Friday, January 09, 2015

Courage to Resist: Hans Litten

Hans Litten was a lawyer in Germany in the 1930s. He was brave enough to challenge and attempt to stop Hitler's rise to power. Eventually he was arrested and sent to various prison camps. Hitler hated him because of the court case Litten had brought against Hitler. Therefore Litten was terribly abused and tortured. He eventually died at Dachau. A couple of years before his death, all the prisoners were supposed to prepare a gift to honor Hitler on his birthday. Litten recited this poem. I believe he wrote it himself, though I'm not positive. I saw this being recited in German (on a BBC special) by various of his survivors and supporters (his niece, a family friend, an author, etc.) Very moving.


Thoughts Are Free, by Hans Litten

Thoughts are free, who can guess them?
They flee by like nocturnal shadows.
No man can know them, no hunter can shoot them
with powder and lead: Thoughts are free!

I think what I want, and what delights me,
still always reticent, and as it is suitable.
My wish and desire, no one can deny me
and so it will always be: Thoughts are free!

And if I am thrown into the darkest dungeon,
all this would be futile work,
because my thoughts tear all gates
and walls apart: Thoughts are free!

So I will renounce my sorrows forever,
and never again will torture myself with some fancy ideas.
In one's heart, one can always laugh and joke
and think at the same time: Thoughts are free!

I love wine, and my girl even more,
Only I like her best of all.
I'm not alone with my glass of wine,
my girl is with me: Thoughts are free!

At the end of his life, when Litten was at Dachau with nothing.. no books, no visitors, no hope, no anything, imprisoned in solitary confinement, he recited by heart poetry and other literature which brought hope to other prisoners. Indeed, thoughts are free. Hitler can burn books and imprison intellectuals, but thoughts are free.

Never stop reading.

4 comments:

Quiltdivajulie said...

Excellent post!

Betty said...

Hi Carol,
I had just finished reading "1984" when I read your post. It fit together so well that i put a link to your post when I wrote about it. Hope that's okay.
Betty

Carol E. said...

Thanks for the comments, Julie and Betty. Yes, Betty, linking to here is fine. I happened to see this BBC special the day after the first murderous incident in France. It seemed to fit so well.. and then the horror in France continued the next day. It's unspeakably heart breaking. This poem helped me a little. Hope it helps my readers as well.

Jan Mac said...

A lovely inspirational poem, Carol. We went to Dachau last year and it left a profound effect. Recent events show mankind still has a long way to go.