From Revolution to Construction
Background: Rudolf Hess spoke on 25 June 1934 at the Gau Essen party rally, a Nuremberg-type rally on a smaller scale. Hess was Hitler’s designated successor in 1934 and ran the party chancellery, which oversaw Nazi Party activities.
It was a year-and-a-half into Hitler’s rule and Hess reveals all sorts of interesting tensions. The initial honeymoon was over and there was a lot of complaining. Hess says people should complain only if they know how to fix what they are complaining about. And there were complaints about “little Hitlers,” Nazi underlings who enjoyed the exercise of power. Hess says there are such, but excesses should be forgiven in light of Nazism’s great accomplishments. And some thought the Nazi revolution wasn’t progressing fast enough. The speech was given five days before the “Night of the Long Knives” during which over a hundred of the people Hess accuses of that were killed.
Although the immediate audience was loyal Nazis, the speech was broadcast over German radio and later reprinted in a book of Hess’s speeches. It made clear to Germans that criticizing could be dangerous.
The source: “Von der Revolution zum Aufbau,” in Rudolf Hess, Reden (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP., 1938), pp. 15-32.
National Socialists: German People’s Comrades!
I speak to you today not as Reich Minister, but rather as a National Socialist. A National Socialist who knows as few others do what moves old fighting comrades. I know so well because I myself have the honor to be one of the very oldest party members going back to the beginning of the movement, those who joined the Führer in 1920 when a few men gathered around him.
I still have within me the unique and beautiful memory of the time I suffered with the Führer for the sake of the idea that he lived for. I remember the unspeakably difficult struggles of the first fighters for the new idea.
I stood before the Führer among the first dozen S. A. men of the movement. I fell, streaming blood before my Führer in the first S.A. meeting hall battle. As one of the first S.A. leaders I swore loyalty to Adolf Hitler. I stood at the side of my Führer on 8 November 1923 in the Bürgerbräukeller. I spent seven and a half months with him in prison. I was able to help Adolf Hitler in the seemingly hopeless task of rebuilding the movement. I was at this side every day in the long years that followed until the seizure of power. I accompanied him to the most dangerous meetings throughout the whole German Reich. I experienced all the hardships he faced as nearly all the forces in Germany stood against him. I shared his life and hopes and beliefs and victories.
I tell you all this, my party comrades and people’s comrades so that you will understand that I know the Führer and his innermost thoughts better than anyone else! I must also tell you, to help you better understand, that someone who experienced the uniquely difficult battle from nearly the first days of the movement remains what he was: a National Socialist in the original sense.
I speak simultaneously from the tradition of a political leader and an S.A. leader.
Here along the Rhine and Ruhr, the working heart of Germany, the density of the population and the difficulties of the work made it among the hardest areas in the entire Reich. I know that today as well most of these working people still do not have it easy in their labors, that they still must earn their daily bread under the most difficult conditions. The fact that these workers are Adolf Hitler’s most loyal supporters is proof that the Führer succeeded in realizing the old proverb that says Germany will be richest when its poorest son is also its most loyal son.
This fact is the foundation of building the new Reich, just as the worker is the foundation of National Socialism. Despite the hardness of the struggle for existence and although National Socialism has not yet been able to give much to the worker, he stands by National Socialism. That proves a healthy understanding of reality, for what is possible in building a Reich with an economy that stood near collapse. It proves that he has understood that improvements for the individual cannot be significant within a year and a few months, that we must be happy because in so short a time millions of people’s comrades have already found work and bread, while the Führer has pledged to eliminate unemployment within four years.
The worker knows that his sacrifice of higher pay benefits those who have found new jobs. Those who were unemployed know better than anyone else how hopeless a day without work is. And they know what it means to again be employed — even if in building things that only later will benefit us or our children.
Labor is construction — Unemployment is collapse.
The worker today also knows that political unification — the destruction of organizations to which he himself once belonged — was a prerequisite for economic recovery.
I can only repeat what I recently said to workers at a mine on the border of Upper Silesia: The Führer, who once worked in your own ranks, knows your need better than anyone else. The Führer is your best comrade! His efforts are for you! He alone, together with you, wants to and is able to improve your standard of living! That is a central goal of his life, and he will achieve it, just as he achieved his other goals — just as he has already taken the first step in the hard and apparently hopeless battle that took years: the seizure of power.
