“thanks, Goebbels, for Hardening Us Whom You Oppress,” Says Ernst Toller, Dramatist
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“thanks, Goebbels, for Hardening Us Whom You Oppress,” Says Ernst Toller, Dramatist

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Ernst Toller, German dramatist, former member of the German Communist party and now an impartial liberal exile from Germany, has written the following open letter to Paul Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment:

“When on May 10 the works of German writers, philosophers and scientists were thrown into the flames, you, Herr Goebbels, defended and praised this bestial action and in your speech you called the burned works of those who represent a more noble Germany than you do ‘spiritual refuse.’

“You had our works removed from German theatres, publishing houses, bookstores, libraries and schools. You persecute the authors, imprison them or drive them out of the country.


“You drove the best professors from the universities, the best actors from the theatres, the best artists, architects and sculptors from their studios, the best conductors and composers from the concert halls. You were not satisfied with torturing those whom you confined in your prisons and concentration camps, but you are employing all the means within your power to persecute emigrants. As you put it, you wish to destroy them spiritually and physically, in barbaric fashion and without stopping at anything.

“Wherein does the reason for this groundless hatred lie?

“These people believe in a world of freedom, humanitarianism and social justice; these people are true Socialists, Communists, pacifists or pious Christians. They do not wish to stifle within themselves the voice of truth, they will not bow before might.

“The persecutions and dishonor are a great honor to us, the persecuted. Many of us will only now have to prove that we are deserving of the honor. We are not complaining, nor are we asking for mercy; we are not making any promises of loyalty. We shall never cease to designate your disgraceful actions by their true name.


“You maintain that you are rescuing German culture, yet you destroy its noblest works. You maintain that you are arousing the German youth, but you are blinding their eyes, their spirits, their feelings. You maintain that you are saving German children, but you poison their hearts with shameful phrases or stupid nationalism and race hatred. You maintain that you are rescuing German labor, but you are enmeshing it in chains of social and spiritual slavery. You maintain that you are purging Germany of those who have sinned against her, but you are persecuting the most insignficant Jews. You maintain that you and the German spirit are identical, but your deeds are an abasement of the ideas of Goethe and of Lessing, of Herder and Schiller, of Wieland and of Ranke, as well as of all those who have fought for the highest values of Germany and who carried them out into the world.

“Recently I read your works and those of your party comrades. I cannot hold it against you that you write a worse German than that which we write: might does not give talent. But it is sad that you are forcing German theatres to produce these works.


“You speak so much of heroism, but you have in mind the heroism of the soldier. We too know a heroism—of work, of character, of a person who does not submit, who is true to his ideas.

“You speak so much of the timidity of your opponents, and we promise you, that your persecutions will harden us; your hatred will mature us, your fight will strengthen our fighting power.

“We are not free of guilt in our fate; we committed many errors, the most grievous of which was our softness and patience.

“Thanks to the lesson which you have taught us, we shall overcome our failings. And that is your accomplishment.”

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