The Fight against Fascism

 

 

 

During the 1930's and '40's, Brecht wrote poems and other writings against Fascism, Nazism, and Hitler.  These poems were never published as a volume or a collection, but were widely distributed in the publications of emigre Germans who fought the Nazi regime. Some of these poems were intended for radio broadcast into Germany.  There is much information about their efficacy in terms of keeping up the spirits of those who opposed fascism. 

 

These poems found their way to print and to a readership under the difficult conditions of the day, and despite the general fractiousness of the Left.  Communists wanted strict control over all and everything, and found Brecht's efforts lacking and 'negative,' though writers and independant sorts thought his efforts were the most worthwhile of all.

 

Though this section is long, there are dozens of other poems Brecht wrote against the murderous regime.

Georg Grosz, The White General

Click on title for German original

 

WHEN ATROCITIES COME AS THICK AS RAIN

The way a man comes, with an important letter to an office window after hours: And the window is closed.

 

The way a man comes, who wants to warn a city of in impending flood, but speaks another language: And he won't be understood.

 

The way a beggar, who knocks on a door for the fifth time, where he got handouts four times before: And now he is hungry for the fifth time.

 

The way a man, whose blood is flowing out of a wound, who is waiting for a doctor: And his blood continues to flow.

Thus we come and report, that atrocities are being committed against us.

When it was reported for the first time, that our friends were slowly being slaughtered, there was a scream of horror. Then a hundred were slaughtered. But when a thousand were slaughtered, and there was no end to the slaughter, there was general silence.

When the atrocities come as thick as rain, then no one any longer calls out, 'stop!'

When the crimes stack up, they become invisible. When the sufferings become unbearable, the screams become inaudible.

The screams, too, fall like rain in summer.


 

 

Click on title for German original

The Neighbor

I am the neighbor. The one who turned him in.
We don't want an agitator
here in our building.

When we hung out the swastika,
He didn't hang one out.
When we asked him why he didn't,
He asked us if we had any room in our little apartment
Where we live with four children, for a flag pole.
When we told him that we believed in the future,
He laughed.

We didn't like that they beat him up
In the stairwell. And tore up his jacket, too.
They shouldn't have done that.
None of us have a lot of jackets.

At least he is gone now, and the building is quiet.
We have enough worries,  so
It's important to at least have peace and quiet.

Of course we see how some folks
Look the other way, when they meet us.
But those who took him away, say
That we did the right thing.  

(1934)


 

 

Click first line for German orginal

 

THERE WILL COME A DAY, WHERE YOU REGRET THIS
You loudmouths, who scream and you who are silent, you quiet ones!
And if no such day were to come, I would weep for you today
And if only for the sake of your children.

 

 

 
 

Click on title for German original

Ballad of the Jew Whore Marie Sanders  

1

In Nuremberg they made a law
that made many a woman cry, who
had the wrong man in her bed.
A furor is rising on edge of the city,  
The drums are beating with might.
If they were going to do something - God have pity!
It would be tonight.


2

Marie Sanders, your lover
Has hair that’s too black.
Better not go to him today,
As you did yesterday.
A furor is rising on edge of the city,  
The drums are beating with might.
If they were to do something - God have pity!
It would be tonight.

 

3

Mother, give me the key
It really isn’t all that bad
The moon looks as it always has.
A furor is rising on edge of the city,  
The drums are beating with might.
If they were to do something - God have pity!
It would be tonight.

 

4

One morning, early, at nine
She went through the city
In a shirt, hair shorn, a sign around her neck,
The crowds jeering.
A furor is rising on edge of the city,  
Streicher* rants on his radio shows.
If they were able to listen at all  - Great God have pity!
They’d know they were being led by the nose.


