It isn't easy to banish all thoughts of the war. Although I don’t know much about politics and have no ambition to do so, I do have some idea of right and wrong, because that has nothing to do with politics and nationality. And I could weep at how mean people are, in high-level politics as well, and how they betray their fellow creatures, perhaps for the sake of personal advantage. It is enough to make a person lose heart sometimes. I often wish I lived on a Robinson Crusoe island.
There are times when I dread the war and feel like giving up hope completely. I hate thinking about it, but politics are almost all there is, and as long as they're so confused and nasty, it's cowardly to turn your back on them. You're probably smiling at this and telling yourself “She's a girl.” – Letter to Fritz Hartnagel, April 1940
The only remedy for a barren heart is prayer, however poor and inadequate. As I did that night at Blumberg, I'll keep on repeating it for us both: We must pray, and pray for each other, and if you were here, I'd fold hands with you, because we're poor, weak, sinful children. Oh, Fritz, if I can't write anything else just now, it's only because there's a terrible absurdity about a drowning man who, instead of calling for help, launches into a scientific, philosophical, or theological dissertation while the sinister tentacles of the creatures on the seabed are encircling his arms and legs, and the waves are breaking over him. It's only because I'm filled with fear, that and nothing else, and feel an undivided yearning for him who can relieve me of it. – Letter to Fritz
When I was able to get home it first hit me that you had left and I couldn't do anything about it. Every day before that an evening with you was waiting for me after school, now no more, strange feeling. I had grown too accustomed to your warmth. That is also a danger. At home I looked at the notebooks that you had bought and I got the stupidest surge of hope that I'd find something of you, something especially for meant for me. I would so much like to have something of you that I could always keep by me, that nobody else would notice.
I can't be overwhelmingly happy. I'm never free for a moment day and night from the uncertainty in which we live these days, which excludes any carefree plans for tomorrow and casts a shadow over all the days to come.
I think the war is starting to have powerful repercussions in every respect. Sometimes, especially of late, I've felt it grossly unfair to have to live in an age so filled with momentous events. But that's nonsense we're really being presented with scope for direct outside action. – Letter to Lisa Remppis, 1941
Isn't it bewildering … that everything is so beautiful, despite all the horrors that exist? Lately I've noticed something grand and mysterious peering into my sheer joy in all that is lovely — the sense of a Creator whom innocent creation worships with its beauty. Only man can be hateful or ugly, because he possesses a free will to cut himself off from the chorus of praise. It often seems that he will succeed in drowning out this chorus with his cannon thunder, curses, and blasphemy. But it has become clear to me this spring that he cannot. And so I must try to throw myself on the side of the victor.
I pity people who can't find laughter or at least some bit of amusement in the little doings of the day. I believe I could find something ridiculous even in the saddest moment, if necessary. It has nothing to do with being superficial. It's a matter of joy in life.
Just because so many things are in conflict does not mean that we ourselves should be divided. Yet time and time again one hears it said that since we have been put into a conflicting world, we have to adapt to it. Oddly, this completely unchristian idea is most often espoused by so-called Christians, of all people. How can we expect a righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone who will give himself up undividedly to a righteous cause?
Stand up for what you believe in even if you are standing alone.
I've been thinking of a story from the Old Testament: Moses stood all day and all night with outstretched arms, praying to God for victory. And whenever he let down his arms, the enemy prevailed over the children of Israel. Are there still people today who never weary of directing all their thinking and all their energy, single-heartedly, to one cause?
The real damage is done by those millions who want to "survive." The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don't want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won't take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don't like to make waves — or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honor, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It's the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you'll keep it under control. If you don't make any noise, the bogeyman won't find you. But it's all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.
Many people think of our times as being the last before the end of the world. The evidence of horror all around us makes this seem possible. But isn't that an idea of only minor importance? Doesn't every human being, no matter which era he lives in, always have to reckon with being accountable to God at any moment? Can I know whether I'll be alive tomorrow morning? A bomb could destroy all of us tonight. And then my guilt would not be one bit less than if I perished together with the earth and the stars.
I know that life is a doorway to eternity, and yet my heart so often gets lost in petty anxieties. It forgets the great way home that lies before it. Unprepared, given over to childish trivialities, it could be taken by surprise when the great hour comes and find that, for the sake of piffling pleasures, the one great joy has been missed. I am aware of this, but my heart is not. It seems unteachable; it continues its dreaming … always wavering between joy and depression.
It was a sunny day, I was carrying a child in a white dress to be christened. The path to the church led up a steep slope, but I held the child in my arms firmly and without faltering. Then suddenly my footing gave way ... I had enough time to put the child down before plunging into the abyss. The child is our idea. In spite of all obstacles it will prevail.
I am, now as before, of the opinion that I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences that result from my conduct. – Statement made during interrogation
Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did. – Statement made in court, February 21, 1943
It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives. What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted. Among the student body there will certainly be a revolt. – Last words to cellmate Else Gebel