in this struggle, then my immediate successor shall be Party comrade Göring.

Should anything happen to Party comrade Göring, then his successor shall be Party comrade Hess. You shall owe this man — as your Führer — the same loyalty and blind obedience you owe to my person!

Should anything happen to Party comrade Hess, then through the offices of law I shall call upon the Senate, which is to determine the most worthy, i.e. the most valiant from its midst. [9]

As a National Socialist and a German soldier I enter into this struggle with a strong heart! My life was but one struggle for the German Volk, for its resurrection, for Germany. This struggle was governed by only one creed: faith in this Volk!

There is one word which I have never known and this word is: capitulation! [10] If some now believe that we are facing hard times, then I would like to ask them to bear in mind that once a Prussian king with a ludicrously small state faced off a far more powerful coalition. And three battles later he stood victorious in the end, for he possessed that strong, believing heart, the kind which we need in these times as well. [11] I would like to assure the world around us of one thing: there shall never ever be another November 1918 in German history!

Since I myself stand ever ready to lay down my life for my Volk and Germany, [12]  I demand the same of everyone else! Whoever believes he can oppose this national commandment shall fall! We will have nothing to do with traitors!

And all of us pledge ourselves to the one ancient principle: it is of no importance if we ourselves live — as long as our Volk lives, as long as Germany lives! This is essential.

I expect of all of you as the Reich's emissaries henceforth that you shall do your duty wherever you may be assigned! You must carry the banner of resistance forth regardless of the cost.

May no one approach me to report one day that morale is low in his Gau, in his Kreis, or in his group or cell. The one responsible for morale is you — the responsibility is yours! [13] I am the one responsible for the morale of the German Volk. You are responsible for morale in your Gaus, in your Kreise! No one has the right to cast off this responsibility. The sacrifices demanded of us today are no greater than those made by countless earlier generations. All men who have set out on this most bitter and strenuous of paths for Germany have accomplished nothing else than what we must also accomplish. Their sacrifice was not made without cost or suffering. It was no easier to make than the one demanded of us.

I expect every German woman to integrate herself into the great community-in-struggle in an exemplary fashion and with iron discipline!

It goes without saying that the German youth will fulfill, with a radiant heart, the tasks the nation, the National Socialist state, expects and demands of it. [14]

Provided all of us form part of this community, sworn together, determined never to capitulate, then our will shall master all need.

I conclude with the avowal I once pronounced as I began my struggle for power in the Reich. Back then I said: When our will is strong enough that need can no longer vanquish it, then our will and our German state will vanquish and conquer need.

Deutschland — Sieg Heil!

[1] Reference to the Reichstag address April 28, 1939.]

[2] The claim that he and his "Government . . . sat and waited . . . for two whole days" was untrue. Actually, Hitler had mostly been waiting alone during the two days in question (August 30 and 31, 1939), while Göring or Ribbentrop had kept him company on occasion.]

[3] On April 9, 1940, both Denmark and Norway would find out precisely how "deadly serious" Hitler was in making these assertions. The assault upon Poland merely set the stage for surprise attacks on non-belligerents which had explicitly declared their neutrality. On May 10, 1940, German troops moved toward France and in the process violated the neutrality of three states: Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands. On April 6, 1941, Yugoslavia and Greece became Hitler's next victims, and the Soviet Union followed suit on June 22, 1941.]

[4] This future "for all time" ended prematurely on June 22, 1941.]

[5] The attack was launched at 4:45 a.m. according to plan and not at 5:45 a.m. as Hitler erroneously stated.]

[6] This in fact meant that nearly 14 billion Reichsmarks were allocated for rearmament every fiscal year. In light of this, there apparently was little truth to Hitler's 1932 claim that the final repayment of the three billion Reichsmarks outstanding in reparations would spell the ruin of Germany. In this 1939 statement, Hitler once more greatly exaggerated the sum spent on rearmament. According to research by Heinrich Stübel the figure more accurately had to be placed around 63 billion instead of the 90 billion Hitler cited. Cf. Heinrich Stübel, "Die Finanzierung der Aufrustung im Dritten Reich," in Europa-Archiv, 6 (1951), pp. 4128 ff.]

[7] Further developments revealed that Hitler had no intention of placing his own life in danger or suffering the same privations the German people did because of the policies he espoused.]

[8] The tunic Hitler sported that day had little in common with the jacket he had worn during World War I; only the color was the same. Aside from this, cut and quality of the material had markedly improved: it was no longer the tunic of a mere corporal, but rather it was to clothe the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht. The tunic was replete with golden buttons and an eagle in gold on the left sleeve. The tunic made plain that Hitler occupied a higher rank than an ordinary Wehrmacht general whose golden insignia was placed on the right chest. Moreover, the Supreme Commander naturally was in a position superior to that of a Waffen SS general whose insignia, while embroidered on the left sleeve as well, was in silver only.]

[9] As Hitler felt his position in power threatened by like bodies, this senate was never actually in session. Six years earlier, Hitler had also announced the creation of a senate whose members one day would convene to elect a new Führer. Needless to say, this senate never met either. See Hitler's three-hour-long speech to Reichsleiters and Gauleiters at the Obersalzberg on August 6, 1933.]

[10] For Hitler, capitulation meant "submission to the will of another." For himself, this was out of the question. He made this unmistakably clear in a speech on April 29, 1941: "As a National Socialist, there was one word I refused to acknowledge in the struggle for power: Capitulation! I never knew this word and I shall never know this word as the Führer of the German Volk and as your Supreme Commander. Once more, this one word is 'capitulation' and all it means is submission to the will of another — never, never!"]

[11] Here once again Hitler's "Fridericus Complex" surfaced, a delusion many Germans suffered from as well. It was based upon the premise that, despite serious setbacks and an international coalition sworn against him, the Prussian King Frederick II the Great (Fridericus Rex) had reigned victorious at the end of the Seven Years' War because of his steadfastness. The truth of the matter was, however, that Frederick's role in this war was a peripheral one as the hostilities between Prussia and Austria were not at the center of the conflict. The rivalry between England and France determined the war's outcome; had Frederick the Great been allied with France, instead of with victorious England, neither his steadfastness nor any other virtue would have saved him from a fate no different from that of defeated Austria in 1763. Austria had fought on the French side as France's chief ally in the conflict.]

[12] Hitler was not in the least disposed to risk his life for the cause; rather he was very careful as far as his personal well-being was concerned.]

[13] This statement is a characteristic one for Hitler. Already at the beginning of the war, he made certain that his cohorts knew they were to report good news exclusively: victories, successful campaigns, and great enthusiasm amongst the common folk.]

[14] According to Hitler, it was the main mission in the life of Germany's youth to die a hero's death; however, that they were to do so with a "radiant heart" was indeed a new turn of the phrase.]



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