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 enemies.
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 faithful allies.
“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.