Adolf Hitler and the Philosophy of the Supreme State
In his first speech as Chancellor, Hitler emphasized the core value of National Socialism: the individual is nothing outside the State.
At the core of libertarianism is the idea that the individual is logically prior to the state, and that if states are to exist, they have certain responsibilities toward their citizens. The opposite view is that individuals are important only by dint of their participation in a state, that the people have obligations to serve the state, rather than the other way around. We can see this anti‐libertarian view expressed clearly and in an extreme form in the first speech Adolph Hitler made to the Reichstag after becoming Chancellor, titled “Proclamation to the German Nation.”
On 30 January, 1933, German President Paul von Hindenberg appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of a coalition government joining the political forces of the nationalist conservatives and National Socialists under Hitler’s leadership. After more than a decade seeking anti‐democratic revolution in German politics, Hitler now had the opportunity to dissolve German democracy from within.
On 10 February, 1933 he addressed the parliament for the first time. He spoke from the perspective of a tireless and now victorious revolutionary both establishing peace terms with his enemies (absolute surrender) and his plan for resurrecting Germany from the ruins of the First World War. Drawing upon the Italian example, he stressed above all else the need for national unity of purpose and determination in the face of long, difficult work in the future. In his list of major points, Hitler emphasized 1) the need for frankness and honesty in discussing the problems facing post‐war Germany, 2) the importance of constructing a movement around the idea of German resurrection, 3) the importance of unity of purpose within that movement, 4 & 5) the specifically German origins and ideals of Nazism, and 6) the absolute and historically‐determined demand that individuals submit themselves to the good of the Volk, for the preservation of the Volk. The new chancellor argued that individuals do not exist for themselves and all must devote their entire being to the health of the Vaterland.
Hitler’s nationalism was the German right’s antidote to leftist socialists’ divisive class‐based view of the world. To the Marxists, the average Germans’ real enemies were his bosses, not the British or French much less the communist Russians. Accompanying his calls for national unity across class boundaries and a nationalist rejection of Marxism, Hitler slashed at modernist German culture for its supposed degeneracy. In its place he advanced a cultural purification toward “decency.” The speech hearkened to the lives of World War One veterans with one rhetorical gesture and the despised and weak regime that so squandered their sacrifices with the next. Hitler rested his case for the National Socialist regime on the fundamental conviction that the State is the most precious thing on earth, the individual nothing. A mere seventeen days after the speech, the Reichstag burned and Hitler seized his opportunity to suppress and purge the German Communist Party.
The full text of Hitler’s speech is included below.
German National Comrades,
On January 30 of this year, the new government of the national coalition was formed. I, and therefore the National Socialist movement, entered into it. I believe that the prerequisites which I have been fighting for for the past year have been attained. […]
They [the Weimar government] committed the crime of inflation, and after this rampage on the part of their Minister Hilferding, a ruinous usury set in.
Outrageously exorbitant interest rates, which should never have been allowed to go unpunished in any state, are now part and parcel of the “social” Republic, and this is where the destruction of production begins, the destruction wreaked by these Marxist theories of economics as such, and moreover by the madness of a taxation policy which sees to the rest; and now we witness how class upon class are collapsing, how hundreds of thousands, gradually driven to despair, are losing their livelihoods; and how, year after year, tens of thousands of bankruptcies and hundreds of thousands of compulsory auctions are taking place.
Then the peasantry starts to become impoverished, the most industrious class in the entire Volk is driven to ruin, can no longer exist, and then this process spreads back to the cities, and the army of unemployed begins to grow: one million, two, three, four million, five million, six million, seven million; today the number might actually lie between seven and eight million. They destroyed what they could in fourteen years of work, and no one did anything to stop them.
Today this distress can perhaps be best illustrated by a single comparison. One Land: Thuringia. Total revenues from its communities amount to 26 million marks. This money must suffice to defray the costs of their administration and cover the maintenance of their public buildings as well as everything they spend for schools and educational purposes. This money must cover what they spend on welfare. A total of 26 million in revenues, and welfare support alone requires 45 million.
That’s what Germany looks like today! Under the rule of these parties who have ruined our Volk for fourteen years. The only question is, for how much longer?
Because of my conviction that we must begin with the rescue work now if we do not want to come too late, I declared my willingness on January 30 to make use of the Movement—which has meanwhile swelled from seven men to a force of twelve million—toward saving the German Volk und Vaterland.
