One: A Reckoning
WITH THE YEAR
1915 enemy propaganda began in our country, after 1916 it became
more and more intensive, till finally, at the beginning of the
year 1918, it swelled to a positive flood. Now the results of
this seduction could be seen at every step. The army gradually
learned to think as the enemy wanted it to.
the German counter-action was a complete failure.
the person of the man whose intellect and will made him its
leader, the army had the intention and determination to take
up the struggle in this field, too, but it lacked the instrument
which would have been necessary. And from the psychological
point of view, it was wrong to have this enlightenment work
carried on by the troops themselves. If it was to be effective,
it had to come from home. Only then was there any assurance
of success among the men who, after all, had been performing
immortal deeds of heroism and privation for nearly four years
for this homeland.
what came out of the home country?
this failure stupidity or crime?
midsummer of 1918, after the evacuation of the southern bank
of the Marne, the German press above all conducted itself with
such miserable awkwardness, nay, criminal stupidity, that my
wrath mounted by the day, and the question arose within me:
Is there really no one who can put an end to this spiritual
squandering of the army's heroism?
happened in France in 1914 when we swept into the country in
an unprecedented storm of victory? What did Italy do in the
days after her Isonzo front had collapsed? And what again did
France do in the spring of 1918 when the attack of the German
divisions seemed to lift her positions off their hinges and
the far-reaching arm of the heavy long-range batteries began
to knock at the doors of Paris?
they whipped the fever heat of national passion into the faces
of the hastily retreating régiments in those countries ! What
propaganda and ingenious demagogy were used to hammer the faith
in final victory back into the hearts of the broken fronts!
what happened in our country?
or worse than nothing.
and indignation often rose up in me when I looked at the latest
newspapers, and came face to face with the psychological mass
murder that was being committed.
than once I was tormented by the thought that if Providence
had put me in the place of the incapable or criminal incompetents
or scoundrels in our propaganda service, our battle with Destiny
would have taken a different turn.
these months I felt for the first time the whole malice of Destiny
which kept me at the front in a position where every nigger might
accidentally shoot me to bits, while elsewhere I would have
been able to perform quite different services for the fatherland!
even then I was rash enough to believe that I would have succeeded
I was a nameless soldier, one among eight million!
so it was better to hold my tongue and do my duty in the trenches
as best I could.
the summer of 1915, the first enemy leaflets fell into our hands.
from a few changes in the form of presentation, their Content
was almost always the same, to wit: that the suffering was growing
greater and greater in Germany; that the War was going to last
forever while the hope of winning it was gradually vanishing;
that the people at home were, therefore, longing for peace,
but that 'militarism' and the 'Kaiser' did not allow it; that
the whole world - to whom this was very well known - was, therefore,
not waging a war on the German people, but exclusively against
the sole guilty party, the Kaiser; that, therefore, the War
would not be over before this enemy of peaceful humanity should
be eliminated; that when the War was ended, the libertarian
and democratic nations would take the German people into the
league of eternal world peace, which would be assured from the
hour when ' Prussian militarism ' was destroyed.
better to illustrate these claims, 'letters from home' were
often reprinted whose contents seemed to confirm these assertions.
the whole, we only laughed in those days at all these efforts.
The leaflets were read, then sent back to the higher staffs,
and for the most part forgotten until the wind again sent a
load of them sailing down into the trenches; for, as a rule,
the leaflets were brought over by airplanes.
this type of propaganda there was one point which soon inevitably
attracted attention: in every sector of the front where Bavarians
were stationed, Prussia was attacked with extraordinary consistency,
with the assurance that not only was Prussia on the one hand
the really guilty and responsible party for the whole war, but
that on the other hand there was not the slightest hostility
against Bavaria in particular; however, there was no helping
Bavaria as long as she served Prussian militarism and helped
to pull its chestnuts out of the fire.
this kind of propaganda began to achieve certain effects in
1915. The feeling against Prussia grew quite visibly among the
troops - yet not a single step was taken against it from above.
