March 27 1924 (Volksgericht) in Munich
I read in the indictment the following sentences: "It is true that what took place in November 1918, namely the deposing of the rulers of the federal principalities by the Council of People's Representatives, was an act of high treason. However, at the time the new government rapidly established itself throughout the entire Reich; the executive power was in fact in the hands of the People's Representatives and hence the de facto situation became a legal reality. That is recognized law." If this theory were recognized and were the law, Germany would never free itself from its shackles, for we, too, were conquered by might, and by might we were subdued and muzzled. Might is never identical with right.
Frederick the Great once said something which clearly defined the relationship of might and right. He said that the law is worth nothing if it is not defended by the sword. In other words, the law was always worthless unless protected by might. Let me give you a few practical examples from recent history. In April 1919 a small band of criminally-minded individuals overthrew the revolutionary government and established a new one. Soviet flags were hoisted, and there is no doubt that these men held the real power. Nevertheless this power was not legitimate and if the Soviet revolutionaries were to seize power all over Germany and all over Europe, the day would come when they would fall from power.
We find the same thing in Hungary. There, too, Béla Kun established a red regime; he, too, seized all the instruments of power and took total control. However, a small group of freedom fighters made it possible to reestablish genuine legal authority. At that time a small minority virtually tyrannized Hungary but this minority was genuinely representative of the Hungarian People.
What did Bismarck do in the constitutional conflict? He disregarded the Constitution, Parliament and the stifling majority and supported only by the instruments of power of the state, the army, the civil service and the Crown, he governed.. The opposition press called that a violation of the constitution and high treason. Well, what endowed Bismarck's actions with legitimacy? The actions he took would perhaps have been high treason if the outcome had not been the unification of the German nation, and if it had not brought Germany to the height of perfection and freedom. On the day when the German Kaiser was crowned in Paris the act of high treason was legitimized before the German People and the whole world.
We have two new coups d'etat before our very eyes: the Turkish General Kemal Pasha opposes the central government in Constantinople. He goes so far as to refuse to acknowledge the sacred power of the supreme head of the Moslem religion. What ultimately made this act legal is the fact that he achieved freedom for his People. Mussolini's action was legitimized by the enormous clean-up he undertook. The march on Rome was legalized on the day when Rome was cleansed of the symptoms of the same marasmus that we find in our political life.
What was the situation in Germany? What was the situation in our fatherland in the year 1918? At the time Germany was neither in such a miserable state nor so corrupt that the revolution can be regarded as an absolute necessity. Heine, who later became the Social Democratic Minister of the Interior, stated that the old Prussia and the former Reich was unquestionably the best administered country in the whole world. No other state had such honest and principled civil servants as the former Germany, no other nation possessed an army in which the highest regard for personal honor had become a tradition. This applied both internally and externally. Twenty-six states tried to defeat this Reich but in a struggle which lasted for four years they failed, a proof of the power and strength of this Reich. There was no real need for a revolution.
If we ask ourselves whether the revolution was successful, we must first examine what the aim of the revolution was. The revolution promised our German People everything under the sun: a life of beauty and dignity in which they would want for nothing and work shorter hours than before. There was talk of the struggle against the supra-national power of international capital, and what came of it? In this court room stood a General of the new Reich and was forced to admit that the economic failure of this new regime was so extreme that the masses were driven on to the streets. However, the soldiers who were supposed to fire on the masses were not willing to constantly shoot people who had been driven to desperation by the incompetence of their government. There can be no more scathing indictment than that. I will not talk of the hunger of millions, but I shall only draw attention to the consequences of the devaluation of our currency, which has robbed thousands of their hard-earned life savings.
This revolution has had a disastrous effect upon the economy. The largest agricultural areas of our nation were lost, and areas which were vital for the food supply of the nation were disposed of, which was outright treason! And let us not forget all the political benefits which the Revolution was supposed to bring. They talked of the right of self-determination for every nation, of the League of Nations, of self-government by the people. And what did we get? World peace, but world peace in exchange for the demise of our nation. Disarmament, but only the disarmament of Germany so that it could be plundered. The right of self-determination, yes, but the right of self-determination for each and every tribe of Negroes, and Germany does not even count as a tribe of Negroes. The League of Nations, but a League of Nations only as the guarantor that the terms of the Peace Treaty will be complied with and not as the guarantor of a new and better world order.
And the People's regime! For five years the People have not been asked what they feel about the events of November 1918. At the head of the government is a Reichspräsident who is rejected by the vast majority of the people and who was not elected by them. Seventeen million Germans suffer under foreign rule. Hardly ever has the German nation be robbed of so much in five years as was in these years of the so called successful revolution. We have been rendered defenseless and thus deprived of our rights. We have become the pariah of the world. What are our organs of government today other than the means by which foreign powers tyrannize us?
