Home > Uncategorized > Albert Maltz: “Ten thousand dead today. That’s what the war means.”

Albert Maltz: “Ten thousand dead today. That’s what the war means.”


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts
American writers on peace and against war


Albert Maltz
From The Cross and the Arrow (1944)


The last thing she remembered was the factory siren screaming “Blackout,” announcing that British planes were on their way. She said to herself bitterly: “It’s men who make wars, not us. It’s men who like politics and killing each other. How easy it is for them to die and leave us alone, the swine!”


“You have a family, I suppose?”

“No,” he said. He stopped playing, and a sense of aching dejection filled his heart. His blues eyes went blank; his face took on the dead look she had already marked. In a flat, unemotional tone, as though he were reciting something he had repeated many times before – or as though it were an old tale that no longer interested him – he said: “I had a boy and a wife, Frau Lingg. My boy died in the attack on Narvik. My wife was killed in a bombing. Now I’m alone.” He sat silent, stony, resenting her for the inevitable question, as he has resented all of the inquisitive ones before her.


A groan burst from his lips. “I can’t stand to think of my wife. I see her lying on the ground with her face all cut up, and her arms cut off, and her body looking like some butcher had dug his knives into her…If there was a funeral, maybe, if I cried like a man should cry…But ten times a day I bury her – and she’s still there, all cut up on the ground.”


Willi suddenly said, “Think of it – ten thousand dead today. That’s what the war means.”

She was astonished. “What?”

“Just think of it, Berthe. That’s what this war means. Today ten thousand men died in this world. Twice as many, perhaps.”


“…’Today, in one day, how many men died? Women, too, probably, and children.’ I remember how it was in the trenches in 1918. I’d look at the moon and I’d think, ‘The same moon is shining over peaceful, sleeping towns. How is it possible?’ That’s what I started to think now.”

Why was there war at all? Willi would ask. Who was responsible? Was it the same gang in this war as in the last – the munitions makers, as Karl always said? And when would peace come?


Others could speak glibly of conquering the world – but he remembered 1918 in his marrow. Their talk meant only one thing to him: More months of war, more starvation – the whole bloody mess repeated. And for what? It was this he had begun to ask himself…


“Men make wars, but why? It isn’t the miserable German peasant, dying in Russia for deluded patriotism, who covets oil and grain. And even if he does, he has been twice deluded, but to the profit of those who used him in the first place. Don’t you see that, Zoder? Who taught our children the glories of war? Who needed pawns? You’re a scientist. When a man comes with a running sore, he’s ugly, but you seek the germ. The manipulators, Zoder! Who has been seeking empire – you, me, Wegler? Oh, God in Heaven, see it! When children are hungry, their father steals! When a people like ours has been warped by hunger, then deceived, then puffed with vanity, they can be made rapacious. This is the living method of evil, Zoder, and its sources can be touched; they are real, they have a history and an origin.”

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