A day before his death in his beleaguered command center in central Berlin, Adolf Hitler summoned Traudl Junge, his youngest secretary, for an important task. Standing at a large table in the conference room of the cramped underground concrete bunker complex, he paused a bit before he began dictating “My Political Testament,” a declaration that would be his final words to the German people, as well as a statement for coming generations.
It was about two a.m. on Sunday morning, April 29, 1945, when the 25-year-old secretary began taking down his words in shorthand. Hitler made almost no editing changes before she went to work typing out three copies of the historic document, as well as an accompanying “Private Testament” he had also issued. It took her about two hours to complete the task.
Above them was raging the Battle of Berlin, one of the greatest military clashes of all time. The German capital was now encircled by enemy forces, and some Soviet troops were advancing into the city center. Hitler's underground command center was under direct and heavy artillery shellfire, while above ground the Reich Chancellery building was already in ruins.
Just nine days earlier Hitler had marked his 56th birthday. He had been Germany's chief executive for twelve years – six and half years of peace, and five and half years of war. Months of irregular and inadequate sleep, oppressive nervous tension, no exercise, bouts of terrible pain, and the after-effects of an assassin's bomb blast nine months earlier, had all taken a severe toll on his health. Although physically he was a wreck, his will, resolve and mental powers were still intact. All those who were with him during the final weeks of his life later testified that Hitler remained mentally alert until the end.
The phrasing, tone and rhetorical style of the Testament – which is unquestionably authentic -- are entirely characteristic of Hitler's speeches and writings throughout his career.
In this final declaration, Hitler expresses gratitude to all those who had given him their trust and support, especially during the terrifying ordeal of war. He also explains why he had decided to end his life in his Berlin command post.
In Hitler's view, military commanders who order soldiers to defend a given position to the death are ethically obliged to set an example themselves, either by dying in battle or by taking their own lives. Following the calamitous conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad, he had expressed contempt for the behavior of the German commander, von Paulus, who surrendered (and then later served as a Soviet propagandist). Von Paulus should have taken his own life, said Hitler, thereby showing the same level of manly resolve that dozens of Soviet commanders in similar situations had already exhibited.
Hitler rejected repeated pleas to flee from the beleaguered German capital. “I will never leave Berlin,” he vowed. “I'll defend the city to my last breath!” He added: “I should already have made this decision, the most important in my life, in November 1944, and should never have left the headquarters in East Prussia.” And even if he did break out from the encircled city, he pointed out, “We would merely flee from one frying pan to another. Am I, the Führer, supposed to sleep in any open field or in a farmhouse, and just wait for the end?”
Hitler also made it clear that although he was willing to die in battle, he feared that he might only be wounded and then taken prisoner, which would mean humiliating captivity and execution. Strengthening his decision to die by his own hand was the news of the fate of his friend and ally, Benito Mussolini. Shortly after being taken prisoner, the Italian leader was simply murdered, and his battered corpse was then put on public display to gratify a hysterical mob.
Moreover, Hitler felt responsible to Eva Braun who, in spite of his pleadings, insisted on sharing her fate with his. The two had loved each other for years, and he consented to marry just before their deaths. As they both knew, countless German women taken captive by Soviet troops were being brutally raped and murdered.
In his Testament, Hitler also sought to explain why things had turned out so calamitously, and he anticipated accusations that would be made against him in the years ahead.
With regard to the charge that he had launched the most destructive military conflict in modern history, Hitler insisted that neither he nor anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939 – and certainly not a general or global conflict. He recalled his proposals for a peaceful resolution of the dispute with Poland, which was the immediate cause of conflict. The sincerity of his desire for peace in 1939, and his fear of another world war, has been affirmed by a number of scholars, including the eminent British historian A. J. P. Taylor. (It was, of course, the declarations of war against Germany by Britain and France on Sept. 3, 1939, with secret encouragement by US President Roosevelt, that transformed the limited German-Polish clash into a larger, continent- wide war.)
Hitler also referred in his Testament to his numerous proposals for peace and mutual limitations of armaments, which the leaders of France, Britain and other powers had rejected. Among the offers spurned by London and Paris was, for example, the German leader's comprehensive plan of March 31, 1936, that proposed demilitarization of the entire Rhineland region, a western Europe security agreement, and mutual prohibition of incendiary bombs, poison gas, heavy tanks and heavy artillery.
In his Testament, Hitler also seems to anticipate the accusation that he was responsible for mass killings of European Jews. He did not try to deny or whitewash what has become known as “the Holocaust,” but – to the contrary – took responsibility for the grim undertaking, and sought to justify it.
