Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On Fellow German Émigrés

Wherever these cheerless guests went they were unwanted, were not allowed to work, hardly to breathe. They were required to have papers which they didn't have or which were not good enough. Their passports had expired and were not renewed. So these refugees found it difficult to prove their identity. Very few thrived on their sufferings. Suffering will fortify the strong but weaken the weak. It is easier to do without principles than without bread and butter; and when it's a question of throwing some ballast overboard then morality goes first. Many went to seed. Their bad qualities that had been overlaid by prosperity came to the surface and their good qualities turned sour. Most became egomaniacs, lost their judgment and balance, no longer distinguished between what was permissible and what impermissible. Misery, in their own eyes, justified caprice and lack of restraint. They became self-pitying and quarrelsome. They became like fruit that had been picked too soon: not ripe but ugly and sour. Indeed, exile made us small and dejected. Yet it also hardened us and made us great, gave a wider horizon, greater elasticity. It taught us to pinpoint the essential. People who were shoved from New York to Moscow, from Stockholm to Cape Town, had to think deeper than those who, until then, had been sitting in their Berlin offices all their lives. Many hopes were set on these refugees both inside and outside Germany. The faith persisted that these exiles were chosen to cast out the barbarians who had seized their homeland.

Lion Feuchtwanger


Bertolt Brecht and Lion Feuchtwanger in Hollywood in 1947.

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