It is the fate of great achievements, born from a way of life that sets truth before security, to be gobbled up by you and excreted in the form of shit. For centuries great, brave, lonely men have been telling you what to do. Time and again you have corrupted, diminished and demolished their teachings; time and again you have been captivated by their weakest points, taken not the great truth, but some trifling error as your guiding principal. This, little man, is what you have done with Christianity, with the doctrine of sovereign people, with socialism, with everything you touch. Why, you ask, do you do this? I don't believe you really want an answer. When you hear the truth you'll cry bloody murder, or commit it. You had your choice between soaring to superhuman heights with Nietzsche and sinking into subhuman depths with Hitler. You shouted Heil! Heil! and chose the subhuman. You had the choice between Lenin's truly democratic constitution and Stalin's dictatorship. You chose Stalin's dictatorship. You had your choice between Freud's elucidation of the sexual core of your psychic disorders and his theory of cultural adaptation. You dropped the theory of sexuality and chose his theory of cultural adaptation, which left you hanging in mid-air. You had your choice between Jesus and his majestic simplicity and Paul with his celibacy for priests and life-long compulsory marriage for yourself. You chose the celibacy and compulsory marriage and forgot the simplicity of Jesus' mother, who bore her child for love and love alone. You had your choice between Marx's insight into the productivity of your living labor power, which alone creates the value of commodities and the idea of the state. You forgot the living energy of your labor and chose the idea of the state. In the French Revolution, you had your choice between the cruel Robespierre and the great Danton. You chose cruelty and sent greatness and goodness to the guillotine. In Germany you had your choice between Goring and Himmler on the one hand and Liebknecht, Landau, and Muhsam on the other. You made Himmler your police chief and murdered your great friends. You had your choice between Julius Streicher and Walter Rathenau. You murdered Rathenau. You had your choice between Lodge and Wilson. You murdered Wilson. You had your choice between the cruel Inquisition and Galileo's truth. You tortured and humiliated the great Galileo, from whose inventions you are still benefiting, and now, in the twentieth century, you have brought the methods of the Inquisition to a new flowering. Every one of your acts of smallness and meanness throws light on the boundless wretchedness of the human animal. 'Why so tragic?' you ask. 'Do you feel responsible for all evil?' With remarks like that you condemn yourself. If, little man among millions, you were to shoulder the barest fraction of your responsibility, the world would be a very different place. Your great friends wouldn't perish, struck down by your smallness.
Adolf Hitler is probably the last of the great adventurer-conquerors in the tradition of Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon, and the Third Reich the last of the empires which set out on the path taken earlier by France, Rome and Macedonia. The curtain was rung down on that phase of history, at least, by the sudden invention of the hydrogen bomb, of the ballistic missile and of rockets that can be aimed to hit the moon.
For twenty-five years I've been speaking and writing in defense of your right to happiness in this world, condemning your inability to take what is your due, to secure what you won in bloody battles on the barricades of Paris and Vienna, in the American Civil War, in the Russian Revolution. Your Paris ended with Petain and Laval, your Vienna with Hitler, your Russia with Stalin, and your America may well end in the rule of the Ku Klux Klan! You've been more successful in winning your freedom than in securing it for yourself and others. This I knew long ago. What I did not understand was why time and again, after fighting your way out of a swamp, you sank into a worse one. Then groping and cautiously looking about me, I gradually found out what has enslaved you: YOUR SLAVE DRIVER IS YOU YOURSELF. No one is to blame for your slavery but you yourself. No one else, I say!
When all this is over, people will try to blame the Germans alone, and the Germans will try to blame the Nazis alone, and the Nazis will try to blame Hitler alone. They will make him bear the sins of the world. But it's not true. You suspected what was happening, and so did I. It was already too late over a year ago. I caused a reporter to lose his job because you told me to. He was deported. The day I did that I made my little contribution to civilization, the only one that matters.
In a fallen world marked by human depravity and deep-seated sin, in a world where Hitler and Stalin had recruited millions of followers to commit mass murder, love must harness power and seek justice in order to have moral meaning. Love without power remained impotent, and power without love was bankrupt.
I look at my mother, connected by a breath of glimmering hope, her red and shadowed eyes reveal that some element of our whole being has been lost and, somehow, thrown away. Sob-gasp, sob-gasp, sob-gasp. Slowly, that feeling within me fades. But wisps of it stay with you, locked in the chambers of your mind, always.
In therapy, to meet the needs of traumatized survivors of war and torture, the patient is requested to repeatedly talk about the worst traumatic event in detail while re-experiencing all emotions associated with the event. Traumatic memory, they say, is cleared by narration of whole life; from early childhood up to the present date ... this book is my therapy. I am awash with living memories.
One woman, called Eva, used to visit my mother and sometimes we would call in next door to visit her. Sometimes Frau Eva gave me cakes and fruit drinks. I remember she was very kind. It was not until many years later that I understood just who she was. To me, at the time, she was just a very nice woman who lived next door sometimes, although she did tend to go away, and was often not seen for several months.
After the Christmas and New Year of 1944 my mother and I returned to Strausberg, but the area was full of people evacuated from Berlin due to mass bombings on the capital by the RAF. These had started, in a small way, on 25 August, 1940, and had continued through 1941 and 1942. However, by November, 1943, these air attacks were major, involving mass bomber streams of more than 800 aircraft. I used to stand outside the front of our house and look at the sky, watching the silver bombers turning over Strausberg and heading in the direction of Berlin. Many were shot down, some near us in the fields around Strausberg.
I quickly got used to being picked up by my mother, and taken to the air raid shelter near our home. Although frightening, this was a great adventure to me as a child, for in the shelter I played with the other children and we felt safe there as we were surrounded by grown-ups; although now the grown-ups were more worried than they had been in the past. There were greater feelings of anxiety and fear in the older people, which we children also felt, and it unsettled us all.
Children accept the conditions they are born into, and, to a degree, I was getting used to the bombings, fires, and death around me. I remember that I thought those things were normal. It is grown-ups who worry about things, and this ... this was total panic! I could taste the fear, and I could see that my mother was frightened, which I had never seen before, and this made me even more frightened.
Inside my carriage there was mass panic and I was in danger of being trampled, but somebody picked me off the floor, and I found myself by the window on the platform side. I was very frightened now, for I thought that I had lost my mother and was all alone, but a few minutes later she arrived at my side. She had some blood on her face, but she told me not to worry, it would all be fine soon.
Within minutes we had left the station and were entering a cutting with trees on both sides, so the horror of the massacre was now out of sight. The train left the wooded cutting, and we saw Strausberg on fire. There were Russian tanks in the streets and soldiers on foot entering buildings. People were being dragged out, and shot.
With our collective shock, what we saw seemed to be frozen into a state of suspended animation. Indelibly etched into our memories in terror, forever! My life was in slow motion, it was as if I was no longer in my body and this was a rather bad dream! It is almost impossible to describe with words what I saw, but I will try. This very experience is the one that has continued to shake me awake during the dense night of my lifetime.