This was more than a mere sin of omission, and sooner or later
we were bound to suffer most catastrophically for it; and not
just the 'Prussians,' but the whole German people, to which
Bavaria herself is not the last to belong.
this direction enemy propaganda began to achieve unquestionable
successes from 1916 on.
the complaining letters direct from home had long been having
their effect. It was no longer necessary for the enemy to transmit
them to the frontline soldiers by means of leaflets, etc. And
against this, aside from a few psychologically idiotic 'admonitions'
on the part of the 'government,' nothing was done. Just as before,
the front was flooded with this poison dished up by thoughtless
women at home, who, of course, did not suspect that this was
the way to raise the enemy's confidence in victory to the highest
pitch, thus consequently to prolong and sharpen the sufferings
of their men at the fighting front. In the time that followed,
the senseless letters of German women cost hundreds of thousands
of men their lives.
as early as 1916, there appeared various phenomena that would
better have been absent. The men at the front complained and
'beefed'; they began to be dissatisfied in many ways and sometimes
were even righteously indignant. While they starved and suffered,
while their people at home lived in misery, there was abundance
and high-living in other circles. Yes, even at the fighting
front all was not in order in this respect.
then a slight crisis was emerging - but these were still 'internal'
affairs. The same man, who at first had cursed and grumbled,
silently did his duty a few minutes later as though this was
a matter of course. The same company, which at first was discontented,
clung to the piece of trench it had to defend as though Germany's
fate depended on these few hundred yards of mudholes. It was
still the front of the old, glorious army of heroes!
was to learn the difference between it and the homeland in a
the end of September, 1916, my division moved into the Battle
of the Somme. For us it was the first of the tremendous battles
of materiel which now followed, and the impression was hard
to describe - it was more like hell than war.
a whirlwind of drumfire that lasted for weeks, the German front
held fast, sometimes forced back a little, then again pushing
forward, but never wavering.
October 7, 1916, I was wounded.
was brought safely to the rear, and from there was to return
to Germany with a transport.
years had now passed since I had seen the homeland under such
conditions an almost endless time. I could scarcely imagine
how Germans looked who were not in uniform. As I lay in the
field hospital at Hermies, I almost collapsed for fright when
suddenly the voice of a German woman serving as a nurse addressed
a man lying beside me.
the first time in two years to hear such a sound!
closer our train which was to bring us home approached the border,
the more inwardly restless each of us became. All the towns
passed by, through which we had ridden two years previous as
young soldiers: Brussels, Louvain, Liege, and at last we thought
we recognized the first German house by its high gable and beautiful
October, 1914, we had burned with stormy enthusiasm as we crossed
the border; now silence and emotion reigned. Each of us was
happy that Fate again permitted him to see what he had had to
defend so hard with his life, and each man was well-nigh ashamed
to let another look him in the eye.
was almost on the anniversary of the day when I left for the
front that I reached the hospital at Beelitz near Berlin.
a change! From the mud of the Battle of the Somme into the white
beds of this miraculous building! In the beginning we hardly
dared to lie in them properly. Only gradually could we reaccustom
ourselves to this new world.
this world was new in another respect as well.
spirit of the army at the front seemed no longer to be a guest
here. Here for the first time I heard a thing that was still
unknown at the front; men bragging about their own cowardice!
For the cursing and 'beefing' you could hear at the front were
never an incitement to shirk duty or a glorification of the
coward. No! The coward still passed as a coward and as nothing
else; and al he contempt which struck him was still general,
just like the admiration that was given to the real hero. But
here in the hospital it was partly almost the opposite: the
most unscrupulous agitators did the talking and attempted with
all the means of their contemptible eloquence to make the conceptions
of the decent soldiers ridiculous and hold up the spineless
coward as an example. A few wretched scoundrels in particular
set the tone. One boasted that he himself had pulled his hand
through a barbed-wire entanglement in order to be sent to the
hospital; in spite of this absurd wound he seemed to have been
here for an endless time, and for that matter he had only gotten
into the transport to Germany by a swindle. This poisonous fellow
went so far in his insolent effrontery as to represent his own
cowardice as an emanation of higher bravery than the hero's
death of an honest soldier. Many listened in silence, others
went away, but a few assented.
mounted to my throat, but the agitator was calmly tolerated
in the institution. What could be done? The management couldn't
help knowing, and actually did know, exactly who and what he
was. But nothing was done.
