To order Hitler Sites ($55)  click here

Potsdamerstraße/ corner Pallasstraße (Schöneberg). Sportpalast (razed).

The Sportpalast was the site of two historic speeches. In 1938, Hitler spoke on the Czech crisis. In 1943, the second and most famous speech was Joseph Goebbels’ call for total war. On September 26, 1938, Hitler had given the Czechs an ultimatum: by 2 p.m. September 28, they had to accept German occupation of the Sudetenland. The evening of the ultimatum, Hitler harangued a tense audience of 15,000 in the Sportpalast, among them diplomats and journalists.

Hitler addresses a crowd in the Sportpalast. Directly behind him sits Joseph Goebbels. The American journalist William Shirer, sitting in the balcony directly above the German Chancellor, thought Hitler "in the worst state of excitement I’ve ever seen him in" (Kershaw, 2000). But Hitler’s speech was "a psychological masterpiece" according to Goebbels. Indeed, Hitler was in his element as he heaped scorn on the Czechoslovakian state and its president, Eduard Beneš (whom Winston Churchill called "Beans"). Beneš was determined, Hitler shouted, slowly to exterminate Germany. Referring to the memorandum he had presented to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and the offer he had made to the Czechs, Hitler indicated that his tolerance of Beneš was now at an end. Cynically, Hitler praised Chamberlain for his peace efforts. He assured Chamberlain that he had no further territorial demands in Europe once the Sudeten problem was solved. He also guaranteed that he had no further interest in the Czech state. "We don't want any Czechs at all," he declared. The decision for peace rested with Beneš: "He will either accept this offer and finally give freedom to the Germans, or we will take this freedom ourselves!" Hitler promised to lead a united people as first soldier. "We are determined. Herr Beneš may now choose," Hitler concluded. The mob in the hall, which had interrupted almost every sentence with fanatical applause, shouted, cheered, and chanted: "Führer command, we will follow!" Hitler had worked himself into an almost orgasmic climax by the end of his speech. Goebbels, closing the meeting, pledged the loyalty of the German people to their Führer and declared, "a November 1918 will never be repeated." Hitler, according to Shirer, "looked up to him, a wild, eager expression in his eyes ... leaped to his feet and with a fanatical fire in his eyes...brought his right hand, after a grand sweep, pounding down on the table and yelled…’Ja.’ Then he slumped into his chair exhausted" (Kershaw, 2000). But five years later, when Goebbels delivered his total war speech, the loyalty of the German people was fraying.

Joseph Goebbels harangues the party faithful in the Sportpalast, February 18, 1943.Goebbels arrived at the Sportpalast at noon, February 18, 1943, in his bulletproof Mercedes, more tense than usual. He knew that he had to make the patently impossible sound possible. The German sixth army had just suffered a catastrophic defeat at Stalingrad. For the first time, Germans were losing faith in their Führer en masse. All 15,000 seats in the Sportpalast were filled, mainly with party members and functionaries. As Goebbels mounted the podium, his  dark eyes glowed with the fanaticism of the born demagogue.

Goebbels called the Stalingrad debacle the "great alarm call of destiny," and a symbol of the heroic struggle against the "storm from the Steppes," that "horrific historic danger," which relegated "all former dangers facing the West to the shadows." Behind the onrushing Soviet divisions, Goebbels saw "the Jewish liquidation commandos," whom international Jewry were using to plunge the world into chaos.

Maximum strength--total war--shortest war!Again and again during this diatribe, thunderous applause broke out. But Goebbels was just getting warmed up. Terror must be fought with terror, Goebbels cried. There could be no more bourgeois prudishness. Goebbels asked his now hysterical audience whether they believed in their Führer and the total victory of German arms. An ear-splitting Ja! was the reply. "Do you want total war? Do you want it, if necessary, more total and more radical than we could even imagine today?" he screamed, whereupon pandemonium broke out in the Sportpalast. "Now, Volk," Goebbels screeched, "arise and storm; break loose!" The Sportpalast had turned into a raving madhouse, and German radio transmitted the mass hysteria throughout the county. Goebbels rightly ranked the speech as the rhetorical masterpiece of his life. Cynical as always, he wrote in his diary, "This hour of idiocy! If I had said to the people, jump out the fourth floor of Columbushaus, they would have done that too." 

