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A Lullaby for Wittgenstein

PAUL A. LEE
131 SPRING ST.
SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA
831 469 3384
DRPALEE@AOL.COM

Act One Scenes 1–5
Act Two Scenes 1–6
Act Three Scenes 1–7

Cast of characters

Ludwig Wittgenstein, a famous philosopher
Helmuth von Moltke, a German aristocrat and officer in the Abwehr, the German intelligence unit
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran minister and member of the Abwehr
Bishop Bergraav, Lutheran Bishop of Norway
Naomi, a Jewish friend of Wittgenstein
Prison Chaplain
Freya von Moltke, wife of Count Von Moltke
Poelchau, a family friend of the Von Moltke’s and Bonhoeffer
A Warder
Hitler
Two Civilians in charge of arresting Bonhoeffer

The Play Begins with Ludwig Wittgenstein, the world’s greatest philosopher, according to some authorities, in Norway living in a hut, next to a lake, reading Kierkegaard. He was near a chapel, what in Norway is called a Stave Church. When the church bells would ring, he would think about Kierkegaard and his father, who cursed God, and who was himself cursed. (Bells).

…”the awful case of a man who once, when he was a little boy out upon a hill top on the Jutland heath, rose up and cursed God because he suffered so much from hunger and exhaustion. And that man could not forget this, even when he was eighty-two years old”. Soren Kierkegaard: The Diaries.

The Curse of Verdun. The Curse of Old Europe.

In his hut, Wittgenstein ponders the curse over Europe, from the Treaty of Verdun, in the 9th century (843), to the trenches of Verdun, in the lst World War (l917). Wittgenstein thinks about the history of Verdun to Verdun, where the experience of the trenches of the lst World War is wept over; it is the holocaust; it is the terror of history. Wittgenstein recoils from being the philosopher of the terror of history.

ACT ONE Scene One

Wittgenstein coming up the mountain path with supplies in his knapsack. Wittgenstein, walks in front of his hut, stopping to get a drink of water from the spout, singing:

W. Come along and listen to the Lullaby of Wittgenstein – the hit parade and ballyhoo, the Lullaby of Wittgenstein – the rumble of the subway train – at Angelo and Maxie’s – (There could be a phonograph record playing in the hut.) Hums. “Until the dawn, goodnight ladies” — Curtain opens. Enters the cabin. “Goodnight, let’s call it a day – Listen to the lullaby of Wittgenstein”–

(Speaks as though to himself, as well as to the audience, as if reciting a tired speech).

My name is Ludwig Wittgenstein. I am the world’s greatest living philosopher. In terms of what counts for knowledge. I determine what counts. And believe me, it’s not much. I gained this reputation for exactitude in philosophy from my TRACTATUS. My teacher, Frege, admitted he did not understand it. Bertrand Russell did not understand it, although he thought he did. He said to my sister when they met: “We expect the next big step in philosophy to be taken by your brother.” She saw stars. I carried the manuscript of the TRACTATUS in my knapsack in the trenches of the First World War. Did I understand it? Yes, I understood it.

(Shows audience the knapsack).

Wittgenstein

I have been a school teacher, a soldier, a University Professor, a gardener’s assistant in a monastery; I have had students sitting at my feet and eating out of my hand. I am not a happy man. I am living in this hut in Norway. I came here with this knapsack on my back. Why? (With extreme vehemence) Whereof one cannot speak thereof one ought to remain silent!

(Pause. This is a theme for Wittgenstein: silence. What he doesn’t say is important. It has to be shown. This is an important theme in Wittgenstein’s thought.)

Western civilization ended in the trenches of the First World War and in that trench I lost my sense of human decency. Pause (He sucks in his breath in the Norwegian manner, like a reversed sigh and says ‘ya’ ‘ya’. Melancholic).

Verdun is the symbolic center for the end of our culture. What was the old Treaty of Verdun? 9th century. 843. And the curse, the legend of the curse, pronounced at Verdun, over the future of Europe. What was the curse? For me to lose my sense of human decency! (Now infinitely sad, as though a great sadness enters the room and falls upon Wittgenstein, who is almost crushed by the weight of it, as though he was singled out to have to bear it.) (Lighting}.

The weight of it … … is more than I can bear! Historical consciousness is now a burden more than anyone can bear. So what do I do? I go around without a tie! My shirt open at the collar; my sense of human decency and its loss flaunted in the face of all who pretend to decency. The company of decent men. I lost mine in the trenches of the First World War. I can no longer resume my place among them. So here I sit in Norway pondering my fate. (He shakes his head in bewilderment). The following is said as though he is joking or with an note of self- mockery]

It is my fate to be the bearer of the anxiety of meaninglessness and emptiness, the anxiety characteristic of our time. I have to take this anxiety upon myself, now that I know myself to be unacceptable. Oh, Ludie, shut up, and listen to the muses. (Wittgenstein’s silence.) Remember the time you went to the British Museum and carried on with the Elgin Marbles. How you asked for the blessing of the fates. You were so happy to see them. And if it hadn’t been for the lecture by the guide, you would not have known that these robed women were in fact the daughters of Necessity (Anangke) –Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. They would have remained as they were, these monuments in stone, along with a horse’s head. My god, the British Empire brought them from Athens, the greatest of all national treasures, these stones from the Parthenon, my three sisters, the Mothers, carrying in the reflection of their robes, and in the figure of their recline, the image of their mother, the mother of us all. Here I sit in a brief moment of nostalgia at the British Museum. They gave me their blessing. They revealed to me my fate.

“Ach, wie gut ist dass niemand weiss

Dass ich Rumpelstilzchen heiss.”

(In a state of hushed silent awe.) My father forced me to go to Technical School. I didn’t mind. Everyone thinks –with his sensitive musical nature, he doesn’t want to become an engineer. But I didn’t mind. Music, engineering, architecture, logic, linguistic analysis. They all go together. So what, if I learned how to whistle Brahms. He was a guest in our home. We had fifteen grand pianos! But Vienna–I should give a lecture on Vienna. Vienna at the end of the century. Fin de siecle. The Viennese Circle. Frege didn’t understand me. Russell didn’t understand me. What did Carnap know! I am sick and tired of arguments against the existence of God. The elimination of metaphysics. The foundations of mathematics. God is always doing mathematics! Do you know what I meant when I said that philosophy is the disease of which it should be the cure? I was talking about my own philosophy. [The prayer of Wittgenstein.]

I wish it were possible for me to pray. (Yawns: sinks into a reverie with his head in his hands).

Oh God. Thou who art beyond everything I can think or say.

Raise my thoughts to Thee,

Give me the words of prayer that can reach Thee,

Pray Thyself in myself,

With sighs too deep for words.

(the sighing of Wittgenstein)

Now follow a series of zen-like tableaus, e.g.: Wittgenstein reading a book, Wittgenstein sleeping, Wittgenstein making a fire, Wittgenstein smoking a pipe, Wittgenstein hanging out the wash. These tableaus serve a number of purposes for theatrical effect: the daily chores and the particular atmosphere of a Norwegian cabin, on a mountain side, next to a lake. Special sounds of the mountains. Norwegian yodel. The sense that everything Wittgenstein does is intrinsically interesting, even fascinating, as everyone thought who knew him. This has to be a dramatic high point of the play in terms of what comes into play. It is up to the Director to make this happen.

Act One Scene Two “The curses of the godless sometimes sound better in God’s ear than the hallelujahs of the pious.” Bonhoeffer, quoting Luther to Karl Barth, on the occasion of their meeting.

There is an interlude here , i.e., a scene with the curtains closed.

Von Moltke and Bonhoeffer on a train or plane on the way to Norway. Sound of the train or plane dies down and they talk about their mission to rescue Bishop Bergraav, who is under house arrest by the Nazis. They get into the issue of the assassination of Hitler, now that they can talk freely. The debate heats up just as the scene ends.

Bonhoeffer.

You wouldn’t have heard about the third use of the law?

Von Moltke.

No. I don’t know what you are talking about. You mean in theology? You mean Lutheran Dogmatics? The forgery problem? Yes. I know what you mean. The identity of law and grace. The free spontaneous action of the redeemed! You are right. It is the key to your position. Remember. I’m not against it in principle. I’m against bungling it and then starting out a new social order on a murder. I don’t care who it is. I am against bungling a murder! You mark my words, when the attempt comes, it will be bungled. Do you know that we can’t get anyone to wear a gun in Hitler’s presence. And then there’s the oath of loyalty. The Generals around him will not violate their loyalty oath.

Bonhoefer

First of all, society was founded on a murder, for which we have the myth of Cain and Abel. But this opens up too wide a discussion. Yes, I mean the third use of the law in Lutheran dogmatics. Some say it is a gloss, some even go so far as to call it a forgery, but I think this scholarly debunking needs to be debunked. I always mistrust the pot calling the kettle black. Whether Lutheran or Calvinist, the third use of the law theme is just as you say–the free spontaneity of the redeemed. It is the exhilaration of risking it! in the name of God. What do I say to God who has commanded me to kill Hitler? Herr Von Moltke has a scruple, so I decline the summons. No. Not if one has confidence. There is a word I have come to love from medieval church terminology–hilaritas! It is the confidence of faith. But the third use of the law is our case. It means I can strangle him on the grounds of tyrannicide. Now, you, of all people, Count Von Moltke, should appreciate the arguments of the Jesuits. We have Marianos to count on.

Von Moltke

Yes, I know the text. I am going to be hanged for hanging out with Jesuits. Now will you go to sleep.

Bonhoeffer

We’re going to have to take this up with Bishop Bergraav.

Von Moltke

Suit yourself, Pastor. Now let me get some sleep, please.

Bonhoeffer

Before you doze off.

Von Moltke

Yes?

Bonhoeffer

Don’t you think we should do everything in our power to kill him?

V M. Yes, only I mean no.

B. Goodnight.

V. M. Goodnight.

After a brief respite, Bonhoeffer stirs, as though unable to sleep.

V. M. Pastor Bonhoeffer. Are you awake?

B. Yes, I am awake and thinking. Here we go to Oslo to save Bishop Bergraav. And then we save a few more. We have got to kill him, Herr Von Moltke. You have got to join in an assassination plot with me. lt is why I came on this trip. I must convince you. We have to commit murder in the name of God. We have to be Hitler’s executioners. I am telling you I am sent from God to recruit you.

V. M. You may be, but I refuse to sign on. I am against it on the grounds of international law. I am against it because it will make Hitler a martyr. We went through that ‘stabbed in the back’ number after the lst World War. Not again. I am against it because it will be bungled. You only have one argument: “in the eyes of the world, it has to be attempted.” I don’t know about that. Isn’t it over-scrupulous of you, Pastor, on your very own third use of the law, to leave no stone unturned? No scruple unobserved? Maybe you can learn something from a relative of Christian Scientists.

Bonhoeffer

Well, we’ll see what Bishop Bergraav has to say. Goodnight again, Count. You’re a good man. It’s a pleasure to travel with you. V. M. Good night, Pastor.

Act One Scene Three The scene takes place at Bishop Berggrav’s residence. Von Moltke and Bonhoeffer are ushered into the Bishop who receives them warmly.

Bonhoeffer You know we are here from the Abwher which shows you that there is still some leeway in acting in your behalf in spite of the evil regime we live under. Thank God for General Oster and Admiral Canaris. Count Von Moltke has the “White Rose” pamphlet to give to you as an example of what can happen if you stick your neck out. The students who wrote this were arrested, tried and executed under the hanging judge— Freisler. Even Hitler calls him a ‘bolshevik’. (He turns aside and mentions to Von Moltke in passing that it will be his fate to come before Freisler.) B. He’s the one who will hang you for hanging out with Jesuits.

Von Moltke

We would like you to translate it into Norwegian and to memorialize the names of those who died–Hans and Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, and Professor Kurt Huber. We are all in this situation of resisting Hitler at the cost of our lives, so we are grateful that you have resisted here in Norway and have opposed the Hitler Youth effort here. Your solidarity with all the other Lutheran ministers who stood with you on this issue is splendid. How you had the nerve to do this on Easter Sunday is an inspiration to us all. Now we can arrange for your house arrest and forestall your impending trial. This has been taken care of. But do be careful! Your supervision will be lax, but you will have to go about in disguise.

Bonhoeffer

Yes, we have discussed this and we think a policeman or a streetcar conductor would be advisable disguise for a Bishop! Bergraav. I can see the photograph of the Bishop of Norway in the uniform of a streetcar conductor. I love it!

Bergraav

The very image of the world come of age or the “Secular Protestant”….

Is there anything I can do for you while you are in Norway?

Von Moltke

Well, yes, there is. We have been carrying on this debate ever since we began this journey. It is a debate at the heart of the resistance movement — whether or not to assassinate Hitler. Pastor Bonhoeffer is for it and I am against it. We need a referee. Would you do it? Or recommend someone to us? We need to think these positions through with a third party.

Bergraav.

