Kurt Tucholsky

Kurt Tucholsky was a German journalist, satirist and song text writer. Born January 9, 1890 in Berlin-Moabit, he was forced to emigrate from Nazi Germany in 1933 because of his Jewish ancestry and his political and moral convictions. He committed suicide in Hindås near Göteborg on December 21, 1935 while in Swedish exile.

Tucholsky, like other writers and artists of the Weimar era, had the same combination of mordant objectivity and political insight that made them mock the illusions of those who thought that everything would somehow work out for the best. His poem about the production of Danton's Death, a nineteenth century warhorse restaged in Berlin in the early twenties, only a few years after the German Revolution of 1918-19 was brought to grief, expresses this well:

DANTONS TOD

  Bei Reinhardt wogte der dritte Akt.

  Es rasten sechshundert Statisten.

  Sieh an - wie das die Berliner packt!

  Es jubeln die Journalisten.

  Mir aber erschien das Ganze wie

  eine kleine Allegorie.

Es tost ein Volk: "Die Revolution! Wir wollen die Freiheit gewinnen! Wir wollten es seit Jahrhunderten schon - laßt Herzblut strömen und rinnen!" Es dröhnt die Szene. Es dröhnt das Haus. Um Neune ist alles aus.

Und ernüchtert seh ich den grauen Tag. Wo ist der November geblieben? Wo ist das Volk, das einst unten lag, von Sehnsucht nach oben getrieben? Stille. Vorbei. Es war nicht viel. Ein Spiel. Ein Spiel.

DANTON'S DEATH

  Act Three was great in Reinhardt's play —

  Six hundred extras milling.

  Listen to what the critics say!

  All Berlin finds it thrilling.

     But in the whole affair I see

     A parable, if you ask me.

"Revolution!' the People howls and cries 'Freedom, that's what we're needing! We've needed it for centuries — Our arteries are bleeding.' The stage is shaking. The audience rock. The whole thing is over by nine o'clock.

The day looks grey as I come to. Where are the People — remember? — That stormed the peaks from down below? What happened to November? Silence. All gone. Just that, in fact. An act. An act.

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