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Karl Kraus: War renders unto Caesar that which is God’s


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts


Karl Kraus: Selections on war


Karl Kraus
From The Last Days of Mankind (1922)
Translated by Max Knight and Joseph Fabry


A Protestant church.

Pastor Buzzard: This war is a punishment inflicted by the Lord upon the nations for their sins, and we Germans, together with our allies, are the executors of divine judgment. Without a doubt, the Kingdom of God has been tremendously strengthened and deepened by this war. And let us acknowledge clearly and unequivocally that Jesus’ commandment: “Love thy enemies” applies only to relationships between individuals and not nations. In the struggle of the nations there is no room for loving one’s enemies. Here the individual soldier need have no scruples! In the heat of battle, Jesus’ command of love is suspended! In combat, killing is no sin but a service to the Fatherland, a Christian duty – indeed, even a service to God. Yes, it is a service to God and a sacred duty to punish forcefully our foes, to destroy them if need be. Thus I repeat unto you: “Love thy enemies” no longer is binding. Away with all doubts of conscience! But, you may ask, why have so many thousands of soldiers been crippled? Why have so many hundreds been blinded? Because, I tell you, this is God’s way of saving their souls! Look about you and pray, as you are witnessing the Lord’s miracles: “Deliver us, O Lord, to paradise!”

Another Protestant church.

Pastor Crow: Therefore – fortify your blood with steel! And to the fainthearted I say: Once a war has started, it is our right, and sometimes indeed our duty toward the Fatherland, to regard treaties as scraps of paper to be torn up and tossed into the fire if this will save the Fatherland. War is the last resort, God’s ultimate means of bringing the nations to their senses, by force if they won’t let themselves be guided in any other way, along the path that God has chosen for them. Wars are God’s trials and His judgments in world history. And that’s why it is also the will of God that in war the nations use all their strength and all the weapons He has given them to carry out the just punishment of their enemies! Therefore – fortify your blood with steel! German women too, the mothers of fallen heroes, reject sentimentality in war. Their beloved husbands and sons are fighting or have been killed, but they refuse to listen to wailing and moaning. God wants us to have an iron will. He urges us to the supreme exertion of our strength. Therefore, once again – fortify your blood with steel!

Another Protestant church.

Pastor Hawk: Look about you: German genius has strung together brilliant achievements like the pearls of a glittering necklace. It has created the miracle of the U-boats. It has produced that fabulous gun that shoots missiles high into the atmosphere, carrying destruction to the enemy one hundred and twenty kilometers away. But German genius not only provides us with weapons; it untiringly safeguards and fortifies our minds. For example, Schultze in Hamburg, on a grant from our Foreign Office, is doing basic research on the desecration of corpses and graves by the British and the French. Our Information Service will spread his findings all over the world, findings which are bound to win us the sympathies of the neutral nations, especially – we hope – those of our neighbors who still have doubts. Everywhere in our German lands spirits rise, ready to help our just cause, to arouse the sluggish, to convert the backsliders, and to win new friends. Our government in its wisdom has realized that Switzerland not only can serve as a transit area for our bombs but will gratefully learn methods of warfare from our pictures and words. Our films, showing our U-boats sinking untold tons of food to the bottom of the sea, cannot fail to have a devastating effect on neutral audiences. People faint; women especially are most likely to be impressed by the loss of priceless goods. Such films gradually make people all over the world realize the magnitude of the damage we are inflicting on our enemies. The German word is equally effective. Listen, for example, to the magnificent poem, a soldier’s prayer, I found in a splendid publication that our Information Service is distributing in neutral countries to enlighten foreigners about the true German character and gradually overcome the hatred with which we have been persecuted:

Do you hear the soldiers praying?
We seek blessing from above:
from the gullets of our cannon
sound the pledges of our love.
Through the barrels of our cannon
we will shoot the Good Lord’s Prayer;
we’ll plant bayonets upon them,
stuck like crosses in the air.

Buddies, sprinkle dumdum bullets
like a holy-water rinse;
let our cannon smoke like censers.
Unexploded mines are sins,
let’s repent then and do better,
true omission sins are they!
But when land mines start exploding,
then our sins are blown away.

Let us string our hand grenades like
rosaries around our chest;
when the beads go popping, watch them
crush the enemy’s zest.
Let us say our angry prayer,
yes, let’s sing the “Wacht am Rhein.”
Praying hands will turn to talons
wringing necks of godless swine.
For we are the Lord’s own agents,
carrying out the will divine.

And thus look around you and pray, as you are witnessing the Lord’s miracles, “Deliver us, O Lord, to paradise!”

A Catholic church.

Sexton (speaking to tourists): Here you see an interesting devotional gift presented to our holy shrine by two soldiers who fought at Col di Lana: a rosary whose beads are shrapnel bullets. The chain is fashioned from barbed wire. The cross is cut from a burst Italian grenade and has three Italian rifle bullets as pendants. The figure of Christ has been shaped from shrapnel. The cross carries on its back the engraved inscription: “In gratitude. In memory of the war in Italy, Cima d’Oro, July 25, 1917,” and the initials of the donor. For prolonged praying it requires a strong hand. Would one of you gentlemen care to lift it?

Visitor (trying): Ugh! Damned heavy! (A church bell is ringing.)

Sexton: Listen! It’s ringing for the last time. Today it’ll be taken down. We make rosaries from shrapnel, and cannons from church bells. We render unto God what is Caesar’s, and unto Caesar what is God’s. Everybody does his share.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. November 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Wars are the destiny of the State; taxes are its fodder. Resist war? Resist taxes. Endorse war? Pay your taxes.

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