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Franz Werfel: Leaders’ fear of their people drives them to war


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

Franz Werfel: Selections on war


Franz Werfel
From Star of the Unborn (1946)
Translated by Gustave O. Arlt


“And for what reason was the First World War fought, Seigneur? What was it all about?”

As I formulated my answer I was uncomfortably aware that I was not doing justice to the Second World War…

“Well, now that you ask this question, my dear Monsieur, it’s not so easy to say why the two World Wars that took place in my lifetime were really fought. It was all mixed up with a murky hogwash about unemployment and ersatz-religions. You know, the more fraudulent a religion, the more fanatically its adherents strike out in all directions. My former contemporaries had firmly made up their minds that they didn’t want to have any souls or any personalities; they wanted to be egoless atoms in a material macrocomplex…And so most people of both groups didn’t have the slightest idea why they had to kill each other. They really did it out of fear. But they were less afraid of each other than of their own leaders, and these leaders, again, were so afraid of the people whom they led or misled that they forced them to kill each other.”

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