Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday
Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday, on April 20, 1939, was celebrated as a national holiday in Nazi Germany. On that day, the largest military parade in the history of the Third Reich was held in Berlin.
On April 18, 1939, the government of Nazi Germany declared April 20, the birthday of Adolf Hitler, a national holiday. Festivities took place in all municipalities throughout the country, as well as in the Free City of Danzig. Historian Ian Kershaw comments that the events organized in Berlin by the Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels were
...an astonishing extravaganza of the Führer cult. The lavish outpourings of adulation and sycophancy surpassed those of any previous 'Führer's Birthday.'—Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1936–1945: Nemesis.
Festivities began in the afternoon of the day before, when Hitler was driven at the head of a motorcade of fifty white limousines along Albert Speer's newly completed "East-West Axis", the planned central boulevard for "Germania", which was to be the new capital for the Nazi empire. Hitler had been anticipating a speech from the taciturn Speer and was amused when he evaded this by briefly announcing that the work should speak for itself. The next event was a torchlight procession of deputations from all over Germany, which Hitler reviewed from a balcony in the Reich Chancellery. Then, at midnight, Hitler's courtiers congratulated him and presented him with gifts, including
...statues, bronze casts, Meissen porcelain, oil-paintings (some valuable, including a Lenbach and even a Titian, but mostly the standard dreary exhibits found in the House of German Art in Munich), tapestries, rare coins, antique weapons, and a mass of other presents, many of them kitsch (like the cushions embroidered with Nazi emblems or 'Heil mein Führer') ... Hitler admired some, made fun of others, and ignored most.—Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1936–1945: Nemesis.
Notably, Speer gave Hitler a model of the gigantic triumphal arch planned for the rebuilding of Berlin, and Hitler's pilot, Hans Baur, gave him a model of the 'Führer Machine', a four-engined Focke-Wulf 200 'Condor' which was to go into service in the summer as Hitler's official airplane.
The main feature of the celebrations on the birthday itself was a huge show of the military capabilities of Nazi Germany intended, in part, as a warning to the western powers.
In total, 40,000 to 50,000 German troops took part in the parade, which lasted about five hours and included 12 companies of the Luftwaffe, 12 companies of the Army, and 12 companies of sailors, as well as the SS. 162 warplanes flew over the city of Berlin. The grandstand comprised 20,000 official guests, and the parade was watched by several hundreds of thousands of spectators. Features of the parade were large long range air defence artillery guns, emphasis on motorized artillery and development of air defense units.
Goebbels, the event's organizer declared in a broadcast address to the German people "The Reich stands in the shadow of the German sword. Trade and industry, and cultural and national life flourish under the guarantee of the military forces. [...] The name of Herr Hitler is our political programme. Imagination and realism are harmoniously combined in the Führer."
Military leaders throughout the country gave addresses to their troops to celebrate the occasion. Some, such as Erich von Manstein, were especially effusive in their praise for their supreme commander.
Official guests representing 23 countries took part in the celebrations. Cesare Orsenigo, the Papal envoy, Jozef Tiso, the President of the Slovak Republic, the heads of the branches of Nazi Germany's armed forces, and mayors of German cities offered birthday congratulations at the chancellery of Nazi Germany. The Greek government sent a delegation that included George Kirkimis, the governor general of the Greek region of Macedonia at the time. Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini exchanged telegrams assuring each other that the friendship between Germany and the Kingdom of Italy, two countries ruled by fascist regimes at the time, could not be disturbed by their enemies.
The ambassadors of the United Kingdom, France and the United States were not present at the parade, having been withdrawn after Hitler's march into Czechoslovakia. The U.S. was represented at the troop review by chargé d'affaires Raymond H. Geist. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not congratulate Hitler on his birthday, in accordance with his practice of not sending birthday greetings to any but ruling monarchs. King George VI of the United Kingdom dispatched a message of congratulation to Hitler. Due to the strained relations between the two countries at the time, the advisors of the British monarch had considered whether the King should ignore the birthday or not.
A luxury edition of Hitler's book Mein Kampf published in 1939 in honor of his 50th birthday was known as the Jubiläumsausgabe ("Anniversary Issue"). It came in both dark blue and sharp red boards with a gold sword on the cover.
The German author Heinrich Hoffmann wrote a book about Hitler's 50th birthday, entitled Ein Volk ehrt seinen Führer ("A nation honors her leader"). Composer Hans Rehberg wrote a hymn for the occasion.
A film of the birthday celebrations was made — Hitlers 50. Geburtstag. An important example of Nazi propaganda, was subsequently shown to packed audiences of young people at the Youth Film Hours held on Sundays.
The Free City of Danzig made Hitler an honorary citizen of the city as a birthday gift. Hitler received the citizenship papers from the hands of Albert Forster, the Nazi leader of the city. Political and military tension between Germany and Poland was heightened and the possibility of Danzig being returned to Germany was reported.
On the occasion of the birthday, recipients of small incomes received a birthday gift of fifteen German Reichsmarks, plus five Reichsmarks for every dependent, an expenditure totalling 13 million Reichsmarks.
According to historian Ian Kershaw;
Elaborately stage-managed though the entire razzmatazz had been, there was no denying Hitler's genuine popularity – even near-deification by many – among the masses. What had been for 1933 bitterly anti-Nazi Communist and Socialist sub-cultures remained, despite terror and propaganda, still largely impervious to the Hitler adulation. Many Catholics [were also] relatively immune throughout to Nazism's appeal ... Intellectuals might be disdainful of Hitler, old-fashioned, upper-class conservatives bemoan the vulgarity of the Nazis, and those with remaining shreds of liberal, humanitarian values feel appalled at the brutality of the regime, displayed in full during 'Crystal Night' ... Even so, Hitler was without doubt the most popular government head in Europe. ... Hitler, a national leader arising from the lower ranks of society, had tapped a certain 'naïve faith' embedded in lengthy traditions of 'heroic' leadership. Internal terror and the readiness of the western powers to hand Hitler one success after another in foreign policy had undermined the scepticism of many waverers. The result was that, although there was much fear of war, belief in the Führer was extensive.—Ian Kershaw, Hitler: 1936–1945: Nemesis
- Byrd, R (2005). Once I Had a Comrade. Helion and Company Ltd. ISBN 978-1-874622-58-1. p. 22
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- Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: 1936–1945: Nemesis New York: Norton (2000) pp. 183–185
- David Edgar, Gitta Sereny, Albert Speer
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- Marcel Stein, Field Marshal Von Manstein, a portrait
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- Stephen Graham (November 18, 2003), Nazi play revived, Jerusalem Post
- Terveen, Fritz (1959). "Der Filmbericht über Hitlers 50. Geburtstag : ein Beispiel nationalsozialistischer Selbstdarstellung und Propaganda". Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte (Institut für Zeitgeschichte) 7.
- Hilmar Hoffmann, John Broadwin, Volker R. Berghahn, The triumph of propaganda
- Birthday Present?, Time, April 24, 1939
- Mausshardt, Philipp (August 21, 2009). "Wo Hitler schwindlig wurde". Der Tagesspiegel. Retrieved January 23, 2010.
- Adolf Hitler, LIFE, September 25, 1939
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hitler birthday commemorations.|
- Video of Hitler's 50th birthday – German Newsreel part-1 on YouTube
- Video of Hitler's 50th birthday – German Newsreel part-2 on YouTube
- Our Hitler – Goebbels' 1939 Speech on Hitler's 50th Birthday