Home > Uncategorized > Lion Feuchtwanger: The privilege, the courage of fighting for peace

Lion Feuchtwanger: The privilege, the courage of fighting for peace

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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) (1939)
Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir

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He had suddenly realized that all his endeavours to preach peace without compromise, all his cry of “Peace, peace,” and “No more war,” had been of no use whatever to anyone. The privilege of fighting for peace without making oneself a laughing-stock was something that had first to be earned. To be able to fight for peace successfully one must have proved to the world that one was not doing it from timidity or cowardice, that one was willing to die if need be for the sake of peace. It was possible to become a kind of Messiah for the sake of peace, and there must always be people in the world dedicated to hold that ideal before the eyes of the nations. Yet only those were called to such a mission who had shown themselves ready to stake their very lives for such a purpose. What value could it have if cowards were to cry for peace? Only the really courageous could be allowed to preach apparent cowardice.

Benjamin could feel all this, yet he could not put it clearly into words. At least, he shrank from putting it into words. If he were really called to such a mission, if he were really one of a thousand successors of Isaiah, that was precisely why he should not proclaim himself as anything out of the ordinary. A genuine prophet of peace must never forget that he is nothing but a humble vessel for his message, and he must be clothed in humility. A worker for peace could not pride himself on his mission any more than on the fact that he drew breath; he must remain, in a high sense of the word, anonymous. The need for being humble, the need for silent self-effacing courage, that was what Friedrich Benjamin had learned in his cell when face to face with death.

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