With political power in his hands, Adolf Hitler is building your new state. Each has the duty to work together with all his strength. We know that the German people has worked together with unprecedented unity since the seizure of power. The practical result of its its work is the impressive vote total in the popular referendum of November 1933, which has no equal in history. Against that, what are the few who then stood to the side, what are the few who even today stand aside. They are the unteachable who still are captive to their former party thinking. They may avoid fighting for the future of their people — but this should be said to them: If you attempt silent sabotage, may God have mercy on you!
Now and again we have the sense that saboteurs are at work. Regardless of how they hide, whether in business, the civil service, or wherever — we will know how to find you one day! Then you will learn what National Socialism is!
Everything will be forgiven, excepting only crimes against one’s own people. Because National Socialism will not forgive crimes against the people, it has taken up determined measures against any type of saboteur who believes he can hurt National Socialist constructive efforts through evil-minded criticism.
I am not one of those who sees any criticism as a crime. I realize that here and there is occasion for justifiable criticism. However, I firmly oppose those who sow seeds of discontent by complaining about shortages that are unavoidable given the the vast transformations that a movement of millions naturally brings with it, trying thereby to promote their own political purposes.
All those who see only human failings and difficulties should think about the enormous things that have been achieved in so short a time. How trivial are those minor problems in contrast! And they will disappear in the course of time.
We want to remind ourselves of what Germany was, and what it is today.
Before National Socialism’s seizure of power there was a confusion of thirty parties in political life, with the result that thirty groups of Germans faced each other as political enemies. Of course, these parties no longer sought individual power in Germany, but 29:1 they fought the NSDAP. 29:1 they sowed lying hatred, distrust, and cowardice in the German people that made the Reich defenseless internationally, dependent on any capricious impulse of the League of Nations or foreign governments.
What about today? No single party in the old sense governs Germany, but rather the National Socialist movement. As the expression of healthy German human understanding, it gives direction to all political events.
Unified goals requiring the whole strength of the German people can be achieved today by the command of a single will.
Internationally, Germany has again become a state that is beginning to play the role worthy of a great people. With pride we watched the meeting in Venice of the Führer with Mussolini, sensing a change from earlier times. During the November Republic such a representative might fall from power the next day by losing a parliamentary majority. This time the Führer of a united German nation met the leader of the creator of Fascist Italy.
We National Socialists have the right to be proud and thankful that Adolf Hitler has succeeded in restoring honor to the German people before itself and before the world.
Earlier even the good intentions of the Reich government failed when meeting the open or silent opposition of provincial governments. Today the central power of the National Socialist government is obvious — all Germany obeys its commands.
In the past no area of public life — art, the economy, science, politics of every shade, social policy — followed a clear historic line. There was no clear will or purpose either for the individual areas or for their harmonious cooperation. No creative person in Germany knew his goal, knew what he was working for, or how his efforts could serve the larger German fate. Each vegetated intellectually from one day to the next. Each tried to survive. Against the fate of Germany he was small and insignificant; he sensed inwardly the senseless of his actions.
Only when the few early fighters for National Socialism saw a way to a future for the German nation was there again meaning to what happened in Germany.
Today the artist knows once again his duty to his people. His work is rooted once again in his people, and he can work with the happy conviction that his work is fruitful for Germany.
Scientists and businessmen who have sensed the nature of National Socialism can again be sure of the meaning of their work. The individual is no longer concerned only with his private concerns. He no longer debates the daily political events: he rather feels that his life again has a greater purpose.
The Führer has given meaning again to life in Germany.
But what would have happened if National Socialism’s fight for power had not ended victoriously, if fate had not chosen the Führer to restore the nation and preserve the existence of the people?
What would have happened if the attempt by foreign powers to destroy National Socialism in Germany had succeeded?
If the plans made in the Karl-Liebknecht-House [Communist headquarters in Berlin] had been realized. The best of the people would have ended their lives against some prison wall! The German government, in so far as such a thing still existed, would be subject to the commands of foreign powers. The army would be destroyed, and the economy, the economic foundation of our people. The German youth whose optimistic idealism today is our pride would have fallen victim to an Asiatic rebellion. Where today a thousand seeds of German life are again awakening, the last flames of the destruction of a European cultural nation would smolder, which would spread beyond its borders to destroy the organisms of other European peoples. As a visible sign of such decline, foreign armies would march across Germany to execute the bloody demands of other nations.
It is our firm faith that such would have been Germany’s fate had not Adolf Hitler taken the reins of state on 30 January 1933.