I could again walk properly, I obtained permission to go to
there was dire misery everywhere. The big city was suffering
from hunger. Discontent was great. In various soldiers' homes
the tone was like that in the hospital. It gave you the impression
that these scoundrels were intentionally frequenting such places
in order to spread their views.
much, much worse were conditions in Munich itself !
I was discharged from the hospital as cured and transferred
to the replacement battalion, I thought I could no longer recognize
the city. Anger, discontent, cursing, wherever you went! In
the replacement battalion itself the mood was beneath all criticism.
Here a contributing factor was the immeasurably clumsy way in
which the field soldiers were treated by old training officers
who hadn't spent a single hour in the field and for this reason
alone were only partially able to create a decent relationship
with the old soldiers. For it had to be admitted that the latter
possessed certain qualities which could be explained by their
service at the front, but which remained totally incomprehensible
to the leaders of these replacement detachments while the officer
who had come from the front was at least able to explain them.
The latter, of course, was respected by the men quite differently
than the rear commander. But aside from this, the general mood
was miserable: to be a slacker passed almost as a sign of higher
wisdom, while loyal steadfastness was considered a symptom of
inner weakness and narrow-mindedness. The offices were filled
with Jews. Nearly every clerk was a Jew and nearly every Jew
was a clerk. I was amazed at this plethora of warriors of the
chosen people and could not help but compare them with their
rare representatives at the front.
regards economic life, things were even worse Here the Jewish
people had become really 'indispensable.' The spider was slowly
beginning to suck the blood out of the people's pores. Through
the war corporations, they had found an instrument with which,
little by little, to finish off the national free economy
necessity of an unlimited centralization was emphasized.
in the year 1916-17 nearly the whole of production was under
the control of Jewish finance.
against whom was the hatred of the people directed?
this time I saw with horror a catastrophe approaching which,
unless averted in time, would inevitably lead to collapse.
the Jew robbed the whole nation and pressed it beneath his domination,
an agitation was carried on against the 'Prussians.' At home,
as at the front, nothing was done against this poisonous propaganda.
No one seemed to suspect that the collapse of Prussia would
not by a long shot bring with it a resurgence of Bavaria; no,
that on the contrary any fall of the one would inevitably carry
the other along with it into the abyss.
felt very badly about this behavior. In it I could only see
the craftiest trick of the Jew, calculated to distract the general
attention from himself and to others. While the Bavarian and
the Prussian fought, he stole the existence of both of them
from under their nose; while the Bavarians were cursing the
Prussians, the Jew organized the revolution and smashed Prussia
and Bavaria at once.
could not bear this accursed quarrel among German peoples, and
was glad to return to the front, for which I reported at once
after my arrival in Munich.
the beginning of March, 1917, I was back with my regiment .
the end of 1917, the low point of the army's dejection seemed
to have passed. The whole army took fresh hope and fresh courage
after the Russian collapse. The conviction that the War would
end with the victory of Germany, after all, began to seize the
troops more and more. Again singing could be heard and the Calamity
Lanes became rarer. Again people believed in the future of the
the Italian collapse of autumn, 1917, had had the most wonderful
effect; in this victory we saw a proof of the possibility of
breaking through the front, even aside from the Russian theater
of war. A glorious faith flowed again into the hearts of the
millions, enabling them to await spring, 1918, with relief and
confidence. The foe was visibly depressed. In this winter he
remained quieter than usual. This was the lull before the storm.
while those at the front were undertaking the last preparations
for the final conclusion of the eternal struggle, while endless
transports of men and materiel were rolling toward the West
Front, and the troops were being trained for the great attack -
the biggest piece of chicanery in the whole war broke out in
must not be victorious; in the last hour, with victory already
threatening to be with the German banners, a means was chosen
which seemed suited to stifle the German spring attack in the
germ with one blow, to make victory impossible:
munitions strike was organized.
it succeeded, the German front was bound to collapse, and the
Vorwärts' desire that this time victory should not be
with the German banners would inevitably be fulfilled. Owing
to the lack of munitions, the front would inevitably be pierced
in a few weeks; thus the offensive was thwarted, the Entente
saved international capital was made master of Germany, and
the inner aim of the Marxist swindle of nations achieved.
