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Hermann Sudermann: Militarism and its terminus

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

German writers on peace and war

Hermann Sudermann: War irrigates the soil with blood, fertilizes it with corpses

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Hermann Sudermann
From The Mad Professor: A Novel of the Bismarck Years (1926)
Translated by Isabel Leighton and Otto P. Schinnerer

“…I spoke before of German tragedy and it was part of this tragedy that the German Empire was not created by those who for decades had propagated the idea as their own, but rather by one of those factions which hitherto had been one of its bitterest enemies. For that reason perforce, a different result eventuated from that originally intended. It arose out of the stench of powder and of blood and this stench will cling to it whether it likes it or not, as long as it exists. Therefore, the growing preparedness, therefore, what one calls, in praise or in censure, German Militarism; therefore, too the sword rattling the entire world over. And the worst of it is, it sprang into existence through a conflict with a people upon whose friendship, if we want to advance intellectually, we are more dependent than upon the good will of any nation anywhere around us…Not only France but all the West stand in opposition and secret hatred against us, and the more we try to arm ourselves against it, the more intense it will become, and the more we shall appear as destroyers of peace and enemies of mankind in their eyes. How do we, we sleepy Germans, we, the so-called nation of poets and thinkers, come to be branded with this suspicion? And sometimes at night when I can’t sleep, I think of a passage which I read in one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament and which foretells the fall of Assyria. It reads: ‘And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazing-stock. And it shall come to pass that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste; who will bemoan her?'”

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