Home > Uncategorized > Heinrich Mann: Nietzsche, war and the butchery of ten to twenty million souls

Heinrich Mann: Nietzsche, war and the butchery of ten to twenty million souls

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

Heinrich Mann: Mission of letters in a world in rubble with 10 million corpses underground

Heinrich Mann: Nowadays the real power is peace

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Heinrich Mann
From The Living Thoughts of Nietzsche (1939)
Translated by Barrows Mussey

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His early young readers, who as yet had been spared danger, hardness and sacrifice, and whose souls were infinitely distant from such trials, never considered the oncoming age of lawlessness and wars. That age as an experience was cloudy to Nietzsche himself, or he would never have conjured it up. He knew the battlefields of the spirit; fundamentally he recognized no others.

When it came for the decision of his “values,” he voted for war – especially for war with many victims. “The many sufferings of all these little men together add up to nothing,” he declared. The misery and barbarism of a continent, following upon a butchery to the amount of ten to twenty million souls – a total of nothing. Nietzsche foresaw the beginning of an “age of wars”; he never formed any conception of it, even the faintest, any more than the order of men who start wars.

…Caught up in a peaceful age, and weary of it, he wanted his “strong men,” his “grandees” to prove themselves on their own ground. “The next century will bring the battle for world mastery,” he announced to his contemporaries, who closed their ears to just that sentence. They were feasting on the most profound peace in modern history. They, like him, lacked the faintest conception of the war we have since put behind us, or of the war which is now dragging out endlessly under the guise of peace. As was right and proper, the philosopher never dreamed of such a misbegotten compound of war and peace. His strong men and grandees are brave by definition; how could he have seen them as the cowardly extortioners so familiar to us?

He commanded: “From wars we must learn to bring death close to the interests we fight for; that makes us worthy of honour.” To mention only one variety, probably Zaharoff, dealer in arms and death, deserves veneration; and that variety should have caught the philosopher’s eye; it was obvious enough even in his day…

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