smash the national economy and establish the rule of international
capital a goal which actually was achieved, thanks to the stupidity
and credulity of the one side and the bottomless cowardice of
be sure, the munitions strike did not have all the hoped-for
success with regard to starving the front of arms; it collapsed
too soon for the lack of munitions as such - as the plan had been -
to doom the army to destruction.
how much more terrible was the moral damage that had been done!
the first place: What was the army fighting for if the homeland
itself no longer wanted victory? For whom the immense sacrifices
and privations? The soldier is expected to fight for victory
and the homeland goes on strike against it!
in the second place: What was the effect on the enemy?
the winter of 1917 to 1918, dark clouds appeared for the first
time in the firmament of the Allied world. For nearly four years
they had been assailing the German warrior and had been unable
to encompass his downfall; and all this while the German had
only his shield arm free for defense, while his sword was obliged
to strike, now in the East, now in the South. But now at last
the giant's back was free. Streams of blood had flown before
he administered final defeat to one of his foes. Now in the
West his shield was going to be joined by his sword; up till
then the enemy had been unable to break his defense, and now
he himself was facing attack.
enemy feared him and trembled for their victory.
London and Paris one deliberation followed another, but at the
front sleepy silence prevailed. Suddenly their high mightinesses
lost their effrontery. Even enemy propaganda was having a hard
time of it; it was no longer so easy to prove the hopelessness
of German victory.
this also applied to the Allied troops at the fronts. A ghastly
light began to dawn slowly even on them. Their inner attitude
toward the German soldier had changed. Until then he may have
seemed to them a fool destined to defeat; but now it was the
destroyer of the Russian ally that stood before them. The limitation
of the German offensives to the East, though born of necessity,
now seemed to them brilliant tactics. For three years these
Germans had stormed the Russian front, at first it seemed without
the slightest success. The Allies almost laughed over this aimless
undertaking; for in the end the Russian giant with his overwhelming
number of men was sure to remain the victor while Germany would
inevitably collapse from loss of blood. Reality seemed to confirm
the September days of 1914, when for the first time the endless
hordes of Russian prisoners from the Battle of Tannenberg began
moving into Germany over the roads and railways, this stream
was almost without end - but for every defeated and destroyed
army a new one arose. Inexhaustibly the gigantic Empire gave
the Tsar more and more new soldiers and the War its new victims.
How long could Germany keep up this race? Would not the day
inevitably come when the Germans would win their last victory
and still the Russian armies would not be marching to their
last battle? And then what? In all human probability the victory
of Russia could be postponed, but it was bound to come.
all these hopes were at an end: the ally who had laid the greatest
blood sacrifices on the altar of common interests was at the
end of his strength, and lay prone at the feet of the inexorable
assailant. Fear and horror crept into the hearts of the soldiers
who had hitherto believed so blindly. They feared the coming
spring. For if up until then they had not succeeded in defeating
the German when he was able to place only part of his forces
on the Western Front, how could they count on victory now that
the entire power of this incredible heroic state seemed to be
concentrating for an attack on the West?
shadows of the South Tyrolean Mountains lay oppressive on the
fantasy; as far as the mists of Flanders, the defeated armies
of Cadorna conjured up gloomy faces, and faith in victory ceded
to fear of coming defeat.
Then - when
out of the cool nights the Allied soldiers already seemed to
hear the dull rumble of the advancing storm units of the German
army, and with eyes fixed in fear and trepidation awaited the
approaching judgment, suddenly a flaming red light arose in
Germany, casting its glow into the last shell-hole of the enemy
front: at the very moment when the German divisions were receiving
their last instructions for the great attack, the general strike
broke out in Germany.
first the world was speechless. But then enemy propaganda hurled
itself with a sigh of relief on this help that came in the eleventh
hour. At one stroke the means was found to restore the sinking
confidence of the Allied soldiers, once again to represent the
probability of victory as certain, and transform dread anxiety
in the face of coming events into determined confidence. Now
the régiments awaiting the German attack could be sent into
the greatest battle of all time with the conviction that, not
the boldness of the German assault would decide the end of this
war but the perseverance of the defense. Let the Germans achieve
as many victories as they pleased; at home the revolution was
before the door, and not the victorious army..
