Last week, Elon Musk publicly pondered how to end the war in Ukraine. The real essence of such calls for “negotiation,” whether from giants like Musk or bogus giants like Richard David Precht, is that ending a war always requires a painful renunciation. Even after a war that was totally lost in 1945, it took Germany decades to come to terms with the loss of territory.
No piece of world literature describes what this really means in such dramatic brevity as the last chapter of Ricarda Huch's historical panorama "The Thirty Years' War". It takes place at Easter 1650. The devastation of Germany had actually ended two years earlier with the Peace of Westphalia. But the country and the people are far from being liberated.
The priest, his daughter and the grandchild live with a farmer because the vicarage in the village has been destroyed, as has the church. A nearby town had even been completely wiped out and the once richest farmer in that village haunts the world as a poor cobbler, driven insane by the loss of his family.
The Easter service is held outdoors, and communion is celebrated with dry old bread. In this misery, the pastor preaches in such a way that, as you read, you understand again why religion can be the answer to existential questions: “Do not be misled into believing that we cannot do good because sin is inherited and ingrained in us : that's what the lazy, the voluptuous, the indifferent say.” Ricarda Huch had her own experiences with the lazy and indifferent in 1933: when the Nazis brought the Prussian Academy into line, she resigned.
In the middle of the service, a group of imperial soldiers burst in, demanding money out of old habit. Your lieutenant stabs the vicar's daughter. At first her father wants to avenge her himself, throwing his dagger at the soldier. Then an officer comes along and wants to hang the young man to make it clear to everyone that this sort of activity is no longer tolerated.
But now the pastor suddenly asks for mercy, "he sacrificed his revenge to God and no longer wants his death". The amazed officer insists on an example, but finally allows himself to be persuaded. At the end, the Catholic soldiers take communion with the Protestant peasants as a gesture of reconciliation. The officer resents the dry bread more than this heretical deviation.
Whoever reads these few pages of prose, written in splendid prose that is both dramatic and laconic, understands that war can be ended politically, but in order to truly bring about peace one must become the “new man” that the pastor invokes in his sermon . And one stands full of admiration in front of the ancestors who managed to do this after all the cruel wars that Germany also went through.