Home > Uncategorized > Alfred Neumann: This is how it happens in history. Soldiers become thieves, thieves become murderers.

Alfred Neumann: This is how it happens in history. Soldiers become thieves, thieves become murderers.


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

Alfred Neumann: Selections on war


Alfred Neumann
From The Mirror of Fools (1933)
Translated by Trevor and Phyllis Brewitt


“This is how it happens in history,” said he musingly, and as if to himself. “Here is little Liegnitz, suddently becoming the open wound or the sore place on the great body of the Empire, or, rather, a blunderbuss that goes off of its own accord and precipitates the great disaster. The Emperor intervenes, and eighteen princes of the Empire engage against him and thus become rebels against His Holy Roman Majesty; the Poles are not slow to come forward, and of a sudden the world is split asunder into two parties, Lutherans and Catholics. The Spaniard joins the fray, and the Swede enters the field against him; the Frenchman preys upon the West and the Turk upon the East. The Bavarian sinks his teeth into the Frank, the Branderburger into the Saxon, and the Landgrave of Hesse into the Bishop of Mainz; and so it goes on. Soldiers become thieves, thieves become murderers, the peasant arises once more and strikes the nobleman dead, the starving burgher devours rats; the red death is there, white death follows in the winter, and then comes the black death, the black plague, dysentery. The years pile up the deaths, and the deaths the years; war, rebellion, hunger, pestilence, calamity upon calamity, war, rebellion, hunger, pestilence, layer upon layer…”


To the war…War is destruction. The business of sword, lance, and bullet is to hit. If their aim is bad or indifferent, they hit a greater or smaller part of of one’s body, causing nothing more than pain. If their aim is good, they kill. Then there is no more jesting, no more laughter, but blood, suffering, and death. Schweinichen was afraid of the life that might end thus. Was the end of the fool’s journey a bitter, cutting, stabbing, conclusive death? There were stories enough that began with laughter and ended with a rattle in the throat…

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