The Emerging Germany (Das werdende Deutschland)

OssietzkyStamp

A message to the disheartened

The great war is not the only catastrophe which has shaken central European civilization to its foundations in the last thousand years. Consider two events which, while very different, nevertheless emerged with the same eruptive force, and left enormous cultural ruins behind. They were the Black Death, the great plague of 1348, and the Thirty Years’ War. Long after the inferno, a good chronicler, looking back at the terrible time, wrote, „When the worst was past, the world started to be happy again.“ But after the Thirty Years’ War, an artist sighed, „It is very sad in poor Germany; trade and the arts are devastated, and whoever has any skills goes to Flanders or Italy, because they would starve at home.“

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Learning from War (Der Krieg als Erzieher)

PolgarReader

We were told moving stories of the purifying effects of war, particularly in its early days. It was claimed that it stimulates everything noble and extinguishes everything base in the human spirit. Now, after more than four years of blows, thrusts and shots, we can begin to draw a fairly accurate moral balance of the war. It is a terrible deficit. It turns out that war punishes virtue and rewards vice, that it blesses the bad and curses the good, that under its auspices the good do badly and the bad do well, that it reduces the finest instincts of the human heart to absurdity, and leads its basest to success. It turns out that war is God’s enemy. For example:

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Homecoming (Rückkehr)

Alfred Polgar

The prisoner, who had had no news from home for a long time, was tortured by fear and his imagination of how things would be at home. The guards tormented him, “Its complete chaos back at your place”. And what would be surprising if it were so, said the prisoner to himself? The men were all away, at the front, in captivity, six feet under,…

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