We don’t have much time and there is too much scrutiny regarding your mission here. I would be willing to be your referee – it is the burning question of our time – I have to think of it in terms of Quisling. We may have to assassinate him. So I appreciate the scruples you have to consider. Scruples are important checks on the way to action. I would be willing to go over every one with you. Do you know the meaning of “scruple”- the etymological root? The small sharp stone weighing 1 gram. It must be some archaic foundation for the law. The Pharisees were the masters of scrupulosity. When I found out the meaning of “scruple” as a small sharp stone I imagined that the Pharisees had 612 such stones in their shoes, each one engraved with a prohibition and they developed such sensitive feet they monitored each scruple in every step they took in daily life.

Von Moltke.

Then why did Jesus call them ‘the living dead’? Bergraav. Yes, that is just the tragedy of their encounter. It was because of their self-righteousness. They were the paragons of moral righteousness and it is just this that was the trap. Their virtue was their grave.

Bonhoeffer.

That is my point. Against all scruples one is called upon to act no matter what. This is our situation with Hitler. Bergraav. Can there be anything more difficult for thought than to kill your leader? But my God this Hitler is evil itself and therefore it is our duty to oppose it. As reluctant as Christians are to consider tyrannicide, and it is even harder for Lutherans, there is a point where executing a tyrant is demanded in the name of God. I agree with you Pastor.

Von Moltke.

Well, here we are now debating it anyhow. I have two reasons which have kept me aloof from assassination plans. I don’t think it would be good to begin a new order with murder; the group organized to carry out the plan for tactical reasons has to remain small, so that in case of failure other groups would not be endangered and this precludes their success. It is the reconstruction of the administration that I have assumed as my special task; but I should not shirk my duty if I was needed to kill Hitler. Don’t you see that we are not conspirators? We can’t do it, we haven’t learned how, and we ought not now to try it for the first time; it will go awry and we will do it in a dilettante manner. How many unsuccessful attempts will there be on Hitler’s life? Fifteen? Until he kills himself. That is how it is going to end up. He will be the only one to succeed when he puts his own gun to his head.

[Note:

(Only in the course of a long conversation between Moltke and Gerstenmaier, in which Gerstenmaier emphasized the importance of the attempt in the eyes of the outside world, does Moltke appear to have agreed.) p.276 Van Roon. "The putsch was undertaken in the full knowledge that it stood very small chance of success. To Stauffenberg's question as to whether the coup ought still to be made in view of the invasion of 6 June l944, von Tresckow gave the much-quoted reply: "The attempt must be made whatever the cost. Even if it is not to succeed, action must be taken in Berlin. For now it is no longer the practical purpose that counts, but the fact that before history and the world, the German Resistance has chanced its decisive throw. Nothing else signifies." von Tresckow. quoted in THE GERMAN RESISTANCE TO HITLER, p 233 "The fact that this moral question demanding an individual and practical decision for or against the Hitler regime was not put to the German public on 20 July l944, that it is, as it were, embedded in history and can never be raised again, means that the German people will be branded, as by the mark of Cain, with the symbol of a past with which they will never be able to come to terms. This, at any rate, is how it was seen by the conspirators--Beck, Goerdeler, Stauffenberg, Leber, Tresckow, Moltke, Hassell, Canaris and the rest." Dieter Ehlers, Technik und Moral einer Verschworung. 20 Juli l944, Frankfurt l964, p. l73, quoted in THE GERMAN RESISTANCE TO HITLER, Graml, etc, p. 234.]

Bergraav.

This charmed life of his leads me to think that he is the Antichrist. No. I don’t think we can carry this further. I know who you should see. He is in a rather remote area where he is working on his philosophy, but all the better for security reasons. It is not difficult for you to get there. I can see to that. He is in Skjolden. A lovely lake in the mountains in the north. He is said to be the world’s leading philosopher.

Von Moltke

Who do you mean?

Bergraav

Ludwig Wittgenstein.

When they leave, Bergraav comes to stage left (he could be dressed in his disquise as a bus driver or policeman) and talks directly to the audience about what is at stake and who these men are. It would be his ‘shout of joy in the sadness of the finite’ speech. He knows.

Act One Scene Four. Bishop Bergraav appears in front of the curtain on stage left dressed as a bus driver or a policeman.

Bergraav.

Everyone thinks we don’t know what’s going on up here in Norway. Well, we know enough to stop the Hitler Menace… ya ya. You see, everyone in Scandanavia, after Kierkegaard, understands the church/state problem. This makes it possible for Pastor Bonhoeffer to murder Hitler. I concur. I would murder him myself. But I must be willing to give my own life even for the thought of it! There Count Von Moltke is right. He will die on a finer point. The finer point is that he would not do it! He argues against it. Whether or not he even entertains the thought of assassination, they will kill him anyhow. This legacy of sin of the Nazi regime adds to the mass of perdition which is the history of evil. If you don’t mind my waxing theological, these men are examples of the redeemed “servile will”. (Looks quizzically at the audience to see if there is any understanding and expecting none.) The servile will means self-bondage, self-captivity. Evil is self-enslavement. St. Augustine gives us this definition. Sin is the force of habit and habits are the links in the chain by which we enslave ourselves. Our wills are inclined to evil and self-enslavement; hence, the servile will. These men will understand the meaning of the redeemed servile will when they are imprisoned, that is the irony of it. It is there that they will discover their freedom. Mark my words. Their imprisonment and execution will tell the story of the redemption of evil. The redemption from evil– “deliver us from evil”–is different from the redemption of evil. We want to overcome evil itself. We don’t have Saints in Protestantism. Pity. We would nominate to God the names: von Moltke and Bonhoeffer. Saint Helmuth and Saint Dietrich. Pray for us now and in the hour of our need. They came to help me. God help you.

Bergraav’s Benediction

There is a blessing anyone can give. I am going to give it to you.

[He removes his disguise for his ecclesiastical robes.] Moltke and Bonhoeffer re-enter.

Bergraav prays:

Benediction: “God did not say: you will not be tempted, you will not be troubled, you will not be lead astray, but God does say, “You will not be overcome.” The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you, the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

Act One Scene Five Bonhoeffer and Von Moltke enter and drink from the water spout next to Wittgenstein’s cabin. They knock at the door . Wittgenstein is startled out of meditation.

Bonhoeffer and Von Moltke enter.

Von Moltke

Please excuse me for interrupting you like this, without notice; we are both Germans on a mission and we heard you were here and we hoped to find you and bring our concerns before you. This is Dietrich Bonhoeffer and I am Helmuth Von Moltke. Herr Bonhoeffer is a pastor and theologian and I am an international lawyer. And you are Ludwig Wittgenstein. .

Wittgenstein

Yes I am! (With some weariness.) I welcome you to my humble hut. You must have had a tiring journey. (They linger over shaking hands, but Wittgenstein does not smile.)

Bonhoeffer. Not at all. We have just refreshed ourselves with some of your water–some of the best water I have ever had. It is a great pleasure to meet you. Wittgenstein. I know your names from your families: you are from the General and you are from the Psychiatrist.

Bonhoeffer.

Yes, that’s true. What a surprise! You know our names!

Von Moltke.

We have a grave problem to bring before you. Bishop Bergraav told us you were here and that we might come to see you about it. Pastor Bonhoeffer and I have come to Norway to plead in his behalf. I don’t know if you have heard about his case. He is the Bishop of Norway and he was arrested after calling upon all of the pastors in Norway to resign on Easter Sunday to protest the effort of the Quisling regime to recruit Norwegian youth into the Hitler Youth. We were able to avert his trial and to have him placed under house arrest. I’ll get to the point. We are quarreling about the assassination of Hitler and we are both involved in efforts to do it, or efforts to circumvent it, knowing the inevitability of the fall of this regime, anyhow, and therefore, the need to plan for the future of Germany. I am going to be involved in discussions about the future of Germany at my estate, in Silesia, at my home, “Kreisau”. It is the old estate of the General, which I inherited, so I will have a chance to go into these matters with many friends and colleagues, at a number of meetings of the Kreisau Circle, as we call our resistance group.

Wittgenstein.

It has a euphonious sound. How typically German: The Kreisauer Kreis.

Von Moltke. Pastor Bonhoeffer would kill him with his own hands, if he could get them around his neck. He wants to strangle him. I don’t want to dignify his death with the air of martyrdom, lest Germans have a scapegoat. No more victims! We went through that after the First World War. Every one knows that! He will die by his own hand in his own defeat. This is the way it will come to pass. I am against assassination, on principle, as a point of international law. Sanction assassination and it will occur elsewhere. It is the legal issue of precedent. There should be no precedent for the murder of a head of state. There is no justifiable murder, as such, although there are obvious situations where you must kill someone. But, murder, as such, is illegal. How can we denounce the murders going on in concentration camps, if we commit murder ourselves? That’s pretty much it, in a nutshell. Pastor Bonhoeffer can account for his own position. We are torn by this state of affairs and as it is of grave consequence for the future of our country we seek your advice and counsel. We would like to think it through with you. I understand the necessity of stopping this evil, but I am not blind to the consequences of certain actions and these must be taken into account.

Bonhoeffer.

I am writing a book on ethics, so it is strange for me to advocate assassination and even to volunteer myself as an instrument, but it is the position I hold, and I feel rather stupid here, with Count Von Moltke, who is an embodiment of the views I state in my book, I mean, in terms of his character, to stand opposed to him, over the issue of assassination. Yes. I would murder him with my own hands. It must be done quickly, without delay, and I don’t care if I have to sacrifice myself to do it. The only problem is that I have no access to the man nor am I ever likely to find access to him. We have a bomb plot underway and that seems to be the only course. We will blow him up. The whole issue has transformed my theology. I now see that Hitler fills the void left by the absence of God, exactly a void we are being instructed to live with, without permitting idolatrous figures to fill it. Hitler will fail. Nothing fills this void. It is a sacred void. Historically, it means the end of Protestantism, and the triumph of industrial society as a fully realized secular society. I see the self-destructive impulse, or trend, in industrial society. I am not blind to that, but this is tied to the tragedy of culture. My point is that secularism and the neutrality it fosters with respect to religious symbols is what God is teaching us by way of absence.

Wittgenstein.

You know it’s ironic that you should come here. I have spent my life trying to clarify the meaning of language, the truth-value of propositional functions, and all that—-and now you bring before me such an issue. If you were students in one of my seminars talking like this, it would be enough to make me sick. There is so much nonsense lurking here, I don’t see how we can sort it out. ‘N tolerable! (Throws up his hands). But I have to admit it, we are very close in our relation to secularism and what you call a “sacred void”. I would not use such a term, although I understand what you mean. It is close to my thinking about silence. If I were forced to the wall on the Hitler issue, I would make a plea for excuses. The quality of mercy is not strained. You’re right Count Von Moltke, to go to your death, on a principle of truth–the right to have your own ideas–come hell or high water–you will have to die for your thoughts. That will be a greater act than murdering Hitler, as much as we all want to see it, I mean, Hitler dead, but this vindictiveness, even against Hitler, is Nazism itself. And you won’t do that, Count Von Moltke, because you are what I would give my whole soul for: purity–I want to be pure–the purity of heart is to will one thing! I can see that in you–it is immediately evident. I have just been reading Kierkegaard on this very theme. So I would make a plea for excuses. I would accept even Hitler, on the principle of the unstrainable quality of mercy. Therefore, I would not sanction his murder. It is the insight of Gandhi. I think he learned it from Tolstoi–you have to accept the penalty for noncompliance with evil. That is a very profound thought. I have been reading Kierkegaard’s Edifying Discourses. How I wish there had been one on the quality of mercy. Only Kierkegaard could do justice to it. The quality of mercy is the purity of heart to will one thing…..

Bonhoeffer.

No, St. Augustine could do justice to it. And I could name others.

Wittgenstein. What I was going to say is how Pastor Bonhoeffer’s sense of being the end of an era in reference to Protestantism is also true of me in reference to Positivism and the modern situation in philosophy. You are right to consider these matters within some larger historical perspective. I have been reflecting on the consequences of the 1st World War on European and even world history. The battle of Verdun. Even the curse of Verdun going back to the 9th century, the curse over European history and culture. The curse of the loss of human decency. I have been discussing this with a Jewish friend of mine who is incognito and hiding out over on the next farm. This is all part of a larger trend we are perhaps too close to see clearly. I’m only now beginning to see the symbolic meaning of my own philosophy in the midst of this history. I was supposed to carry through the program of the Vienna Circle and all of those anti- metaphysical hacks: Moritz Schlick. Ernst Mach. Mach Schnell. Otto Neurath. Rudolf Carnap. Even without my willing to play their game they would have been smashed. Thanks to Godel and his Incompleteness Theorem which made it impossible to found a unified science on a mathematical basis. Look! What do you expect? My father was the first steel magnate in Austria. He arranged for the formation of the first cartel. He thought the Engineer was the supreme professional figure. Of course, he was right. But it is the triumph of the obtuse in what counts for knowledge. And it is the engineer and the mechanization of everything that has taken over. I see it now so clearly–it is like a piece of music. The self-destruction of industrial society or the rise and fall of the city- -Mahoganny ! You know the musical by Brecht and Weil? The Logical Positivists thought they were going to organize the system of the sciences on a unified basis. The basis would be logic understood in mathematical terms. It is the triumph of the fields of mathematical physics and logic in determining what counts for knowledge. It is technical knowledge that counts. It is Positivism, the successor of Physicalism, which triumphed in the chemical sciences, in l828, when a German chemist made synthetic urea. You know that one don’t you?

