Hilly meadows extended to the horizon. Only some weather-beaten boulders and a few trees, crippled and little, defied the heaving green. In the distance stood a small, grass-grown thatched cottage. Behind the house, several old, rain battered high-crosses towered warpedly in the backyard. An ancient fence, decayed and partly broken down, leaned against the house rather than granting protection.
Into the endless rolling landscape did the tune of the shepherd's ballad that told about the work, the weaving, the scanty life, about pride and love drift. The melody drew a copy of the outline of the high land; every nuance of the bedrocks was being mentioned. Tall grass was surging in harmony and the strong wind decreased.
As the song died away the wind ceased. Nature itself listened for the tune still flying over the hilly country. It was no sooner than the last harmonies were overcome by silence that the wind picked up and intensified the salty smell of the nearby coast. The air was filled with the odour of seaweed and the ocean. Carried by the eternal presence of looming storms the harsh perfume of death diffused. Lamentfully, the seagull's cry shrilled across the island. Blades of grass, being rubbed together by the wind, created a ustle that became stronger by the minute.
He opened his eyes and looked straight into the blue sky. His look slowly roved across the landscape. It followed the shadows of the clouds, rushing over the hillocks before it took a short rest at the cottage. Bird of prey sailed through the air, the sea was rough and dark clouds appeared in the far distance.
Turning around, he looked into the eyes of his fiancée who stood windswept but happy in front of him. Taking one step closer he reached out for her and two pair of eyes looked across the country. His cheek was caressed both by the blowing wind and her flowing hair.
He took a deep breath- and a hint of a smile echoed around his mouth.
* * *
"Bloody hell", the Sergeant shouted into the din of the combat. For days now the British troops had been under drumfire. Near the Sergeant a young soldier threw himself to the bottom of the trench. After having crawled to his superior he produced a letter with shaking fingers. The Sergeant took the dispatch, ripped the envelope open and glanced over the lines. It was no sooner than he started to speak that a salvo of shells exploded on top of the trench. Again, hundredweights of dirt and mud, sand and stones were being hurled into the air and filled the trench.
Having freed himself from the soil, the Sergeant found half of his men dead. Some of them had been crushed by masses of sand; others were ripped open by stones and splinters of grenades, who had exploded in the trench. The severely wounded cried their pain into the dusk that was impregnated by sounds of further detonations and volleys of machine-guns.
The young private, who brought the dispatch, lay close to the Sergeant. The private’s eyes stared indifferently into the twilight illuminated by muzzle-flashes time and again.
Spitting out mud the Sergeant wiped his face with the back of his hand. Not noticing the blood covering his hand, he shouted:
"We’re moving out ! Retreat ! Retreat !"
Not far off shells tore the lose earth open again.
"Get the wounded and away ! Quick ! Hurry up !"
The Sergeant took a look at the living and the wounded, the dead and back to the maimed again. Having had certain death in prospect, all his senses had been deadened. But now his heartbeat quickened as the hope of survival arose. After a few seconds his heart reached bursting point as all the necessary preparations appeared as being much, much too slow.
When finally everybody was readyhe looked once more first to the dead then to the living. Raising his hand, prepared to shout the "Go !" his men were waiting for, he hesitated.
"Dempsey ! Where’s Dempsey ?"
The Sergeant’s question ran down the line:
"He is still with the machine-gun."
"Shit !", the Sergeant turned around, put his head cautiously out of the trench and looked to no-mans land. Pockmarked hills extended to the horizon. Only some barbed wire entanglements and a few trees, charred and shredded, defied the heave of dusk and smoke. In the distance stood the enemy artillery that rhythmically illuminated the evening.
The drifting banks of dusk and smoke softened all sounds- the low thunder of cannons, the shrill of incoming shells, the explosions, the cries and groans of the dying and- the “taktaktaktak” of a single machine-gun. But how hard he tried, the sergeant could not make out the sandbags that protected the lonely machine-gunner.
Signalling his men to be ready to go he said:
"Go ! I’ll find Dempsey !"
"But he must be dead by now- oh, come on…"
"Piss off !", the Sergeant shouted and jumped out of the trench.
It had become almost completely dark. The Sergeant stumbled from one shell-crater to the next, using the occasional tree trunk as cover. Hoping desperately that he would not lose his direction, he made his way across the battlefield, being caught by dead bodies and equipment, falling into bloody mud and mouldering corpses.
Finally, he thought he could see his target. Being just a few yards away from the rifle-pit, a mine burst beneath the rubble on which he stood. Several splinters hit the Sergeant and knocked him down. Despite this, he still tries to reach the machine-gunner. He had to crawl to do so, and was in great pain. In his attempt, he exploded a further mine, which blew off one of his feet. The explosion hurled him into the air, and when he fell he set off a third mine, which severed his other foot.
As if to mock him the third mine had thrown the Sergeant into the rifle-pit he had tried to reach.
"Sean !", the Sergeant cried out, using private Dempsey's first name.
Turning around slowly the private looked into the eyes of his father who lay dying in front of him. Taking one step closer he reached for him- then his legs bent in and the badly injured private fell down.
He took his last breath- and a hint of a smile was echoing around his mouth.
Rolf Schwarz, 1988
I, who am falsely called "German" instead of just simply "man", I call out to the icy regions of the North, I call out to Africa and to America, to Asia and to Europe.
Again, war is being prepared.
Again, beautiful phrases like "fields of honour", "heroic death", "The country is in danger!" are used to force people to take part within the military-machine.
Again, military music and false legends of the "enemy", of "the invaded" should make people feel enthusiastic about to kill.
DON’T YOU REALISE ALL THIS ?
Refuse to serve !
Bring up your children so that they may later refuse to render military and war service !
We, opponents of military service, must finally destroy the halo
and the humbug, and tear down the gaudy tinsel of the soldiery, and
we must speak out what still remains to be said about soldiers:
They are professional murderers paid by the state, who are trained in murder-schools (called barracks) privileged by the state, in the carrying out of the most gruesome of crimes, the murder of human beings !
THAT is what the children should be told.
Then indeed will the young girls, destined by nature
to reproduce and protect life, be disgusted to flirt with the soldiers-
her natural enemies- "the pimps of death".
And the boys will later refuse to wear the uniform, because they know: It is a murderer’s cloak.
He, who then still believes in this mass butchery, let him be locked up in a mad-house, let us avoid him as we do the plague !
True heroism lies not in murder, but in the REFUSAL to commit murder.
I WILL NOT !
Stronger than all violence, than the sabre and the rifle, is our
spirit, is our will.
Repeat the words: "I will not !"
Give CONTEXT to these words and all wars in future will be impossible.
AND YOU WOMEN !
If your husband should be too weak, then carry out the work yourselves
Prove that the bond of love with your husband is stronger than any army order !
Do not let your men go to the front !
Do not decorate their rifles with flowers !
Cling to the necks of your husbands !
Do not let them go even when the order to depart calls !
WOMEN ! Realise this if your husbands should bee too weak !
WOMEN OF ALL LANDS – UNITE !
Ernst Friedrich, End of July, 1914