Thursday, March 18, 2010

And? Did those born after change anything?

Below the video you find the text, both in German (in case you wish to follow Bertold Brecht's reading), and in English.

An die Nachgeborenen


Wirklich, ich lebe in finsteren Zeiten!
Das arglose Wort ist töricht. Eine glatte Stirn
Deutet auf Unempfindlichkeit hin. Der Lachende
Hat die furchtbare Nachricht
Nur noch nicht empfangen.

Was sind das für Zeiten, wo
Ein Gespräch über Bäume fast ein Verbrechen ist
Weil es ein Schweigen über so viele Untaten einschließt!
Der dort ruhig über die Straße geht
Ist wohl nicht mehr erreichbar für seine Freunde
Die in Not sind?

Es ist wahr: Ich verdiene noch meinen Unterhalt
Aber glaubt mir: das ist nur ein Zufall. Nichts
Von dem, was ich tue, berechtigt mich dazu, mich sattzuessen.
Zufällig bin ich verschont. (Wenn mein Glück aussetzt, bin ich verloren.)

Man sagt mir: Iß und trink du! Sei froh, daß du hast!
Aber wie kann ich essen und trinken, wenn
Ich dem Hungernden entreiße, was ich esse, und
Mein Glas Wasser einem Verdurstenden fehlt?
Und doch esse und trinke ich.

Ich wäre gerne auch weise.
In den alten Büchern steht, was weise ist:
Sich aus dem Streit der Welt halten und die kurze Zeit
Ohne Furcht verbringen
Auch ohne Gewalt auskommen
Böses mit Gutem vergelten
Seine Wünsche nicht erfüllen, sondern vergessen
Gilt für weise.
Alles das kann ich nicht:
Wirklich, ich lebe in finsteren Zeiten!


In die Städte kam ich zur Zeit der Unordnung
Als da Hunger herrschte.
Unter die Menschen kam ich zu der Zeit des Aufruhrs
Und ich empörte mich mit ihnen.
So verging meine Zeit
Die auf Erden mir gegeben war.

Mein Essen aß ich zwischen den Schlachten
Schlafen legte ich mich unter die Mörder
Der Liebe pflegte ich achtlos
Und die Natur sah ich ohne Geduld.
So verging meine Zeit
Die auf Erden mir gegeben war.

Die Straßen führten in den Sumpf zu meiner Zeit.
Die Sprache verriet mich dem Schlächter.
Ich vermochte nur wenig. Aber die Herrschenden
Saßen ohne mich sicherer, das hoffte ich.
So verging meine Zeit
Die auf Erden mir gegeben war.

Die Kräfte waren gering. Das Ziel
Lag in großer Ferne
Es war deutlich sichtbar, wenn auch für mich
Kaum zu erreichen.
So verging meine Zeit
Die auf Erden mir gegeben war.


Ihr, die ihr auftauchen werdet aus der Flut
In der wir untergegangen sind
Wenn ihr von unseren Schwächen sprecht
Auch der finsteren Zeit
Der ihr entronnen seid.

Gingen wir doch, öfter als die Schuhe die Länder wechselnd
Durch die Kriege der Klassen, verzweifelt
Wenn da nur Unrecht war und keine Empörung.

Dabei wissen wir doch:
Auch der Hass gegen die Niedrigkeit
Verzerrt die Züge.
Auch der Zorn über das Unrecht
Macht die Stimme heiser. Ach, wir
Die wir den Boden bereiten wollten für Freundlichkeit
Konnten selber nicht freundlich sein.

Ihr aber, wenn es soweit sein wird
Dass der Mensch dem Menschen ein Helfer ist
Gedenkt unsrer
Mit Nachsicht.

To Those Born After


Truly, I live in dark times!
An artless word is foolish. A smooth forehead
Points to insensitivity. He who laughs
Has not yet received
The terrible news.