Von Moltke.

Friedrich Woehler! We learned that in our first organic chemistry class. It is like going back to school to talk to you.

Wittgenstein.

Friedrich Woehler, as in “woe-is-me-ler”, artificially synthesized urea, by heating up ammonium cyanate. He said: “Urea! I found it!” He made the inorganic into the organic and undermined the distinction between them. This should interest you, Pastor: spirit, life- force, vital powers, were driven out as devoid of knowledge; they were unquantifiable; they were metaphysical; they were category mistakes. And I fell for all that stuff–the physicalist-positivist take-over! Even Freud fell for it, the very man who rediscovered the psychic realm, even he got caught in this Viennese web. Do you know that one?

They shake their heads, eager for Wittgenstein to go on.

Wittgenstein.

Young man Freud goes to a public lecture and hears Goethe’s “Ode to Nature” read out loud. Goethe’s “Ode to Nature”! Young Freud is so moved he decides in that moment on his life’s career. Now this is fantastic and must be one of those great moments in the history of thought–when Freud decided to become Freud–listening to Goethe’s “Ode to Nature”. (laughs). So he decides to enter the medical sciences to “unveil nature’s mysteries”–doesn’t that sound indelicate!? and he winds up taking the Physicalist Oath in the experimental laboratory of Brucke. Do you know about the Oath?

Bonhoeffer. No. But I know about “Goethe’s Ode”. It wasn’t by Goethe, but an old Orphic Hymn, and late in life Goethe forgot that he hadn’t written it–it was in his style–and he included it in his collected works. Rudolf Steiner did the literary critical analysis of the text.

Von Moltke.

I can match your encounter with an even better one. Do you know that Goethe and Woehler, met in a rock shop in Frankfort, when Woehler was a young man and Goethe was old? My hunch is that Goethe intuited he had met Faust himself, the Faust-to-be, the man who would subvert the organic order and identify it with the synthetic and artificial. Goethe went home and finished Faust. But what about the Oath?

Wittgenstein.

Where would we be without an Oath of Allegience? The scientists’ Loyalty Oath. This is how it went: …….”not to take into account any forces operating in any entity, but the physical, chemical, forces, or other forces equal in dignity….” Obviously, no vital force was “equal in dignity” to a physical or chemical force. So everything having to do with the integrity of the organic was undermined. From Vitalist Ode to Physicalist Oath! How symbolic a move! Now do you see what I mean? I was supposed to play my role in this mechanistic, deterministic, physicalistic, positivistic, empiricistic, behaviouristic, scientistic take-over. I was supposed to be the logician to the human mind gone haywire in its rejection of the spiritual. So I adopted the view that philosophy is the disease of which it should be the cure, and I thought that every proposition in my TRACTATUS was the expression of an illness. The Parable of the Vital Root of Existence. Once upon a time there was a search going on for vital roots. People felt that they could not determine their roots. They had just moved and they had no garden, no roses, no weeds even, to call their own. They were citified even next to a vacant lot. They no longer knew what it meant to grow their own food. They were not survivors. So the word went out. Is there anyone to save us from this program of destruction? Is there anyone who can show us how to replant the vital root of our existence? Pardon the figure of speech. And then along came the little Lance Corporal and everyone saluted him as the Saving Father: Heil Hitler, they screamed, give us back the health we have lost, the health that salvation brings. Generations before, Goethe took a walk. He fell into a life-crisis over just this issue of the vital root of existence. So one day he just left. Where is Goethe? I don’t know; he was here yesterday. Goethe dropped out, as we would say, and walked to Italy and to Sicily. He walked for two years in search of the vital root of existence, what he called his beloved ur-pflanze: the primal plant: the morphological exemplar of all plant development: the vital root! He found it in the old garden in Padua, the oldest botanical garden in Europe. It was a palm he found–”Goethe’s Palm” the Paduans called it and they built a glass tower to encase it and there it stands today. The vital root of existence, squirreled away under glass, in the oldest garden in the world, to wait out the self-destruction of industrial society– this social order it is our fate to endure.

They fall silent for a moment.

Bonhoeffer.

Goethe definitely anticipated our dilemma. He knew that industrial society would be the end of the Western tradition. From Goethe to Nietzsche. Hitler is where the world tried to get away from its own secularization, as it tried to duck back into pagan gods, magic, old Teutonic myths, and the worst possible religious banalities, as though gangsters had learned the trick of appearing as priests of a higher order act, in which to cloak their crimes. It was the Goethean form of the need for roots gone completely haywire in the lust for blood and soil.. Hence, my stand in behalf of secularism and against all “somersaults of death” back to past powers and religious authorities–God is teaching us how to live in a world without God. It is the end of victimization. After this is over, we may be able to recapture everything on a wholly new and fresh basis–the task for everything after the year 2000 A.D. But first we must go through this terrible form-breaking period. I had a vision concerning my death that it would be the date for the end of the Protestant Era. Isn’t that strange? Me? From the night when Luther nailed the theses on the Church door, the Eve of All Saints and All Souls, to that day after……….the Sunday after Easter–Low Sunday, as it is known in the Church Year–Quasimodo Sunday, that was the Sunday in the dream: the beginning and end of the Protestant Era! From start to finish!

Von Moltke.

It’s almost as noteworthy to be a date whereby some great movement in history is ended, as it is to be the occasion for its inception. Congratulations.

Wittgenstein.

I know how you feel! I was the end of Positivism in philosophy. I had this insatiable metaphysical thirst. I couldn’t hide it. First Schopenhauer and then Tolstoi and then, oh, my, here I should make my favorite sound, the sound of Scandinavian melancholy, the ‘ja’ ‘ja’, before I mention the name of Kierkegaard, a thinker uniquely appropriate to my taste: dread, anxiety, the sickness unto death–despair, the inability to get rid of oneself, irony, and on and on. Scepticism is not irrefutable, but obvious nonsense, if it tries to doubt where no question can be asked. Words are like film on deep water. Regarding the assassination of Hitler, do you know that I went to school with him? It was the Realschule in Linz. He was my age but he was a year behind me, which sounds appropriate. I could have garroted the little bugger right there at recess. Now there must be a tradition of church teaching on tyrannicide and some kind of sanction regarding the execution of an unjust ruler. The tyrant is a favorite theme of Plato. What is the point in the Republic in terms of the tyrant as the example of the greatest disorder of the soul? Socrates knew the evil that lurks in the hearts of men as well as the body politic. “Surely some terrible, savage, and lawless form of desires is in every man, even in some of us who seem to be ever so measured,” is how Socrates puts it. He calculates that the suffering of the tyrant is exactly 729 times that of a philosopher’s pleasure. We should look to the ancient teachings on tyrants. I remember how Socrates recounts, in the Myth of Er, at the end of the Republic, how Ardaeius the Great comes up with the souls after their death, to choose a new life, and how in the process, a big mouth, will not receive him. It bellows. And Ardaeius the Great is carted off by men of fearsome aspect and cast into outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. The fate of the tyrant. Consigned to hell. What about Dante and the circle in hell reserved for tyrants? In this case, it is not murder. With Hitler, we have the very image of the Antichrist, don’t we? What provisions are there about removing or killing the Antichrist? But, first of all, do you agree that Hitler is the Antichrist?

Bonhoeffer.

I hate to admit I haven’t made up my mind. You see, if the Antichrist is the Great Deceiver then it is easy to make a mistake. Hitler is too banal and too obvious, that’s what puts me off or makes me pause; the Antichrist is evil in disguise. Hitler is unambiguously evil.

Von Moltke.

Isn’t this just the point. If you are not willing to identify Hitler as the Antichrist, then you cannot remove him for that reason. Are you going to assassinate Hitler because he is not the Antichrist?

Bonhoeffer.

Yes.

Wittgenstein.

You know there is a discussion of radical evil in Kant who says in a striking figure of speech that we are always falling from original goodness into radical evil. But the concept of the banality of evil fits with your theology of secularism and the end of religion as such– homo religiosus had these mythical images within the dimensions of height and depth, but now we suffer a kind of sacred void in such matters of the spirit. That is why I think it is better to remain silent. Even the word spirit is no longer alive or carries meaning, except perhaps when we talk about a spirited woman or a spirited horse, then, at least, there is some biological vitality involved, but the word spirit itself has an archaic and obsolete ring to it. We are now technically rational to the point of displacing or supplanting spirit with the mind itself. There is no room for it. So the Antichrist would have to be a figure appropriate to this flattening. Who better than a corporal to be the embodiment of evil? From the radical evil of Kant to the banality of evil of Hitler. Isn’t the fact that he is hailed as the Saving One–Heil Hitler–and known as the Fuehrer enough evidence to identify him as the Antichrist, albeit a perfectly banal one. There is no question that this is an evil regime. I can imagine a war crimes trial after the war where the Nazi leaders will be tried as criminals and executed accordingly for the whole world to see. This will force the German nation to acknowledge the fact that National Socialism is an evil regime. Look. It’s time for a drink. How about a nip of aquavit!

A knock at the door.

A Jewish woman (it could be a girl) from the next farm has come to borrow a cup of sugar and to visit Wittgenstein. They are friends. She tries to excuse herself, startled by the company. They are German officers and she is in hiding. Wittgenstein invites her to stay and join the conversation.

Naomi:

Ludi. I’m sorry to disturb you. I didn’t know you had guests.

Wittgenstein: Naomi. Please. Join us. We were just about to have a glass of aquavit. These are counter-intelligence officers who have come to save Bishop Bergraav. They are from the Abwehr. They are in a conflict over whether or not to kill Hitler. You can join us. It is a discussion more than we can bear. (As an aside, just to her)–I am up to my asshole in alligators with diesem mensch. (She rolls her eyes as if to ignore the remark.)

Bonhoeffer.

I am Dietrich Bonhoeffer and this is Helmuth von Moltke.

Von Moltke.

How do you do. We would be pleased to have you join us.

Naomi.

I am pleased to meet you. My name is Naomi. I live on the next farm. I am quite startled to meet you, I must confess. The last thing I want is to run into two German officers.

Von Moltke. We are happy to meet you. We have come here on a mission from the Abwehr. You have nothing to fear from us. We are against the Hitler regime. We have come here to discuss the assassination of Hitler with Professor Wittgenstein at the recommendation of Bishop Bergraav. We were in the midst of this discussion when you arrived.

Naomi.

Don’t you know that whether for or against killing Hitler, you will be executed, anyhow. If you resist, you pay with your life whatever your position on assassination. Your name, Herr von Moltke, is a hard name to live down. What an inheritance you have. You must have the estate. He is buried there. Your Great Uncle. At Kreisau. From the 2nd Reich to the 3rd Reich goes through you. You are the border between Poland and Germany. Herr Graf Helmuth von Moltke there are three curses over Europe. I don’t know why but your name prompts me to say this. Ludi and I have been talking about the curses over European history and culture. Curse one: the nationalistic split dating from the Treaty of Verdun in 843. Curse two: the confessional struggle in which the German tribes were converted to Christianity and the conflict which resulted between the Roman and German Church. Curse three: The feudal forms which made for the great class differences. No power is able to overcome these curses.

Wittgenstein.

May I add a fourth? It is the loss of human decency as the outcome of these curses. It is their fulfillment. I, myself, have experienced this loss in the trenches of Verdun.

Von Moltke.

Well, there is no doubt that Hitler is our curse. Number five.

Pastor Bonhoeffer and I are debating the assassination of Hitler. I am against it and Pastor Bonhoeffer is for it. We have weighty reasons either way. I think you will tip the balance against me. You must be for his execution.

Naomi.

No. I am willing to hear what you have to say. I’m safe here in Norway! It is vexing even here to face this evil. What do you think, General von Moltke? What can you tell a poor Jewish girl about Hitler?

Von Moltke.

This debate I am having with Pastor Bonhoeffer is as urgent as existence itself. We are on the front line, he and I, and we represent these views. It is as though Germany finds its expression in our debate. We are like a Kantian antinomy. If not that, we are the horns of a dilemma and we are going to get caught on those horns. Please, Naomi, don’t tell me we are already dead just by the mere fact of our talking about it. We know that! That’s why we came to save Bergraav! This side-trip to visit Professor Wittgenstein is a luxury for us. We are free here. We can speak our minds.

Bonhoeffer.

