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:
The leading statesmen and generals ‚take responsibility‘ for the fate which they impose on their peoples. But what does that mean? A terrible responsibility must mean that he who takes it on takes on a terrible risk.
Polgar & Rowohlt, Das Große Lesebuch.
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,…