Helga Paasche in the biography “Militant Pacifist in Imperial Germany”
In autumn of 1989 I sat once again in the State Archive Center of the German Democratic Republic in Potsdam, poring over the extensive files I had discovered in 1987. These documents placed the true figure of my father before my eyes and in my heart for the very first time. Earlier I had received a letter whose letterhead initially amused me. It said Kapitän auf Grosser Fahrt (Captain on a Great Journey), and as I did not know that this was an actual merchant-fleet title, I thought it was an original joke. A secondary profession listed below was “Author,” and the content of the letter was quite serious. The coincidence of receiving the letter and discovering the files took my breath away. The captain wanted to write a biographical novel, and had contacted me because he had many questions to ask about Hans Paasche. He also mentioned that he and his family had visited our former estate in present-day Poland several times “to experience the landscape, and to wander along the same paths Hans Paasche had loved and walked.” Such a manner of speaking, or rather writing, attracts one’s attention, and so a personal meeting followed, one from which a true friendship has grown. Werner Lange did not write a biographical novel. Based on the compendious documents which were now available to him, he created instead an observant biography in which light and shadow are carefully delineated.
As I read the manuscript I could not help but ask myself: “Is this my father’s autobiography?” How else can one explain the way his essence, his strivings, his wishes and feelings, the heights and depths of this human being during his all too brief life are captured so convincingly and validly—captured in clear images, in the sounds and rhythms of Lange’s evocative language. With rare empathy and unusual sensitivity Werner Lange has accompanied my father through his thirty-nine years of life. He has observed and evaluated with keen vision and with an open heart.
Every consciously-lived life contains a message from the innermost Being of the personality involved. Hans Paasche’s message was comprehensive—it should reach not only his contemporaries but also following generations, and shake them awake; the young were especially close to his heart. Alas, his warning voice was suddenly silenced almost 75 years ago—forever, seemingly. But now it appears that silence was not destined to last, for softly his voice has begun to speak again.
First, Lukanga Mukara reappeared in the literary world, where I noticed it only by chance; then, on Hans Paasche’s 100th birthday in 1981, the young Bremen historian (and Paasche’s current publisher) Helmut Donat published texts and compositions he had collected, many of them available to him only through antiquarian bookstores. This collection, titled Auf der Flucht (On the Run), was soon out of print. It seems that the re-discovery of Hans Paasche is no longer a “chance” event. Helmut Donat searched and is still searching for those traditions of the “other” Germany to which my father undoubtedly belonged. Eventually the findings in more than one archive made it possible to publish in 1992 another volume of his writings under the title Ändert Eueren Sinn! (Transform Your Thinking!); a number of the essays in this volume had never before been published. My father had patterned his life in accord with that behest from Christian tradition: Metanoia, as it is called in Greek, was his goal: turn about, contemplate, stop and change course before it is too late.
Now, in 1994, this biography brings into focus a message from a passionately-lived and indomitable life. Everything which was important to my father is illumined: peace and social justice, mutual understanding between nations, human brotherhood—ethical and moral values which apply to all fellow creatures and which are a valid obligation of that Nature which engenders and maintains us. These were warning cries regarding the plenitude of social problems that remain acute to this day—a mosaic depicting an ideal state of consciousness and an appeal for us to inject love into all areas of life. It is wished that this book finds among its readership those who are of open mind and who are ready to act; Hans Paasche turned to such persons, with a steadfast belief in the human capacity for change: Metanoia.
Recently I was asked whether it had been splendid or distressing to suddenly stand before twelve volumes of documents about my father, documents which to a great extent made this biography possible. “Both,” I answered, “splendid because the contents of these plain gray folders finally told me about my parents, about their lives, thoughts, desires and activities; and depressing because I felt pain in a new and unfamiliar way to have grown up without knowing those parents.” Now the following pages have placed before my eyes—and before the eyes of all who read them—their brief but intense existence, the space and historical times in which it befell, and the topical relevancy of their thoughts and deeds to us in the here and now. May Werner Lange be thanked for all that!
Diessen, August 1994