Hermann Duncker 1947

[Against Antisemitism]

Speech at the First German Writers' Congress

Source: Erster Deutscher Schriftstellerkongreß 4.-8. Oktober 1947. Protokoll und Dokumente, Berlin 1997, pp. 219-221 (pp. 222, 294 text of the "statement"). Heinz Deutschland ed. Käte und Herrmann Duncker: Ein Tagebuch in Briefen (1894-1953), Berlin 2016, USB-file p. 5476-5479.
Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive 2021
Translated and Transcribed: Geoff
HTML Markup: Zdravko Saveski

Allow me to point out in just a few words something which, in my opinion, is an unconditional obligation of the First German Writers' Congress. I have come with this impression, with this thought, with this necessity of what we have to do. Essentially under the impressions I received in America, where I stayed until a few months ago, and then came back from the land of unlimited possibilities to the land of almost impossible limitations. [Agreement and laughter]

But on both sides it is changing: the possibilities over there are shrinking very much, and reaction in very grotesque and strong forms is growing there; and here with us I have the feeling that the limitations are also receding and that possibilities are growing, if the writers stand together, if the working population as a whole stands together, and if the unity of Germany can be maintained and asserted. [Loud applause.]

I certainly received the strongest impressions during the years over there in America. And among the news and what one heard about the things that were going on here in Germany, [...][1] the most terrible, however, were the bestialities of antisemitism. And I have to tell you, even more terrible were the impressions one received when American friends showed you newspaper reports, and said: "There you see: Here in Bavaria, antisemitism is already now growing again, and elsewhere it is also smoldering under the surface."

I replied to them, "I can't answer to that, but it seems impossible to me, it can't be." And when I came back to Germany, my first thing was to find out: is it true? Is it conceivable that amongst the German people, after such bestialities, there are really still people who dare to make antisemitic speeches, to make foolish jokes about Jews, and similar things like that? [Agreement] I can assure you: What I heard about growing antisemitism is by far stronger in the western zone. But some friends here in Berlin have also told me: "You're quite right, but even here antisemitism has by no means been completely stamped out and eradicated."

And here I say: The First German Writers' Congress, which now stands before the whole world, not only before the German people, must shout out into the world that German writers feel antisemitism to be the most terrible disgrace of Nazism [Strong applause, Bravo shouts] and that the German writers declare their determination to watch with all determination that not even the slightest antisemitic boorishness and meanness is smuggled back into German writing, theater, cabaret, and so on. And that the German writers furthermore feel the obligation, the great obligation, that they as critical educators of the German people have to contribute to work with all possible means towards the radical elimination of this plague of antisemitism and that the antisemitic germ carriers are neutralized and condemned publicly.

This is your task, and in this struggle, we are - and I believe we are all - standing together, no matter how different our views may be on specific political objectives. We can only come together in common work. A piece of work will be accomplished if we really stand together before the world in such a unified and determined way in the struggle against this most savage form of reaction. [Applause.]

It was very interesting to me that I could always make this observation in America: If you met a politician, a statesman, or a man of the street and so on, who was anti-union, who was anti-worker, you could count on it with certainty, in the next sentence the gentleman will turn out to be also anti-Negro, and in the next sentence he will turn out to be an antisemite, and in the next sentence he will turn out to be an anti-Russian. [Audience: "So true"].

This fourfold form of reaction always confronted me over there. If we now want to work together to really fight against reaction, then we will fulfil our duty as German writers after this chaos, after this barbarity that Nazism has brought upon us. [Strong applause.]

Text of the "Statement of German Writers against Anti-Semitism" proposed by Hermann Duncker.

The German writers gathered at their first congress consider it their duty to declare before all the world that antisemitism was the most terrible blight of Nazism in Germany. We German writers will see to it that no anti-Semitic boorishness, no matter how hidden, ever makes its way into German literature again. We will use all means at our disposal to rid our German people of the plague of antisemitism and to denounce antisemitic germ carriers and render them harmless.


[1] Missing audio on the recording.