Short Speech by a Rootless Cosmopolitan

Short Speech by a Rootless Cosmopolitan

Shortly before Christmas, on my way to Lauubeck from Gauottingen, I was changing trains in Hamburg when a young man approached me, practically cornered me, and called me a traitor to the fatherland. He left me standing there with the phrase echoing in my ears. Then, after I had more or less calmly bought myself a newspaper, he approached me again, now with no mild threat but the statement that it was time to do away with my kind.

My initial anger I managed to shake off while still on the platform, but my thoughts kept returning to the incident as I continued on to Lauubeck. “Traitor to the fatherland.” The expression, paired with the term “rootless cosmopolitan,”* belongs to the special vocabulary of German history. Perhaps the young man was right when he spoke that way in cold
rage. Isn’t it true that I don’t give a damn for a fatherland for whose sake my kind should be done away with?

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Lima