He insisted that “international Jewry” bore a collective responsibility for inciting and provoking the Second World War, a cataclysm in which, he emphasized, millions of Germans and other Europeans had suffered and perished, many in the most painful and horrific ways. He pointedly recalled the stern warning made in his Reichstag address of Jan. 30, 1939. “Today, I will once again be a prophet,” he said on that occasion. “If international finance Jewry inside and outside Europe should once again succeed in plunging the nations of the world into a world war, then the result will not be the bolshevization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”
So important did he regard that “prophecy” that he referred to it later in several major speeches during the war years. In his address of Nov. 8, 1942, for example, he said: “Another power, too, which was very strong in Germany has meanwhile been able to learn from experience that the National Socialist prophecies are no mere phrases; it is the main power to which we owe all this misfortune: international Jewry. You will recall the Reichstag session at which I declared: If Jewry imagines by any chance that it can bring about an international world war for the extermination of the European races, the result will not be the extermination of the European races, but the extermination of Jewry in Europe. They have always derided me as a prophet. Today countless numbers of those who laughed at that time, laugh no longer.”
In light of all that, Hitler suggests in his Testament, he had decided that Jews living in lands under his control would not be permitted to “sit out” the terrible global conflagration, but instead – and as he had repeatedly and publicly warned -- would be made to atone for their collective guilt, “even if by more humane means.” Although he does not explain this ambiguous phrase, understandably it has been regarded as an indirect reference to large scale killings of Jews by poison gas or perhaps by shooting.
Hitler concludes with a call for “merciless resistance” to “international Jewry,” which, he warns, is a grave danger for all humanity.
One indication that he addressed his Testament not just to the Germans of his own era, but to people of all nations many years in the future, is the absence of any criticism or even specific mention of any enemy leader or nation (except “international Jewry”). Hitler makes no mention by name of Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, the Soviet Union or the United States, as if anticipating an era many years ahead when those men, as well as the USSR and the USA, would no longer exist.
-- Mark Weber, June 2013
My Political Testament
More than thirty years have now passed since 1914 when I made my modest contribution as a volunteer in the first world war, which was forced upon the Reich.
In these three decades, my life and all my thoughts and deeds have been motivated solely by my love for and loyalty to my people. They gave me the strength to make the most difficult decisions that have ever confronted mortal man. In these three decades I have exhausted my time, my working strength, and my health.
It is not true that I or anyone else in Germany wanted the war in 1939. It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who were either of Jewish origin or who worked for Jewish interests. I have made too many offers for the control and limitation of armaments, which posterity will not be able to disregard forever -- for the responsibility for the outbreak of this war to be laid on me. I have furthermore never wished that after the first disastrous world war a second should arise against England, much less against America. Centuries will pass away, but out of the ruins of our cities and monuments the hatred will continually grow anew against the people that is ultimately responsible, and for whom we have to thank for all this: international Jewry and its helpers!
Three days before the outbreak of the German-Polish war I again proposed to the British ambassador in Berlin a solution to the German-Polish problem – one similar to the solution that had been applied in the case of the Saar territory involving international supervision. That proposal likewise cannot be denied. It was rejected only because the leading circles in English politics wanted the war, partly on account of the hoped-for business opportunities, and partly prompted by the propaganda organized by international Jewry.
I have also left no doubt that, if the nations of Europe were once again to be treated as mere objects of commerce, to be bought and sold by these international conspirators in money and finance, then the people that is really guilty of this murderous conflict will also be held accountable: Jewry!
Moreover, I left no one in doubt that this time millions of European children of the Aryan nations were not going to starve, and millions of grown men were not going to suffer death, and hundreds of thousands of women and children were not going to be burned and bombed to death in cities, without the real guilty ones having to atone for their guilt, even if by more humane means.
After six years of war, which in spite of all setbacks will ultimately will go down in history as the most glorious and valiant expression of a nation's will to life, I cannot forsake the city that is the capital of this Reich. Given that the forces are not sufficient to hold out any longer against the enemy offensive here, and that our own resistance is gradually being weakened by men who are as deluded as they are lacking in initiative, I wish, by remaining in this city, to share my fate with those millions of others who have also accepted to do so. Moreover I do not wish to fall into the hands of an enemy who requires a new spectacle organized by the Jews for the amusement of their incited masses.
I have therefore decided to remain in Berlin and here of my own free will to choose death at the moment when I believe the headquarters of the Führer and Chancellor itself can no longer be held. I die with a joyful heart, mindful of the immeasurable deeds and achievements of our soldiers at the front, our women at home, the achievements of our farmers and workers, and the efforts, unique in history, of our youth that bears my name.
That I express my thanks to you all from the bottom of my heart is just as self-evident as my wish that you should therefore on no account give up the struggle, but rather continue it against the enemies of the Fatherland, no matter where, true to the principles of the great Clausewitz. From the sacrifice of our soldiers and from my own solidarity with them unto death, will in any case arise from German history the seed of a radiant renaissance of the National Socialist movement and thereby of the realization of a true national community.