French, and American newspapers began to implant this faith
in the hearts of their readers while an infinitely shrewd propaganda
raised the spirits of the troops at the front.
facing revolution! Victory of the Allies inevitable! This was
the best medicine to help the wavering poilu and Tommy back
on their feet. Now rifles and machine guns could again be made
to fire, and a headlong flight in panic fear was replaced by
was the result of the munitions strike. It strengthened the
enemy peoples' belief in victory and relieved the paralyzing
despair of the Allied front - in the time that followed, thousands
of German soldiers had to pay for this with their blood. The
instigators of this vilest of all scoundrelly tricks were the
aspirants to the highest state positions of revolutionary Germany.
the German side, it is true, the visible reaction to this crime
could at first apparently be handled; on the enemy side, however,
the consequences did not fail to appear. The resistance had
lost the aimlessness of an army giving up all as lost, and took
on the bitterness of a struggle for victory.
now, in all human probability, victory was inevitable if the
Western Front could stand up under a German attack for only
a few months. The parliaments of the Entente, however, recognized
the possibilities for the future and approved unprecedented
expenditures for continuing the propaganda to disrupt Germany.
had the good fortune to fight in the first two offensives and
in the last.
became the most tremendous impressions of my life; tremendous
because now for the last time, as in 1914, the fight lost the
character of defense and assumed that of attack. A sigh of relief
passed through the trenches and the dugouts of the German army
when at length, after more than three years' endurance in the
enemy hell, the day of retribution came. Once again the victorious
battalions cheered and hung the last wreaths of immortal laurel
on their banners rent by the storm of victory. Once again the
songs of the fatherland roared to the heavens along the endless
marching columns, and for the last time the Lord's grace smiled
on His ungrateful children.
midsummer of 1918, oppressive sultriness lay over the front.
At home there was fighting. For what? In the different detachments
of the field army all sorts of things were being said: that
the war was now hopeless and only fools could believe in victory
That not the people but only capital and the monarchy had an
interest in holding out any longer - all this came from the homeland
and was discussed even at the front.
first the front reacted very little. What did we care about
universal suffrage? Had we fought four years for that? It was
vile banditry to steal the war aim of the dead heroes from their
very graves. The young régiments had not gone to their death
in Flanders crying: 'Long dive universal suffrage and the secret
ballot,' but crying: 'Deutschland über Alles in der Welt.'
A small yet not entirely insignificant, difference. But most
of those who cried out for suffrage hadn't ever been in the
place where they now wanted to fight for it. The front was unknown
to the whole political party rabble. Only a small fraction of
the Parliamentarian gentlemen could be seen where all decent
Germans with sound limbs left were sojourning at that time.
so the old personnel at the front was not very receptive to
this new war aims of Messrs. Ebert, Scheidemann, Barth, Liebnitz,
etc. They couldn't for the life of them see why suddenly the
slackers should have the right to arrogate to themselves control
of the state over the heads of the army.
personal attitude was established from the very start. I hated
the whole gang of miserable party scoundrels and betrayers of
the people in the extreme. It had long been clear to me that
this whole gang was not really concerned with the welfare of
the nation, but with filling empty pockets. For this they were
ready to sacrifice the whole nation, and if necessary to let
Germany be destroyed; and in my eyes this made them ripe for
hanging. To take consideration of their wishes was to sacrifice
the interests of the working people for the benefit of a few
pickpockets; these wishes could only be fulfilled by giving
the great majority of the embattled army still thought the same.
Only the reinforcements coming from home rapidly grew worse
and worse, so that their arrival meant, not a reinforcement
but a weakening of our fighting strength. Especially the young
reinforcements were mostly worthless. It was often hard to believe
that these were sons of the same nation which had once sent
its youth out to the battle for Ypres.
August and September, the symptoms of disorganization increased
more and more rapidly, although the effect of the enemy attack
was not to be compared with the terror of our former defensive
battles. The past Battle of Flanders and the Battle of the Somme
had been awesome by comparison.
the end of September, my division arrived for the third time
at the positions which as young volunteer régiments we had once
October and November of 1914, we had there received our baptism
of fire. Fatherland love in our heart and songs on our lips,
our young régiments had gone into the battle as to a dance The
most precious blood there sacrificed itself joyfully, in the
faith that it was preserving the independence and freedom of
July, 1917, we set foot for the second time on the ground that
was sacred to all of us. For in it the best comrades slumbered
still almost children, who had run to their death with gleaming
eyes for the one true fatherland.