What times are these, in which
A conversation about trees is almost a crime
For in doing so we maintain our silence about so much wrongdoing!
And he who walks quietly across the street,
Passes out of the reach of his friends
Who are in danger?

It is true: I work for a living
But, believe me, that is a coincidence. Nothing
That I do gives me the right to eat my fill.
By chance I have been spared. (If my luck does not hold, I am lost.)

They tell me: eat and drink. Be glad to be among the haves!
But how can I eat and drink
When I take what I eat from the starving
And those who thirst do not have my glass of water?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would happily be wise.
The old books teach us what wisdom is:
To retreat from the strife of the world
To live out the brief time that is your lot
Without fear
To make your way without violence
To repay evil with good –
The wise do not seek to satisfy their desires,
But to forget them.
But I cannot heed this:
Truly I live in dark times!


I came into the cities in a time of disorder
As hunger reigned.
I came among men in a time of turmoil
And I rose up with them.
And so passed
The time given to me on earth.

I ate my food between slaughters.
I laid down to sleep among murderers.
I tended to love with abandon.
I looked upon nature with impatience.
And so passed
The time given to me on earth.

In my time streets led into a swamp.
My language betrayed me to the slaughterer.
There was little I could do. But without me
The rulers sat more securely, or so I hoped.
And so passed
The time given to me on earth.

The powers were so limited. The goal
Lay far in the distance
It could clearly be seen although even I
Could hardly hope to reach it.
And so passed
The time given to me on earth.


You, who shall resurface following the flood
In which we have perished,
Contemplate –
When you speak of our weaknesses,
Also the dark time
That you have escaped.

For we went forth, changing our country more frequently than our shoes
Through the class warfare, despairing
That there was only injustice and no outrage.

And yet we knew:
Even the hatred of squalor
Distorts one’s features.
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow hoarse. We
Who wished to lay the foundation for gentleness
Could not ourselves be gentle.

But you, when at last the time comes
That man can aid his fellow man,
Should think upon us
With leniency.


  1. Aren't his words so wonderfully universal. It applies to us all and to all nations across the world... Aren't we all locked into the system to some extend and not having so much choice in reality?

    Having said that, we all know there is so much beauty among so much suffering. I took a stroll on the beach today for example. It was so calming and relaxing. So beautiful...

  2. Well...Dietrich Bonhoeffer didn't have to beg for leniency. He saw the evil, and acted upon it. He was part of the plot to kill Hitler, was arrested and hung. Quoting him:Action springs not from thought but from a readiness for reponsibility.
    Another quotation from him:The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.

    In my youth, we refused to play Bertold Brecht in our theatrical group, not because of his writing, but because he was a commie Stalinist sympathiser. He wasn't spared by chance but by his association with a system as murderous as Nazism. He had many choices. He ran away from the good ones, betrayed his marxist friends in USA, lied to leave America as a free man, and became East Germany hero to earn bread, butter and Russian honorific prizes.

    Some German people (at home, or abroad) did what had to be done. Some paid with their lives, some with permanent exile. They're the ones who have the right to ask the people of today, "What are you doing to eradicate evil, and make the world a better place?" They're the ones who could inspire us to change the system.

    I didn't quote Bonhoeffer as a Christian. He was above all a decent man, wanting to leave a decent world to his children, one of the first to raise his voice against the Jewish persecutations in Germany. And he wasn't the only German to do so.

    Sean, I hope that it's OK not to have my own blog, and to use your comment space to praise the Germans who had the courage to risk their lives to fight the system. Thank you for the opportunity.

  3. Correction in the first quotation:"...readiness for responsibility."

  4. Claudia, Myself and I am sure Sean, (and doubtless Cherie too), only ever suggested you start your own blog because I (and I'm sure they) felt you had much that would be interesting for others to read. After your reaction here and on the "Germany II" post I shall, however, not mention such an idea again, and I'm sure everyone is very happy for you to use their comment space for your comments - it's what it's for. I didn't and don't know much at all about Brecht. Thanks to Sean and all here for opening up an important and deep issue.

