For Carl von Ossietzky (Für Carl v. Ossietzky)


Settling accounts

Carl von Ossietzky is going to prison for eighteen months, because the government wants to take revenge on the Weltbühne for everything which has been written here for years. Ossietzky is going to prison for all his contributors, not just for the one who wrote the incriminating article. This verdict is the settling of accounts of the generals, and the witch-hunt was conducted under severely disadvantageous circumstances. To prevent Ossietzky from striking back in good time, he was accused of military espionage, an offence which was not committed, but the law which applies to it specifies that, as in a trial before a Westphalian Vehmic court[1] or the Inquisition, the public is not even allowed to know that charges have been preferred, so he couldn’t defend himself at all before the trial. The trial was conducted behind closed doors. The accused had nothing to fear from publicity, the government, everything. The accused had a clear conscience, the government did not. The accused and their defence counsel were sworn to strict silence. Nothing was allowed to be published about the contents of the hearings, not even after the verdict. It is a question of tactics and temperament whether one submits to that.

Ossietzky did not just submit to all these decrees of silence, he adhered to them heroically. From the very beginning, until the present day, he has not written or spoken a single sentence in which he complains, boasts, or gives prominence to himself. When the verdict was spoken, Ossietzky forbad me, amicably but forcefully, from singing his praises, so I wasn’t able to say what everyone involved has always known: how he tried to protect the author of the article, even during the trial. How he tried to accept the entire guilt, and how he endured the terrible time of anticipation without sounding off. Carrying on with one’s daily work without knowing what tomorrow will bring, is not easy. Ossietzky has been doing that for two and a half years.

There has been a subsequent attempt to achieve a remission of the sentence, or to commute the incarceration into open custody by pardon, about which the following is to be said: it goes without saying that while these initiatives were being pursued, Carl von Ossietzky has continually attacked not just Groener, but also the man who in the end decides whether or not to grant pardon. He wrote against Hindenburg; he did the exact opposite of what one could call opportunism. He signed these attacks personally. Reason enough to argue according to a certain conception of German chivalry, „He is attacking us, why should we pardon someone like that?” One could perhaps have expected a spark of chivalry from the official side, but I never did, and there was none. The ‚old gentleman‘ doesn’t see the funny side of the army, and neither does the Weltbühne, and Ossietzky goes to prison. Most of the requests for pardon weren’t even presented to the Imperial President.

I summarize, according to the information in the foreign press: the facts asserted are true. The Imperial Ministry of Defence had butter on its head. Nothing was betrayed, because the facts asserted were known, particularly by the French. So, even from the perspective of the German republican military, there was no damage done. It was not the revelations that caused damage, it was the facts themselves. The opposing press behaves as though Carl von Ossietzky wanted special treatment for himself. That is not the case. The request for pardon is just an attempt to reverse an injustice, nothing more, because there has been a serious miscarriage of justice. Passing this sentence on a man like Carl von Ossietzky for an offence which is not one, is a disgrace. To accept it is not.

The penalty is, and remains, nothing more than taking advantage of an opportunity which presented itself, to strike a blow at a group of writers who are a nuisance to the government. The contributors and readers of the Weltbühne did indeed do something which makes their fascist opponents’ blood boil. They don’t like being laughed at, and they were laughed here while others thundered. They were not taken seriously here, and although they are capable of a great deal, one thing they cannot do is to force people to talk about them other than condescendingly. They will continue to be dealt with in the intellectual struggle as they deserve. And that must really bother them, otherwise they would not be so furious, and keep trying, again and again. It won’t do them any good.

I can’t bring myself to direct hearty parting words at such an unemotional and calm comrade as my friend Ossietzky; I am not the chairman of some committee. I wish him, in the name of all his friends, that he survives this period of imprisonment with his health intact. All reasonably thinking people will support the plea for pardon. Truncheons are not arguments, and that’s all that this sentence is.

Das Blatt, carried by the enormous boost which Carl von Ossietzky has given it, will remain what it has always been. He got eighteen months for delivering a quality product, that’s the truth. The product will continue to be delivered.


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