Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marching with the Dead

I've been reading All Quiet on the Western Front (as an audiobook) for the last week, and this morning I hit a piece that was particularly chilling in the light of later history. Half way through, coming out of a long stretch on the front lines, the narrator says:
And this I know: all these things that now, while we are still in the war, sink down in us like a
stone, after the war shall waken again, and then shall begin the disentanglement of life and

The days, the weeks, the years out here shall come back again, and our dead comrades shall
then stand up again and march with us, our heads shall be clear, we shall have a purpose, and so
we shall march, our dead comrades beside us, the years at the Front behind us:--against whom,
against whom?
All Quiet on the Western Front, Chapter 7
Remarque's novel was published in 1929, four years before the Nazis actually took power, though the Nazis were already active and were among his fiercest critics. I have not idea what he was trying to evoke with this brief passage, or if it was simply a general observation, but it's chilling in retrospect because at least as much as any political or economic grievances over the first world war, the second was permitted by the fact that in Germany in particular there were millions of men who had fought in the first war who found themselves in the inter-war years seeking a sense of purpose. Men with an experience of violence and of the comradery of collective action who were now adrift. Unemployed or underemployed. In a country which felt that it had made huge sacrifices by which it had gained nothing.

The urge to march to some purpose was particularly strong in those circumstances, and many found it in marching either with the national socialists (Nazis) or the international socialists (communists).

1 comment:

kathleenlewisgreenwood said...

Haunting, and compare with the opening verse from the Horst-Wessel-Leid:

Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
SA marschiert mit ruhig festem Schritt.
Kam'raden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen,
Marschier'n im Geist in unser'n Reihen mit.

[The flag on high!, the ranks tightly closed!, The SA march with quiet steady step/ Comrades shot by the red army and reactionaries, March in spirit, in our ranks with us].