If since 30 January 1933 only the problem of unemployment had been addressed and if until today the only accomplishment had been restoring millions of German people’s comrades to the work force, that alone would prove National Socialism’s right to power.
If the only accomplishment had been the domestic battle front dressed in the brown of the S.A. and the political leaders, the black of the SS, and the gray-green of the Labor Front, that alone wold make clear National Socialism”s mission.
And had we only given millions of our German boys and girls new faith in themselves and their people, giving them courage to help form their German fate, that would be enough to show how correct our path to 30 January was.
The multitude of successes since the seizure of power shows the strength of the German people, in which we always believed and will continue to believe.
The German people is building great highways that — like the Roman roads that today remind us of the Roman Empire — will remind coming generations for centuries of the Hitler era.
The German people wrest needed new fertile soil from the earth and the sea. German technology strives to remain leader of the world, just as in science and the arts.
By striving to preserve the family, for racial cleanliness, through rejecting foreign blood and its foreign spirit, future generations will again become the type of humanity that nature and faith have ordained.
I will give no more examples that demonstrate the transformation National Socialism has brought to Germany. Above all these changes show the beginning of overcoming purely materialistic thinking. We have destroyed Marxism’s organizations, the breeding ground of materialist thinking. That is a revolutionary act that shows the external strength of our movement. The fact that after eliminating the organizations we were able to kill the spirit of materialism in those who, as former members of the Marxist organism are still alive today, is proof of the persuasive inner strength of the Hitler movement.
How ridiculous is he who complains about all of this!
He sees something great that he cannot understand, which he is not capable of understanding. The past has robbed him of inner strength that is necessary to understand the events of our day.
Those complainers, my party comrades, have to be there, for where else should all those be who once supported thirty parties with their complaining? If back then thirty Germans — each with his own party — lived by complaining, what a miracle it would be today if there was but one complainer among thirty Germans!
Those who always think they know better cannot keep up with us. How pathetic is the beer stool criticism of Philistines and reactionaries, consumed by anger that they did not have the chance to do things right. We have no time to deal with them, since they would be dead before we could finish. Many of them have not yet encountered a brutal fanatic for truth who dealt with their political thinking. In carrying out the German revolution, our tone has been almost jovial. We do this aware of our own strength, since we know that these women in men’s clothing complain in public because they have nothing to say at home. They are not serious opponents.
We speak a new language today, we think new thoughts, we act differently: we are gentle with those fate has condemned to stand aside, to fail to understand, to be unable to do anything, but use our full force against those want nothing to happen because of malicious motives.
We see the intellectual world and language of these malicious creatures in the émigré press. The only value these rags have for us is to remind us of politics in Germany before National Socialism — to remind us of the orgies of lies and slogans of that time. They speak and criticize in a foreign German language: there are concepts of no value to the people and arguments that the people laugh at. I sometimes pick up such a paper, thinking perhaps I might find useful criticism, but each time I feel my time was wasted. We have better things to do than attend to such trite verbiage, to lend our ear to such hysterical spirits. Nature has given us the lovely gift of forgetting those who direct foreign criticism against the country that they exploited and betrayed, that they left because of their bad consciences.
We avoid dealing with these complainers, but we are always ready to consider any justified criticism consistent with National Socialist thinking as long as it is made in the appropriate way. That way leads through the nervous system of the party, the living connection between Führer and the people. But such criticism must not be shouted from the market square and on the streets to any and all, causing joy for all the enemies of the new Germany. He who in public or at his Stammtisch criticizes should realize that he gives aid to the opponents of his people, and often may be spreading lies that spies and provocateurs have maliciously spread.
But each real National Socialist leader must ensure that justified criticism reaches those who have the ability to make things better. I expect National Socialist leaders to have open eyes and open ears for what happens in their area, and that everything that is worth criticizing and that can be changed by criticizing, is passed up the line, and that they should not neglect appropriate self criticism.
Those who have the honor of being in the Führer’s movement for a long time can be forgiving of the peculiarities and weaknesses of National Socialist leaders if they go hand in hand with major achievements. Unlike those who criticize, major accomplishments atone for small weaknesses, instead of the reverse where minor weaknesses are used to diminish achievements.
We National Socialists are a great Germany family — and each family has its unruly children.
