Like many radical German nationalists, Adolf Hitler believed the lie that the German army had lost the First World War in 1918 because it had been “stabbed in the back” on the home front by traitors, Jews and criminals. During the Second World War, Hitler vowed that he would foil any domestic uprising through ruthless measures. As he explained in a speech to leading Nazi officials on 23 May 1942, concentration camps played a central role in his destructive vision.
There will never be a revolution if we protect ourselves from rebellious elements. In this context the Führer issues Himmler with an express order to the effect that if we should find ourselves faced with a really critical situation and there is a risk of the Reich sinking into chaos, then rather than letting the criminals in the concentration camps loose on the German population it will be his task to shoot them all. If this had been done in 1918 there wouldn’t have been a revolution; for it was only after the prison gates were opened that the revolution became dangerous. It is better to shoot the criminals than to leave a defenceless people, whose heroes are either at the front or have been killed, to their mercy.
Source: Nationalsozialismus, Holocaust, Widerstand und Exil 1933–1945. Online-Datenbank. K. G. Saur Verlag. Dokument-ID: TJG-5391
Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes