Home > Uncategorized > Hans Hellmut Kirst: It was as if the whole world had become simply one vast graveyard

Hans Hellmut Kirst: It was as if the whole world had become simply one vast graveyard


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

German writers on peace and war

Hans Hellmut Kirst: Selections on war and peace


Hans Hellmut Kirst
From Forward Gunnar Asch! (08/15 im Krieg)
Translated by Rober Kee

The front was quiet, as it almost always was these days at this time. It was an ugly, sinister, unsettling sort of quiet.

On both sides men who had not yet received orders to attack one another were doing their best to make life, or rather what there was left of it, as tolerable for each other as possible. Although everyone knew how pointless it all was in the end. The silence of the front weighed on people oppressively. It was as if a pack of ravening wolves were quietly surrounding the two armies….

There was not even the sound of a truck on the move to break the silence. No aircraft had appeared in the sky for two weeks. The front lay only about three kilometers away, but over the whole length of it had fallen the silence of the grave.


Once again they found themselves caught for the moment in the ominous, treacherous silence which was the war.

“It’s cold,” said Asch. He wanted to break the silence. “Cold and damp.”

A pale moon forced its way through the clouds, wreathed in mysterious vapors. The snow covered the earth like a blanket over a corpse. It seemed to absorb the moonlight and radiate it back again. The darkness slowly dispersed.


It was as if the whole world stood still for a moment. There seemed to be no more front lines with frozen corpses lying stiffly in between them; no soldiers snoring beneath filthy banquets; no base camps where they knew neither war nor peace; no women left for a man to go for comfort to. It was as if the whole world had become simply one vast graveyard.


“Why does there have to be war?” she asked.

“But for the war we would never have met.”

“What a thing to say!” she answered and withdrew her hand. “That’s just an easy excuse, but it’s a rotten one. We might have met at some big sports gathering, or on holiday, or in a theater, or in a picture gallery, or anywhere like that. Why does there have to be a war to bring two human beings from different countries together?”

“But I’m not responsible for the war, Natasha!”

“No, but you help carry it on.”

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