Crooked Finger (crookedfingers) wrote,
Crooked Finger

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the soldiers who came home as beggars

"But radical upheaval was averted only outwardly and in the political sense; in the minds of the people a huge revolution took place in those first post-war years. Something had been crushed along with the armies-a belief in the infallibility of those authorities to which my generation had been brought up to be so subservient in our youth. But how could the Germans go on admiring their Kaiser, a man who had sworn to fight "to the last breath drawn by man and horse", and then escaped over the border under cover of night and fog? Or their army commanders and politicians, or the writers who kept writing their patriotic verses, still rhyming Not with Tod and Krieg with Sieg? Only now, as the gunpowder smoke over the country dispersed, was the full terrible extent of the devastation inflicted by the war visible. How could moral commandments be considered still in force, when for four years murder and robbery had been committed in the name of heroism and the necessity or requisitions? How could a nation believe the promises of a state that simply annulled all its duty to its citizens when it liked? And now the same people, the same clique of old, allegedly experienced men, had outdone themselves, compounding the folly of the war by patching up a botched peace. Everyone knows now-and a few of us knew at the time-that the peace following the Great War had presented one of the greatest moral opportunities of history, if not the greatest. Wilson had known it. With far-reaching vision, he had sketched out a plan for true and enduring international understanding. But the old generals, the old statesmen, the old interests had mangled his great idea, tearing it into little scraps of paper. The great and sacred promise made to millions that this was the war to end wars, the one thing that had brought the soldiers, desperate, hald-exhausted and already half-disillusioned, to draw on their last reserves of strength, was cynically sacrificed to the interests of the munitions manufacturers and the gambling of politicians, who triumphantly rescued their old, fateful tactics of secret treatises and negotiations behind closed doors from Wilson's wise and humane demands. In so far as the eyes of the world were open, it saw that it had been betrayed. The mothers who had sacrificed their children were betrayed, so were the soldiers who came home as beggars, all those who had patriotically contributed to the war loan, everyone who had believed in the promises of the state. All of us who had dreamt of a new and better world, and now saw the old game, on which our lives, our happiness, our time and our possessions were staked, about to begin again, played by the same gamblers or new ones-we had all been betrayed. No wonder a whole young generation looked bitterly and scornfully at their fathers, who had allowed themselves to be deprived first of victory and then of peace, who had done everything wrong, had foreseen nothing, and had mode the wrong calculations in every respect." pg. 321,322 Stefan Zweig "The World of Yesterday"

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