And suddenly, like light in darkness, the real truth broke in upon me; the simple fact of Man, which I had forgotten, which had lain deep buried and out of sight; the idea of community, of unity.
We revolutionaries acknowledge the right to revolution when we see that the situation is no longer tolerable, that it has become a frozen. Then we have the right to overthrow it.
After that I could never pass a dead man without stopping to gaze on his face, stripped by death of that earthly patina which masks the living soul. And I would ask, who were you? Where was your home? Who is mourning for you now?
Soldiers and peasants lived together on friendly terms; they knew each other and their everyday routines, and trusted each other; they shook their heads together over the war.
As a boy I used to go to the Chamber of Horrors at the annual fair, to look at the wax figures of Emperors and Kings, of heroes and murderers of the day. The dead now had that same unreality, which shocks without arousing pity.
Each had defended his own country; the Germans Germany, the Frenchmen France; they had done their duty.
We thrust our fingers into our ears to stop its moan; but it was no good; the cry cut like a drill into our heads, dragging minutes into hours, hours into years. We withered and grew old between those cries.
Gradually I became aware of details: a company of French soldiers was marching through the streets of the town. They broke formation, and went in single file along the communication trench leading to the front line. Another group followed them.
At that moment of realization I knew that I had been blind because I had wished not to see; it was only then that I realised, at last, that all these dead men, French and Germans, were brothers, and I was the brother of them all.
Most people have no imagination. If they could imagine the sufferings of others, they would not make them suffer so. What separated a German mother from a French mother?
Later we learned that it was one of our own men hanging on the wire. Nobody could do anything for him; two men had already tried to save him, only to be shot themselves.