by Kurt Eggers. Translated from the Third Reich original Der Krieg des Kriegers. It is, as the subtitle states, a collection of thoughts in the field. The chapters include: Our Faith, The Reich, We have heard the Führer, “The soldier alone is the free man”, The School of the Test, Waiting, The Fate of the Soldiers, Between the Battles, “No more beautiful death in the world…”, Duty and Conscience, The Reich in Yearning and Reality, The Discussion of Death and The Discussion of Peace.
In one of these hours, it now happened that the harmonica player – after he had already accompanied in many a song – began the melody of Schiller’s immortal song: “Cheer up, comrades, get on the horse, get on the horse.”
We sang the stanzas of this song and were then silent in order to pursue our thoughts.
A soft laugh suddenly sounded in the silence, which peevishly startled us.
A young comrade, who had previously stood leaning against a tree, straightened himself with a jolt and walked around a few steps. Then he laughed once more and shook his head: “The soldier alone is the free man? I can still remember a time when it went: to the wall, march, march! And that on command we laid down, crawled and carried out all kinds of curious orders. What does drill have to do with freedom?”
For a moment, we all laughed, for there is no soldier for whom drill had never been an aggravation. But then we got serious again.
Had Schiller not suffered under a totally spiritless compulsion, which to him – one of the most revolutionary German poets – seemed unworthy and unbearable, so that he viewed it as no longer compatible with his soldierly honor? Had Schiller not even fled from the suffocating dilemma, from the embrace of stubbornness?
And precisely this revolutionary Schiller wanted to see solely in the soldier the free man?
Was this not a screaming contradiction, an unbridgeable chasm between idea and reality?
The answer to our questions, we found with Schiller himself.
“Who can look death in the face,
the soldier alone is the free man.”
The soldier’s freedom hence begins only then to become reality, if he is able to elevate himself in the experience of combat to that greatness of the will, when the thorn of horror is taken from death through the courage of the heart.
The freedom of the soldier accordingly has its realm in the sublimity in the soul not to be darkened by any terror.
Where it is able to vault over the abyss of horror, where it decides for deed and duty over all petty reservations of cowardly life preservation, the soldier dissolves himself from the lowlands of the daily, advantage-bound, bourgeois thinking of supply and enters into the realm of freedom from fear, where alone the great and liberating deeds are born. So did Schiller feel, and so did we feel as well!
“Life’s fears, he throws them away!”
And with the fears, the soldier also throws away what the bourgeois human being, the secure person, has set aside in terms of reservations in heaven and on earth, and what he calls his private sphere!
The unreserved doer, the man of the final decision, elevates himself where the burgher collapses before the horror-filled reality of death. Over the ruins of that bourgeois world, however, the soldier strides as victor over the fears.