Adding up Individual Memories:
A Text by Günther Anders

First published in Stimmen der Zeit, vol. 3 (Cologne, 1964), reprinted in G. Anders, Hiroshima ist Überall (Munich: Beck, 1982), 393f.
Excerpt translated by Harold Marcuse for use in the Memory to Action guidebook, 2001.

Günther Anders [GUN-ter AHN-ders] was a journalist/philosopher/writer who left Germany soon after Hitler came to power. After the war he was part of an official delegation that visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He wrote about how the mass killings of the twentieth century should affect our moral awareness and behavior.
During the Cuban missile crisis in 1963 the world stood on the brink of nuclear war. Many people realized that the world as we know it might end in a nuclear holocaust. It could have been the beginning of World War Three, "the end of time," as Anders says.
Anders held a "Speech about the Three World Wars" at a peace rally in Germany.
This excerpt is taken from that speech.

The Dead: Speech About The Three World Wars

"Dear comrades living at the end of time!

"We have come together to commemorate the dead of the three world wars. Of course we know that we do not have enough strength to imagine these millions, nor to hear the deafening wail that would result from the sum of their millions upon millions of death screams. So what can we do in order to commemorate them?

"I think there is only one way, namely that each one of us tries to commemorate one dead person, one single one. But if possible, that one should not be one of our personal dead.

"One person should remember an irradiated child in Hiroshima.
Another should remember a charred woman in Dresden.
A third should remember a gassed Jew in Auschwitz.
A fourth should remember an American who drowned at sea.
A fifth should remember someone beaten to death in a Gestapo cell.
A sixth should remember a martyred Algerian.
A seventh should remember a Russian frozen to ice at Stalingrad.
An eighth should remember a child who will be irradiated tomorrow.
A ninth should remember a sailor who will drown tomorrow.
A tenth should remember a child who will not be born tomorrow.

"Everyone should try to remember one death, one past or one future. Perhaps the sum of those remembrances and of our sadness would approach the total sadness we are trying to remember. And perhaps we might gain the strength from all of those remembrances to ensure that the dead of the future, whose deaths we are mourning in advance, might survive, that the horrible might not happen."

back to Günther Anders page of Prof. Harold Marcuse