1 September 1939 Reichstag speech

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Hitler at the Reichstag, 1 September 1939. For this speech, Hitler wore a field-grey military uniform, conforming with the Generalissimo rank he was assuming, rather than the brown Nazi Party uniform that he had worn for earlier speeches.

Hitler's 1 September 1939 Reichstag speech is a speech made by Adolf Hitler at an Extraordinary Session of the German Reichstag on 1 September 1939, the day of the German invasion of Poland. The speech served as public declaration of war against Poland and thus of the commencement of World War II (Germany did not submit a formal declaration of war to Poland).

The first shots of the invasion had been fired at around 4:48 am of September 1, by the battleship Schleswig-Holstein. At 5:40 am Hitler issued a declaration to the armed forces: "The Polish state has refused the peaceful settlement of relations which I desired, and appealed to arms... In order to put an end to this lunacy I have no other choice than to meet force with force from now on."[citation needed] At 11:40 am,[1] the German Supreme Command issued a proclamation to the troops ("Soldiers of the German Army - after all other means have failed - weapons must decide."),[2] and this was followed later in the day by Hitler's speech to the Reichstag, meeting at the Kroll Opera House.

Although some statements in the speech were true, overall it was an "astonishing catalog of lies".[3] Hitler misrepresented in detail the course of diplomatic events preceding the invasion:

I have also tried to solve the problem of Danzig, the Corridor, etc., by proposing a peaceful discussion... In my talks with Polish statesmen I discussed the ideas which you recognize from my last speech to the Reichstag... there is nothing more modest or loyal than these proposals... These proposals have been refused. Not only were they answered first with mobilization, but with increased terror and pressure against our German compatriots... Poland was not prepared to settle the Corridor question in a reasonable way... I made one more final effort to accept a proposal for mediation... For two whole days I sat with my Government and waited to see whether it was convenient for the Polish Government to send a plenipotentiary or not... Deputies, if the German Government and its Leader patiently endured such treatment Germany would deserve only to disappear from the political stage. But I am wrongly judged if my love of peace and my patience are mistaken for weakness or even cowardice... These proposals for mediation have failed...

Hitler then spoke of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which had been signed just ten days before, on August 23. Although news of the pact had been published in the Soviet Union and had by then widely spread throughout the world, this speech included Hitler's first formal declaration of the Pact:

I am happy particularly to be able to tell you of one event... I no longer see any reason why [Germany and Russia] should still oppose one another.... We have, therefore, resolved to conclude a pact which rules out for ever any use of violence between us... Russia and Germany fought against one another in the World War. That shall and will not happen a second time.

Hitler justified the German attack by claiming Polish culpability based on the faked Gleiwitz incident – the culmination of Operation Himmler, a false flag operation intended to demonstrate that the Poles had attacked first:

This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our territory. Since 5.45 A.M. we have been returning the fire, and from now on bombs will be met by bombs.

Hitler then declared himself as the "First soldier of the German Reich" (Erster Soldat des Deutschen Reiches), a self-claimed rank, effectively equivalent of Generalissimo. This was a further step in cementing Hitler's position as supreme commander of the German Armed Forces (Oberbefehlshaber der Deutschen Wehrmacht):

I am from now on just first soldier of the German Reich. I have once more put on that coat that was the most sacred and dear to me. I will not take it off again until victory is secured, or I will not survive the outcome.

William Shirer noted that "Only once that day did Hitler utter the truth. In the end, this once, he would prove as good as his word. But no German I met in Berlin that day noticed that what the Leader was saying quite bluntly was that he could not face, or take, defeat should it come".[4]

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote "At 5:00 o’clock this morning our telephone rang and it was the President in Washington to tell me the sad news that Germany had invaded Poland and that her planes were bombing Polish cities. He told me that Hitler was about to address the Reichstag, so we turned on the radio and listened until 6:00 o’clock.... As I listened to Hitlers' speech, this letter kept returning to my mind... how can you say that you do not intend to make war on women and children and then send planes to bomb cities?"[5] (In the speech Hitler promised "I will not war against women and children. I have ordered my air force to restrict itself to attacks on military objectives" (Ich will nicht den Kampf gegen Frauen und Kinder führen. Ich habe meiner Luftwaffe den Auftrag gegeben, sich auf militärische Objekte bei ihren Angriffen zu beschränken.))[6][7]

The New York Times headline for its front-page report of the speech, after leading with quotes that "Bomb Will Be Met by Bomb" and Hitler's vow to "Fight Until Resolution" of the Polish situation, focused on the order of succession decree.[8] In the speech, Hitler had declared that the order of his succession would be Hermann Göring, then Rudolf Hess, then a successor to be chosen by "the Senate" (den Senat)[6] (although there was no Senate, the Reichsrat (Senate) inherited from the Weimar Republic having been abolished on 14 February, 1934.)[9] This was the first announcement of this order of succession.[citation needed] (This designation of Göring as Hitler's successor remained in effect (re-affirmed by a decree of 29 June 1941) until the Göring Telegram of 23 April 1945, in which Göring attempted to use it to justify seizing control of Germany.)


  1. ^ Saward, Dudley (1987). Victory Denied: The Rise of Air Power and the Defeat of Germany, 1920-1945. Franklin Watts. p. 144. ISBN 978-0531150450.
  2. ^ "Hitler's address to the Reichstag". BBC News. September 3, 1999. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  3. ^ Addis, Ferdie (2012). I Dare Say: Inside Stories of the World's Most Powerful Speeches. Reader's Digest. p. 63. ISBN 978-1606524701. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  4. ^ Shirer, William (1949). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Simon and Schuster. p. 499. ISBN 978-1451651683.
  5. ^ Eleanor Roosevelt (September 2, 1939). "SEPTEMBER 2, 1939". My Day. Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, George Washington University (2008 digital publication). Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Adolf Hitler (September 1, 1939). "Address by Adolf Hitler - September 1, 1939". A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust. Avalon Project at the Yale Law School, via Florida Center for Instructional Technology, University of South Florida. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  7. ^ Adolf Hitler (September 1, 1939). Emerson Kent (ed.). "Es wird jetzt zurueckgeschossen (Returning Fire)". Emersonkent.com (in German). Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  8. ^ "Hitler Tells the Reichstag 'Bomb Will Be Met by Bomb'; Chancellor Vows 'Fight Until Resolution' Against Poland--Gives Order of Succession As Goering, Hess, Then Senate to Choose". New York Times. September 1, 1939. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  9. ^ New York Times

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