The 1941 Attack
In 1941 the Führer attacked Russia. That was, as we know now, shortly—perhaps three to six months—before Stalin prepared to embark on his great penetration into Central and Western Europe. I can give you a picture of this first year in a few words. The attacking forces cut their way through. The Russian Army was herded together in great pockets [Kesseln], was worn down and taken prisoner. At the time, we did not value the mass of humanity as we value it today: as raw material, as labor. The fact that prisoners died of exhaustion and hunger in tens and hundreds of thousands is by no means regrettable from the standpoint of lost generations but is deplorable now for the reason of lost labor.
It is basically wrong for us to bring our whole inoffensive soul with good spirit, to bring our good nature and our idealism to foreign peoples. This has been true since the time of Herder, who clearly wrote “Voices of Peoples” [Stimmen der Völker] in a state of drunkenness, thereby bringing upon us who came after him such immeasurable sorrow and misery. This is true, for instance, of the Czechs and the Slovenes, to whom we gave their consciousness of nationality. They were incapable of it on their own; we had to discover it for them.
One basic principle must hold absolutely true for the SS man: we must be honest, decent, loyal, and comradely to members of our own blood and to nobody else. What happens to a Russian or a Czech does not interest me in the slightest. What the nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take, if necessary by kidnapping their children and raising them here with us. Whether nations live in prosperity or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our Kultur; otherwise, it is of no interest to me. Whether 10,000 Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only in so far as the anti-tank ditch is completed for Germany. We shall never be rough and heartless when it is not necessary, that is clear. We Germans, who are the only people in the world who have a decent attitude towards animals, will also assume a decent attitude towards these human animals. But it is a crime against our own blood to worry about them and give them ideals, thus causing our sons and grandsons to have a more difficult time with them. When somebody comes to me and says, “I cannot dig the anti-tank ditch with women and children, it is inhuman, for it would kill them,” then I have to say, “You are a murderer of your own blood because if the anti-tank ditch is not dug, German soldiers will die, and they are sons of German mothers. They are our own blood.” That is what I want to instill in the SS and what I believe I have instilled into them as one of the most sacred laws of the future. Our concern, our duty is our people and our blood. It is for them that we must provide and plan, work and fight, nothing else. We can be indifferent to everything else. I wish the SS to approach the problem of all foreign, non-Germanic peoples, especially Russians, with this attitude. All else is vanity, is fraud against our own nation and an obstacle to winning the war sooner.
When the war is won, then, as I have already told you, our work will start. We do not know when the war will end. It may be sudden, or it may be long delayed. We shall see. But I say to you now, if an armistice and peace come suddenly, let no one think that he can then sleep the sleep of the just. Get all your commanders, chiefs and SS-Führers attuned to this; only then, gentlemen, shall we be awake, for then so many others will fall into this sleep. I am going to rouse the whole SS and keep it so wide awake that we can tackle reconstruction in Germany immediately. Then Germanic work will be begun immediately in the General SS, for then the harvest will be ripe to be taken into the granary. We shall then legally draft youth of all ages. We shall then immediately put all our Waffen-SS units into excellent form, both as regards equipment and training. In this first six months after the war, we shall go on working as though the big offensive were starting the next day. It will make all the difference if, at the peace or armistice negotiations, Germany has an operative reserve, an operative backing, of 20, 25 or 30 intact SS divisions.
If the peace is a final one, we shall be able to tackle our great work of the future. We shall colonize. We shall indoctrinate our boys with the principles of the SS. I consider it to be absolutely necessary to the life of our peoples that we should not only impart the meaning of ancestry, grandchildren, and future, but feel these things to be part of our being. Without any discussion, without our needing to make use of rewards and similar material things, it must be a matter of course that we have children. It must be a matter of course that the most copious breeding should be from this racial super-stratum of the German people. In 20 to 30 years we must really be able to present the whole of Europe with its leading class. If the SS together with the farmers—together with our friend [Herbert] Backe—run the colony in the East on a grand scale, without any restraint, without any question of any old traditions but with nerve and revolutionary impetus, then we shall in 20 years push the national boundary [Volkstumsgrenze] 5000 kilometers eastwards.
Today I requested of the Führer that—if we have fulfilled our task and our duty by the end of the war—the SS should have the privilege of holding Germany’s easternmost frontier as an armed frontier. I believe this is the only privilege for which we have no competitors. I believe not one person will dispute our claim to this privilege. We shall be in a position there to instruct youth of all ages in the use of arms. We shall impose our laws on the East. We shall charge ahead and push our way forward little by little to the Urals. I hope that our generation will successfully bring it about that youth of all ages has fought in the East and that every one of our divisions spends a winter in the East every second or third year. Then we shall never grow soft; then we shall never get SS members who only come to us because it is distinguished or because the black coat will naturally be very attractive in peacetime. Everyone will know that “if I join the SS, there is the possibility that I might be killed.” He will have contracted in writing that every second year he will not dance in Berlin or attend the carnival in Munich, but will be posted to the eastern frontier in an ice-cold winter. Then we will have a healthy elite for all time. Thus we will create the necessary conditions for the whole Germanic people and the whole of Europe—controlled, ordered, and led by us, the Germanic people—to be able, in generations, to stand the test in its destined battles against Asia, which will certainly break out again. We do not know when that will be. At that time, when on the other side the mass of humanity of 1 to 1.5 billion [Milliarden] lines up against us, then the Germanic people—with its 250 to 300 million (I hope) plus the other European peoples making a total of 600 to 700 million (and with an outpost area stretching as far as the Urals or, in a hundred years, beyond the Urals)—must stand the test in its vital struggle against Asia. It would be an evil day if the Germanic people did not survive. It would be the end of beauty and Kultur, of the creative power of this earth. That is the distant future. It is for that that we fight, in our pledge to hand down the heritage of our ancestors.
We see into the distant future because we know what it will be. This is why we do our duty more fanatically than ever, more devoutly than ever, more bravely, more obediently, and more thoroughly than ever. We want to be worthy of being permitted to be the first SS men of the Führer, Adolf Hitler, in the long history of the Germanic people which stretches before us.
Now let us remember the Führer, Adolf Hitler, who will create the Germanic Reich and will lead us into the Germanic future.
Our Führer Adolf Hitler
Source of English translation: Excerpt from Himmler’s Speech to the SS Gruppenführer at Posen (October 4, 1943). In United States Chief Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume IV. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1946, Document 1919-PS [Speech of the Reichsführer-SS at the Meeting of SS Major-Generals at Posen, October 4th, 1963], pp. 558–59 and 570–72. English translation attributed to Nuremberg staff; edited by GHI staff.
Source of original German text: Auszug aus Himmlers Rede an die SS-Gruppenführer in Posen (4. Oktober 1943). In Internationaler Militärgerichtshof Nürnberg, Der Nürnberger Prozess gegen die Hauptskriegsverbrecher vom 14. November 1945 bis 1. Oktober 1946: Urkunden und anderes Beweismaterial. Published in Nuremberg 1948. Munich: Delphin Verlag, 1989. Volume XXIX: Amtlicher Text – Deutsche Ausgabe, Nummer 1850-PS bis Nummer 2233-PS, Document 1919-PS [Rede Himmlers bei der SS-Gruppenführertag in Posen am 4. Oktober 1943: Ausführung des Gedankens: andere Völker sind als Sklaven für die deutsche Kultur zu betrachten (Beweisstück US-170)], pp. 111–12, 122–23, and 170–73.