A luxury to him. I’m ready to strangle Herr Hitler with my own hands. I’m for tyrannicide and Herr von Moltke is against it. We may both go to our deaths. But I do think we must assassinate him. It is his death I seek. General von Moltke: you have the floor.

Von Moltke.

Here is my four step program for not doing it: you can sum it up in four words: Gandhi, Kant, murder, and bungle. I agree with Professor Wittgenstein that Gandhi is a key in his insight that if you resist evil you have to accept the penalty and you have to pay the penalty, the penalty of noncompliance! Kant teaches all of us that in our behavior we must consider “the categorical imperative” or the moral law and that we must apply the imperative to our behavior so that what we do can be universalized. It would be of interest to discuss this issue with Kant in line with his understanding of duty. I wonder if he had a position on tryrannicide. In any event, I don’t want to see a new order for Germany based on murder. It has unforeseen consequences besides the obvious one of making Hitler a martyr which I find insupportable. And my weightiest reason is that it will be bungled. It is predictable. Perhaps that is the key to viewing Hitler as the Antichrist. You can’t kill him. He leads a charmed life. All such efforts will fail because no one knows how to do it successfully. Bungling it is worse than not attempting it. We may be hung up on meat hooks, we may be guillotined, you know that Hitler uses the guillotine, we may be garroted. I am against killing him. He may kill me but I am not going to take part in a plot against him. Let him kill me for not wanting to kill him. That’s my point.

Bonhoeffer.

My point is not so different. I am in this strange place, Herr Von Moltke, I have to save him for wanting to kill him. Listen. We both will die. We have to go back to face the music. It doesn’t matter what we think according to our fate. Let our fate tell us who we are. Let our fate reveal us to ourselves. Naomi. We are here to bear witness to you and all the Jews of the world that we have failed you. We are agents of a crucified messiah, the messiah, who, to the Jews, is no messiah at all. The tragedy of our respective religions comes to the surface here. I wish I could settle the issue in my view of the “world come of age”, but I know I can’t solve this with a phrase. Herr von Moltke will stand on his scruple. I would pick up an axe.

Naomi.

I have tried to think about evil during my exile here in Norway. I have talked to Professor Wittgenstein about evil. It resists my thoughts. The French have a word for it–ineluctable. There are some things that cannot be said. Women seem to know that better than men. You don’t have to reason it out. There is a reason we don’t know. If you only held to despair there would be nothing more to say–it may be true that you will save him by dying because of him. And now I will read from a scrap of paper that has found its way to me. It was sewn into the pocket of a relative of mine who was gassed at Treblinka. “Peace to all men and women of evil will! Let there be an end to all vengeance, to all demands for punishment and retribution…. Crimes have surpassed all measure, they can no longer be grasped by human understanding. There are too many martyrs…. And so, weigh not their sufferings on the scales of thy justice, Lord, and lay not these sufferings to the torturers’ charge to exact a terrible reckoning from them. Pay them back in a different way! Put down in favour of the executioners, the informers, the traitors and all men and women of evil will, the courage, the spiritual strength of the others, their humility, their lofty dignity, their constant inner striving and invincible hope, the smile that staunched the tears, their love, their ravaged, broken hearts that remained steadfast and confident in the face of death itself, yes, even at moments of the utmost weakness… Let all this, O Lord, be laid before thee for the forgiveness of sins, as a ransom for the triumph of righteousness, let the good and not the evil be taken into account! And may we remain in our enemies’ memory not as their victims, not as a nightmare, not as haunting spectres, but as helpers in their striving to destroy the fury of their criminal passions. There is nothing more that we want of them. And when it is all over, grant us to live among men as men and women as women, and may peace come again to our poor earth–peace for men and women of goodwill and for all the others…..”

They pause for a moment in the grip of the words.

Von Moltke.

“Pay them back in a different way!” Thank you. We must take our leave now, Naomi and Professor Wittgenstein. You have been very kind to receive us in this unexpected way. Pastor Bonhoeffer and I are about to self-destruct we are so weary. We must retire to our beds. Goodnight. Goodnight.

Bonhoeffer.

When my twin sister and I went to bed we played a game over who would be the last to say “goodnight”.

Naomi.

It is like waving goodbye from shore to someone leaving by ship… Who gets the last wave as the ship slowly sails out of sight?

They depart for bed.

Naomi.

Ludi. These are remarkable men. We are all caught on the horn of their dilemma.

Wittgenstein.

Naomi. It is more than I can bear that they should seek me out for this discussion. I am not worthy of it. I lost my sense of human decency in the trench. No one can find solace in my views. I am the fulfillment of the curse of the tragedy of Verdun.

Naomi.

Oh, Ludi!

Wittgenstein.

I have never worn a tie. Since! Never!

Naomi.

Oh, Ludi!

Wittgenstein.

All my life I have wanted to be pure. I have been despicable. I want to tell you, Naomi, I have to confess this to you. I have hidden my Jewish identity. I have not stood next to my brothers and sisters.

Naomi.

What else, Ludi?

Wittgenstein. I slapped a young girl who was a student of mine when I taught school in Trattenback and then I lied about it to her parents and the Principal.

Naomi.

Oh, Ludi. She takes him in her arms.

Curtain

ACT TWO, SCENE ONE

The place of Von Moltke’s trial was Berlin in Jan. l945. The People’s Court. It met in a substitute building, the court having been destroyed by bombing. The trial was about treason. Helmuth writes to Freya: This affair is really somewhat better than the celebrated Huber case. For even less actually happened. We did not so much as produce a leaflet. (The students of the White Rose and their Professor Huber were arrested and convicted and executed for distributing leaflets critical of the Nazis. These are the pamphlets they brought to Bergraav.) Von Moltke was charged with knowledge of a plot to overthrow the government, even though he declined to join it and warned his friends against it; he did not report it to the authorities. He, on his own part, formed a circle to seize power in the event of German defeat with people who were not Nazis. They march in. Von Moltke brought in. Two guards at his side. The others are brought in.

Freisler:

[There are video tapes on YouTube of Freisler conducting trials. He has the ability to scream in an hysterical rant without changing a rather composed facial demeanor.]

The accused is administrator and owner of the family estate in Silesia–Kreisau. You are a lawyer, specializing in International Law and admitted to the British Bar. Your membership in the Nazi Party is minimal, just enough to allow you to carry on your farming and legal practice. You are employed as a legal advisor to the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces. You always take an interest in religious and ecclesiastical questions, in the relationship between church and state and the question of “rechristianization”, probably the influence of your professor–Eugen Rosenstock Huessy, the converted Jew. Around l941, you began to think about the future in case the war was lost and started discussing this with friends and acquaintances, none of whom were Nazis and some of whom have been convicted as traitors. In l942 and l943, you had two long meetings at Kreisau, the first dealing with “rechristianization” and the relations of church and state. You had a Jesuit–Alfred Delp–speak about the Catholic view on social policy, with special reference to the Papal Encyclical–Quadragesimo Anno. The second meeting dealt with questions of administration and the relationship of the states and the Reich. You conspired with Carl Goerdeler, the Mayor of Leipzig. Summary: All Count Moltke did constitutes treason: high treason in the midst of war. He cannot lessen its gravity by saying that he was only thinking and did not proceed to carry out plans. He did more than think: he also gathered a circle of friends for the discussion and development of plans; and finally he looked for men to carry them out… Your treason is a particularly grave one: you spread defeatism and helped the enemy. Count Moltke you are guilty as charged of Penal Codes 83 and 91b and in addition 5 of the Special Penal Ordinance for War. Nor is this all. From l940 onwards, you and members of your circle were in contact with the Ludwig Beck group and of Carl Goerdeler. This group plotted to overthrow the government. You argued against them, we know, but you failed to report their plot to the authorities, which is a violation of l39 of the Penal Code. By your own efforts, you have made yourself a servant of the enemy of the Third Reich.

At this point, Von Moltke objects that the police and the security authorities had known all about it. Freisler has paroxyism No. 1. A hurricane is let loose, he bangs on the table, goes the color of his robe and roars out:

Freisler

I won’t stand that; I won’t listen to that sort of thing.”

Von Moltke stares him down and then slowly smiles.

Freisler goes on about Kreisau: a.) defeatism, and b.) the selection of Land Commisioners. Both give rise to fresh paroxyisms as violent as before, and, when Helmuth submits in defence that it all had come about as an offshoot of my official duties, a third paroxysm.

Freisler

All Adolf Hitler’s officials set about their work on the assumption of victory, and that applies just as much in the High Command as anywhere else. I simply won’t listen to that kind of thing–and even were it not the case, it’s clearly the duty of every single man for his own part to promote confidence in victory.

Act Two Scene Two Von Moltke is back in his prison cell and writing a letter about the trial to his wife, Freya. He can read what he writes or through voice over.

Von Moltke.

And who was present? A Jesuit father! Of all people a Jesuit father! And a Protestant minister, and three others who were later sentenced to death for complicity in the July 20 plot! And not a single National Socialist! No, not one. I must say: that does remove the figleaf! A Jesuit father, and with him, of all people, you discuss questions of civil disobedience! And you also knew the Provincial Head of the Jesuits! He too came to Kreisau once! A Jesuit Provincial, once of the highest officials of Germany’s most dangerous enemies, he visits Count Moltke at Kreisau! And you are not ashamed of it, even though no decent German would touch a Jesuit with a barge-pole! People who have been excluded from all military service because of their attitude! If I know there is a Provincial of the Jesuits in a town, it is almost enough to keep me out of that town altogether! And the other reverend gentlemen. What was he after there? Such people should confine their attentions to the hereafter and leave us here in peace! And you went visiting Bishops! Looking for something you had lost, I suppose! Where do you get your orders from? You get your orders from the Fuehrer and the National Socialist Party! That goes for you as much as for any other German; and anyone who takes his orders, no matter under what camouflage, from the guardians of the other world, is taking them from the enemy, and will be dealt with accordingly. This concentration on the church aspect of the case corresponds with the intrinsic nature of the matter and shows that Freisler is a good political judge after all. It gives us the inestimable advantage of being killed for something which (a) we really have done and which (b) is worthwhile. The best thing about a judgment on such lines is this: It is established that we did not wish to use force; it is further established that we did not take a single step towards setting up any sort of organization, nor question anyone as to his readiness to take over any particular post– though the indictment stated otherwise. We merely thought….and in face of the thoughts of…. three isolated men, their mere thoughts, National Socialism gets in such a panic that it wants to root out everything they may have infected. There’s a compliment for you. …We are to be hanged for thinking together. Freisler is right, a thousand times right; and if we are to die, I am in favour of dying on this issue. I am of the opinion–and now I am coming to what has got to be done–that this affair, properly presented, is really somewhat better than the celebrated Huber case. For even less actually happened. We did not so much as produce a leaflet. It is only a question of men’s thoughts without even the intention to resort to violence… All that is left is a single idea: how Christianity can prove a sheet-anchor in time of chaos. And just for this idea five heads…look like being forfeited tomorrow….Because he made it clear that I was opposed in principle to large estates, that I had no class interests at heart, no personal interest at all, not even those of my outfit, but stood for the cause of all mankind, for all these reasons Freisler has unwittingly done us a great service, insofar as it may prove possible to spread the story and make full use of it. And indeed, in my view, this should be done both at home and abroad. For our case histories provide documentary proof that it is neither plots nor plans but the very spirit of humanity that is to be hunted down… In one of his tirades Freisler said to me: “Only in one respect does National Socialism resemble Christianity: we demand the whole man.” I don’t know if the others sitting there took it all in, for it was a sort of dialogue between Freisler and me– a dialogue of the spirit, since I did not get the chance actually to say much–in the course of which we got to know one another through and through. Freisler was the only one of the whole gang who thoroughly understood me, and the only one of them who realized why he must do away with me. There was no more talk of me as a “complex character” or of “complicated thinking” or of “ideology,” but: “the figleaf is off.” But only so far as Freisler was concerned. It was as though we were talking to each other in a vacuum. He made not a single joke at my expense, as he did against Delp and Eugen. No, in my case it was all grimmest earnest. “From whom do you take your orders, from the other world or from Adolf Hitler? Where lie your loyalty and your faith?” Rhetorical questions, of course. At any rate Freisler is the first National Socialist who has grasped who I am.

At this point the Catholic prison chaplain visits Von Moltke and he is shaved and given some coffee and something to eat and then he resumes the letter.

The decisive phrase in the proceedings was: Christianity has one thing in common with us National Socialists, and one thing only: we claim the whole person. And so finally I am selected as a Protestant, am attacked and condemned primarily because of my friendship with Catholics, which means that I stood before Freisler not as a Protestant, not as a big landowner, not as an aristocrat, not as a Prussian, not as a German–all that was definitely eliminated earlier in the trial…No, I stood there as a Christian and as nothing else. “The figleaf is off,” says Freisler. Yes, every other category had been removed. And then he asked “Have you anything more to say?” Von Moltke. No.

Act Two Scene Three Back in his cell.

