by FERDINAND BRUCKNER, translated by J. M. Bernstein
WE SEEM NOW to have emerged from a state which later generations will define as one of the most characteristic phenomena of our times. At the moment we lack a word for it. Perhaps it may be best described as a state of self-bondage arising from fear.
In the past--and it is not yet altogether a thing of the past--the idea was prevalent that you could protect yourself best by keeping your hands tied. We in Germany did just that. As Hitler rose to power we protected ourselves with hands tied and eyes bound. When that did not help and we had to leave Germany, we saw the rest of Europe do the same thing; and we were shocked by such folly and blindness. We had already forgotten, or did not yet entirely realize, that we had set the example and were therefore in no position to blame others for imitating us. No wonder that after 1933 the French and the English were loath to recognize the menace of Hitlerism. Had not many among us, before 1933, laughed in the face of those who tried to awaken us to the same menace? Those who cried, 'Wolf, wolf!' seemed to be merely bad jokers, unworthy of the twentieth century; while those who refused to be frightened were the reasonable people, the brainy, enlightened people, who knew their twentieth century.
But we must add that we were not the only ones. Self-bondage did not begin as a result of Hitler. He was simply the one who exploited it most recklessly. It was still limited to Germany, or at most to Europe. Yet this flight into weakness was the symptom of a mass self-hypnosis which gripped most of the earth, at least five- sixths of it. A great and free country like the United States looked on while its Congress passed the Neutrality Act, crippling its freedom of action without even hinting at reciprocal obligations from the other side, in order to insure itself against any temptation to participate in somebody else's war.
In those days it was generally believed, and especially in the democracies, that war was only a temptation; a temptation, let us say, to conquer or get rich. Somehow you had only to renounce