The Border (Die Grenze)


The landscape is wide. Mountains, valleys and lakes. The trees rustle, the springs flow, the grass bends in the wind. Barbed wire runs right across a clearing in the woods, through the woods, across the road: the border. Men are standing on both sides of it, but the ones over there are wearing blue uniforms with yellow buttons, and the ones over here, red uniforms with black buttons. They stand there with their guns, some are smoking, all have serious expressions.

So, there we have it, the border. Empires meet here, and each empire takes great care that the inhabitants of the other one don’t cross it. You can still spit on this blade of grass here, jump over this stream, cross this road. But then, stop! No further! That is the border. One step further, and you are in another world. One step further, and you may be punished for doing something that you are allowed to do here. One step further, and you can slander the Pope. One step further, and you have become an outlaw, a foreigner.

Argh, a foreigner! You are the most miserable creature under Europe’s sun. Foreigner! The ancient Greeks called the foreigners barbarians, but they were hospitable to them. But you are chased from place to place, you foreigner of our times. They won’t let you in here, and you can’t find accommodation there. You can’t eat ham there, and you can’t take any with you from here. Foreigner! And what they call Europe, has become a patched rag, and everyone is foreign as soon as he sticks his nose outside his village. There are more foreigners than inhabitants in this blessed part of the world.

After this war, whose dislocations make the barbarian invasions of the Dark Ages look like day-trips, after bloody marches of the peoples through half of Europe, the parish affairs of every village have become terribly important. The older noble line Greiz-Schleiz-Reuß, the People’s Republic of Bavaria, autonomous Upper Silesia, and France, and Congress Poland: it’s always the same. Everyone thinks that their patch is the most important, and is not inclined to make the slightest concession. First of all, and for a start, let’s draw a demarcation line. We are separate. We need a border, because we are different.

But one world encloses the foolish people, one earth beneath them and one sky above them. The borders criss-cross Europe, but nobody can keep the people apart permanently, not borders and not soldiers, if they don’t want to. How would we laugh today at someone who pleaded emotionally for us to tear down the border between Berlin and Magdeburg! When the time comes, one will laugh in just the same way at an international pacifist of the year 1920. Our task is to make that time come soon.

Author: Kurt Tucholsky

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PantrTigerCo Tucholsky Panter, Tiger & Co.


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