old soldiers, who had then marched out with the regiment stood
in respectful emotion at this shrine of 'loyalty and obedience
to the death.'
in a hard defensive battle the regiment was to defend this soil
which it had stormed three years earlier.
three weeks of drumfire the Englishman prepared the great Flanders
offensive. The spirits of the dead seemed to quicken; the regiment clawed its way into the filthy mud, bit into the various holes
and craters, and neither gave ground nor wavered. As once before
in this place, it grew steadily smaller and thinner, until the
British attack finally broke loose on July 13, 1917.
the first days of August we were relieved.
The regiment had turned into a few companies: crusted with mud they
tottered back, more like ghosts than men. But aside from a few
hundred meters of shell holes, the Englishman had found nothing
in the fall of 1918, we stood for the third time on the storm
site of 1914. The little city of Comines where we then rested
had now become our battlefield. Yet, though the battlefield
was the same, the men had changed: for now 'political discussions
went on even among the troops. As everywhere, the poison of
the hinterland began, here too, to be effective. And the younger
recruit fell down completely for he came from home.
the night of October 13, the English gas attack on the southern
front before Ypres burst loose; they used yellow-cross gas,
whose effects were still unknown to us as far as personal experience
was concerned. In this same night I myself was to become acquainted
with it. On a hill south of Wervick, we came on the evening
of October 13 into several hours of drumfire with gas shells
which continued all night more or less violently. As early as
midnight, a number of us passed out, a few of our comrades forever.
Toward morning I, too, was seized with pain which grew worse
with every quarter hour, and at seven in the morning I stumbled
and tottered back with burning eyes; taking with me my last
report of the War.
few hours later, my eyes had turned into glowing coals; it had
grown dark around me.
I came to the hospital at Pasewalk in Pomerania, and there I
was fated to experience - the greatest villainy of the century.
a long time there had been something indefinite but repulsive
in the air. People were telling each other that in the next
few weeks it would 'start in' - but I was unable to imagine
what was meant by this. First I thought of a strike like that
of the spring. Unfavorable rumors were constantly coming from
the navy, which was said to be in a state of ferment. But this,
too, seemed to me more the product of the imagination of individual
scoundrels than an affair involving real masses. Even in the
hospital, people were discussing the end of the War which they
hoped would come soon, but no one counted on anything immediate.
I was unable to read the papers.
November the general tension increased.
then one day, suddenly and unexpectedly, the calamity descended.
Sailors arrived in trucks and proclaimed the revolution; a few
Jewish youths were the 'leaders' in this struggle for the 'freedom,
beauty, and dignity' of our national existence. None of them
had been at the front. By way of a so-called 'gonorrhoea hospital,'
the three Orientals had been sent back home from their second-line
base. Now they raised the red rag in the homeland.
the last few days I had been getting along better. The piercing
pain in my eye sockets was diminishing; slowly I succeeded in
distinguishing the broad outlines of the things about me. I
was given grounds for hoping that I should recover my eyesight
at least well enough to be able to pursue some profession later.
To be sure, I could no longer hope that I would ever be able
to draw again. In any case, I was on the road to improvement
when the monstrous thing happened.
first hope was still that this high treason might still be a
more or less local affair. I also tried to bolster up a few
comrades in this view. Particularly my Bavarian friends in the
hospital were more than accessible to this. The mood there was
anything but 'revolutionary.' I could not imagine that the madness
would break out in Munich, too. Loyalty to the venerable House
of Wittelsbach seemed to me stronger, after all, than the will
of a few Jews. Thus I could not help but believe that this was
merely a Putsch on the part of the navy and would be
crushed in the next few days.
next few days came and with them the most terrible certainty
of my life. The rumors became more and more oppressive. What
I had taken for a local affair was now said to be a general
revolution. To this was added the disgraceful news from the
front. They wanted to capitulate. Was such a thing really possible?
November 10, the pastor came to the hospital for a short address:
now we learned everything.
extreme agitation, I, too, was present at the short speech.