Now, Volk, arise and storm, break loose!Hitler’s Czech crisis speech and Goebbels’ total war speech were undoubtedly the most famous events in the history of the Sportpalast, but others were noteworthy: the boxing matches of Max Schmeling, as well as the concerts of Herbert von Karajan, rock group Deep Purple, and sex-machine James Brown. Indeed, the Sportpalast had been a venue for political and entertainment spectacles from the day it was built. Construction of the Sportpalast began November 17, 1910, and was completed thirteen months later. The first show was an ice-skating revue. During the Weimar Republic, all of the political parties, including the Nazis, held rallies in the Sportpalast. On January 30, 1944, allied bombs blasted and burned the Sportpalast to its foundations. In the early 1950’s it was rebuilt, albeit less elaborately. But it could not withstand the competition of the Deutschlandhalle, and in 1973 it was razed. The sarcastically nicknamed Sozialpalast, a concrete block with 514 apartments and 2,000 tenants, replaced the Sportpalast. Once hailed as the most beautiful housing project in Berlin, the Sozialpalast acquired a dicey reputation as building defects, neglect, vandalism, and criminality reduced it to an eyesore.

Hitler speaks in the Sportpalast, September 26, 1938:

"I am grateful to Mister Chamberlain for all his efforts. I have further assured him, and I repeat now, that when this problem is solved, there will be no territorial problems for Germany in Europe."

"Ich bin Mr. Chamberlain dankbar für alle die Bemühungen. Ich habe weiter versichert und ich wiederhole es hier, daß [es]--wenn dieses Problem gelöst ist--[für] Deutschland keines Territorialproblem in Europa gibt."

Launch Windows Media Player
This option requires Microsoft's Windows Media Player.  
Click here to download Windows Media Player
Launch Real Player
This option requires Real Player. Click here to download Real Player

Wir haben dann allerdings eine Aufrüstung vollzogen, wie sie die Welt noch nicht gesehen hat. Ich habe Waffenlosigkeit angeboten, solange es ging. Nachdem man das aber ablehnte, habe ich dann allerdings keinen halben Entschluß mehr gefaßt. Ich bin Nationalsozialist und alter deutscher Frontsoldat! Wenn sie die Welt ohne Waffen nicht wollen, gut: dann deutsches Volk trage auch Du jetzt Deine Waffe.
Deutschland kann stolz sein auf seine Wehrmacht! . Ich habe in diesen fünf Jahren tatsächlich aufgerüstet. Ich habe Milliarden dafür verwendet. Das muß das deutsche Volk jetzt wissen. Ich habe dafür gesorgt, daß ein neues Heer mit den modernsten Waffen ausgerüstet wurde, die es gibt. Ich habe meinem Freund Göring den Befehl gegeben: Schaffen Sie mir jetzt eine Luftwaffe, die Deutschland vor jedem denkbaren Angriff schützt. So haben wir eine Wehrmacht aufgebaut, auf die heute das deutsche Volk stolz sein kann und die die Welt respektieren wird, wenn sie jemals in Erscheinung tritt.
Wir haben uns die beste Luftabwehr und die beste Tankabwehr geschaffen, die es auf der Erde gibt...
Es ist in diesen fünf Jahren nun Tag und Nacht gearbeitet worden. Auf einem einzigen Gebiet ist es mir gelungen, eine Verständigung herbeizuführen. Ich werde darauf noch zu sprechen kommen. Trotzdem aber habe ich die Gedanken der Rüstungsbeschränkung und Abrüstungspolitik weiter verfolgt. Ich habe in diesen Jahren wirklich eine praktische Friedenspolitik betrieben. Ich bin an alle scheinbar unmöglichen Probleme herangegangen mit dem festen Willen, sie friedlich zu lösen, selbst auf die Gefahr mehr oder weniger schwerer deutscher Verzichte hin. Ich bin selbst Frontsoldat und weiß, wie schwer der Krieg ist. Ich wollte ihn dem deutschen Volke ersparen. Ich habe daher Problem um Problem angefaßt mit dem festen Vorsatz, alles zu versuchen, um eine friedliche Lösung zu ermöglichen.
We have armed to such an extent as the world has never before seen. I offered disarmament as long as I could. But when it was no longer wanted, to be sure, I did not embrace half-measures. I am a National Socialist and an old German front soldier. If they don't want a disarmed world--good. Then, German Volk, you take up your weapons. Germany can be proud of its Wehrmacht. In the last five years I have re-armed. I have spent millions doing it and the German Volk must now know this. I have made efforts to create the newest army with the most modern weapons anywhere. I commanded my friend Göring to create for me an air force that can protect Germany from any conceivable attack. And so we built a Wehrmacht of which today the German Volk can be proud and which the world can respect, whenever it appears. We have created the best air defenses and the best tank defenses on earth... For five years we worked night and day. But in a single area I succeeded in achieving an understanding. I will speak of this directly. Yet despite the understanding I pursued my thoughts about arms limitation and disarmament politics. In this year I have practiced the politics of peace. I confronted all apparently impossible problems forcefully in order to solve them peacefully, even if there was danger of  Germans being forced to make small or large sacrifices. I am myself a front soldier and know how terrible war is. I wanted to spare the German Volk. Therefore, I have confronted problem after problem with the firm intention of settling everything peacefully wherever possible.

