Home > Uncategorized > Arnold Zweig: The final trump in the struggle for world markets: the Gun

Arnold Zweig: The final trump in the struggle for world markets: the Gun


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

German writers on peace and war

Arnold Zweig: Selections on war


Arnold Zweig
From Education Before Verdun (1935)
Translated by Eric Sutton


“My lad,” sighed Pahl; “it beats me to think that such a thing could happen in the world, that one man could inflict upon another such agony as that. I tell you it went right through me, up to my heart and brain and back again…It hardly goes with the world of blue skies and sunshine and birdsong that we’ve all heard so much about. It belongs to a society where men strike, and strike to hurt; to the under world, where a man is damned from birth to fetch and carry for others, and waste the talents that should be at the service of humanity.” He was silent and closed his eyes. “The slaughter bench,” he went on, shaking his head. “It is always there, and in war it is everywhere. We were conceived and reared and trained to serve it, and on it we at last die. And that is what is called life.” His breath came heavily, his hands moved over the coverlet, waxen pale; Bertin found himself looking for the red nail-wounds on the backs of them. Tears trickled out from beneath Pahl’s right eyelid. My God, thought Bertin, and I was crying over a dish of soup just now. “The slaughter bench must be destroyed,” went on Pahl in an undertone while the others snored; “at least, we can stop the supply of victims.” “If it is within our power,” agreed Bertin cautiously. “It lies in our power alone. Only the victims of injustice can abolish injustice. Only the oppressed can end oppression. Only those who have been under shell-fire can bring the war-factories to a stand-still. Why should those who profit by torture want to being it to an end?”


The French killed him, but theirs was not the guilt. No; behind the paltry little A.S.C. captains loomed the gigantic shape of what held and wielded power – of all those whose task it was to plan and accomplish the suicide of Europe; poor cretinous fools, who looked on their neighbours as mere objects of attack, and conceived, as the final trump in the struggle for world markets: the Gun.


He was of the same calibre as young Kroysing, and himself, Posnanski; men who labour to deliver the world and by the only effective means: justice, reason, and free discussion. Absurd as it might seem, whoever used that latter instrument inevitably stirred the fury of the evil principle and its slaves, the men of force; awakened their savage energy and brutality…And while Posnanski buttoned his jacket around his corpulent person, for the March night was cold and he was tired, he found himself, to his astonishment, marching angrily toward the fire at the end of the room, which was still glowing faintly, because it seemed to embody the enemy, the eternal foe of the creative impulse, the adversary, the personified force of resistance and obstruction: Satan. He saw him in visible shape, with claws and beak and bat-like wings, with dragon’s tail, and treacherous basilisk eyes, his face in a malignant grin. This savage and devouring element, allied with iron, had given birth to every science, cast every gun, and its almighty laughter pealed in the burst of every shell.


[He] had seen all varieties of destruction, he had seen how men can stand up against mud and hunger and the peril of death; murder massed and industrialized, devastation, streams of blood, chill contorted corpses, wounded men shivering beside a fire as the surge of fever shook them, and the hideous slavery from which there could be no relief but death.

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