(1935)

 

Note: Julius Streicher (February 12, 1885 – October 16, 1946) was a prominent Nazi prior to World War II. He was the founder and publisher of Der Stürmer newspaper, which became a central element of the Nazi propaganda machine. His publishing firm also released three anti-Semitic books for children, including the 1938 Der Giftpilz (The Poison Mushroom), one of the most widespread pieces of propaganda, which purported to warn about insidious dangers Jews posed by using the metaphor of an attractive yet deadly mushroom. After the war, he was convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.
   

Georg Grosz: Civilization marches on

Click on title for German original

PROHIBITION OF THEATER CRITICISM

When the Propaganda Minister
Sought to prohibit the criticism by its people of the regime, he forbad
Theater criticism. The regime
Truly loves the theater. Its achievements
Lie mainly in the area of theater.
It owes as much to the virtuoso-level mastery of search light manipulation
As it does to the virtuoso-level mastery of rubber truncheons.
Its gala productions
Are broadcast on the radio throughout the realm.
In three block buster films
The lead actor has been portrayed by the Führer.
In order to deepen the people’s appreciation for theater
The government organized compulsory attendance.
Annually on May Day
When the first play-actor of the realm
Plays a former worker
The audience is even paid for attending: two marks
Per person.  No expense is spared for the Festivals
That take place in the vicinity of Bayreuth under the title of Reich’s Party Meeting
Here the Chancellor himself
Appears as True Fool and
And twice a day sings the famous aria
NEVER SHALT THOU QUESTION ME.
It is clear that such expensive productions
Must be protected from any criticism whatsoever
Where would we be
If everyone could criticize
That the Reich’s Youth Minister Baldur is wearing too much make-up
Or that the Propaganda Minister sounds so phony, that
Nothing about him is believable, not even
His club foot.  In general with all this drama  
Going on, it has to be absolutely forbidden that any criticism be mounted, indeed
It can not even be said, what is on the play bill
Who is paying for the presentation and
Who is playing the main role.

 


The Propaganda Minister is of course Josef Goebbels, one of Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism.  He was a suicide in the final moments of the regime.  

One of the films Brecht is referring to surely must be Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl, the great propagandistic film maker.  This remarkable woman was a film superstar of her day, who was wooed by the Nazis. She became a willing and very able collaborator, making films of great power for the regime.  A recognized pioneer in the art of film making, she outlived the regime and though her reputation was irredeemably tarnished, she continued working on fascinating projects until her death in 2003 at the age of 101.

 Baldur von Shirach was a scion of an aristocratic German family.  The family of his American mother included two signers of the Declaration of Independence.  Von Shirach rejected his own circles and became an ardent Nazi. He became the Youth Leader of Third Reich, a post he held until 1940, after which time, he lost influence in Nazi Party circles. Part of the reason for this loss of influence was that he was considered effeminate.  At his trial after the WWII, at which he admitted his complicity and guilt, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison, which he served.  After his release, he lived in ignominy and died in 1974.  



1937

 

Click on title for translation

 

WHAT THE LEADER DOES NOT KNOW

According to the views of many average people
The Leader does not know
That the Education Minister is always drunk and
His Chief  the Workers’ Front is never sober
That his Propaganda Minster lies whenever he opens his trap
That his War Minister is preparing for a war
That his Police Minster has evidence against his Aviation Minister
That permits his Ministers of Industry
To deliver poor quality planes to the State
According to the view of many average people
The Leader also does not know
That in his prisons and camps people are beaten to death
That children in his youth organizations denounce their own parents
That the Winter Relief money disappears and some live on it right into summer
That the sons of German mothers are being sold to Spain
That the heads of industry have tripled their profits
If the Leader knew all of this
Which he does not know according to the views of many average people
Would he then
Fetch a few honest people
(At best out of one of his concentration camps)
And ask them to hang a sign around his neck, stating
I led the nation into an abyss
And thus, with this sign around his neck walk through the ruined land
So that everyone might get the idea?
Would he? What do you think?

(1937)

A common phrase during the Third Reich pertaining to bad practices, corruption and conditions was, ‘If the Führer/Leader only knew this,’ implying that if he did know, he would change things for the better.  The Winter Relief was a collection drive started in 1933  meant for helping the unemployed and needy during the winter months.  On urban streets and elsewhere Germans were constantly confronted with collection drives during the Nazi years.  The money was spent on war preparations.