Von Moltke.

My dear, first and foremost I must say that obviously the last twenty-four hours of one’s life are no different from any others. I had always imagined that one would have no feeling but shock, that one would tell oneself, “this is your last sunset, now the clock will only go round twice more, now you’re going to bed of the last time.’ But there’s no question of any of that. Am I really a little intoxicated? I certainly can’t deny that at present I’m in the best of spirits. Only I beg our Heavenly Father that he will keep me in them, for so to die is surely easier for the flesh. How good God has been to me! Even at the risk of sounding hysterical I’m so full of gratitude that there’s really room for nothing else. He guided me so surely and clearly through those two days. The whole assembly could have bellowed, like Herr Freisler, and all the walls have rocked and it would have made no odds to me. It was exactly as it says in Isaiah 43, verse 2: ‘When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overthrow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee’…that is to say upon thy soul. When I was called on to make my final statement I was in such spirits that I almost said, I have only this to say in my own justification, Nehmen Sie den Leib Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib, Lass fahren dahin, Sie haben’s kein Gewinn, Das Reich muss uns doch bleiben! Slay my body, take my property and my honour, wreak your will on my wife and child, do your worst, you still have no victory, the City of God remaineth. Luther. But that would only have been damaging for the others; so I only said, “I have nothing I wish to say, Herr President.” So then, my dear, I have only one thing to say: may God be as good to you as to me, then even your husband’s death will not matter. He can demonstrate His omnipotence at any time, perhaps when you are making pancakes for the boys or cleaning them up. I ought to take leave of you–I can’t do it. I ought to deplore and lament your daily toil–I can’t do it. I ought to think of the burdens which now fall on you–I can’t do it. I can only tell you one thing: if you get the feeling of absolute security, should the Lord vouchsafe it to you, which you would not have had without this time and its outcome, then I am bequeathing you a treasure which no man can take away, against which even my life cannot weigh in the balance.

Act Two Scene Four Freya is at Poelchau’s home (the prison chaplain) where she is hiding out and receives Helmuth’s letters delivered by Poelchau. She is reading a letter, the last one.

Freya.

My love, I just feel like chatting with you a litte, I have really nothing to say. I chatting, my love, just as things come into my head; therefore here is something quite different. Ultimately what was dramatic about the trial was this: The trial proved all concrete accusations to be untenable, and they were dropped accordingly. Nothing remains of them. But what the Third Reich is so terrified of that it must kill 5, later it will be 7, people, is ultimately the following: a private individual, your husband, of whom it is established that he discussed with a clergyman of both denominations, with a Jesuit Provincial, and with a few bishops, without the intention of doing anything concrete, and this was established, things “which are the exclusive concern of the Fuhrer.” Discussed what: not by any means questions of organization, not the structure of the Reich–all this dropped away in the course of the trial, and Schulze said so explicitly in his speech for the prosecution. (“differs completely from all other cases, because there was no mention of any violence or any organization”), but discussion dealt with questions of the practical, ethical demands of Christianity. Nothing else; for that alone we are condemned. And now, dear heart, I come to you. I have not mentioned you anywhere, because you, my love, occupy a wholly different place from all the others. For you are not a means God employed to make me who I am, rather you are myself. You are my l3th chapter of the First Letter to the Corinthians. Without this chapter no human being is human. Without you I would have accepted love as a gift, as I accepted it from Mami, for instance, thankful, happy grateful as one is for the sun that warms one. But without you, my love, I would have “had not charity.” I don’t even say that I love you; that wouldn’t be right. Rather, you are the part of me that, alone, I would lack. It is good that I lack it; for if I had it as you have it, this greatest of all gifts, my love, I could not have done a lot of things, I would have found it impossible to maintain consistency in some things, I could not have watched the suffering I had to see, and much else. Only together do we constitute a human being. We are, as I wrote a few days ago, symbolically, created as one. That is true, literally true. Therefore, my love, I am certain that you will not lose me on this earth, not for a moment. And we were allowed finally to symbolize this fact by our shared Holy Communion, which will have been my last. I just wept a little, not because I was sad or melancholy, not because I want to return, but because I am thankful and moved by this proof of God’s presence. It is not given to us to see him face to face, but we must needs be moved intensely when we suddenly see that all our life he has gone before us as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night and that he permits us to see it suddenly in a flash. Now nothing more can happen.

Act Two Scene Five On 23 Jan., Poelchau went to see Helmuth as usual at about eleven o’clock and effected an exchange of letters. But when he glanced into the cell at one o’clock, it was empty, for Helmuth had been taken off to Plotzensee, two and a half miles away. Poelchau immediately called up Buchholz, but learnt that Helmuth, although expected at any moment, had not arrived. He went immediately to the death cell and witnessed Helmuth’s death. Just as in the communion service, where all are gathered, so here, all are hanged together. Helmuth Von Moltke to his sons: “Throughout my life from my schooldays onwards I have fought against a spirit of narrowness and subservience, of arrogance and intolerance, against the absolutely merciless consistency which is deeply ingrained in the Germans and has found its expression in the National Socialist state. I have made it my aim to get this spirit overcome with its evil accompaniments, such as excessive nationalism, racial persecution, lack of faith and materialism. In this sense and seen from their own standpoint the National Socialists are right in putting me to death.”

In the full text of the letter to Freya, Helmuth mentions that Freisler spoke about the catholics and tyrannicide: >>>>>>”but a hail of brickbats assailed the Catholic clergy and the Jesuits: assent to tyrannicide –Mariano– illegitimate children, anti-German attitude, etc. etc.”

Mariano, Juan (l536–l624) Jesuit author of De rege et regis institutiore where he defended the killing of tyrants.]

Poelchau’s Address . Dear Friends: I had to minister to a thousand men who were sent to their death by the Hitler regime. Helmuth Von Moltke and Dietrich Bonhoeffer were among them. I want to tell you about their attitude to their self-imposed ordeal on the part of the prisoners condemned to death: “The course we have taken that has led us to death was not mistaken or false; on the contrary it was right and necessary, for the revival in Germany of justice and of esteem for man’s dignity is more important than our lives.”

Act Two Scene Six This last scene depicts Freya Von Moltke taking her children up to a mountain hut—similar to the one of Wittgenstein–only now in Silesia, to wait out the Russian advance. Germany has fallen. Her husband has been executed. She rides a bicycle down a mountain road to see if the Russians have passed and the coast is clear so she and her children and her servants can escape.

Her bicycle ride is shown on film with voice over. The screen is transparent to the great hall at Kreisau, her destination. There she sits in her moment of affirmation at the end of her ride. (Voice over as a depiction of the ride is shown on film.) We include the full text of her account here to be edited as necessary for performance purposes.

Freya.

On 25 January l945 Marion and I travelled from Berlin to Kreisau. Edith and Henssel took us to the train. They brought some delicious bread and butter for us and Marion had a bottle of old Malaga. The bottle was wrapped in a paper napkin; it looked as though it were coffee with milk. Marion and I sat close together on a double seat in the 3rd class. We travelled on and on endlessly, and got no rest. We were travelling against the tide of refugees and therefore needed exactly twenty-four hours to get to Kreisau, but in memory it remains a good journey. I think we were reasonably cheerful. So far nobody in Kreisau knew of Helmuth’s death. Asta had Wend there and with him were eight or nine soldiers, a complete anti-aircraft unit. Frau Pick was in her element cooking for all these men. Marion went straight on to Nimptsch where Muto was in practice, though just then she was in bed with diptheria. Telling Caspar was very hard for me. He was lying in my bed, where he had been sleeping; I sat on the edge. But we got through it, and when next morning he found me sorrowful he said, ‘About Pa? Still?’ This was really a great relief. Everything was in confusion. The Russians were pressing westwards at high speed. For several weeks we had had the Berghaus and the Schloss and the whole village full of refugees from across the Oder. In the Berghaus some were living in the sitting-rooms. Their cart stood unloaded in our little yard and down the hill the whole farmyard was full of other people’s vehicles. Something had to be done, but everyone was undecided. Snow was lying and we drove in two sleighs to Schweidnitz to see off the travellers who were to go by ambulance-train. Asta was sitting in the first sleigh ‘back to the engine’, and I was in the second ‘facing the engine’ and even now I can see her still, sad face. All the time it kept reappearing, filled with silent sorrow. What was going to become of us all? Then the first sleigh drew ahead; Asta’s face vanished. Ten minutes later we caught them up, and there was her face again with the same expression. Then they all departed. Later, in April when post once more came through from the West, I suddenly got a postcard from Asta. She had gone first to some Wendland relations in Mecklenburg and was just going on from there to Holstein, so as to have her baby with Aunt Leno. A few days later, after this batch of women and children had gone, Zeumer rang me up early one morning in the Berghaus from the Hof. ‘Now it’s come to the crunch,’ he said, ‘we must evacuate our village.’ Women and children and old people were to cross into Czechoslovakia, orders from the Party! From the start I was determined to stay. What would become of us on country roads in the middle of winter? Nor were the Russians there yet; also Helmuth had advised me to stay as long as possible. In Ravensbruck he had discussed our situation through the ventilator with General Halder, who was confined to the next cell. They both considered our mountain country safe, believing that the Russians would leave it ‘on their left’ in their drive to reach Berlin. We were constantly tormented by the question ‘Ought we to leave as well?’ The Russian front was just over six miles away. The Russians were firing cannon and by day the noise was disturbing and seemed to be coming nearer. We re-buried the Field-Marshal in Helmuth’s and my empty grave, him and his wife. His poor sister had to remain by herself in the chapel, where all three coffins had stood side by side. We tried to let down her coffin on top of Papi’s, but it wouldn’t fit in. Eight NCO’s in steel helmets were drafted to carry the coffins down the slope. It was quite dignified and at the same time so hopeless. Next came several severe warnings from the local Party leadership in Graditz that I must leave Kreisau directly, and finally the order to leave Kreisau within two days, otherwise we should be escorted from place to place by the police. I cycled to Graditz to the Party office. It was situated next door to our butcher’s, where once Herr Suhr, and later a young butcher, had sold us meat, until they were both condemned to long terms of imprisonment for slaughtering for the black market–neither of them was Nazi. It was opposite the brickworks which ultimately became a camp for Jews. The whole place was in chaos and the local Party boss wasn’t a bit pleased to see me. The whole Moltke case was extremely disagreeable to him. He assured me in a really friendly way that to have six children in his ‘territory’ was quite impossible, but Wierischau was not part of his territory, so he didn’t mind what happened there, and was quite ready to allow me a week’s grace. So a week later all the children and Romai moved into two rooms in the grange at Wierischau which was standing empty. This really didn’t go badly. They lived there very contentedly, often coming to see me at the Burghaus, where also we celebrated Easter. Marion and Muto wanted to see their family again, who meanwhile had moved to Mecklenburg. Then I lost my nerve and decided after all to take the children away. Romai had a short time before discovered an empty cottage in Pommerndorf above Hohenelbe in the Riesengebirge about 3,000 feet above sea-level. But it stood on the Czech side of the range. Thither we decided to go, and after Easter really went. Two cartloads of things, the six children, Fraulein Hirsch–the forester’s daughter–Aunt Leno’s Bertha, Frau Pick, Romai and I. Two of our Poles were the coachmen. All the time I had the feeling that this effort was unnecessary, but hadn’t the nerve to stay put. I remember that I said to Marion and Muto, before they went off, that I must ‘bite the apple’, and bite we did. The first day we got as far as Michelsdorf, the second to Friedland, the third to Trautenau. The children stayed there with Frau Pick and Romai in the hotel, and followed me, the Poles, Fraulein Hirsch and Bertha by train to Hohenelbe next day. Here everything was still running in orderly fashion, and this region lying in Czechoslovakia, protected by mountains, had in all respects been spared the onslaught of war. The trek was lovely. Spring had come, the weather was dry and sunny. Slowly and steadily our two heavily laden carts rolled up hill and down dale. I remember a particularly beautiful stretch between Friedland and Schonberg, a lovely road over a pass. The children remained at the inn below and had potato soup. Fraulein Hirsch and I in one cart with the four horses went on ahead. Then the horses went back anad fetched the children and the other cart to which a trailer had been attached for any child who might be tired. Frauleiln Hirsch and I waited in the wood at the top. That hour in the wood while Fraulein Hirsch slept is unforgettable to me. Away beyond the pass spread the view of the Riesengebirge. It empraced the very heart of the Silesian mountains and had the whole beauty of this landscape, a special combination of gentleness and strength in colour and form, of great distances and charming foreground. As usual the children were quite unaffected and enjoyed the whole thing as an exciting adventure. We had great difficulty in getting the heavy carts up the steep hill above Hohenelbe. We found the little house high up in the mountains, one of a group of about ten on a great grassy slope. We lived split up between three cottages; Fraulein Hirsch and Bertha rather nearer civilization in the house of the mayor of Pommerndorf, separate from us by twenty minutes’ walk along a lovely woodland track. The elder children were soon going to the local school under a Nazi teacher. He had, however, by this time seen the light sufficiently to treat our children well. We added to our stores because there was still plenty to eat in Bohemia, although we had brought provisions with us. After three weeks I left the children so as to have a look at Kreisau. I set off by bicycle. Actually I had only intended to cycle as far as Trautenau, that is to say out of the mountains and then parallel with them north- eastwards, about three hours’ ride. One has the mountain-range on the left in full splendour. I rode through the landscape in all its spring greenery, well farmed, looking like Austria. Arriving in Trautenau between midday and one o’clock, I discovered that the next train was not due to leave until the following morning. It was still early and I was full of beans. So I decided to see how far in the direction of Kreisau I could get. I now knew the whole area well and its perfect spring beauty delighted me. After Friedland I began to tire, and Helmuth’s bicycle, on which so far I had ridden very comfortably, suddenly became uncomfortable. But I knew that from the top of the Reinsbach valley, the so-called Valley of Silesia, it was downhill all the way to Kreisau. So on I went, on and on, saw my friend the Eule from behind, then passed into its shadow, rode down the long Wustewaltersdorf valley, skirted Kynau and the Weistritz dam, and coasted down the beautiful lakeside road to Oberweistritz. The daylight now began slowly to fade, but my joy that I should soon see the Muhlberg and the Kapellenberg on the skyline, the growing joy at coming home lent me wings. The spring evening was heavenly. I left the hills and rode towards Ludwigsdorf. The Kappellenberg surfaced with its spruce trees, the Muhlberg with its fuzz of acacias, and once I had breasted the little ridge at Ludwigsdorf there lay Wierischau, there lay Kreisau before me, there the Berghaus beckoned under its big accacia. It was simply lovely to get home. Muto and Marion were back from Mecklenburg, hadn’t expected to see me and received me with joy. There was the house, my room, my bed. It was about 7:30, I’d started at 9:30 and it must be over sixty miles through the mountains. That evening I felt that on this journey home all the happiness and all the riches of our life in Kreisau once more came together in me.”

