Ukraine War, February 27, 2022: The spiritual dimension–Albert Camus, “Letters to a German friend” 1943-44; Dispatches and analyses

And you, who were already conquered in your greatest victories, what will you be in the approaching defeat?
–Albert Camus, “Letters to a German Friend,
First Letter, July 1943

The spiritual dimension–Albert Camus, “Letters to a German friend” (1943-44)

Albert Camus, the famous Nobel-prize winning novelist and philosopher, was the editor of Combat, the newspaper of the French Resistance under German occupation in World War II. In 1943-44, he wrote four letters to a friend in Germany from before the war.

These letters represent a succinct but eloquent statement of what was involved in the war for Europe and the war for civilization that he and his countrymen, and many others, were engaged in  at that time.

Today, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the letters could be relabeled, “Letters to a Russian friend”.

Ukrainians, some 80 years later, have taken up the mantle in that same struggle to defend Europe and civilization. Camus’s words are of particular pertinence today, as a valiant people struggles courageously against an invading army which represents the same barbarism which Camus fought. Excerpts from the letters follow:

And you, who were already conquered in your greatest victories, what will you be in the approaching defeat?
–First Letter, December, 1943

For you Europe is an expanse encircled by seas and mountains, dotted with dams, gutted with mines, covered with harvests, where Germany is playing a game in which her own fate alone is at stake.

But for us, Europe is a home of the spirit where for the last twenty centuries the most amazing adventure of the human spirit has been going on.
–Third Letter, July 1943

And finally, I know that all will not be over when you are crushed. Europe will still have to be established. It always has to be established. But at least it will be Europe–in other words, what I have just written you. Nothing will be lost.

Just imagine what we are now, sure of our reasons, in love with our country, balanced between sacrifice and longing for happiness, between the sword and the spirit. I tell you once more because I must tell you, I tell you because it is the truth and because it will show you the progress my country and I have made since the time of our friendship; henceforth we have a superiority that will destroy you.
–Third Letter, April 1944

But at the same time we have saved the idea of man at the end of this disaster of the intelligence, and that idea gives us the undying courage to believe in a rebirth.
–Fourth Letter, July 1944

In this night of Europe filled with the breath of summer, millions of men, armed and unarmed, are getting ready for the fight. The dawn about to break will mark your final defeat.
–Fourth Letter, July 1944

The excerpts from “Letters to a German Friend” are taken from Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1960, 1988).

Dispatches and analyses


1) Yaroslav Trofimov, “Ukrainian Forces Hold Kyiv as Talks With Russia Are Planned; Russian troops face fierce resistance in Ukraine, while Western responses against Moscow mount and Putin puts nuclear forces on alert,” Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2022 (Updated at 4:51 p.m. ET):

2) Steven Erlanger, “How Volodymyr Zelensky rallied Ukrainians, and the world, against Putin,” New York Times, February 27, 2022 (1:03 p.m. ET).

Erlanger reports that a 10-minute emotional appeal had a decisive impact on the EU leaders’ decision to impose very heavy sanctions Russia, including the expulsion of the biggest banks, and the Central Bank, from the SWIFT international payments system.

But Mr. Zelensky has also inspired European leaders to do more for Ukraine. Appearing onscreen during the emergency summit meeting of European Union leaders three days ago, on Feb. 24, he gave a passionate 10-minute speech that moved some reluctant leaders to endorse a harsher package of economic sanctions on Russia, a senior European official said.

His intervention will be part of history, said the official, who was in the room. It was very emotional, leaders were deeply affected.

The silence in the room was impressive and the impact was clear, the official added, and it was his impression that it made a major difference in persuading more reluctant countries, like Germany, Italy and Hungary, to agree to tougher financial and banking sanctions and the delivery of defensive weapons to Ukraine.

The Trenchant Observer