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.
And the German counter-action was a complete failure.
In 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.
But what came out of the home country?
Was this failure stupidity or crime?
In 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?
What 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?
How they whipped the fever heat of national passion into the faces of the hastily retreating regiments 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!
Meanwhile, what happened in our country?
Nothing, or worse than nothing.
Rage 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.
More 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.
In these months I felt for the first time the whole malice of Destiny which kept me at the front in a position where every negro might accidentally shoot me to bits, while elsewhere I would have been able to perform quite different services for the fatherland !
For even then I was rash enough to believe that I would have succeeded in this.
But I was a nameless soldier, one among eight million!
And so it was better to hold my tongue and do my duty in the trenches as best I could.
In the summer of 1915, the first enemy leaflets fell into our hands.
Aside 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.
The better to illustrate these claims, 'letters from home' were often reprinted whose contents seemed to confirm these assertions.
On 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.
In 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.
Actually 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.
In this direction enemy propaganda began to achieve unquestionable successes from 1916 on.
Likewise 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.
Thus, as early as 1916, there appeared various phenomena that would better have been absents 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.
Even 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!
I was to learn the difference between it and the homeland in a glaring contrast.
At 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.
Under 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.
On October 7, 1916, I was wounded.
I was brought safely to the rear, and from there was to return to Germany with a transport.
Two 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.
For the first time in two years to hear such a sound!
The 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 shutters.
In 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 wellnigh ashamed to let another look him in the eye.
It was almost on the anniversary of the day when I left for the front that I reached the hospital at Beelitz near Berlin.
What 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.
Unfortunately, this world was new in another respect as well.
The spirit of the army at the front seemed no longer to be a guest here.l 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 2 Of higher bravery than the hero's death of an honest soldier. Many listened in silence, others went away, but a few assented.
Disgust 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.
When I could again walk properly, I obtained permission to go to Berlin.
Clearly 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.
But much, much worse were conditions in Munich itself !
When 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.
As 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
The necessity of an unlimited centralization was emphasized
Thus, in the year 191S17 nearly the whole of production was under the control of Jewish finance.
But against whom was the hatred of the people directed?
At this time I saw with horror a catastrophe approaching which, unless averted in time, would inevitably lead to collapse.
While 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.
I 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.
I 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.
At the beginning of March, 1917, I was back with my regiment.
Toward the end of I911, 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 fatherland.
Especially 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.
But, 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 Germany.
Germany 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:
The munitions strike was organized
If it succeeded, the German front was bound to collapse, and the Vorwarts' 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.
To 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 the other.
To 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.
But how much more terrible was the moral damage that had been done!
In 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!
And in the second place: What was the effect on the enemy?
In 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.
The enemy feared him and trembled for their victory.
In 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.
But 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 this hope.
Since 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.
Now 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?
The 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.
At 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,l and transform dread anxiety in the face of coming events into determined confidence. Now the regiments 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..
English, 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.
'Germany 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 hopeful resistance.
This 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.
On 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.
For 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.
I had the good fortune to fight in the first two offensives and in the last.
These 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.
In 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.
At 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 regiments had not gone to their death in Flanders crying: 'Long dive universal suffrage and the secret ballot,' but crying: 'Deutschland uber 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 Parliamentary ian gentlemen could be seen where all decent Germans with sound limbs left were sojourning at that time.
And 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.
My 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 up Germany.
And 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.
In 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.
At the end of September, my division arrived for the third time at the positions which as young volunteer regiments we had once stormed.
What a memory!
In October and November of I914, we had there received our baptism of fire. Fatherland love in our heart and songs on our lips, our young regiments 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 the fatherland.
In July, I917, 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.
We old soldiers, who had then marched out with the regiment stood in respectful emotion at this shrine of 'loyalty and obedience to the death.'
Now in a hard defensive battle the regiment was to defend this soil which it had stormed three years earlier.
With 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.
In 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 but death.
Now, 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.
In 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.
A few hours later, my eyes had turned into glowing coals; it had grown dark around me.
Thus I came to the hospital at Pasewalk in Pomerania, and there I was fated to experience-the greatest villainy of the century.
For 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.
In November the general tension increased.
And 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.
In 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.
My 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.
The 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?
On November 10, the pastor came to the hospital for a short address: now we learned everything.
In 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 and pillow.
Since 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.
And 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 regiments 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?
Was 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?
Verily 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.'
And what about those at home-?
And 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?
Miserable and degenerate criminals!
The 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?
There 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.
In the days that followed, my own fate became known to me.
I 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 my emotions.
Kaiser 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.
There is no making pacts with Jews; there can only be the hard: either-or.
I, for my part, decided to go into politics.