Home > Uncategorized > Arnold Zweig: Conducting the business of murder with embittered reluctance

Arnold Zweig: Conducting the business of murder with embittered reluctance

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

German writers on peace and war

Arnold Zweig: Selections on war

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Arnold Zweig
From The Crowning of a King (1938)
Translated by Eric Sutton

DDR-Arnold-Zweig

The end of July was to round out the fourth year of the war and begin the last one. Until the spring, the Europeans had conducted the business of murder with embittered reluctance, in despairing desolation of heart, but with set teeth and a sense of duty to be done. They shot at each other through fissures in the earth, they stuck knives into each other’s bodies, they struck each other down with sharpened spades; from above they threw hand grenades into the trenches, which had become the domain of rats and lice; from below they blew each other up with mines, sprinkled each other with burning oil, and in so doing were often conscious of a mutual sympathy, of comradeship and understanding, for it was a long while since they had ceased to hope.

Church bells were melted down; fruit-stones and beech-nuts, linseed and old bones were transformed into fat; children went from house to house collecting silver paper, bottle caps, emptied tubes of toothpaste, rags and waste paper.

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