Our opponents are asking about our program. My national comrades, I could now pose the question to these same opponents: “Where was your program?” Did you actually intend to have happen what did happen to Germany? Was that your program, or didn’t you want that? Who prevented you from doing the opposite? Surely they do not intend to now suddenly recall that they bear the responsibility for fourteen years. However, we shall both remind and reproach them and thus make certain that their conscience may not rest, that their memory does not fade.
When they say, “Show us the details of your program,” then my only answer is this: any government at any time would presumably have been able to have a program with a few concrete points. But after your fine state of affairs, after your dabbling, after your subversion, the German Volk must be rebuilt from top to bottom, just as you destroyed it from top to bottom! That is our program!
And a number of great tasks tower before us. The best and thus the first item on our program is: we do not want to lie and we do not want to con. This is the reason why I have refused ever to step before this Volk and make cheap promises. No one here can stand up against me and testify that I have ever said that Germany’s resurrection was only a matter of a few days. Again and again I preach: the resurrection of the German nation is a question of recovering the inner strength and health of the German Volk.
Just as I myself have now worked for fourteen years, untiringly and without ever wavering, to build this Movement; and just as I have succeeded in turning seven men into a force of twelve million, in the same way I want and we all want to build and work on giving new heart to our German Volk. Just as this Movement today has been given the responsibility of the leadership of the German Reich, so shall we one day lead this German Reich back to life and to greatness. We are determined to allow nothing to shake us in this conviction.
Thus I come to the second item on our program. I do not want to promise them that this resurrection of the German Volk will come of itself. We are willing to work, but the Volk must help us. It should never make the mistake of believing that life, liberty and happiness will fall from heaven. Everything is rooted in one’s own will, in one’s own work.
And thirdly, we wish to have all of our efforts guided by one realization, one conviction: we shall never believe in foreign help, never in help which lies outside our own nation, outside our own Volk. The future of the German Volk lies in itself alone. Only when we have succeeded in leading this German Volk onwards by means of its own work, its own industriousness, its own defiance, and its own perseverance—only then will we rise up, just as our fathers once made Germany great, not with the help of others, but on their own.
The fourth item on our program dictates that we rebuild our Volk not according to theories hatched by some alien brain, but according to the eternal laws valid for all time. Not according to theories of class, not according to concepts of class.
We can summarize our fifth item in a single realization: The fundamentals of our life are founded on values which no one can take away from us except we ourselves; they are founded on our own flesh and blood and willpower and in our soil. Volk und Erde—those are the two roots from which we will draw our strength and upon which we propose to base our resolves.
And this brings us thus to our sixth item, clearly the goal of our struggle: the preservation of this Volk and this soil, the preservation of this Volk for the future, in the realization that this alone can constitute our reason for being. It is not for ideas that we live, not for theories or fantastic party programs; no, we live and fight for the German Volk, for the preservation of its existence, that it may undertake its own struggle for existence, and we are thereby convinced that only in this way do we make our contribution to what everyone else so gladly places in the foreground: world peace.
This peace has always required strong peoples who strive for and protect it. World culture is founded upon the cultures of the different nations and peoples. A world economy is only conceivable if supported by the economies of healthy individual nations.
In starting with our own Volk, we are assisting in the reconstruction of the entire world in that we are repairing one building block which cannot be removed from the framework and structure of the rest of the world.
And another item reads: because we perceive our highest goal to be the preservation of our Volk, enabling it to undertake its own struggle for existence, we must eliminate the causes of our own disintegration and thus bring about the reconciliation of the German classes. A goal which cannot be achieved in six weeks or four months if others have been laboring at this decay for seventy years. But a goal which we always keep in mind, because we shall rebuild this new community ourselves and slowly eliminate the manifestations of this disintegration.
The parties which support this class division can, however, be certain that as long as the Almighty keeps me alive, my resolve and my will to destroy them will know no bounds. Never, never will I stray from the task of stamping out Marxism and its side effects in Germany, and never will I be willing to make any compromise on this point.
There can be only one victor: either Marxism or the German Volk! And Germany will triumph!