As Freya sits alone in the Great Hall, the lights dim. The Lullaby–”Sleep my child and peace attend thee, all through the night” –is sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Victoria De Los Angeles. This is the “Lullaby For Wittgenstein”.

ACT THREE Scene One Tegel: The prison in the north-western suburb of Berlin, in a beautiful park with Schinkel’s Little Palais for the Humboldt brothers. Bounded by the south by the Borsig automotive factories it was subject to bombing attacks. There is the question here of the trial of Bonhoeffer. Was he ever tried? The answer is no. He was arrested and imprisoned with nothing decided except his eventual execution. He was interrogated until the July 20th coup, the Officers Bomb Plot, and then everything changed. This is known in terms of the Bethge account of his removal from the concentration camp to the schoolhouse to Flossenburg, corroborated by Fabian von Schlabrendorff in THE SECRET WAR AGAINST HITLER, p. 319ff.

The night of 6th April l943 was cold in the reception cell at Tegel. Bonhoeffer could not bring himself to use the blankets of the plank-bed, as he could not stand the stench that rose from them. There was someone crying loudly in the next cell. In the morning, dry bread was thrown through a crack in the door. The staff had been instructed not to speak to the new arrival. The warder called him a ‘blackguard’ (‘Strolch’) or scoundrel. Bonhoeffer’s response to this was that the patriot has to perform what in normal times is the action of a scoundrel. In other words, treason was true patriotism. When it became known that Bonhoeffer was the nephew of the city commandant of Berlin, who made a phone call to the prison, he was given preferential treatment. The phone call.

Act Three Scene Two “What is worse than doing evil is being evil. It is worse for a liar to tell the truth than for a lover of truth to lie.” Ethics, p. 64f. (the quote about Hitler being spared from the July 20 assassination attempt, is in Bethke,p.730. Bonhoeffer heard the news over the radio in prison in the sickbay where he was brought for people to meet with him and receive his support.)

Bonhoeffer is in the sickbay listening to the radio along with a few others. A report comes over the radio: July 20, l944: “The frightful day. While our brave armies, courageous unto death, are struggling manfully to protect their country and to achieve final victory, a handful of infamous officers, driven by their own ambition, ventured on a frightful course and made an attempt to murder the Fuhrer. The Fuhrer was saved and thus unspeakable disaster averted from our people. For this we give thanks to God with all our hearts and pray, with all our church congregations, for God’s assistance and help in the grave tasks that the Fuhrer has to perform in these most difficult times.”

(The import of the radio report: it spells Bohoeffer’s death warrant. Indicated in lighting and mood.) Bonhoeffer returns to his cell. Bonhoeffer’s cell: a room seven by ten with a plank bed, a bench along the wall, a stool and a bucket, a plank door with an observation hole and a garret window.

Bonhoeffer reading.

On Feb. 4th, l944 a warder placed in his cell a birthday bouquet of early spring flowers from the prison greenhouse. When the sirens howled and the bomber squadrons seemed to take their course directly over Tegel, those in the section got as close as possible to Bonhoeffer, who seemed to remain calm. Was asked to pray for quiet. They come to him for a bit of comfort. A warder who had to lock him in again after his exercise in the yard asked his pardon:

Warder:

Pastor Bonhoeffer?

Bonhoeffer.

Yes, Warder.

Warder.

Please forgive me for locking you up.

Bonhoeffer.

I forgive you.

Warder.

Please pardon me.

Bonhoeffer.

I pardon you.

The photo of Bonhoeffer in the prison yard of Tegel is shown, nearly life size and the actors assume the same position before it as the picture is being taken.

Act Three Scene Three Bonhoeffer writing his letters from prison Tegel February l, l944

Bonhoeffer. Dear Eberhardt: And since one day you will be called to write my biography, I want to put the most complete material possible at your disposal! So!

Tegel March 9, l944

Bonhoeffer.

Dear Eberhardt: I’ve heard through my parents again today that you’re at least finding things tolerable, and although that’s not very much (for we want life to be more than just ‘tolerable’, it is some comfort, as long as we look on our present condition as only a kind of status intermedius. “…n’tolerable” was the favorite expletive of Wittgenstein, by the way. If only we knew how long this purgatory is going to last! I shall have to wait till May. Isn’t this dawdling shameful? I haven’t yet answered your remarks about Michelangelo, Burckhardt, and hilaritas. I found them illuminating–at any rate. what you say about Burckhardt’s theses. But surely hilaritas means not only serenity, in the classical sense of the word (Raphael and Mozart); Walther v.d. Vogelweide, the Knight of Bamberg, Luther, Lessing, Rubens, Hugo Wolf, Karl Barth — to mention only a few– also have a kind of hilaritas , which I might describe as confidence in their own work, boldness and defiance of the world and of popular opinion, a steadfast certainty that in their own work they are showing the world something good (even if the world doesn’t like it), and a high-spirited self-confidence. The Greeks had an old word for it–”thymos”. You would be surprised, and perhaps even worried, by my theological thoughts and the conclusions that they lead to; and this is where I miss you most of all, because I don’t know anyone else with whom I could so well discuss them to have my thinking clarified. What is bothering me incessantly is the question of what Christianity is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today. The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience–and that means the time of religion in general. We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious’ do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious’. Our whole nineteen-hundred-year-old Christian preaching and theology rest on the ‘religious a priori’ of mankind. ‘Christianity’ has always been a form–perhaps the true form–of ‘religion’. But if one day it becomes clear that this a priori does not exist at all, but was a historically conditioned and transient form of human self-expression, and if therefore man becomes radically religionless, and I think that that is already more or less the case (else how is it, for example, that this war, in contrast to all previous ones, is not calling forth any ‘religious’ reaction?)–what does that mean for Christianity? It means that the foundation is taken away from the whole of what has up to now been our ‘Christianity’, and that there remain only a few ‘last survivors of the age of chivalry’, or a few intellectually dishonest people, on whom we can descend as ‘religious’. Are they to be the chosen few ? Is it on this dubious group of people that we are to pounce in fervour, pique, or indignation, in order to sell them our goods? Are we to fall upon a few unfortunate people in their hour of need and exercise a sort of religious compulsion on them? If we don’t want to do all that, if our final judgement must be that the western form of Christianity, too, was only a preliminary stage to a complete absence of religion, what kind of situation emerges for us, for the church? How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well? Are there religionless Christians? If religion is only a garment of Christianity–and even this garment has looked very different at different times–then what is a religionless Christianity? The questions to be answered would surely be: What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? How do we speak of God–without religion, i.e. without the temporally conditioned presuppositions of metaphysics, inwardness, and so on? How do we speak (or perhaps we cannot now even ‘speak’ as we used to) in a ‘secular’ way about ‘God’? In what way are we ‘religionless – secular’ Christians, in what way are we the ek-klesia , those who are called forth, not regarding ourselves from a religious point of view as specially favoured, but rather as belonging wholly to the world? In that case Christ is no longer an object of religion, but something quite different, really the Lord of the world. But what does that mean? What is the place of worship and prayer in a religionless situation? Does the secret discipline, or alternatively the difference (which I have suggested to you before) between penultimate and ultimate, take on a new importance here? {As there were often bombing raids, we could have one here.}

Act Three Scene Five

Bonhoeffer.

Just as Luther had Table Talks, so I have Tegel Talks. It horrified me when I read about how the French passed a law that allowed women to get a divorce from their husbands if they came back from the front with their faces shot off, because, legally, they had lost their identity. No one should be forced to live with someone without an identity, against their will, not even wives, so goes the French sense of justice. I’m glad I’m not a lawyer. Lawyers decide cases like that. I wouldn’t know where to begin. We have had a guard here who has had his face shot off–Lance-Corporal Berg. He is terribly disfigured. If he were French and married his wife would divorce him. He is back from the Front, without a face, and he has been assigned guard duty here at Tegel. All someone has to say is that they can’t stand his looks: they will transfer him! I once saw an etching by Max Beckmann from his “Hell Series”. What was the title: Nachhauseweg. Beckmann, himself, meets “The Lance- Corporal” on a street, looking at the shattered face, points to his soul: “I, too,” Beckmann says to “The Lance- Corporal”, “I, too, have been shattered in the depths of my soul; your face is my soul.” My. My. And now that (!) “Lance-Corporal” returns, the second time, the 2nd World War: Corporal Hitler. The revenge of the Corporal in the German Army. It is the Curse of Verdun: a Corporal will destroy you. A Corporal will smash your culture to pieces. A Corporal will divide you for generations. A corporal will make you lose your sense of human decency.

Act Three Scene Six

At this point Adolf Hitler enters the stage. He is in full uniform. He is spotlighted.

[A Quote: "In this disjointed world there can be no conversation between individuals; no dialogue exists, for each one talks to himself after the fashion of monologists. Monology, which even in discussion addresses primarily the self, signifies that one knows nothing of the partner, that one attaches no importance to his presence; it signifies lack of love. Monology and deficiency of love correspond to one another. By noisiness and shoutings, pretense is made that one is talking to others and not to one's self. Long before Hitler, genuine discussion between persons no longer existed, either in the field of politics or in the meetings of scientists and artists. the speeches in parliament were monologues; anybody who made a speech strangely resembled a pupil who all by himself recites aloud some piece he wants to memorize; nobody listened to him but himself; it was a monologue. And it was the same with the speeches of scientists and artists. This monology was still more augmented through Hitler. Never did any of his speeches call for an answer. His speeches were nothing but monologues, enormous accumulations of monologic cries; those colossal cry-monuments of Hitlerian speeches towered over the people and overwhelmed them in the same manner that a colossal stone monument overwhelms, no matter whether it be beautiful or ugly; for the colossal, as it towers in isolation over a plain, is effective as such. "That is the most miserable manner by which nations decay in their civic life: the people fall into the bestial habit of thinking of nothing but their own specific needs; they fall into extreme touchiness or rather into extreme arrogance like wild beasts which jump and go crazy at the mere touch of one hair. And as in numbers they increase and in body are heaped together, they live as horrible beasts in utter desolation of soul and everyone by his own will, since not two are of the same mind because each pursues but his own pleasures and whims." (Vico, Scienza Nuova.) Hitler In Ourselves, by Max Picard, p. l25-126 ]

Hitler’s Soliloquy:

