The Europe of the future
September 11, 1940
In a speech to Czech intellectual workers and journalists’ the Reich Propaganda Minister outlined his vision of ‘the Europe of the future’.
(…) At the moment when British power is collapsing we have the opportunity to reorganize Europe on principles corresponding to the social, economic and technical possibilities of the twentieth century.
About a hundred years ago our German Reich went trough a similar process. At that time it was fragmented into just as many larger and smaller parts as Europe is today. This medley of small states was endurable so long as technical facilities, especially those of communications, were not yet so developed that is took too short a time to travel from one small country to another. But the invention of steam power made the old conditions intolerable (…)
In those days too there were elements in the Reich which sought to remedy this state of affairs by negotiation. Those elements were refuted by historical developments, in a way that is not uncommon. History generally operates with harsher laws than those that prevail around the conference table. You may remember the words Bismarck used at that time that German unity would not be brought about by speeches and resolutions but that it must be forged by blood and iron. This statement was much contested then, but history justified it in due course: the unity of the Reich was in fact forged on the battlefield. In the process a whole lot of peculiarities of individual states, prejudices, limitations and parochial ideas were done away with. They had to be overcome, for otherwise the Reich would not have been in a position to achieve unity and enter into the great conflict of European powers. We were only able to achieve political unity because at that time we broke down the barriers that were constricting us (…)
Today the railway is no longer the most modern means of communication: it has been superseded by the aeroplane. A distance that it once took twelve hours to cover by rail can be traversed by a modern aircraft in one or one and a half hours. Technology has brought not only tribes but whole peoples closer together than was once imaginable. Whereas formerly it tool 24 hours to talk from Berlin to Prague indirectly via the press, today it does not take me an extra second. When I speak at this microphone I can be heard at the same moment in Prague, Slovakia, Warsaw, Brussels and The Hague. Whereas it once took twelve hours to travel to Prague by rail, today I can fly there in an hour. In other words, in the course of a century technology has brought peoples closer still to one another. It is certainly no accident that these technical aids have come into being at this particular moment. For there are more people in Europe than there used to be, and their numbers have created quite new problems for European society – problems of food supplies and economic policy as well as those of finance and defense. As these technical achievements are put to use, so the continents are inevitably brought closer together. Meanwhile European peoples are realizing more and more clearly that many of the issues between us are mere family quarrels compared to the great problems that today require to be solved as between continents.
I am firmly convinced that just as today we smile when we look back at the parochial quarrels that divided the German peoples in the 40s and 50s of the last century, so in fifty years’ time future generations will be no less amused at the political disputes that are now going now on in Europe. The ‘dramatic national conflicts’ of many small European states will seem to them no more than family quarrels. I am convinced that in fifty years people will no longer think in terms of countries – may of today’s problems will have faded into obscurity, and there will be little left of them. In those days people will think in terms of continents, and European minds will be filled and swayed by quite different, perhaps much greater problems.
You must on no account think that when we Germans bring about a certain order in Europe we do so for the purpose of stifling individual peoples. In my view a nation’s conception of its own freedom must be harmonized with present-day facts and simple questions of efficiency and purpose. Just as no member of a family has the right to disturb its peace for selfish purposes, in the same way no single European nation can in the long run be allowed to stand in the way of the general process of organization.
It has never been our intention that this new order or reorganization of Europe should be brought about by force. If we with our Greater German outlook have no interest in infringing the economic, cultural or social peculiarities of, say the Bavarians or the Saxons, so it is equally not in out interest to infringe the economic, social or cultural individuality of, say the Czech people. But a clear basis of mutual understanding must be created between the two nations. We must approach each other either as friends or as enemies. And I think you know ell enough from the past experience that the Germans can be terrible enemies, but also very good friends. We reach out our hand to a friend and cooperate with him in a truly loyal spirit, but we can also fight an enemy until he is destroyed.
The people who have adapted or will adapt to this reorganization must ask themselves whether they are doing so with genuine good will and sincerity or whether they are inwardly resisting it. Whichever they do will make no difference to the facts. They may take it as certain that once England is overthrown the Axis powers will not permit any change in the power-political situation of a Europe reorganized in accordance with great political, economic and social ideas. If Britain can do nothing to prevent this, certainly the Czech people cannot. If you have learnt anything from recent history you will know that nothing can or will be changed in the power-political situation as it exists today.
And so, gentlemen – and I am speaking now quite realistically, without any appeal to sentiment – it makes no difference at all whether you approve this state of things or not. Whether or not you welcome it from your hearts, you cannot do anything to alter the facts. Now it is my opinion that when you can do nothing to alter a state of affairs and have to put up with the disadvantages it may no doubt present, it would be foolish not to profit by its advantages as well. Since you have become part of the Reich anyway, I do not see why the Czech people should adopt an attitude of inward opposition to the Reich instead of claiming the advantages it offers (…)
You gentlemen have now seen something of the Reich, and I made a point of allowing you to make this journey before I addressed you. You have seen the Reich in Wartime, and you will have formed some idea of what it can be in peace. Out great nation with its large population, together with Italy, will in practice take over the leadership of Europe. There are no two ways about that. What it means for you is that you are already members of a great Reich which is preparing to reorganize Europe, tearing down the barriers that still separate the European peoples and making it easier for them to come together. Germany intends to put an end to a situation which quite clearly cannot satisfy mankind for long. We are performing here a work of reform which I am convinced will one day be recorded in large letters in the book of European history. Can you imagine what the Reich will actually be like after the war? (…)