Home > Uncategorized > Arnold Zweig: Keep the war going to the last drop of – other – people’s blood

Arnold Zweig: Keep the war going to the last drop of – other – people’s blood

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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 (1937)
Translated by Eric Sutton

2520ru

After seven o’clock a special permit was needed for such citizens as wanted to be out and about; the pretence being that this was enemy territory, as a bright young soldier like Lebede had long since realized. Some affected to believe it, some jeered or shrugged their shoulders; there was also a pretence, thought Lebede as he ran, that these occupying troops were a belligerent army, whereas they were no more than civilians under arrest, a nation pressed into war service by the ruling classes: princes, manufacturers, officials, officers, Junkers, bankers, professors, pastors, journalists, and their wives and satellites. They stood in with one another that they might get power and keep it; there were quarrels among them, but in actual fact they balanced one another like two teams in a tug-of-war which pull back and forward, back and forward, yet never let go. Not until one side lets go, and the other side falls backwards, is the rope clear and then perhaps something sensible can be done with it.

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“Can it be that you are after a little job here, and mean to keep the war going to the last drop of – other people’s blood; and by other people, I mean the Müllers, the Schulzes, the Levys and the Lehmanns?” Winfried blushed at the recollection of certain pleasant dreams and prospects held out to him a little while ago by an old gentleman in bed. Bertin took this blush as a mark of the young officer’s shame at a world in which such brigands could sate themselves with conquest, outraging humanity and mishandling the spirit that was Germany, the eternal achievements of a great people, its technical gifts, its dumb devotion, and its good faith.

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It was not long ago in Kovno. There, on the street, he had met an apparition, a spectre. He was trotting off to his office, when he was confronted by a lanky form in a blue cloak with high red collar, black breeches, varnished boots, and a high peaked cap with a tall silver cockade; a Guard officer in peacetime array. The purple tunic reached to above the knee, and the hands, the gloved hands, were thrust into a muff, a muff of marten or fitchew fur, hanging from the neck in proper feminine fashion. The passers-by grinned, the school-children nudged one another with bony elbows, the market-women gaped and recoiled, their hands firm clasped beneath their aprons; the ruddy-cheeked Guard Officer from Ober-Ost, this light red, light blue apparition with the silver epaulets and trailing sabre, did not notice. His pale eyes glanced a sleepy acknowledgement to Bertin’s salute, and he disappeared into the frosty morning mist of Wilhelmstrasse, while Bertin the clerk was already sitting at his writing-desk, deeply concerned to understand what he had seen: the image of a conqueror. “Something seemed to snap inside my head, Lebede. For such as him we had been sweating all these years, abandoned our work, our future, our intellectual life, and our women, so that a fellow like this could prance around like a stork in a clover field. For such as him we had lost so many comrades, who had stood beside us while they were still living men…”

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