The dignified old gentleman seemed all a-tremble as he informed
us that the House of Hollenzollern should no longer bear the
German imperial crown; that the fatherland had become a ' republic
'; that we must pray to the Almighty not to refuse His blessing
to this change and not to abandon our people in the times to
come. He could not help himself, he had to speak a few words
in memory of the royal house. He began to praise its services
in Pomerania, in Prussia, nay, to the German fatherland, and - here
he began to sob gently to himself - in the little hall the deepest
dejection settled on all hearts, and I believe that not an eye
was able to restrain its tears. But when the old gentleman tried
to go on, and began to tell us that we must now end the long
War, yes, that now that it was lost and we were throwing ourselves
upon the mercy of the victors, our fatherland would for the
future be exposed to dire oppression, that the armistice should
be accepted with confidence in the magnanimity of our previous
enemies - I could stand it no longer. It became impossible for
me to sit still one minute more. Again everything went black
before my eyes; I tottered and groped my way back to the dormitory,
threw myself on my bunk, and dug my burning head into my blanket
the day when I had stood at my mother's grave, I had not wept.
When in my youth Fate seized me with merciless hardness, my
defiance mounted. When in the long war years Death snatched
so many a dear comrade and friend from our ranks, it would have
seemed to me almost a sin to complain - after all, were they
not dying for Germany? And when at length the creeping gas - in
the last days of the dreadful struggle - attacked me, too, and
began to gnaw at my eyes, and beneath the fear of going blind
forever, I nearly lost heart for a moment, the voice of my conscience
thundered at me: Miserable wretch, are you going to cry when
thousands are a hundred times worse off than you! And so I bore
my lot in dull silence. But now I could not help it. Only now
did I see how all personal suffering vanishes in comparison
with the misfortune of the fatherland.
so it had all been in vain. In vain all the sacrifices and privations;
in vain the hunger and thirst of months which were often endless;
in vain the hours in which, with mortal fear clutching at our
hearts, we nevertheless did our duty; and in vain the death
of two millions who died. Would not the graves of all the hundreds
of thousands open, the graves of those who with faith in the
fatherland had marched forth never to return? Would they not
open and send the silent mud- and blood-covered heroes back
as spirits of vengeance to the homeland which had cheated them
with such mockery of the highest sacrifice which a man can make
to his people in this world? Had they died for is, the soldiers
of August and September, 1914? Was it for this that in the autumn
of the same year the volunteer régiments marched after their
old comrades? Was it for this that these boys of seventeen sank
into the earth of Flanders? Was this the meaning of the sacrifice
which the German mother made to the fatherland when with sore
heart she let her best-loved boys march off, never to see them
again? Did all this happen only so that a gang of wretched criminals
could lay hands on the fatherland?
it for this that the German soldier had stood host in the sun's
heat and in snowstorms, hungry, thirsty, and freezing, weary
from sleepless nights and endless marches? Was it for this that
he had lain in the hell of the drumfire and in the fever of
gas attacks without wavering, always thoughtful of his one duty
to preserve the fatherland from the enemy peril?
these heroes deserved a headstone: 'Thou Wanderer who comest
to Germany, tell those at home that we lie here, true to the
fatherland and obedient to duty.'
what about those at home - ?
yet, was it only our own sacrifice that we had to weigh in the
balance? Was the Germany of the past less precious? Was there
no obligation toward our own history? Were we still worthy to
relate the glory of the past to ourselves? And how could this
deed be justified to future generations?
and degenerate criminals!
more I tried to achieve clarity on the monstrous event in this
hour, the more the shame of indignation and disgrace burned
my brow. What was all the pain in my eyes compared to this misery?
followed terrible days and even worse nights - I knew that all
was lost. Only fools, liars, and criminals could hope in the
mercy of the enemy. In these nights hatred grew in me, hatred
for those responsible for this deed.
the days that followed, my own fate became known to me.
could not help but laugh at the thought of my own future which
only a short time before had given me such bitter concern. Was
it not ridiculous to expect to build houses on such ground?
At last it became clear to me that what had happened was what
I had so often feared but had never been able to believe with
William II was the first German Emperor to hold out a conciliatory
hand to the leaders of Marxism, without suspecting that scoundrels
have no honor. While they still held the imperial hand in theirs,
their other hand was reaching for the dagger.
is no making pacts with Jews; there can only be the hard: either - or.
for my part, decided to go into politics.