Home > Uncategorized > Lion Feuchtwanger: Service at the front gave him a burning hatred for militarism

Lion Feuchtwanger: Service at the front gave him a burning hatred for militarism

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

Lion Feuchtwanger: Selections on war

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Lion Feuchtwanger
From Paris Gazette (Exil) (1940)
Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir

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He had done more than anyone else to expose the secret military preparations in Germany and the Vehme murderers. He had had to suffer for it; the men of the General Staff were stern and powerful enemies who forgot nothing and persecuted him indefatigably with intrigues and law-suits. It was no joke to be libelled for years in hundreds of newspapers as a high traitor to Germany…

What he did in those days had had a meaning. It was worth fighting at that time to make Germany a land of industry and culture instead of a military state run by police. Few people denied that. But if he presented evidence today that the German General Staff was making ready for war, would there be any point in it? The whole world knew that already. What was the use of preaching, to people who wouldn’t listen, that the new German Reich was resolved to achieve the hegemony of Europe through war and violence?…

…Whether there was any sense in it or not, he must get these things off his chest. His four years’ service at the front had given him a burning hatred for militarism. That hatred was his greatest experience. He could no longer imagine his life without it. His enemies maintained that his absolute pacifism, his unbending anti-militarism, merely helped to produce the opposite of what he wanted; people like him precipitated war instead of preventing it. But ever since coming back from the horrors of front-line fighting he could not live without writing against militarism. For these seventeen years writing against militarism had been his very life.

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…How good it had been, after four years of holding your tongue at the front, to scream out all the loathing that had accumulated within you. You were aware that hundreds of thousands, millions were screaming along with you. And later, proving to the Germans and to the world, again and again, with precise, incontrovertible evidence that the old generals, who had betrayed them once, were still swindling them, what excitement and relief you had, bringing out all your trumps! When the rage of your enemies, the men in power, was launched against you, when you knew that they were stretching all their resources to silence you and yet could not, then you really enjoyed yourself, then you really lived.

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A financier, who doubtlessly represented other interests, had offered him capital to build up the Platform, the journal which at present appeared “at irregular intervals.” The money was not to bind him in any way. But although little was said, Benjamin knew nevertheless that behind the generous financier there stood people interested in the armament industry. These people wanted some experienced and well-known journalist to describe in a serious organ the full extent of the German military armaments, so that public opinion in other countries might be effectually prepared when the need for counter-armaments appeared. He, Friedrich Benjamin, was an absolute pacifist, a convinced opponent of all preparation for war, no matter by whom it was undertaken…

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