My name is Adolf Hitler. People know me by Schikelgruber, the man who grabbed at fate. I was a Corporal in the German army; that gave me my raison d’etre ! My father was a minor official in a small Austrian village; I did poorly in school; I slept until noon and had bad study habits. I was wounded in the war and won the Iron Cross. Then came l9l9 and the German Socialist Workers Party–the Nazi Party. I was one of the speakers. I was arrested and convicted of treason and given a prison sentence of five years, although I only served nine months. It was just enough time to write Mein Kampf. I represent the revolt of the Corporal. It is a revolt from below. It is appropriate that we meet in beer halls, where, under the tables, old men piss down their canes in order to avoid detection. I love the sound of the word “putsch.” It is true: I have read Nietzsche. I am the revolt of the Superman, but understood as a Corporal in the army. I am the Corporal of the Higher Order Act, albeit the Superman from below. My being fills the void in every German. When men came back from the front after the lst World War with their faces shot off, when these men became a common sight in downtown Berlin, with their crutches and bandages, when corpses were carried through the streets, like large loaves of bread, and old people averted their faces, or acted as if they did not see, it was then that I decided to pull rank. The Corporal will triumph: the one who takes orders will give them! I am Germany’s revenge for being stabbed in the back; I am the redemption of that betrayal. Obedience, Honor, Greatness–these are the mottos of the mass communicator, the substitute emperor. I reach people over the radio in their kitchen–the seven million unemployed. Call my bluff? My response is: blitzkrieg! I want your sympathy; your empathy. If you were all Germans, you would be good at summoning these moods. To summon your moods and always have them obey, that was a goal of mine. Do you know how I succeeded? I overcame the ‘imp’ in impulse. I identified with it. This ‘imp’ is the Corporal of the psyche! If you really want to know: I am the Unknown Soldier of the rank and file. I come from nowhere! I have no history, certainly not in terms of German history, certainly not in terms of the German Reformation. I know nothing of the struggle of Peter and Paul. I am pope, bishop, monk, and council, through the immediacy of my divine inspiration. To understand my basis for action, the source of my struggle, go back to the biblical period of the Judges, when inspiration came upon individual men, raised up by God, in the power of their own authority. I am a throwback to such times. I am such a mighty warrior–it is the blessing of my charisma to be so. This charisma is my license to be cruel. Cruelty. You want to talk about cruelty. I’ll tell you about cruelty. Go to China one hundred years ago. One hundred million Chinese died of starvation in the l9th century. Before that, whole families were executed, through as many generations as were alive at the time. Women, children, infants, cousins, uncles, aunts, and relatives of whatever distance, just so you were related, in the same family tree of a given author. The whole tree was exterminated. And this was over a book the author wrote and the emperor thought was disrespectful. I have this cruelty in me. I understand the question is asked: “Can Hitler be saved?” What is meant by such nonsense? I am the one who saves. I am the bringer of salvation. Everyone recognizes this when they salute me with “Heil Hitler!” “Heil” means the health of salvation. The whole man healed. We are the saviours of the whole man! Salvation is an act of cosmic healing. This is what I mean to Germany. Nature, the social order, and humanity are all united in the healing power I have mastered according to my will. So don’t talk to me about salvation. We will go down in history as those who stormed heaven. We have taken salvation by force. Everything is pardoned in advance. Heil Hitler!

Act Three Scene Seven After the soliloquy of Hitler, Bonhoeffer prepares in his cell for his last communion. Low Sunday. Quasimodo Sunday. April 8, l945.

Bonhoeffer’s sermon: “As newborn babes…” The Sunday: Quasi Modo Geniti Texts: Old Testament Genesis 32: 22–30 Jacob/Israel Wrestling with the angel: Peniel who touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh. It is the place of the proper name. Isaiah 6.5 New Testament 1 John 5:4–l2 John 20: l9–31 Thomas Didymus. Bethge gives the following texts: Isa. 53.5 With his stripes we are healed. l Pet. l:3.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!

Bonhoeffer’s Sermon:

Dearly Beloved: Grace and glory be to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. May the blessings of the Holy Spirit be upon you. Sursum corda! We lift our hearts up unto God. We are asked to think about Jacob wrestling with the angel. It is wrestling for the proper name. The outcome of this wrestling is for Jacob to be named Israel. Israel means ‘history’. It is the moment where we enter history as we know it. This is the gift the Jews share with us. They created the historical consciousness of our Western tradition. Abraham was called out of Ur of Chaldees into history. The God who called him is the God of history. Then the Children of Abraham went down into Egypt. How long did they go down? What was the time of their sojourn and their exile? The angel touched Jacob in the thigh. Pythagoras had a golden thigh. He must have wrestled with an angel. There is more to this than meets the eye. What is a golden thigh? It is angelic alchemy. It is reconciling the swine in ourself, as some would call it, with our angel. It is to become whole. It is the meaning of salvation, our ultimate health, when we are called into being by our proper name. Save and whole and heal are all the same word. This is the basis for the proper name. Our proper name is the name of our salvation. For this reason we are given a new name or let’s say that those who have been saved for us have been given a new name and have entered history in order to save us, in order to pass on their name to us, the name of their salvation. This is the tradition of the proper name. The new name. The saving name. It is the name in the depths of things, the name of the ultimate presence, the name we long to say when we speak at all, the longing in our speech, what our speech longs for. This spiritual wrestling for the proper name overcomes our duplicated self-consciousness, the splits and gaps in our soul. This is the meaning of the symbol of the golden thigh. It means overcoming the imp in impulse, our wayward and arbitrary wilfullness, the spontaneity that is self-destructive. It makes our spontaneity pure, like mountain water, like the mountain water of Norway. I have tasted this water. I know pure water like I know the meaning of the golden thigh. The purity of heart is to will one thing. This is the golden thigh of Pythagoras. The Angel’s touch. The healing of our ancient wound. The scar of sin, the stigma of finitude is turned to gold. The impulse to self- destruction in this body of death is purified. How wonderfully ironic that the sign for this healing is a limp, because we are dislocated, after the angel has touched us and has given us our proper name. Our golden thigh makes us limp. When I think of Jacob wrestling with the angel, I think of Paul wrestling with his thorn in the flesh. He, too, went through a name change. He, too, wrestled with himself over his identity. He threw stones at the Christians when his name was Saul. Was that his proper name? He thought they were a heretical sect and that they should be wiped out. Then he became Paul. Like Jacob/Israel, he was a man with a new proper name, a new identity. He wrestled with his thorn in the flesh, his version of the limp. What was it? A lack of self-confidence? Despair over his calling and his work? Despair over his new name? Three times he asked that the thorn be removed and he gets an answer that is good enough for you and good enough for me: “My grace is sufficient for you, because my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul accepts this answer and knows from then on that when he is weak, he is strong, because of the sufficiency of grace. Did Jacob prevail because of his weakness, because he was too weak to let go? This is the answer to Jesus falling on the ground and sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he also wrestled with what? God? Jacob’s angel? He calls it his cup of suffering. He does not want to drink his own blood from this cup. He bleeds from his forehead. It is the thorn of Paul in his crown. He wants to be delivered from his work, from his calling as the Christ. He suffers a stupendous lack of self-confidence. He does not want to be crucified. He does not want to submit to being the victim of another cultural murder, as with the founding murder, the murder of the brother–when Cain murdered Abel–where the ground cries out with the blood that is spilled of all the prophets of old. The message is the same for him. My grace is sufficient for you, as well, my son. In the weakness of your death, my strength is made perfect. The thorn that Paul is given is to keep him from being unduly elated by revelations that had taken him into the third heaven; he doesn’t know if it is in the body or out of the body. He saw things there that no one may dare utter. What he saw is that God will be all in all. It is the transfiguration of Paul. He saw what Jesus saw when he said: “It is finished.” This means that all of you are welcome to commune. All of you may drink of it. Drink ye, all, of it, that God may be all in all. Amen.

Bonhoeffer’s Communion.

["In the Mass, every member is invited to be sacrificed or to be ready to be sacrificed for the salvation and the renovation of the world. In the Mass, the first victim invites the others, the partakers, to a service in which they themselves are the offerings." Rosenstock-Huessy.]

At the communion rail: Bonhoeffer officiating: Bergraav, Hitler, Von Moltke, Wittgenstein, Naomi, Freisler, Poelchau, Freya and others. There is even the thought here that just as ‘open communion’ allows for anyone to come to the altar and receive the bread and wine, so, here, as well, the entire audience, in principle, is invited to take part. It is an altar call in order to carry through the meaning of ‘all’, the theme of Bonhoeffer’s Sermon. It raises an interesting question about the relation of worship to theatre, of church services to ‘plays’, and the possibility that God is present in both, in spite of the religious affiliation, whether religious symbols, as well as dramatic performance, can transcend themselves in their intended meaning so as to include everyone.

At the conclusion of the service, two civilians call out from an opened door. “Prisoner Bonhoeffer, get ready and come with us!

In the early hours of April 9th, l945 Dietrich was hanged by the Gestapo at Flossenburg. Admiral Canaris, Major-General Oster, Dr. Sack, the advocate Strunck and Captain Gehre were executed together with him. The hanging of Bonhoeffer. The hanging place can be the same as that of Helmuth. He waits for Von Moltke. They will hang together.

FINIS

Note to the reader. I am painfully aware of the awkwardness of the Bonhoeffer play interpolated in my play but I am so struck by its dramatic effect I would like to figure out how to use it even though this may turn out to be impractical due to length. It is included for the edification of the reader.

Freya Von Moltke’s account of her bicycle ride back to Kreisau is unedited because I would have to tailor it accordingly as the play is to be performed. I again include the entire text for the edification of the reader. Freya is alive and well in Vermont at the age of 98.

I spoke to her yesterday.

My former colleague at M.I.T., A. R. Gurney, was asked by me if he would read the play and give me his critical response. He said he would if I followed a practise of his. Cast the play with friends and have them read it; listen to it; and then re-write it. On the occasion of Freya visiting Santa Cruz, I did just that and had her read her part. There was only one line I liked. I never sent it to Gurney. This section is for historical interest and not to be considered as part of the play. It is Bonhoeffer’s experience in prison where he wrote a play about his experience. It is an uncanny example of the situation he found himself in waiting to be executed.

Lance-Corporal Berg The Play within the Play. A one-act by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer wrote a short story about “Lance-Corporal Berg” that is like a small play. It is incorporated directly as a scene here. p. 253 ff., from his LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON.

A slide of Beckmann’s lithograph from his Hell Series–On the Way Home– is shown here.

Act Three Scene Four Bonhoeffer in his prison cell. Bonhoeffer reads as he writes up to the point of Meier speaking.

Bonhoeffer. With a smug and self-satisfied smile, Sergeant-Major Meier takes delivery of a green parcel and hides it away in his brief-case, which he then carefully puts away in his desk. Then he puts on his official face and asks:

Meier

. …and your heart-trouble, Muller?

Muller springs to attention and stutters.

Muller.

Sergeant-Major, my wife…

Meier.

I’m asking about your heart trouble, Muller. It’s –no better? worse?

Muller.

Yes, Sergeant-Major, worse, decidedly worse,’ asserts Muller quickly and in a rather flustered way.

Meier:

But, Muller, perhaps in three months…?

Muller:

‘Yes, Sergeant-Major, of course, certainly, that is, perhaps, yes perhaps, Sergeant-Major, in three months. Three months is a long…’

He breaks off. Muller follows with curious glances the movements of the Sergeant-Major, who takes out a list, makes a brief note after one name and puts the list back in the file. Lance-Corporal Muller takes a deep breath. He wants to say thank you, but feels that this is not permissible.

Meier.

That’s good, Muller, you can go.

Just as Muller has the door-knob in his hand, the Sergeant-Major says almost in passing, without looking at Muller…

Meier.

.and, Muller, you won’t forget…!

Muller.

But, Sergeant-Major…

Muller makes a bow, as though he were standing behind the counter in a shop. Compulsively smiling and bowing again, he goes out. The telephone rings.

Meier.

Wehrmacht Interrogation Prison here, Sergeant-Major Meier speaking–who’s there?–I can’t hear — ah, Major!

Meier comes to attention, his face fixed as a deferential, smiling mask.

Meier.

Pardon me, Major, I had not…about a posting?’

Meier’s voice goes husky.

Meier.

Ah, I understand, Major you want to post a man to us.’ Meier’s voice is quite clear again.

Meier. Of course, Major, naturally, we have a place here– excellent man–comes from the front–badly wounded–quite capable of duty–understanding treatment–comradely handling–but of course, Major–tremendous comradeship here–of course–the man can come immediately –pardon–understanding treatment? But Major, that goes without saying–fighter at the front–thank you, Major.’

He bows, laughs.

Your obedient servant, Major–the Major can rely on me completely — yours to command, Major.

Meier puts down the receiver quickly and in some disquiet.

A new man? I cannot use him. A front-line fighter? These people often introduce such an unattractive tone — they don’t fit here — they see everything differently from us — yes, if one had been out there oneself — yes, perhaps not completely fit for duty — badly wounded? Understanding treatment? Comradeship? The same question twice?

Meier hesitates, shakes his head.

No, in the end I have to make the decisions here.

He murmurs to himself complacently. He reaches for the key of the desk and is just about to open the closed packet when there is a knock at the door. The packet vanishes again immediately. Vexed, Meier calls, ‘Come in!’

The duty sergeant enters, pushing before him a soldier with handcuffs and chains on his legs, so that he stumbles into the office.

Sargeant.

Today’s intake, Sergeant-Major. Deserter. Cell l217.