Many of the most courageous men and women have decided at the end to unite their lives with mine. I have begged and finally ordered them not to do that, but instead to take part in the further struggle of the nation. I beg the leaders of the armies, the navy and the air force to strengthen by all possible means the spirit of resistance of our soldiers in the National Socialist spirit, with special reference to the fact that I myself, as founder and creator of this movement, have also preferred death to cowardly abdication or even capitulation.
May it, at some future time, become a matter of honor for the German officer -- as is already the case in our navy -- that the surrender of a district or of a town is impossible, and that these leaders especially here must go forward as shining examples, faithfully fulfilling their duty unto death.
Before my death I expel from the Party the former Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, and deprive him of all rights which he may enjoy by virtue of the decree of June 29, 1941, and by virtue of my Reichstag declaration on September 1, 1939. In his place I appoint Grand Admiral Dönitz as Reich President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
Before my death I expel the former Reichsführer-SS and Interior Minister Heinrich Himmler from the Party and from all government posts. In his place I appoint Gauleiter Karl Hanke as Reichsführer-SS and Chief of the German Police, and Gauleiter Paul Giesler as Reich Interior Minister.
Göring and Himmler, quite apart from their disloyalty to me personally, have done immeasurable harm to the country and the whole nation by secret negotiations with the enemy, which they have conducted without my knowledge and against my wishes, and by illegally attempting to seize state power for themselves.
In order to give to the German nation a government made up of honorable men, who are duty-bound to carry on the war by all means, I appoint as leaders of the nation the following members of the new cabinet: [ list omitted ] ...
Although some of these men, such as Martin Bormann, Dr. Goebbels, and so forth, together with their wives, have joined me of their own free will and did not wish to leave the Reich capital under any circumstances, but have been willing to perish with me here, I must nevertheless ask them to obey my request, and in this case put the interests of the nation above their own feelings.
By their work and loyalty as colleagues they will be just as close to me after death, as I hope that my spirit will linger among them and always go with them. May they be hard but never unjust; above all, let them never allow fear to influence their actions, and set the honor of the nation above everything in the world. Finally, may they be mindful that our task, that of building a National Socialist State, represents the work of the coming centuries, and imposes on everyone an obligation always to serve the common interest and to subordinate his own advantage to this end. I call on all Germans, all National Socialists, men, women, and all soldiers of the Armed Forces, to be loyal and obedient unto death to the new government and its President.
Above all I enjoin the leaders of the nation and their followers to scrupulous observance of the laws of race, and to merciless resistance to the universal poisoner of all peoples, international Jewry.
Berlin, April 29, 1945, 4:00 a.m.
Dr. Joseph Goebbels
This translation of Hitler's “Political Testament” is by Mark Weber. The German text, as well as various English-language translations (not always entirely accurate), have been published in many books and posted on many websites.
An authoritative text of the German original is published, for example, in the official 42-volume record of the Nuremberg Tribunal (IMT “blue series”), Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Volume 41, pages 547-554. (Document Streicher-9)
For Further Reading
Patrick J. Buchanan, Churchill, Hitler and 'The Unnecessary War'. New York: Crown, 2008.
Joachim Hoffmann, Stalins Vernichtungskrieg, 1941-1945: Planung, Ausführung und Dokumentation. München: Herbig, 1999.
J. F. C. Fuller, A Military History of the Western World. New York: 1987. Vol. 3, esp. pp. 372-375, 411-419.
Germany, Auswärtiges Amt [German Foreign Office]. Documents on the Events Preceding the Outbreak of the War. New York: 1940.
Hess, Rudolf. Speech of July 8, 1934. “A Veterans Plea for Peace”
( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v13/v13n4p38_Hess.html )
Adolf Hitler. Reichstag speech of Dec. 11, 1941. (Declaration of war against the USA.)
( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v08/v08p389_Hitler.html )
David L. Hoggan. The Forced War: When Peaceful Revision Failed. IHR, 1989.
David Irving, Hitler's War. Focal Point, 2002.
Friedrich Stieve. Was die Welt nicht wollte: Hitlers Friedensangebote 1933- 1939. Berlin: 1940.
( http://de.metapedia.org/wiki/Was_die_Welt_nicht_wollte:_Hitlers_Friedensangebote_1933-1939 )
Friedrich Stieve. What the World Rejected: Hitler's Peace Offers 1933-1939
( http://ihr.org/other/what-the-world-rejected.html )
R. H. S. Stolfi, Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny. Prometheus Books, 2011.
Viktor Suvorov (pseud.), The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2008
A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War. New York: 1983.
John Toland, Adolf Hitler. Doubleday & Co., 1976.
Mark Weber, "President Roosevelt's Campaign to Incite War in Europe: The Secret Polish Documents," The Journal of Historical Review, Summer 1983.
( http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v04/v04p135_Weber.html )
Mark Weber, "The 'Good War' Myth of World War Two." May 2008.
( http://www.ihr.org/news/weber_ww2_may08.html )