What did the revolution achieve towards the solution of the most serious problem of our national life, what did it do to improve the lot of Germans? How was the German nation to be freed from all the restrictions and restraints of our former unideal view of things? They promised to give the German People equal rights and what happened? There is nothing which cannot eventually be replaced, even the lost territories can be reconquered, but the wrong done to us in these five years can never be erased from our history. All that was great, noble and sacred has been defiled. They had the impertinence to put German heroes on trial, to parade them in chains, men whose only crime was that they fought for their fatherland, and who were made the object of the scorn of the entire world. Clausewitz once proudly declared: "Woe to the country which voluntarily accepts the shame of dishonor and slavery, for it is better for a nation to perish but yet maintain its honor."
The shame of voluntary enslavement leads to the utter collapse of a nation. Can anyone claim that the revolution has succeeded when the object of the revolution, Germany, is being destroyed? When would the revolution have succeeded? And what was supposed to happen then? Do not imagine that we are narrow-minded reactionaries screaming our heads off. Nobody denies that at that time as a result of four and a half years of warfare many things were not as they should have been. Everyone longed to return home. There were great hardships on the home front.
If the revolution is to be described as successful, it should have achieved one thing above all else. The French revolution of 1870 was unable to save the French but it did preserve the nation's honor, and thus the German revolution should at least have
preserved the honor of the German nation. If at that time Ebert, Scheidemann and their friends had called on the German People to take up the fight for freedom, and if, like the members of the Italian parliament, they had rushed to the front, and had urged the soldiers not to leave their fatherland helpless, they would not have shamefully capitulated; they would have fought to the last, and then, believe me, the Republic would still be intact, and none of us would raise a hand against it.
I regard the Prosecutor's statement as the most convincing proof of what I have said. The Prosecutor stated that the root cause of what had taken place was the erosion of the authority of the state. Whatever remnants of authority we still possess today can be traced ultimately to the beginnings of the present Reich; it was Frederick William who established the authority of the state. It was the great king who said of himself: "I am the servant of the State!" This applies equally to them all, even the old heroic Kaiser himself.
Today we all still benefit from this authority of the state. The authority of the state was identical with the well-being of the People, it was not something which was prejudicial to the well-being of the People. Carlyle emphasizes that Frederick the Great devoted his entire life's work to the service of his People.
Do you believe that those who wielded supreme power in the Reich in November 1918 had clean enough hands to maintain the authority of the state of a Frederick the Great? No! In the family the father must embody authority; and if the children are disobedient, it is the father's fault. The father, the state as we know it today, is incapable of such authority. Authority based on the destruction of authority does not exist. We all have but one great desire, namely that a Reich will return in which authority is reestablished, in which it need not be protected by bayonets but exists as a matter of course....
...Two powers will determine the future development of Europe: England and France. England with its perpetual and unchanging goal of Balkanizing Europe and creating a European equilibrium which ensures that its power remains unthreatened. England is not in reality Germany's enemy. Germany's enemy is the power which is striving for supremacy in Europe. France is without question Germany's enemy. Whereas England requires the Balkanization of Europe, France requires the Balkanization of Germany in order to dominate Europe. After a four and a half year struggle, and thanks to the Revolution, the coalition of these two powers was victorious. With the following result: France had to decide whether or not to accomplish what had always been its objective in the war: namely, to destroy Germany and to deprive it of all its sources of food. Today France is watching its age-old plan take effect; irrespective of which government in France holds power in future, its primary goal will remain to annihilate Germany, liquidate twenty million Germans and break-up Germany into individual states.
This is Germany's situation thanks to the despicable attitude of its government. It is no wonder that the timid look around in terror and say: "There's nothing more that we can do because we are defenseless." That is where our task began. We stressed that the real value of a nation lies not in its inanimate weapons but in its living will. If it lacks the will to defend itself, all the weapons in the world are of no avail. This is what we impressed on people when they lay on their bellies defenseless before the Entente Commission. We tried to arouse their patriotism and we also rekindled hatred.
No power will accept our handshake unless it is convinced that the hand which is offered also represents the fists of 70 million Germans each of whom has the iron will to take up the struggle for freedom and for the nation. This was the necessity which we recognized....
...The army which we have formed is growing in numbers each day, and more rapidly as each hour passes. In these very days I cherish the proud hope that these unorganized troops will one day form battalions, the battalions will become regiments, the regiments will become divisions, that the old cockade will be retrieved from the dirt, that the old flags will once again be borne aloft, that finally when we face our Maker on the day of the Last Judgment, as we are ready to do, our redemption will come. Then from our bones and from our graves the voice of the only court of justice qualified to pass judgment on us will speak. For it is not you, Gentlemen, who are passing judgment upon us, it is the eternal tribunal of history which is sitting in judgment and will pronounce its verdict on the charges which have been made against us. I know what your verdict will be. But that other court will not ask: "Did you or did you not commit high treason?" That other court will pass judgment upon us, upon the Quartermaster General of the old army, on his officers and men who as Germans wanted the best for their fellow Germans and their fatherland, who were willing to fight and to die. Even if you find us guilty a thousand times, the Goddess of the eternal tribunal of history will smile and tear up the Prosecutor's indictment and the verdict of this court; for she will pronounce us innocent.