The source: “Rücksicht am falschen Platz,” Das Schwarze Korps, 2 September 1943, p. 2.
Front soldier X was wounded at Stalingrad and was airlifted back home. During his long months of recovery, his thoughts turned often to his dead and missing comrades and their families. He knew how relieved his family was at his return, and how great a burden the less fortunate had to bear. He used his short leave to visit the families of those who were closest to him. He was the last to see them, and it was his duty to pass on the last handshake from sons and husbands to their mothers and wives. It was a hard duty made easier by the fact that they had nearly all been men who did their duty. But it gave him occasion to reflect.
He visited a family of acquaintances. They spoke of this and that. The conversation turned to an old woman. One preferred to avoid Frau So-and-So. She was a nice enough woman, to be sure, but she said the oddest things. Recently, she said it was stupid that our soldiers had to undergo such dangers, and similar things. She caused a lot of bother and annoyance, and probably is not quite right in the head. One really cannot take her seriously.
One didn’t report her to the police, our reader asked? No, one could not do that. One could hardly send her to prison or even the gallows. She was such a nice woman!
And these were fine loyal Germans, old and honest National Socialists...
The story got our front soldier thinking. He did not overestimate the matter; he knew that the hysterical old thing talked such nonsense and slandered German soldiers to get attention, and that she belongs to that irreducible one percent of fools and criminals that every nation has, even Germany. He had been near to death too often not to understand life. He was not surprised that there are such people. Rather, he was surprised that there are people who underestimate the dangers of such behavior, and that some are considerate toward such people from misplaced bourgeois sentimentality.
No reasonable person is surprised that some old biddy talks in a way that will sooner or later attract the attention of the states attorney. He is surprised that good citizens, loyal old National Socialists, hear such things and are angered by them because they know the possible effects, but do nothing about it because “She is such a nice old lady.” Actually, they are cowards who lack a sense of civic responsibility. The resulting investigation might be uncomfortable for them.
This is the core of the problem that we have to speak openly about, German to German, National Socialist to National Socialist.
Our enemy is giving us a clear enough picture of what he would do to us so that only a small percentage of criminals and racial trash in Germany opposes our victory. Their number is so small as to pose no danger to us. However, they could have an impact not only at home, but far worse on the soldiers at the front.
The front soldier who meets such people at home, even if they are rare, can easily forget all that he experiences at the front: the silent dedication with which millions do their duty, their quiet work for victory. It therefore goes without saying that we must treat these few outsiders with the same determination and harshness that we show toward the enemy, regardless of how stupid and innocuous we find them. This is a war of our very survival. He who does not want victory wants our defeat. He who wants our defeat wants our death.
Do we want to leave it all to the state? Who is the state? Is the traffic policemen at the corner the state, but not we who work for victory in the factories and offices? Is there any difference between people and state? Is not the soldier first of all the state? And are not we, his brothers and fathers and comrades also responsible for the state he is defending? And are we not responsible to the Führer for the cleanliness of the state, for the people’s community?
The state and people have long since become one. Each of us fulfills state functions. First of all, the conscience that calls us to duty is the state within us. But we also have a duty to others, for we have no more claim on victory than the efforts we put in to win it, whatever the conditions. We can no more take a vacation from our duties or a holiday from the state than can the soldier at the front. We cannot flee our responsibility for victory by retreating into our private lives, nor can he.
One occasionally hears a good person reporting that he had encountered this or that, or that someone said something or another, or he overheard this or that in a shop or in a factory. He speaks with bitterness: “How is that possible? Why is it allowed? Where is the state?”
Well, my friend, what did you do? Where was the state in you?
Well, you say, it was a stranger talking to a stranger, it was none of my business. Or maybe you did not want to cause a fuss. Or someone else should have done something. Or maybe it was even a colleague. One must maintain good relations with colleagues. Or maybe it was an old acquaintance, with whom one does not want any trouble.
You are being considerate, my friend. You will surely be thanked. Whether he knows it or not, each stupid chatterer or malicious rumor spreader is helping the enemy to destroy the German people. The enemy imagines he can defeat us by a campaign of agitation. If he reaches his goal, the German people will be destroyed, exterminated, enslaved. Do you think your consideration will earn you special treatment? Do you think a warm place will be reserved for you out there in a Siberian concentration camp?
Oh, but you say you did not hold back from cowardice? You are the well-bred man or woman who does not associate with such people. It would be beneath your dignity to deal with every scoundrel, dolt, or know-it-all? It is not beneath the dignity of your son, fighting the Bolshevists on the Eastern Front! It is not beneath the dignity of your sister in the west, fighting phosphorus bombs with pails of water and fire extinguishers. And you do not think it would be beneath the dignity of a policeman, detective, psychiatrist or states attorney to deal with such elements? It is only beneath your dignity...
There was a time when we had a different understanding of dignity. There was a time when one did not simply call oneself German; he had to prove it every day, a time when one called oneself a National Socialist and really was. Some do not speak very often of those days any longer, days we called the period of struggle [Kampfzeit], since they mistakenly believe that there is nothing more to fight for.
Wearing the party badge then made demands on a person. If that were not even more true today, party membership would mean nothing. After all, one can prove one belongs to an organization simply by showing the receipt for one’s membership dues. Back then, everyone knew what would happen if he said something stupid. Were it any different today, if one could say something stupid or dangerous in the presence such a badge-wearing National Socialist without any danger, that National Socialist had better consider why he wears the badge, why he joined a fighting community, if he is not ready to fulfill the most basic obligation of a decent German.
This is not to say that one should make a major case out of every expression of dissatisfaction by a decent German, whether or not he is a party member. Heaven save us from the 150%er! If a tired worker complains because the streetcar comes too infrequently, when someone gets three cigarettes a day too few, when a housewife does not get the fish or some other thing she thinks she needs, or when someone who has been bombed out lets loose with his feelings, remember that complaining is the bowel movement of the soul. Even when someone complains about problems that exist only in his imagination or attacks people who really have nothing to do with his difficulties, no reasonable person will get upset. We all complain. When someone complains about his barber or something else, it does not necessarily mean that he does not want victory. He may still be doing all in his power to bring it about. He can think that this or that should be done differently and still be a faithful follower of the Führer. A chain smoker can still wear the Knight’s Cross. But no one can do the enemy’s work by spreading pessimism, defeatism, and rumors without being seen for what he is: an enemy of the people and the state who must be dealt with directly by word or deed.
Listen to the voice of the front, to the voice of the soldier whose letter occasioned this article:
So may every person at home think. Behind him stands the invisible man in a gray uniform. He who does not do the duty the front expects of him betrays it. He perhaps betrays his own son, he betrays the honored dead who also died for him.
It is a period of struggle. It is hellishly dangerous if we do not expect all of the German people to be in the same boat, no matter how stupid they may be.
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