Cold Hub Press ~ Karl Wolfskehl
An die Deutschen / To the Germans
Edited and translated by Friedrich Voit
and Andrew Paul Wood
Illustrations by Barry Cleavin
Softcover chapbook 44pp
Although Karl Wolfskehl was a significant German poet of the first half of the twentieth century, his work is not much known to English readers. Those who have read Frank Sargeson’s second volume of autobigraphy, More than Enough, will recall Sargeson’s vivid picture of this larger than life character, but it was not until 2012 when Holloway Press published a limited edition of poems Wolfskehl wrote while exiled from Nazi Germany in Auckland (Under New Stars: Poems of the New Zealand Exile, edited by Friedrich Voit, translated by Andrew Paul Wood, Margot Ruben, and Dean and Renate Koch), that an enormous gap in the availability of published translations of Wolfskehl’s work was filled.
Now Cold Hub Press has published the first English translation of An die Deutschen/ To the Germans in an inexpensive bilingual chapbook translated and edited with an introductory essay and extensive notes by Wolfskehl scholar Friedrich Voit and Christchurch translator Andrew Paul Wood. The book also includes six illustrations by renowned New Zealand printmaker Barry Cleavin.
This is perhaps Wolfskehl’s most important and most personal poem. Speaking as a German and as a Jew, Wolfskehl “addresses his fellow countrymen who were, as he accused them, in the process of betraying their cultural and humanistic heritage by adopting a crude racist ideology . . . . An die Deutschen / To the Germans remains a profound and moving poetic monument: it celebrates and commemorates in a personal and yet uniquely representative form the universal endurance and inspiring strength of the Human Spirit – in the face of ongoing threats through cultural barbarism and racism.”
The first version of the poem was written in 1933/4, shortly after Wolfskehl was forced into exile from Germany. It was completed in 1944, in New Zealand, where he found asylum in 1938. He died as a New Zealand citizen
Kein stern und kein jahr
Vernichtet den geist
Allmächtig so wahr
Er noch wundert und preist.
EUER WANDEL WAR DER MEINE
Eins mit euch auf Hieb und Stich.
Unverbrüchlich was uns eine,
Eins das Grosse, eins das Kleine:
Ich war Deutsch und ich war Ich.
Deutscher Gau hat mich geboren,
Deutsches Brot speiste mich gar,
Deutschen Rheines Reben goren
Mir im Blut ein Tausendjahr.
Stürzebach und Stürme rauschten,
Um mich unsrer Wälder Grund,
Frauen schauten, Knaben lauschten
Auf mein Schreiten, meinen Mund.
Zu mir traten eure Besten,
Zu mir, den die Flamme heisst–
Ob im Osten, ob im Westen:
Wo ich bin ist Deutscher Geist.
No star, no year
Can destroy the Spirit
Almighty, so long as
He still wonders and praises.
YOUR WAY OF LIFE WAS ALSO MINE.
One with you in cut and thrust.
Unbreakable what makes us one,
One in great and one in small:
I was German, I was I.
German shires brought me forth,
German bread did nourish me,
Grapes of the German Rhine fermented
In my blood a thousand years.
Tumbling streams and storms resounded,
Forest loam surrounded me,
Women watched and boys did listen
Where I walked and where I spoke.
To me came the best of you.
To me whom the Flame commands–
In the East, or in the West:
Where I am is German Spirit.
translation © Andrew Paul Wood
and Friedrich Voit 2013