experiences—by a man who was a German soldier during WWI. In the beginning of this excerpt (a
section taken from a book), the author describes some of the effects of gas warfare. He had
personally been affected by mustard gas and had problems with his eyesight because of it. The
author also discusses the end of the war and his feelings about it. He cannot believe that Germany
would want to surrender. If Germany surrendered, all of the soldiers who fought for the country would have died in vain. It is obvious this author did not want Germany to surrender, but to keep
fighting. The author of this reading selection is Adolf Hitler.
For a long time there had been something indefinite but repulsive in the air. People were
telling each other that in the next few weeks it would 'start in' - but I was unable to imagine what
was meant by this. First I thought of a strike like that of the spring. Unfavorable rumors were
constantly coming from the navy, which was said to be in a state of ferment [confusion]. But
this, too, seemed to me more the product of the imagination of individual scoundrels than an
affair involving real masses. Even in the hospital, people were discussing the end of the War
which they hoped would come soon, but no one counted on anything immediate. I was unable to
read the papers.
In November the general tension increased.
And then one day, suddenly and unexpectedly, the calamity descended. Sailors arrived in
trucks and proclaimed the revolution; a few Jewish youths were the 'leaders' in this struggle for
the 'freedom, beauty, and dignity' of our national existence. None of them had been at the front.
By way of a so-called 'gonorrhea hospital,' the three Orientals had been sent back home from
their second-line base. Now they raised the red rag in the homeland.
In the last few days I had been getting along better. The piercing pain in my eye sockets was diminishing; slowly I succeeded in distinguishing the broad outlines of the things about me.
I was given grounds for hoping that I should recover my eyesight at least well enough to be able
to pursue some profession later. To be sure, I could no longer hope that I would ever be able to
draw again. In any case, I was on the road to improvement when the monstrous thing happened.
My first hope was still that this high treason might still be a more or less local affair. I
also tried to bolster up a few comrades in this view. Particularly my Bavarian friends in the
hospital were more than accessible to this. The mood there was anything but 'revolutionary.' I
could not imagine that the madness would break out in Munich, too. Loyalty to the venerable
House of Wittelsbach seemed to me stronger, after all, than the will of a few Jews. Thus I could
not help but believe that this was merely a Putsch [a plan or attempt to overthrow a government
that is quick and not expected] on the part of the navy and would be crushed in the next few
The next few days came and with them the most terrible certainty of my life. The rumors
became more and more oppressive [unfair]. What I had taken for a local affair was now said to
be a general revolution. To this was added the disgraceful news from the front. They wanted to
capitulate [surrender]. Was such a thing really possible?
On November 10, the pastor came to the hospital for a short address: now we learned
In extreme agitation, I, too, was present at the short speech. The dignified old gentleman
seemed all a-tremble as he informed us that the House of Hollenzollern should no longer bear the
German imperial crown; that the fatherland [Germany] had become a 'republic'; that we must
pray to the Almighty not to refuse His blessing to this change and not to abandon our people in
the times to come. He could not help himself, he had to speak a few words in memory of the
royal house. He began to praise its services in Pomerania, in Prussia, nay, to the German
fatherland, and-here he began to sob gently to himself-in the little hall the deepest dejection
[depression] settled on all hearts, and I believe that not an eye was able to restrain its tears. But
when the old gentleman tried to go on, and began to tell us that we must now end the long War,
yes, that now that it was lost and we were throwing ourselves upon the mercy of the victors, our
fatherland would for the future be exposed to dire oppression, that the armistice should be
accepted with confidence in the magnanimity of our previous enemies-I could stand it no longer.
It became impossible for me to sit still one minute more. Again everything went black before my
eyes; I tottered and groped my way back to the dormitory, threw myself on my bunk, and dug my burning head into my blanket and pillow.
Since the day when I had stood at my mother's grave, I had not wept. When in my youth
Fate seized me with merciless hardness, my defiance mounted. When in the long war years
Death snatched so many a dear comrade and friend from our ranks, it would have seemed to me
almost a sin to complain-after all, were they not dying for Germany? And when at length the
creeping gas-in the last days of the dreadful struggle-attacked me, too, and began to gnaw at my
eyes, and beneath the fear of going blind forever, I nearly lost heart for a moment, the voice of
my conscience thundered at me: Miserable wretch, are you going to cry when thousands are a
hundred times worse off than you! And so I bore my lot in dull silence. But now I could not help
it. Only now did I see how all personal suffering vanishes in comparison with the misfortune of
And so it had all been in vain. In vain all the sacrifices and privations [lack of comforts in
life]; in vain the hunger and thirst of months which were often endless; in vain the hours in
which, with mortal fear clutching at our hearts, we nevertheless did our duty; and in vain the
death of two millions who died. Would not the graves of all the hundreds of thousands open, the
graves of those who with faith in the fatherland had marched forth never to return? Would they
not open and send the silent mud-and blood-covered heroes back as spirits of vengeance to the
homeland which had cheated them with such mockery of the highest sacrifice which a man can
make to his people in this world? Had they died for is, the soldiers of August and September,
1914? Was it for this that in the autumn of the same year the volunteer regiments marched after
their old comrades? Was it for this that these boys of seventeen sank into the earth of Flanders?
Was this the meaning of the sacrifice which the German mother made to the fatherland when
with sore heart she let her best-loved boys march off, never to see them again? Did all this
happen only so that a gang of wretched criminals could lay hands on the fatherland?