Mann, Thomas: God Help our Darkened and Desecrated Country
The mystery of the Word is great; the responsibility for it and its purity is of a symbolic and spiritual kind; it has not only an artistic but also a general ethical significance; it is responsibility itself, human responsibility quite simply, also the responsibility for one’s own people, the duty of keeping pure its image in the sight of humanity. In the Word is involved the unity of humanity, the wholeness of the human problem, which permits nobody, today less than ever, to separate the intellectual and artistic from the political and social, and to isolate himself within the ivory tower of the “cultural” proper. This true totality is equated with humanity itself, and anyone -whoever he be- is making a criminal attack upon humanity when he undertakes to “totalize” a segment of human life -by which I mean politics, I mean the State.
A German author accustomed to this responsibility of the Word -a German whose patriotism, perhaps naively, expresses itself in a belief in the infinite moral significance of whatever happens in Germany- should he be silent, wholly silent, in the face of the inexpiable evil that is done daily in my country to bodies, souls, and minds, to right and truth, to men and mankind? And should he be silent in the face of the frightful danger to the whole continent presented by this soul-destroying regime, which exists in abysmal ignorance of the hour that has struck today in the world? It was not possible for me to be silent. And so, contrary to my intentions, came the utterances, the unavoidably compromising gestures which have now resulted in the absurd and deplorable business of my national excommunication. The mere knowledge of who these men are who happen to possess the pitiful outward power to deprive me of my German birthright is enough to make the act appear in all its absurdity. I, forsooth, am supposed to have dishonoured the Reich, Germany, in acknowledging that I am against them! They have the incredible effrontery to confuse themselves with Germany! When, after all, perhaps the moment is not far off when it will be of supreme importance to the German people not to be confused with them.
To what a pass, in less than four years, have they brought Germany! Ruined, sucked dry body and soul by armaments with which they threaten the whole world, holding up, the whole world and hindering it in its real task of peace, loved by nobody, regarded with fear and cold aversion by all, it stands on the brink of economic disaster, while its “enemies” stretch out their hands in alarm to snatch back from the abyss so important a member of the future family of nations, to help it, if only it will come to its senses and try to understand the real needs of the world at this hour, instead of dreaming dreams about mythical “sacred necessities.”
Yes, after all, it must be helped by those whom it hinders and menaces, in order that it may not drag down the rest of the continent with it and unleash the war upon which as the ultima ratio it keeps its eyes ever fixed. The mature and cultural states -by which I mean those which understand the fundamental fact that war is no longer permissible- treat this endangered and endangering country, or rather the impossible leaders into whose hands it has fallen, as doctors treat a sick man- with the utmost tact and caution, with inexhaustible if not very flattering patience. But it thinks it must play politics -the politics of power and hegemony- with the doctors. That is an unequal game. If one side plays politics when the other no longer thinks of politics but of peace, then for a time the first side reaps certain advantages. Anachronistic ignorance of the fact that war is no longer permissible results for a while of course in “successes” against those who are aware of the truth. But woe the people which, not knowing what way to turn, at last actually seeks its way out through the abomination of war, hated of God and man! Such a people will be lost. It will be so vanquished that it will never rise again.