Book beginnings on Friday

Wolfgang Borchert


Today’s book beginnings is not really the beginning of a book but of a manifesto against war by Wolfgang Borchert, a German writer who died in 1947 at the age of 26. He wrote this in 1947, but if you think it is outdated in any way you couldn’t be any more wrong. There are various translations available on the net, I linked to them at the bottom of this post.

The manifesto is called “Then there’s only one choice”.

You. Man at the machine in the factory. When they tell you tomorrow to stop making pots and pans and instead make helmets and machine guns, then there’s only one choice:
Say NO!

You. Woman in the store, woman in the office. When they tell you tomorrow to fill grenades and mount telescopic sights on sniper rifles, then there’s only one choice:
Say NO!

You can read the full text and also the original German here. Other translations you can find here and here, but I personally prefer the first one.

6 Comments Write a comment

  1. Hi Rikki,

    What some powerful and emotional lines.

    I assume that you consciously chose this piece, because of all the troubles we are facing in various locations around the world, right now.

    Whilst I do share their sentiment, I think that it may be a very idealistic view, which could have disastrous consequences, if actioned.

    This ideology could only possibly have a positive outcome, if all peoples and races around the world, took a similar stance.

    One person’s voice, or even one country’s voice, would be drowned out by the masses.
    yvonne’s last post ..First Lines … ‘The Paradise Waltz’ by Jessica Stirling


    • Of course one person’s voice alone won’t make much of a difference, but every movement has started small. Wolfgang Borchert clearly addresses everybody, no matter what people or nationality. I don’t know whether you have read the whole text, but he also very clearly states the disastrous consequence if we do NOT say no.
      Everybody can only be held responsible for their own actions and all he says is that one should act according to one’s conscience and not according to commands given by someone else.
      Obviously the consequence someone might suffer can be very bad if standing up against the powers that be, but this is a very popular excuse why people just follow orders instead of doing what is right. In our recent German history we have had a lot of this.


Leave a Comment

Required fields are marked *.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

CommentLuv badge