In bringing about this reconciliation of the classes, directly and indirectly, we want to proceed in leading this united German Volk back to the eternal sources of its strength; we want, by means of an education starting in the cradle, to implant in young minds a belief in a God and the belief in our Volk. Then we want to resurrect this Volk on the foundation of the German peasants, the cornerstones of all völkisch life.
When I fight for the future of Germany, I must fight for German soil and I must fight for the German peasant. He renews us, he gives us the people in the cities, he has been the everlasting source for millenniums, and his existence must be secured.
And then I proceed to the second pillar of our national tradition: the German worker—the German worker who, in future, shall no longer and must no longer be an alien in the German Reich; whom we want to lead back to the community of our Volk and for whom we will break down the doors so that he, too, can become part of the German Volksgemeinschaft as one of the bulwarks of the German nation. We will then ensure that the German spirit has the opportunity to unfold; we want to restore the value of character and the creative power of the individual to their everlasting prerogatives. Thus we want to break with all the manifestations of a rotten democracy and place in its stead the everlasting realization that everything which is great can originate only in the power of the individual and that everything which is to be preserved must be entrusted once more to the ability of the individual. We will combat the manifestations of our parliamentary and democratic system, which leads us to our twelfth item—restoring decency to our Volk.
In addition to decency in all areas of our life: decency in our administration, decency in public life, and decency in our culture as well, we want to restore German honor, to restore its due respect and the commitment to it, and we want to engrave upon our hearts the commitment to freedom; in doing so, we desire to bestow once more upon the Volk a genuinely German culture with German art, German architecture, and German music, which shall restore to us our soul, and we shall thus evoke reverence for the great traditions of our Volk; evoke deep reverence for the accomplishments of the past, a humble admiration for the great men of German history.
We want to lead our youth back to this glorious Reich of our past. Humbled shall they bow before those who lived before us and labored and worked and toiled so that they could live today. And we want most of all to educate this youth to revere those who once made the most difficult sacrifice for the life of our Volk and the future of our Volk. For all the damage these fourteen years wrought, their worst crime was that they defrauded two million dead of their sacrifice, and these two million shall rise anew before the eyes of our youth as an eternal warning, as a demand that they be revenged. We want to educate our youth to revere our time‐honored army, which they should remember, which they should admire, and in which they should once more recognize the powerful expression of the strength of the German nation, the epitome of the greatest achievement our Volk has ever accomplished in its history.
Thus this program will be a program of national resurrection in all areas of life, intolerant against anyone who sins against the nation, but a brother and friend to anyone who has the will to fight with us for the resurrection of his Volk, of our nation.
Therefore I today address my final appeal to my Volksgenossen: On January 30, we took over government. Devastating conditions have descended upon our Volk. It is our desire to remedy them, and we will succeed in doing so. Just as we have eliminated these adversaries despite all the scorn, we shall also eliminate the consequences of their rule.
To do justice to God and our own conscience, we have turned once more to the German Volk. It shall now play a helping role. It will not deter us should the German Volk abandon us in this hour. We will adhere to whatever is necessary to keep Germany from degenerating.
However, it is our wish that this age of restoration of the German nation be associated not only with a few names, but with the name of the German Volk itself; that the government not be working alone, but that a mass of millions come to stand behind this government; that the government have the will, with the aid of this backing, to fortify us once again for this great and difficult task. I know that, were the graves to open today, the ghosts of the past who once fought and died for Germany would float aloft, and our place today would be behind them. All the great men of our history, of this I am certain, are behind us today and watch over our work and our labors.
For fourteen years the parties of disintegration, of the November Revolution, have seduced and abused the German Volk. For fourteen years they wreaked destruction, infiltration, and dissolution.
Considering this, it is not presumptuous of me to stand before the nation today and plead of it: German Volk, give us four years’ time and then pass judgment upon us. German Volk, give us four years, and I swear to you, just as we, just as I have taken this office, so shall I leave it. I have done it neither for salary nor for wages; I have done it for your sake! It has been the most difficult decision of my life. I dared to make it because I believed that it had to be.
I have dared to make this decision because I am certain that one cannot afford to hesitate any longer.
I have dared to make this decision because it is my conviction that our Volk will finally return to its senses and that, even if millions might curse us today, the hour will come in which they will march with us after all, having recognized that we really wanted nothing but the best and had no other goal in sight than serving what is, to us, most precious on earth.
Translation republished with permission of International Historical Films, Chicago IL