Survival Must Be Earned

Simons, Hans

  • Hans Simons remembers his experiences in Nazi, Germany and the necessity of leaving Europe and tells how he assimilated and appreciates the diversity and freedoms of his new country.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Dr. Hans Simons, president of New York’s New School for Social Research, had already received wide renown as an author and educator when he was forced to flee his native Germany in the early days of the Hitler regime. As executive director of the League of Nations Association and author of the preamble to the League of Nations Covenant, he was decidedly unpopular with the Nazis. In America, his reputation continued to grow, and his talents as a political scientist have been used freely by both governmental and private agencies. Here is Dr. Hans Simons’ creed.
It is no simple matter to single out those beliefs which I can share with others. I find it
easy to talk about my political convictions but hard to tell about the ultimate faith from which they spring.
When I was a young man the events of a turbulent era brought it about that I was gravely wounded and for quite some time expected to die. I had then not attained any of my hopes and ambitions, and it came as a shock that my days and years had been spent in preparation for something which now was never to come. But miraculously I survived. Reason as I would, I simply could not regard having been spared as an accident. I was not just self-centered when I felt that I had received a new lease on life from a source impersonal and indefinable but real and related to me as an individual. My share in it was given
me through a conscious, experience and with new obligations. With an almost physical intensity I felt my values change. Since this new life did not belong to me only, I sought service in order to justify the happiness of living.
Another experience came when the government of my native country—Germany—rejected me as “nationally unreliable” and threatened my freedom and my very life. I escaped to the United States and there had to remake myself in every respect. Language, traditions, modes of living and of thought, all were entirely new. Again this was like a conscious rebirth. It confirmed my conviction, that what makes our life collective is its divine source, while the earthly goal may be different for each individual. As
compared with the totalitarian regime which I fled, and with the physical and political provincialism which so often oppressed me in Europe, I found a greater diversity and, dependent on it, a wider liberty in America. I still do, notwithstanding some ominous signs of bigotry and jingoism and quite a few recent instances of pressure for conformity at the expense of tolerance and justice.
So it came about that though I was baptized into the Protestant faith I found my religion through insight as a grown-up person. And though I was born into a narrow nationalism I acquired my patriotism through acceptance from conviction as a mature man.
In this way I learned that life is a trust which must be earned. Its delights are as enjoyable and its
hardships as regrettable whether they are mere accidents or parts of a meaningful whole. But they are not any longer disproportionately important if I can relate them to their universal origin, see them fall into my individual pattern, and then in turn fit them into a wider purpose. A real joy which stretches the limits of my nature, a good deed which makes me secure in an insecure world, and a completed thought which gives me serenity amidst worries, they are all evidence of my being endowed from without and beyond myself.
While this belief makes life less fearsome, it does not make its daily demands any less urgent. However, it permits a more detached view of current events and a deeper devotion to those duties which
my sharing the mysteries of man’s origin and destiny imposes upon me.
That was Dr. Hans Simons, a noted refugee author and educator, who heads the New School for Social Research in New York City.