When the Führer personally took over on Feb.
4, 1938, command over the entire armed forces, this was done out of
concern for the then threatening struggle for the freedom of the German
people. Reasons of state imperatively demanded coordination of the forces
in one hand. Only in this manner could preparations be made for a successful
resistance, which, it was known, would lead to total war even more than
did the World War of 1914-1918, forced on the German people by the same
Furthermore, the consciousness of an inner call and
the will to take the responsibility that was his were of importance
when the statesman Adolf Hitler resolved to be his own supreme military
leader. The course of this war has confirmed the correctness of this
realization in an increasing degree. However, it asserted itself fully
only when, with the campaign in the East, the war acquired dimensions
that surpassed all expectations of the past.
The magnitude of the theatres of war, the closely
interwoven nature of the operations of the war on land and the political
and economic war objectives, as well as the numerical size of the army
in comparison with the other services of the armed forces, induced the
Führer to influence to the utmost the operations and armament of
the army and, following his intuitions, to re-serve for himself personally
all essential decisions in this field.
In logical pursuance of his decision of Feb. 4, 1938,
the Führer, while fully appreciating the services rendered by the
former Commander in Chief of the army, Field Marshal von Brauchitsch,
decided to unite in his hands the command of the entire armed forces
with the High Command of the army. For this reason he issued the following
proclamation to the soldiers of the army and the Elite Guard:
"Soldiers of the army and the armed Elite Guard:
"The struggle for the freedom of our nation,
for securing conditions for the future existence of our nation, for
eliminating the possibility to make war on us every twenty or twenty-five
years under a new pretext-but fundamentally always for the same Jewish
capitalistic interests-is nearing its climax and turning point.
"The German Reich and Italy, as well as the States
that had allied themselves with us, have had the good fortune of winning,
in Japan, a world power as a friend and comrade in arms. With the amazingly
rapid annihilation of the American Pacific Fleet and the British forces
at Singapore and the occupation of numerous British and American bases
in East Asia by the Japanese forces, the war now is entering on a new
phase favorable to us. We thus also face decisions of world-wide importance
"After their unforgettable and unprecedented
victories against the most dangerous enemy of all time our armies in
the East must now change over from mobile warfare to trench warfare
because of the sudden arrival of the Russian Winter. Their task will
be to hold and defend until the arrival of Spring what they have gained
with immeasurable heroism and with heavy sacrifices, fighting as fanatically
as before. We expect from the new Eastern Front nothing different from
that which German soldiers had to do during four Russian war Winters
twenty-five years ago. Every German soldier must set an example to our
"Furthermore, as in the last year, new units
will be formed and, above all, new and better arms will be given out.
Protection of the front to the west from Kirkenes down to the Spanish
border will be increased. The difficulties of organizing connections
within this front, which today spans the whole Continent and reaches
to North Africa, must be overcome. This also will be achieved.
"Preparations for immediate resumption of offensive
fighting in the Spring, until the final destruction of the enemy in
the East, must be made immediately. The introduction of other decisive
war measures is impending.
"These tasks require that the army and home front
be brought to the highest degree of performance in one common effort
by all. However, the army is the main pillar in the fight of the armed
forces. I have, therefore, resolved today, under these circumstances,
to take over myself the leading of the army in my capacity as Supreme
Commander of the German armed forces.
"Soldiers, I know war from four years of the
gigantic struggle in the West from 1914 to 1918. I lived through the
horrors of nearly all the great battles as a common soldier. Twice I
was wounded, and I was threatened with becoming blind. Therefore, nothing
that is tormenting and troubling you is unknown to me.
"However, after four years of war I did not doubt
for a single second the resurrection of my people. After fifteen years
of work I have achieved, as a common German soldier and merely with
my fanatical will power, the unity of the German nation and have freed
it from the death sentence of Versailles.
"My soldiers! You will understand, therefore,
that my heart belongs entirely to you, that my will and my work unswervingly
are serving the greatness of my and your nation, and that my mind and
determination know nothing but annihilation of the enemy-that is to
say, victorious termination of the war.
"Whatever I can do for you, my soldiers of the
army and Elite Guard, shall be done. What you can and will do for me,
I know. You will follow me loyally and obediently until the Reich and
our German people are definitely safe. God Almighty will not deny victory
to His bravest soldiers.
"Führer's Headquarters, Dec. 19, 1941.
New York Times, (December 22, 1941)