Home > Uncategorized > Ferdynand Goetel: Hands off our home, you tracking murderers! Hands off our brains and hearts!

Ferdynand Goetel: Hands off our home, you tracking murderers! Hands off our brains and hearts!

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

Ferdynand Goetel: Men ripped up by the Moloch of war

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Ferdynand Goetel
From From Day to Day (1926)
Translated by Winifred Cooper

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Thrown off the rails himself, flung out of the saddle, he needed to lie in the sun and lick his wounds. The consciousness of his impotence against the fate that had hurled him, a full-grown man, to be food for cannon and prison lice, warned him of any desire to take up the sorrows of others. But he was unable to put up a wall between himself and the people with whom he was ordered to live and upon whom he was now dependent. It was then he took advantage for the first time of the gift the war had brought him – simple comradeship in misfortune.

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I ought to have told him I’ve seen too much of blood and hate and violence, and that I want to see no more; that, in spite of all the great reasons of State and society, somebody somewhere must be the first to say to himself: – this shall not be! Though it may be against reasons of State, against the interests of the classes, things shall not be that make the soul of man recoil.

We will not hear the whistle of bullets!

We have had enough of the clanking fetters!

The muzzles of cannon gleaming in extinct citadels are as abhorrent to us as knives sharpened in underground cellars.

Hands off our home, you tracking murderers! Hands off our brains and hearts!

Accursed be every threshold whereon lies the corpse of a man.

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1) Thou shalt not shoot in the back;

2) thou shalt not kill off the wounded;

3) thou shalt not punish without trial;

4) thou shalt not dishonour the dead;

5) thou shalt honour heroes;

6) thou shalt spare the innocent;

7) thou shalt respect the man in the enemy;

8) thou shalt protect women and children;

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“Aha! Very difficult times. The war is over and nobody has been able to get home yet. Some couldn’t find their homes and others found them different from what they’d expected. So they wander around the world and get in each other’s way…”

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The world – our own real actual world – has its ghosts, spooks, and spectres. This afternoon, just as I was going out, I had a visit from my old schoolfellow, Szmid. That is to say, from Szmid’s ghost, for how to describe otherwise the frightful skeleton which is all that remains of the jolly fellow, brisk and happy, of years ago?

Szmid is a war-disabled, and a second-rate one at that from the point of view of society, for he lost his leg as a soldier in the Austrian army, somewhere in Montenegro or Albania. A splinter of shrapnel hit him on the head, besides, injuring the optic nerve. He can hardly see at all, and conceals his blindness behind enormous black spectacles that emphasize the terrifying aspect of his face.

Szmid is a poverty-stricken creature, living on the charity of his old schoolfellows. He has no relatives, and the country he fought for has fallen into little pieces, to the triumph of historical justice and the satisfaction of the citizens of the republics that have arisen out of the ashes. Szmid knows this, and hides himself in mouse-holes with the memories of his unhonoured wounds, oppressed by shame and alarm before a world he has in nothing served…

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