 

 

Click on title for German original

The Beginning of the War

When Germany is armed to the teeth
A great injustice will overcome it
And the Drummer Major will conduct his war.

But it is you who will defend Germany
In foreign countries, unknown to you
And fight against people who are the same as you.

The Drummer Major will blather about liberation
But the suppression in our country will be incomparable.

And he may win all the battles
But the last one.

When the Drummer Major loses his war,
Germany's own war will be won. 
 

 

Click on title for German original


The Book Burning

When the regime ordered that books with corrupt knowledge
Be publically burned, and from all quarters oxen
Were forced to pull carts of books
To the burning pyres, a cast out poet,
One of the best, appalled, found that his books
Had been forgotten.  He hurried to his writing table,
Anger in his sails, and wrote a letter to those in power.
Burn me! He wrote with a vaulting pen, burn me!
Don’t do this to me!  Don’t exclude me!  Haven’t I always
Told the truth in my books?  And now
I’m treated by you as if I were a liar!  I am ordering you
To burn me!

(1938)

 

The end of the Land of Poets and Thinkers

Click on title for German original

 

 

THE DURATION OF THE THIRD REICH

1

The Fuehrer assures us that the Third Reich
Will last for thirty thousand years.  At the
Top level, there is no doubt about this. The only
Doubt at the top level is whether the Third Reich
Will make it through the next winter.

2
The Fuehrer assures us that we will win
The coming war.  There is
No doubt about this at the top level.  The war will be won
By the side that has the most raw materials and food supplies
And the toughest, most persistent soldiers.
So if all the soldiers who climb into the tanks
Stay in them long enough
And all their wives and children live on turnips and
Grampa Schulze diligently scrapes the tin from his garbage can
Then the war to come will be won.  


3

We will win the next world war
If we collect enough trash.  There is
No doubt about this at the top level.  The only doubt
Is if for example the electrical cables
That are now being made of aluminum instead of copper
Will last long enough. The Fuehrer assures us that they will last
For thirty thousand years.

(1937)

 

Click on title for German original

 

 

THE REGIME AS ARTIST

 

1

 

A great deal of money is being spent for the
Construction of palaces and stadiums.  In this
The regime is like a young artist, who is not afraid
To go hungry to make his name famous.  However
The hunger the regime is not afraid of  
Is the hunger of others, namely
The people.

 

2

 

Like an artist
The regime has access to all kinds of supernatural strengths.
Without being told a thing
It knows everything. It never was
Trained for what it does. It never
Learned anything. Its education
Is rather deficient, though in a magical way
It is capable of taking part and regulating everything,
Even things it doesn’t comprehend.

 

3

 

It is generally known an artist can be stupid and still
Be a great artist. The regime is just
Like an artist on this level, as well.  The way they say of Rembrandt,
He would not have painted differently if born without hands,
You might say the regime, had it been
Born without a head, would not
Govern differently.

 

4

 

The amazing thing about artists
Is their ingenuity. If one listens to the regime’s
Descriptions of existing conditions, you have to say
How ingenious they are!  Artists have only
Contempt for economics, and the regime
Is well known for its contempt for economics. Of course
It has some rich patrons. And like every artist
It lives on money
It borrows.

 

Click on title for German original

 

Fortress Europe

 

Europe is Hitler’s fortress,

As Goebbels will assure you.                   

But where was there ever a redoubt    

Where enemies stand not only without,

But on the inside, too ?

 

 

 

Click on title for German orgiinal

 

Questions and Anwers

“Can truth be mortal and lies eternal? - “Yes, they must.”
“Where have you see injustice last and go undetected?” - “Here will do.”
“But who knows someone whom violence brought happiness?” - “All of us.”
“In such a world, who could overthrow the oppressors?” -“All of you.”

(Around 1939)