Party comrades, I am far from insisting on perfection for all National Socialists. A movement of millions that has only perfect leaders is impossible. That does not mean that criticism of the actions of some lower level leaders is not be only justified, but also necessary. No one who brings justifiable criticism to the appropriate office that is part of the movement and works for the movement may suffer consequences.
I know that in any great mass movement there is sometimes a lower-level leader in the wrong job — obviously in such a case we will take action.
To those party members who suffer under such a leader somewhere in Germany I say: Never forget what Germany has become through National Socialism. What is the burden that a bad lower-level leaders causes here or there compared to the burden of dishonor and decline that has been lifted from Germany.
With pride we see: One remains free from all criticism — the Führer. That is because each feels and knows: He is always right, and he will always be right. Our National Socialism is anchored in absolute loyalty, in devotion to the Führer that does not question individual cases, in the silent execution of his orders. We believe that the Führer is obeying a higher call to form Germany’s fate! There can be no criticism of this faith.
In the political arena, those who criticize major problems must be in the situation to propose something better. He who cannot do that should better remain silent, lest he be thought to be in the ranks of those who exaggerate and falsify, criticizing only to conceal annoyance at the great success of the National Socialist movement. That is the most common motive of those who deny and criticize: annoyance about our ability.
We expect each citizen to want only the best for his people and fatherland, whether he is a party member or not. We welcome anyone who honestly wishes to help in reconstruction. We reject the complaints of those critics who once held positions in which they could have proven that they could solve problems better than we can, but failed — who were not able to stop decline. In dealing with major problems, it is a matter of cooperation, not criticism.
If the NSDAP attacks critics and complainers without taking them too seriously it acts according to the National Socialist principle: When you strike, strike hard! This principle proved itself a thousand times during our fourteen-year struggle for power.
Foreign observers must understand this fundamental attitude of the NSDAP, to use all methods and the full force of the movement to pursue a goal, if they are to understand our battle against complainers.
Foreigners may have no false hope that the mood in Germany has somehow changed. Just as in November 1933 the National Socialist leadership could, if it thought it necessary, ask the German people whether Germany should hold to National Socialism or not. Our opponents would today be at least as disappointed as they were by that referendum, which they believed would have bad results.
Let the foreign states that are our opponents have no false hopes: Their hope that National Socialism can yet be defeated is a dangerous hope, the fulfillment of which would be deadly for themselves.
A departure of National Socialism from the German people’s political stage would not subject Germany to the wishes of the relevant governments, but rather result ultimately in chaos in Europe.
Radicalism in an unprecedented form and a new form of Bolshevist brutality would take over Germany. This brutality would result from the lack of leadership of a large population in a small area and by the starving desperation of a people dependent on a functioning industrial economy. German Bolshevism would be nothing like the Bolshevist revolution in agrarian Russia.
We remember the four weeks of Bolshevist rule in Munich when men and women were slaughtered only because they were accused of spreading anti-Semitic leaflets! And we remember the unprecedented horror and torture under the Jewish rule of Bela Kuhn in Hungary that horrified the civilized world!
The Bolshevization of Germany would further disrupt economic conditions throughout the world, leading to a susceptibility, particularly in industrial states, to the chaotic Marxist world plague.
Any politician who thinks of replacing National Socialism in Germany should keep that in mind! The crisis in the United States, and in certain European countries in which the Bolshevist danger looms, should be warning enough.
In view of the natural catastrophe that would befall Germany if National Socialism fell, one can only laugh at those living in the past who believe that National Socialism could be replaced by monarchy or by the leadership of “experienced conservative forces.”
Our current action against critics ensures that neither “experienced conservatives,” “hopeful monarchists,” nor burrowing Communists gain any significance.
I urge particular caution for my idealistic but unthinking party comrades who sometimes remember the heroism and wonderful camaraderie of the period of struggle, and may be inclined to seek out the provocateurs attempting to set our people’s comrades against each other. They conceal their criminal game by calling for a nicely named “second revolution. [A footnote states that the speech was given five days before 30 June 1934, the ‘Night of the Long Knives’]”
We know that over Germany’s long history foreign powers always attempted to use Germans to fight Germany. It is historical fact that the collapse of 1918 was primarily financed from abroad and encouraged by foreign agents. What is more obvious that than the opponents of today’s Germany should attempt to use the same methods, and under the idea of a second revolution encourage a revolt against the National Socialist revolution.
They ignore one thing: today they face a politically trained people. Mentioning this threat suffices to render this people immune, and with never before seen determination to turn against the provocateurs who are attempting to misuse them.