The prisoner looks round in confusion. He seems overcome with weariness and looks hungry.

Meier.

Would you mind taking up a military attitude, you tramp, roars the Sergeant-Major. Have you never seen a parade ground? The prisoner pulls himself together.

Meier. How old?

Prisoner.

Eighteen years,

Sergeant-Major, Meier.

Occupation?

Prisoner.

School-leaver,

Sergeant-Major. Meier.

Where from?

Prisoner.

The front, Sergeant-Major, Meier. From the front, you swine? Do you know what the consequences of that are?’

Prisoner.

Yes, Sergeant-Major.’ A slight tremor goes through his body.

Meier.

From the front, you cowardly lump? So you’re leaving your comrades in the lurch? You’re undermining discipline and order? You want to put your personal satisfaction first in the middle of a war? You stuff yourself full and go around with whores while every decent man is sacrificing his blood and his life for the fatherland? You’d run after anything with a skirt on?’

Prisoner.

No, Sargeant-Major.’

Meier.

No, you say? are you a liar as well, you gutttersnipe? Why did you desert?’

Prisoner.

I don’t know, Sergeant-Major. It just happened.’

Meier.

You don’t know? It just happened? Don’t you know that the German has a will with which he can overcome the swine within himself? It just happened! That’s a new one! You don’t know why you pulled out? Well, I’ll tell you. I know. Because you’re a miserable piece of scum, who trembles at every shot and who will now get the shot that he deserves on the sand-bags. How many hours were you up at the front, then, you mother’s son, you cut above the rest, you school-leaver, you?

Prisoner.

All the winter,

Meier

Where?

Prisoner.

In Russia.

Meier.

All the winter? Why were you called up, then?

Prisoner.

I volunteered a year ago,

Meier .

..to hang about out there? Did you ever see a Russian?

Prisoner.

I have the Iron Cross, class I, Sergeant-Major.

The gaze of the young prisoner involuntarily shifts to the left breast of the Sergeant-Major, which displays only the unspotted, well-pressed, green cloth of a new uniform. Then he looks the Sergeant-Major straight in the face and is amazed that he looks so strikingly young, healthy, and well-fed. The Sergeant-Major senses this and becomes uncomfortable.

Meier.

The Iron Cross, class I?, he blusters. Then why aren’t you wearing it?

The Sergeant-Major looks with contempt at the faded, torn uniform of the prisoner.

Prisoner.

I took it off myself after I was arrested.

Meier.

Iron Cross Class I? Took it off yourself?

The Sergeant-Major roars with laughter. The sergeant intervenes.

Sergeant.

Sergeant-Major, the Iron Cross class I is entered in his paybooks.

Meier.

In his paybook? You fool, screams the Sergeant-Major, beside himself. ‘Don’t you know that these jokers forge their paybooks, too? Serious falsification of documents. That, too. You wait, my boy, we’ll show you.’ The prisoner is silent. He looks dreadfully tired and

tormented, but his flickering eyes bore deep into the smug face of the Sergeant-Major.

Meier

Where were you arrested?

Prisoner.

I don’t know, Sergeant-Major. I was lying unconscious in the snow.

Meier.

How long were you on the way?

Prisoner.

About twelve hours; then I couldn’t do any more.

Meier.

Where did you want to go?’

Prisoner.

I don’t know. Only away from the front. I simply ran away. I was out of my senses. The others had all run away too. Meier. Then how did those who found you know that you were a deserter?

Prisoner.

Because I told them.

Meier.

Why did you do that, you idiot? Why didn’t you say that your unit was on the retreat?

Prisoner.

Because I had left the post in which I had been placed without orders. Anyone who runs away from the front is cowardly in the face of the enemy and a deserter.

The Sergeant-Major is taken aback.

Meier.

What is your father?

Prisoner.

An officer.

The Sergeant-Major gives the sergeant a sly glance.

Meier.

Take the prisoner back to his cell.

The chains clank as the prisoner comes to attention. The door closes. Sergeant-Major Meier is ill at ease after this conversation. He wants to forget it. He quickly reaches for the packet again, opens it hastily, cuts off a large slice of sausage and bites into it greedily. Involuntarily he touches the left side of his uniform with his hand, as though the gaze of the young soldier prisoner were still burning there.

Meier.

Cursed people, these soldiers from the front, he mutters to himself. Heavy knocking. Sergeant-Major Meier jumps. He has become nervous. The door is opened quickly, as Meier is still gulping down his bite.

Berg.

Lance-Corporal Berg reporting for duty under the Major’s orders.

A quiet, firm voice. Meier puts his jacket straight, strokes his careful parting, looks up and remains speechless for a moment. What he sees can hardly be called a human face. Severe burning, as though caused by a flame thrower, has completely destroyed his face. Pieces of strange flesh have been stuck on; the nose is in shreds, the mouth has no lips, only half the ears are there. The Sergeant-Major tries to pull himself together, but he still stares speechlessly at the face of the man standing before him, upright and youthful.

Meier.

Did the Major send you to us?

Berg.

Yes,

Meier.

Are you still having hospital treatment?

Berg.

No, Sergeant-Major, I’ve been released as cured.

Meier struggles for words.

Meier.

So you think…?, he falters.

Berg.

Yes, Sergeant-Major, I think that I will do my duty here as well as at the front.

The Sergeant-Major shrugs his shoulders.

Meier.

Of course, of course, my friend–the Major–are you married?

Berg.

No, not yet, Sergeant-Major.

Meier.

Not yet. What can this man be hoping for? How old are you?

Berg.

Twenty-eight.

Meier.

As old as I am. He shudders at the thought.

Meier.

What’s your job?

Berg.

Schoolteacher,

Meier.

That life’s finished. Wouldn’t it have been better for such a person if …? The Sergeant-Major does not pursue this thought to its conclusion.

That’s good, you can go. The duty sergeant will give you your orders.

Meier walks up and down his office for a long time without knowing what he is really thinking. He feels an oppressive weight on his heart and stomach as though before some imminent evil. He opens the window and takes a deep breath. He walks up and down again. That comforts him. He finds himself looking neat and good. His new high boots and the close fit of his uniform which he has recently had made give his figure a trim, officer-like look with which he is extremely satisfied. He is at once reminded of the last ladies’ social evening at which he made a strong impression on some of the younger women. He sees himself at the head of the table–but as he tries to conjure up the face of a particularly attractive woman the gruesome mask of the wounded soldier appears to him. Then some adventures of the last weeks go through his head. He had arranged Sekt and an attractive cold dinner. The amazement of his companion.–Again the face. The face–the woman–the dinner–all follow one after the other. He goes to the telephone and asks for the kitchens.

Meier.

Send me Muller immediately.

An hour later, Muller leaves the Sergeant-Major’s office. His last words are…

Muller.

You can rely on me completely, Sergeant-Major. I quite understand. It is really quite impossible.

In front of the door he comes across Lance-corporal Berg, who is returning from his first round of the cells. Muller quickly composes himself and asks with a compulsive laugh, just to say something.

Muller.

Well, how are our scoundrels?

Berg.

Scoundrels?’ I’ve just seen a young man in cell l217–I would be happy if all soldiers were like him. But it’s a shame about him–deserter. If only they would give him one last chance; he would wipe out the disgrace. A shame.

Muller.

No, there’s nothing at all to be done, with a coarse laugh, and makes a gesture to describe the impending fate of the young soldier.

Berg shakes his head.

Berg.

Comrade, were you out there in Russia?

Muller is confused.

Muller.

No, unfortunately not–I have heart trouble–nervous heart trouble. But in the end we also make our sacrifices here, air attacks, the exhausting work with these scoundrels…

Berg.

Hm’– shakes his head again, as far as I’ve seen, those who are sitting here are for the most part comrades who once did a silly thing, but scoundrels–I don’t know, I’m afraid that they’re to be found elsewhere. I don’t want to keep you. I expect you’re on your way to the kitchens. See you later!

Berg turns away and leaves Muller standing.

Muller stammers, wants to say something, but doesn’t know what, thinks for a minute and then says to himself…

Muller.

Well, a young man like that, one like you. Instead of going to the kitchens he goes straight into the sick-bay. There he brings the conversation incidentally round to Berg: excellent man, soldier from the front–understanding treatment–certainly, but one cannot ask too much of a man like that. It’s not really his concern that he had this hard service, etc., etc. He gets a smooth rebuff; Berg is quite fit for duty. Anyway, they can’t understand what it has to do with Muller. Does he have a personal interest? Muller stammers that he only wanted to help; he was a comrade from the front and the Sergeant-Major had had hesitations. He is told that he can report to the Sergeant-Major that his hesitations are groundless. Lunch time. Muller sits by Berg and begins to talk to him with a mellow, amiable smile. He asks about the front. Berg’s injury. Berg is monosyllabic. The Sergeant-Major sits opposite. Berg has to use a straw to drink as there is no feeling to his lips. He does it as unobtrusively as possible. The Sergeant-Major stares at this procedure appalled; Muller turns away. Both think of the next ladies’ social evening. It is simply impossible. During the meal Berg praises the food and says that it is unusually good; now he wants to taste the prisoners’ food immediately afterwards, as in the end they themselves are simply troops at home, whereas the prisoners for the most part have to go back to the front. This remark meets with an icy silence all round. After the meal, when everyone has left the mess, the Sergeant-Major exchanges a few words more with Muller. The next day Muller greets Lance-corporal Berg with special warmth and presses a small packet into his hand.

Muller.

You’ll need this after all you’ve been through! Berg opens it.

Berg.

How have I come to deserve a pound of butter?

At the same moment another NCO goes by.

Berg.

If it’s left over–and I rather wonder about that–I’ll share it among the prisoners in my section. By the way, what the prisoners had was muck. Shame on you!

Muller bites his lips and goes. Berg cannot be won over that way. But Muller is tireless. He knows what it means for himself to put the Sergeant-Major at ease. The next day–breaking a standing rule (but he has the Sergeant-Major behind him!) — he enters into conversation with some of the prisoners from Berg’s section. Doesn’t the fearful disfigurement of his face have an oppressive effect on the prisoners in a situation which is already so grim? Astonished shaking of the head, incomprehending and even explicitly hostile denials are the answer to the question. Muller has to hasten to wipe out the bad impression of his question again with all sorts of gossip. At lunch, Berg, whose mouth muscles do not function properly drops the straw while he is drinking and spills the drink on the table. Indignant head-shaking by the Sergeant-Major and cowardly smirking from Muller. The following day Berg is assigned to supervising visits to the prisoners by their next-of-kin. The Sergeant-Major entertains one of the visiting women in his room afterwards. Later he makes it known through Muller that a visitor has asked him if it is possible to appoint another NCO to supervise the visiting next time; it is impossible for her to utter a word while looking at such a fearfully ravaged face. Berg feels that people are talking about him. He begins to suspect why. At meal time Muller sits next to him.

Berg.

These month-long stretches of imprisonment are nonsense for people who have played foolish pranks. It only corrupts them. A short sharp punishment would be much better.

Muller.

And then what would become of us? I mean…

He now tries in vain to gloss over his previous words.

Muller.

I mean–in the end the people must have committed some offence, otherwise they wouldn’t be here, and in that case it does them no harm to stew for a couple of months.

Berg.

On the contrary, I think that you’re wrong in every respect, shouts Berg, aroused.

Muller.

Be careful, Berg, be careful. You criticize here, and if the Sergeant-Major hears…

Berg.

Quite different people from the Sergeant-Major will hear what is going on here, I can assure you.

Muller goes pale.

The next day, Berg is summoned to the Sergeant-Major.

Meier.

Unfortunately, I have to tell you, Berg, that you have been called away with immediate effect. I’m very sorry. I would very much have liked to keep a soldier from the front like you here. ‘

Berg.

May I ask on what grounds I’ve been posted away, Sergeant-Major?’

Meier.

There is no reason why I should answer that question.’

Berg.

But I insist on an answer, Sergeant-Major!

Meier.

Now take it easy, my dear Berg, I’ll make an exception and tell you. It was an official order.

Berg goes pale. He does not believe what the Sergeant-Major is saying, indeed he is convinced that the Sergeant-Major is lying, but he has no chance of proving it. Berg comes to attention and leaves the office. When the formalities have been settled, he opens the cell of the school- leaver once more and sees the traces of tears in his eyes. However, the face of the young deserter lights up when he sees Berg.

Berg.

What’s the matter, lad?

Prisoner.

I want to go back to the front, Tears spring from his eyes.

Berg.

So do I. Keep your chin up, lad, I’ll go to the General for you. You’ll get out again. But I have to say good-bye to you now. I’m going.

Prisoner.

You’re going? aghast and in dismay. You’re going? Why? Why only you? You were the only one here…..

Berg.

I’ll tell you: the Sergeant-Major didn’t like my face.

Shaken, both are silent. Berg goes to the door.

Berg.

Good-bye, comrade!

Prisoner.

Good-bye, comrade.

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