A rare, early speech by Adolf Hitler, delivered on 7 August 1920 to the 2nd Inter-State Representatives’ Conference of the National Socialists of Greater Germany in Salzburg, Austria
Over 7-8 August 1920, representatives from the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP), the German Socialist Party (Deutschsozialistische Partei, DSP), and the Czech, Polish, and Austrian branches of the German National Socialist Workers’ Party (Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei, DNSAP) gathered together in Salzburg, Austria for the 2nd Inter-State Representatives’ Conference of the National Socialists of Greater Germany. Among the various attendees who met in Salzburg to discuss tactical questions and points of theory was a certain delegate of the NSDAP who, at the time, was still largely unknown outside völkisch circles in Munich: a rabble-rousing young orator and propagandist named Adolf Hitler. Hitler’s appearance at the Salzburg Conference would turn out to be an important moment in the history of his career. The speech he delivered to the assembled representatives made a significant impression upon those present, leading to Hitler’s statements being mentioned in the DNSAP party press and also to the DNSAP leadership extending him an eager invitation (which he accepted) to undertake a speaking tour of Austria in support of the party’s upcoming electoral campaign. There is even a story (possibly a piece of hagiographical propaganda) that, upon the speech’s conclusion, Czechoslovakian DNSAP delegate Rudolf Jung turned to his secretary and declared: “One day he will be our greatest.” Regardless of the veracity of Jung’s reaction, the reaction of the broader National Socialist movement was certainly enthusiastic, and following the conference’s conclusion DNSAP branches across Austria clamored for a visit of their own from Hitler, evidence of a growing international recognition of his talents and of an influence which was beginning to extend beyond the confines of Munich’s beer-halls. Hitler’s speech at Salzburg thus arguably marks the first beginnings of the Führer myth, in which Hitler was to be gradually elevated from the movement’s evangelistic ‘drummer’ to the role of overarching Leader – first of the cross-border National Socialist movement, then ultimately of every member of the German Volk wherever they might reside. The speech was considered significant enough that a transcript of it was preserved by attendees and survives to this day within the German Bundesarchiv in Berlin, although unfortunately it is in terrible condition, barely legible in some areas due to faded type. My translation of Hitler’s Salzburg speech – the only complete translation in English, so far as I’m aware – has been made from historian Eberhard Jäckel’s reconstruction of the transcript. Jäckel put a considerable amount of effort into locating National Socialist newspaper articles and historical works which mentioned the Salzburg Conference, using their quotations from Hitler to reconstruct those portions of the text which are virtually unreadable in the original transcript. Some words were unfortunately still indecipherable (these have been marked [illegible] in my translation), but for the most part the speech is otherwise now available in full. Considering the sorry state of the original transcript, Jäckel’s work deserves commendation – I would not have been able to make a translation of the speech without it.
Speech to the 2nd Inter-State Representatives’ Conference of the National Socialists of Greater Germany
By Adolf Hitler
Delivered 7 August 1920 in Salzburg, Austria
Dear folk-comrades! [Liebe Volksgenossen und Volksgenossinnen!]
I am almost ashamed that only today, after so many years, has that same movement which began in German-Austria as early as 1904 begun to gain a foothold in the German Reich.1 And it is tragic that only the great misfortune which has befallen us was able to demonstrate to our Volk that they must above all forsake personal interests, that the class conflict which differentiates only between proletarians and non-proletarians must come to an end, and that ultimately a distinction must someday be made between folk-comrades who produce honestly, and the drones and scoundrels.2 (Applause). The collapse had to come first, and it did not occur because seven, eight, or nine Jews made a revolution for us, it came because we were genuinely morally indolent inside, because we had forgotten and forsaken the numerous principles which a Volk must acknowledge if it wishes to achieve self-determination for itself at all. We have enveloped ourselves in class arrogance on the one hand and in class-conscious proletarian conceit on the other, and we have forgotten that there is no difference between physical and intellectual workers, that together we must [illegible] the state or thereby bring it to ruin. We have also forgotten that such a state must possess moral foundations, and that it is lunacy when in such a state, at the very moment in which thousands of folk-comrades are being forcibly bled to death, others are merely giving money to the state at interest and doing nothing but trading with the [illegible]. We have forgotten that it should have been a social and a moral duty – in a situation where thousands of others were making sacrifices for the highest good; where families at home were enduring hardship, sorrow, and poverty; where unscrupulous, sordid fellows were running rampant among this [illegible] Volk and ignoring the fact that a Volk which is not national ultimately pronounces the death sentence upon itself – to keep clear in our minds that there can be only one goal, to be national, or else to perish in the maelstrom of internationalism. (Applause). And we have forgotten a further truth, that a Volk can and should be led only by its folk-comrades. We have forsaken the fundamental law and fundamental truth of [illegible] that only he who is a [illegible]3 can be a citizen of the state, and that it is madness to introduce foreign races into the [illegible] citizenship rights and eventually to entrust to them the entire [illegible] and to place the leadership of the Volk into their hands. As a result, what had to happen happened – we collapsed. And out of that collapse came disillusionment. Then came the pressure of the Entente, which day by day weighs more and more heavily upon the German Volk, and which increasingly sparks the conviction that the provision of relief through small measures, via minor reforms, is no longer productive. The system of the bourgeoisie and the system of the proletariat have outlived themselves, and that is how our party was born. We should not reproach one another, for the same thinking and the same hardship caused the same movement to arise at all ends of the Reich. Naturally we were independent of one another. Hence nobody in Düsseldorf even realized that things were also the same with us, and Munich did not realize that it was also thus in Kiel; and this road to a solution which we have found is proof that our programmes, although they arose independently from one another, ultimately say the same thing. Continue reading