In January 1920, Erzberger brought libel action against Helfferich, last Imperial Secretary of the Interior, now a German-Nationalist member of the Reichstag. Helfferich had in a series of articles in the conservative paper Kreuzzeitung under the heading “Erzberger Get Out”—they were also published in booklet form—directed serious personal accusations against Erzberger. They ended in the following provoking words:
“This is Herr Erzberger, who is charged on all sides with intentional deceits, not twice or three times, but ten and twenty times; who has to submit to the reproach that he dishonestly mixed political activities with personal financial interests; who does not answer all these accusations by bringing legal action, but shirks, and like a menaced cuttle-fish darkens the water, in order to escape. [ . . . ]
“This is Herr Erzberger, whose name appears rightly at the bottom of the miserable armistice agreement!
“This is Herr Erzberger, who helped the Entente during the armistice to gag us financially, who steered our merchant fleet into the harbors of the Entente!
“This is Herr Erzberger, who led us to Versailles, who made it clear to the enemy during the peace negotiations that he was prepared to sign this disgraceful, servile peace treaty (Schand- und Knechtschaftsfrieden) unconditionally, who, therefore, has the surrender of the Kaiser and other German men on his conscience, but who knew how to shirk signing the treaty in recognition of his work!
“This is Herr Erzberger, whose name will nevertheless always be connected irrevocably with Germany’s misery and Germany’s disgrace!
“This is Herr Erzberger who, if not finally stopped, will lead the German nation [ . . . ] to total destruction.
“There is, therefore, only one salvation for the German people. The country must be filled everywhere with the irresistible cry: ‘Away with Erzberger!’ (Fort mit Erzberger!)”
Source of English translation: Arnold Brecht, The Political Education of Arnold Brecht, An Autobiography 1884-1970. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1970, p. 177.
Source of original German text: Arnold Brecht, Aus nächster Nähe, Lebenserinnerungen 1884-1927. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1966, pp. 298-99. [Original Source: Karl Helfferich, Fort mit Erzberger. Berlin: Scherl 1919, pp. 81-83.]