(German text from Max Domarus, Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen 1932-45. Vol 2 pp 924-925. R. Löwit. Wiesbaden 1972. There is some discrepancy between Domarus' text and Hitler's actual words.)

Launch Windows Media Player
Launch Real Player

Goebbels speaks in the Sportpalast, February 18, 1943:

"Do you want total war? Do you want it, if necessary, more total and radical than we could even imagine today?"

"Wollt Ihr den totalen Krieg? Wollt Ihr ihn, wenn nötig, totaler und radikaler, als wir ihn uns heute überhaupt vorstellen können?"
Launch Windows Media Player
This option requires Microsoft's Windows Media Player.  Click here to download Windows Media Player

German newsreel: Goebbels' Total War Speech
Launch Real Player
Launch Windows Media Player

On February 10, 1933, Hitler spoke publicly for the first time as Reich Chancellor in the Sportpalast. The speech was broadcast by radio throughout Germany. The ecstatic announcer says that there is more enthusiasm than he has seen at any other Sportpalast gathering. He recounts the difficult days of November 1918 and 1919, and heaps praise on National Socialism. Then Hitler begins:

Deutsche Volksgenossen und Genossinnen!
Am 30. Januar dieses Jahres wurde die neue Regierung der Nationalkonzentration gebildet. Ich und damit die nationalsozialistische Bewegung beraten in die eins [?]. Der beste und damit der erste Programmpunkt: Wir wollen nicht lügen und wir wollen nicht schwindeln. Ich habe es deshalb abgelehnt, jemals vor dieses Volk hinzutreten und billige Versprechungen zu geben. Ich weiß, daß, wenn heute sich die Gräber öffnen würden, die Geister der Vergangenheit, die einst für Deutschland stritten und starben, sie würden emporschweben, und hinter uns würde heute ihr Platz sein. All die großen Männer unserer Geschichte, ich weiß, sie stehen heute hinter uns und sehen auf unser Werk und unser Wirken. 14 Jahre lang haben die Parteien des Zerfalls, der November-Revolution das deutsche Volk verführt und mißhandelt, 14 Jahre lang haben sie zerstört, zersetzt und aufgelöst. Dann ist es nicht vermessen, wenn ich heute vor die Nation hintrete und sie beschwöre, deutsches Volk, gib uns vier Jahre Zeit, dann richte und urteile über uns. Deutsches Volk, gib uns vier Jahre, und ich schwöre, so wie wir und so wie ich in dieses Amt eintrete, so will ich dann auch gehen. Ich tat es nicht um Gehalt und nicht um Lohn, ich tat es um deiner selbst willens. Denn ich kann mich nicht lösen von dem Glauben an mein Volk, kann mich nicht lossagen von der Überzeugung, daß diese Nation wieder einst auferstehen wird, kann mich nicht entfernen von der Liebe zu diesem meinem Volk und hege felsenfest die Überzeugung, daß eben doch einmal die Stunde kommt, in der die Millionen, die uns heute verfluchen, hinter uns stehen und mit uns dann begrüßen werden das gemeinsam geschaffene, mühsam erkämpfte, bitter erworbene neue deutsche Reich der Größe und der Ehre und der Kraft und der Herrlichkeit und der Gerechtigkeit. Amen.
German comrades, ladies and gentlemen! On January 30th of this year, the new national government was formed. I and therefore the National Socialist Movement serve as advisors. The first and best item: we don’t want to lie or deceive. For this reason, I have refused to stand in front of this Volk and make cheap promises. I know that if the graves of those who fought and died for Germany opened, the ghosts of the past would hover behind us. All of the great men of our history, I know, would stand behind us, looking at our work and our deeds. For fourteen years the party of disintegration, of the November Revolution, has seduced, abused, disintegrated, and dissolved the German Volk. Thus I am not presumptuous to stand before the nation and swear: German Volk, give us four years, then direct and judge us. German Volk, give us four years and I vow that I will leave this office just as I entered it. I didn’t accept the job for salary and reward, but because you wanted me. Indeed, I cannot abandon the faith in my Volk, cannot abandon my conviction that this nation will rise once again. I cannot distance myself from my love for my Volk. I am rock solid in my belief that the hour will come when the millions who curse us today will stand behind us. We will all greet our collectively created, painfully fought-for new German Reich of greatness and honor, of strength and the splendor of righteousness. Amen.

Launch Real Player
Launch Windows Media Player