  5. I don't believe that all of us are locked up in systems, I definitely have a more possitive view about men kind. Only people who are stuck in idologies (fascism, kemalism, communism, islamism etc.) are blind for that. There is a certain balance in mankind; Germany with brought Nazism but more overwhelming the many, many, many artists, writers, filmmakers, poets etc. is the living proof of it.
    Personally; I'm fed up with people who only portrait a doom scenario of the world while so many people try and succeed in bringing peace in the world.
    Vive Germany, Vive La France!..)
    And vive George Moustaki, Leonard Cohen, Kropotkin, Bakounin etc.

  6. Bravo, dear Hans! I love you :))

    Vive Arnold Schonberg's 12-note system, John Cage, Hans Werner Henze, Valentina Igoshina, Alfred Brendel, St-Exupéry, Flann O'Brian, Simone de Beauvoir, Edith Piaf, Mondrian Piet, Metropolis, Gabrielle Roy, colourful Matisse, Bertus' Mouse Artwork, Seanstronomy and Claude's Chanterelle Music Studio.

    Bravo and Thank You to all our friends' blogs, people who care about the world, report the truth without fear, and also share their moments of Beauty with generosity.

    We live in memorable times where we meet kindred spirits all over the world, in a wonderful, warm-hearted virtual reality.

  7. And Vive Internation Musing each Day Opening. It always brings us to wonderful places, and great sceneries. It's so uplifting. Merci de tout coeur, Hans:))

  8. Nevin'cım,
    it's not the worst poem Brecht or one of his ladies wrote.
    Although I am mostly not amused when other ladies/gentlemen are answering a question of mine with a question: Are we locked into the system, or do we allow others to lock us within their system?

    So, you took a stroll?
    But how could you (take a stroll), and enjoy beautiful calmness and relaxation from those who could not enjoy the same like you?

    Ah, perhaps I am not fair against the dead poet.

    You name Bonhoeffer. What about Niemoeller? What about ... shall I go on?
    End of the beforegoing.
    If I were an autograph hunter, I'd give 500 Thomas Manns for one Brecht;
    well, and 250 Brechts for one Heinrich Mann.
    That's for that.
    In other words: Like anyone else artists, playwrights sometimes are idiots.
    I do not admire Brecht's personality (from what I have learnt (or from what I have been told), but after having read almost all of of his works and watching some on stage, I do consider him not the worst of all playwrights.
    I do not like Brecht, but - again - some great plays got published in his name.

    And for his political idiocy. After all - yes very late! - he wrote this:

    After the uprising of the 17th of June / The Secretary of the Writers Union / Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee / Stating that the people / Had thrown away the confidence of the government / And could win it back only / By redoubled efforts. / Would it not be easier / In that case for the government / To dissolve the people / And elect another?

    Joyce was an idiot, Proust was one, oh well: Andra moi ennepe Mousa, ... who knows? Even Homer might have been one?

    Finally, Claude: Yes, there have been some Germans risking their life. It did not stop the insane bastards, hm?
    Short live the silent majority!

    thank you!
    Indeed, after quite a while of Monty-Python-like 'Nudge, nudge', we should accept.
    Finally, and once for ever: I remember ten bloggers suggesting Claudia to start her own blog.
    Now can't I speak for the others, but I am convinced that it would be fascinating to read her posts. From what I can imagine: What a life!
    And the best: I do already know that quite often I'd not (completely) agree to her opinion.
    Ah, the longer I think about, I think I shall not surrender. Can you hear me, Claude? [Phew, Don Quiscott, why did I become your Seanso Pansa?!]

    not of many different opinions we are.
    What a life it were, would everyone who's lucky to live on the 'bright side of life', feel sorry about.
    At the same time: What ignorant folks we were, did we just happily ignore that we are privileged.
    Who gave us these privileges?!