The true leaders of the movement will not tolerate abuse of those who are passionately committed to the idea of revolution and who, due to their revolutionary enthusiasm, do not think we are making progress towards the revolutionary goal quickly enough. Responsible and loyal National Socialists must prevent our people, including real revolutionaries, from suffering serious harm. There would be damage if visionaries with blinders indulged in revolutionary games. Revolutions in countries with complicated modern economies on which the lives of peoples depend cannot follow the models of the eighteenth century or that of the annual revolutions in small exotic republics.
Believe me, the Führer could have played such a bloody game without regard to practical consequences — who could have stopped him! But here as always in the time of opposition, everything he did was guided by the deepest sense of responsibility that hindered a catastrophe that the reckless players at revolution would have seen only after they stood helplessly before the pile of ruins that they had caused.
The Führer prepared his old followers for constructive work, transforming our revolutionary efforts at the proper time into daily constructive work — ready for the steady formation of the state. What the Führer demands, and must demand, from us old comrades he also demands from all of his party comrades: he himself knows how hard it us to hold a passionate heart under control.
Even during the period leading to the National Socialist revolution there were enough party comrades who in their limited understanding believed that they could do it better than the Führer. They all learned better. They all had to recognize that the Führer was a tool of a higher will, that he consciously or unconsciously went the proper way. As it was then, so it is today: Only he can finish what he began, only he can give us what we all desire.
Perhaps Adolf Hitler will one day think it necessary again to continue our development with revolutionary methods. But it will always have to be a revolution directed by him.
We await his command — confident that he will call his old revolutionaries if necessary and that he knows when it is necessary. We stand in unshakable faith in him — regardless of whether he calls in months or years.
The command of the Führer, to whom we have all sworn loyalty, is all that is important. Woe to him to breaks that loyalty, believing that he can serve the revolution through revolt! How miserable are those who believe they are chosen to help the Führer by agitation from below through revolutionary means. Adolf Hitler is the greatest revolutionary. He does not need crutches!
Adolf Hitler is the great strategist of the revolution. He knows the limits of what can be achieved with the available means under the prevailing circumstances. He acts with ice-cold consideration — often seeming to respond only to the moment, but in fact with a far-seeing vision of reaching the distant goals of the revolution.
Woe to him who interferes with his strategic plans in the foolish believe that he can do it faster — even if he has the best of intentions. He is an enemy of the revolution — even when he is acting in good faith. The beneficiaries would be the opponents of the revolution, whether in the service of reaction or of communism.
No one guards his revolution more that the Führer. How could it be otherwise! The revolution is his only child for which he fought and labored and sorrowed, for which he risked his life and for which he suffered imprisonment.
We who fought closely with him and suffered know his always steady will. We work with him on the revolution. We know what astounding things have happened in many areas in a period of time that we once would have simply thought impossible. But we know as well as the Führer himself that so much today is only partial, carrying the seed of the goal, still requiring the spirit of National Socialism.
I have made it my particular duty in the honorary office that the Führer gave me as his representative in leading the movement to look past the daily problems and compromises that hard reality forces on us and to keep before me the revolutionary aim of National Socialism, both in large and small matters. That is my goal, even if I do not always talk about the revolutionary spirit or act as if it were my only goal. To remain a revolutionary at heart and live according to the principles of the National Socialist revolution, that is what is important!
The demand placed on all of us true revolutionaries is to show in everything we do a new style, appropriate for ourselves and our age. We may not imitate the outdated practices of a past epoch. Neither may we regard each new nonsense from some crackpot as the product of the National Socialist era. The National Socialist spirit has become its own concept, including within itself all that is needed.
One may talk about revolution — but the actions of him who gives visible expression to National Socialism’s revolutionary goals with quiet work and miserable pay is much greater. For example, those who plan and build the Autobahns that will endure for centuries do more for the German revolution than he who believes he can conceal his impotence through bloodthirsty speeches.
The National Socialist Revolution was not an end in itself, but was rather necessary because of the deeds that were born from it and will continue to be born in the future!
National Socialism developed at the front. Our worldview grew out of life at the front and today rules Germany. The front soldier Adolf Hitler ennobled the blood of of fallen comrades. Faith in him is faith in victory!
I greet the Führer as the leader of the generation who served at the front, the first soldier of the German revolution, the protector of the Reich!
Last edited: 29 November 2023