Peace Speech
From the Oct. 16, 1939, issue of TIME TIME

75 Years Ago: Hitler's Phony Plea for Peace

Oct 06, 2014

On Oct. 6, 1939, Adolf Hitler returned from touring the trampled city of Warsaw to address the Reichstag. He was ready to do something surprising: ask the world for peace.

Except that his peace speech — delivered 75 years ago on Monday — was far from peaceful. As TIME noted in its coverage of the event, Hitler spent about 60 of the 80 minutes speaking about other things. And, when he finally moved on to the subject, the oratory was, unsurprisingly, full of untruths.

Here's what TIME reported in the Oct. 16 issue:

The Polish victory came first on Speaker Hitler's list, accompanied by three bare-faced lies. Lie No. 1: "A state of no less than 36,000,000 inhabitants took up arms against us. Their arms were far-reaching, and their confidence in their ability to crush Germany knew no bounds." Lie No. 2: In spite of the "violations and insults which Germany and her armed forces had to put up with from these military dilettantes," the First Soldier of the Reich claimed that he "endeavored to restrict aerial warfare to objectives of so-called military importance, or only to employ it to combat active resistance at a given point." (For photographs and an accompanying eyewitness account of German restricted aerial warfare see p. 45.) Lie No. 3: All objective reports of the last days of besieged Warsaw agree that the Germans refused point-blank to allow the garrison to evacuate non-combatants from the city. Herr Hitler's variorum: "Sheer sympathy for women and children caused me to make an offer to those in command of Warsaw at least to let civilian inhabitants leave the city. . . . The proud Polish commander of the city did not even condescend to reply."

The German victory, though it had to be won at times over odds of 6-to-1, was not only sweet but cheap in casualties, said the Führer (see p. 44). And now "German soldiers have once more firmly established the right to wear the laurel wreath of which they were meanly deprived in 1918."

If TIME readers flipped to page 45, as suggested by the parenthetical about "restricted aerial warfare," they would find a tale of the slaughter of Polish civilians.

The speech continued, this magazine reported, with a discussion of good relations with Britain and France, and Hitler's hope that the nations of Europe could settle on a peace — but only a peace in which German demands would be met.

And, despite the ostensibly peaceful nature of the speech, Hitler couldn't resist ending on an ultimatum: "If, however, the opinions of Messrs. Churchill and his followers should prevail," TIME reported him saying, "this statement will have been my last."

Read the full report on Hitler's Oct. 6, 1939, speech here, in TIME's archives: The Last Statement

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