    Yes! Let us enjoy what we like. But let us not give up to raise or voice for those whose scenario - compared to our's - is doomed (sic!).
    If finding this silly / naive, if being fed up , let's just shut up!
    Lets' shut up, and enjoy our priv ... our life.

    Claudia (again),
    like I see Hans' I do see your point.
    So let's raise our glasses on all those wonderful human beings who make this planet a wonderful place.

    just for me, so that no sensitive soul feels offended,
    Hey! Don't we see we are fucking privileged!? Ah, Beethoven, Bruno, Fleming, Mozart, Mona Lisa.
    Did any of the 100,000 Indian farmers who commit suicide within the past few years, knew their names? Did it help them? Ha, go on enjoying your life!
    The peace of the night.

  9. Yes! I could hear you, Sean.

    As I've said before, there will be no blog.

    And the comments (if any) will be much shorter, from now on.

    Having banished emoticons, and not using words to replace them, some comments are very humourless, and lack sensitivity.

    All the best. Always.

  10. Yes i know i am privileged. Dot. Break. Is that enough?

    But it is great hearing Brecht's voice speaking this very clear German (do they still speak it today like that Sean?)

    Or am i nalking now? (That is what word verification says.)


  11. Claudia,
    when saying/writing 'once for ever - and I don't do it often, I mean it, and to almost 100 per cent don't waste a breath, again.

    Re smileys etc: Everybody may feel free to set as many smileys etc. as s/he wishes.
    It's only that I am trying to get rid of this 'habit', that - looking around, has become a pest.

    Re the length / brevity of comments: I addressed you re this topic earlier tonight, and - as I am tired - will not repeat myself.
    The peace of the night.

    Not at all you are 'nalking', Bertus.

    Fortunately - at least in my opinion - most Germans don't speak anymore like in Wilhelmine times and like it was usual in the shortest of all millennial Empires when the majority of the Germans followed their GröFaZ (Größter hrer aller Zeiten).
    As for Brecht: Certainly it's great being able to listen him reading.
    However, I am glad I don't have to listen to him every day. Same goes for Thomas Mann, Ingeborg Bachmann and many others.
    They speak so - how to explain? - so pathetic.
    Hm, there are many ways to read a poem, a story.
    Perhaps one day, if my micro and/or the software works, I shall read 'An die Nachgeborenen'/'To Those Born After so that you can decide for yourself if there's a significant difference.
    Ah, very interesting question, the longer I contemplate about. Thank you.
    And off I spring. Bed's calling.
    The peace of the night.

  12. The problem, in the blogworld, is never whether people are welcomed on a blog, lenght et al, but whether the desire and the pleasure to visit (and comment) remain alive. Not that Omnium would ever need to be concerned about its charisma and popularity, of course. And not that anyone's comments would ever become indispensable anywhere.

  13. @Sean,

    Funny you say that. Brecht's accent reminded me a bit of Hitler's accent.
    Indeed accent and pronunciation must have changed in Germany as they have in the Netherlands or in Britain.

    When at sec. school i practised German pronunciation (which was not a big problem to me as my forbears stem from the East of the country) i always remembered former Chancelor Kiesinger whom i had heard on television, and i always imagined how he would pronounce sentences like "Jugendherberge gibt es in allen Gegenden unseres Landes". In those days Germany was still painted as a country full of always smiling, blonde and energetic young Wandervögel in German exercise books. While in dictations our English teacher would give sentences like 'Smoking is very healthy' the German teacher would always come up with things like "Kaltes Wasser und altes Brot sind sehr gesund".

    Still i like the German language and German poetry. And indeed i read this poem aloud before i heard Brecht reciting it himself. And i must say i like the clarity of his speech, every word he says is understandable, though i am not fond of his accent.

    His interpretation though is quite dry which seems to underline the terrible things he has to say.