- Contributed by
- Bridport Museum
- People in story:
- John Smith
- Location of story:
- Harwich, Essex
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 17 May 2005
A Last Appeal to Reason' by Adolf Hitler. Speech before the Reichstag, 19 July 1940
In 1940 I was living in a suburb of the port of Harwich in Essex, at the time it was a submarine and coastal forces base for the Royal Navy. I used to travel daily by bus to Colchester (some 20 miles away) where I was a student at the Technical College.
In June of that year we were returning home during the late afternoon, when suddenly a German bomber flying at about 400/500 feet appeared from nowhere and was making straight towards us. The pilot sitting in the cockpit was clearly visible from the bus. As it passed by, the passengers were trying to decide whether it was a Heinkel or Dornier, when suddenly the aircraft came round onto the other side and two bursts of machine-gun was fired at the bus. Fortunately both missed.
Previously I had been in air raids and got accustomed to the effect of being bombed, but somehow, this was different, having a machine-gun fired directly at you was a bit more personal and an experience I was to get to know three years later when I joined the Army.
A couple of months after the bus incident I was visiting Ramsey, a small village about four miles from Harwich, and found a German leaflet in the Hedgerow, which in all probability had been dropped by a bomber returning from an air raid on London. The leaflet, is double A3 size and has close type on all four sides. It is an excellent piece of crafted propaganda and quite likely had the hand of Josef Goebbels in its preparation and the making of the German case. There were no lies, but the manipulation of the facts stood truth on its head. The heading and brief note on some of the more salient points are:
A LAST APPEAL TO REASON BY ADOLF HITLER
SPEECH BEFORE THE RICHSTAG, 19 JULY 1940
The speech must have taken at least 2 hours to deliver, starting with the loss sustained after the 1914-118 War and that the conditions imposed on Germany at Versailles were considered to be intolerable and humiliating discriminate, thus depriving the German Nation of all its rights and empire. The Reich’s relations with the rest of the world was simply an attempt to bring about a definite revision of the Treaty of Versailles, through as far as at all possible, this was to be accomplished by peaceful means. The leaflet claims that all attempts made by democratic Germany to obtain equality for the German people by revision of the Treaty proved unavailing.
In October 1939 it is said that Hitler made an appeal to the France-British alliance not to continue the war and emphasised the consequences of which, can only be devastating should the appeal be ignored. Alleging it was the warmongers that needed a long war because they had invested so much of their capital in armament shares, had purchased machinery and therefore required time for the development of the their business interests and the amortization of their investments. Emphasising the point that it was France and Britain who declared war on Germany in 1914 and again in 1939.
German Intelligence is said to have had information of the Anglo-French intentions of creating trouble in the Balkans that would result in the cutting off Germany’s supply of oil and an immediate occupation of a number of the most important points under the pretext of preventing Germany from further war supplies. The case of the “Altmark” showed at the time; that the Norwegian Government were not prepared to safeguard their own neutrality. The massing of allied troops along the Holland and Belgium borders put those countries neutrality in some doubt and made it necessary for Germany to take some preventative action in safeguarding its own borders. The leaflet covers the military action taken from September 1939 up to the fall of France and listed in detail all the promotions and honours bestowed on the senior general staff officers.
Members of the Reichstag were informed that the loss in arms in Norway and especially during the campaign against Holland, Belgium and France was entirely negligible and that the army and air force were more than perfectly equipped and stronger in the advance against Great Britain.
The leaflet emphasised Hitler’s regret that, in spite or all his determined and honest efforts, he had not succeeded in achieving the friendship with England which he believed would have been a blessing for both people.
Two thirds of the last page deals with the proposed future four year plan for Germany and ending with Hitler’s final statement:
"In this hour I feel it to be my duty before my own conscience to appeal once more to reason and common sense, in Great Britain as much as elsewhere. I consider myself in a position to make this appeal since I am not the vanquished begging favours, but the victor speaking in the name of reason. I can see no reason why this war must go on.
Possibly Mr Churchill will again brush aside this statement of mine by saying that it is merely of fear and doubt in our final victory. In that case, I shall have relieved my conscience in regards to the things to come.”
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