In the winter of 1944, the Allies had encircled Germany with an iron wall. The collapse of the Third Reich followed soon afterward, with the entire country shrouded in a doomsday atmosphere. The economy had collapsed, materials were scarce, and people were living in a very difficult time.
For ordinary civilians the food shortage alone was bad enough. Worse yet, since Germany is located in central Europe, winter was very cold; if there wasn’t enough fuel, people could not survive the long cold season. The government ruled that people could cut down trees in the mountains for fuel, with some conditions attached.
Forestry staff did an intensive search, marking the trees that were old and sick. The government had given a directive that people were only to cut these trees down — they were not to take any of the healthy trees that were still growing. If they did, they would be punished. To some people such a directive was almost a joke, as who was left to execute the punishment?
In a last-ditch effort, Hitler had almost all of the government’s civil servants transferred to the front. One couldn’t find a policeman or a judge, and the entire country was existing in a state of anarchy. But, as inconceivable as it sounds, at the end of the Second World War not one citizen cut down an unmarked tree. Everyone faithfully carried out their work according to the rules, even with no one supervising.
Mr. Ji Xianlin, a well-known scholar, stated in his memoirs that while studying in Germany, he witnessed the whole scenario. Even 50 years later, he still wrote: “It had anarchic conditions, but not the anarchic scenes.”
What kind of power do the German people possess that under such extreme circumstances they were still able to exhibit such self-discipline?
The answer can be summed up in one word: seriousness.
Because being serious is a habit, it penetrates deeply into one’s bone’s, and melts into one’s blood stream. This quality, led to Germany being able to rapidly rise in the last century despite experiencing two devastating world wars.
Another story of serious German people
People who are familiar with diesel engines all know that the engines made in China are noisy enough to be heard a few miles away and leak oil. While diesel engines produced in Germany are quiet and clean enough to be left on an office floor without disturbing anyone.
After taking office, German entrepreneur Gehrig, told the Wuhan diesel engine factory department heads, in their first meeting: “If quality is measured by the life of a product, then cleanliness is critical to the quality and life span of a cylinder.”
Two years later, the cylinder impurities in the Wuhan diesel engine’s had fallen to an average of around 1,000 mg per cylinder.
Seriousness is a frightening power; it can make a country very powerful, and it can also make a person invincible. Maybe we could learn from the German people, and acquire that same spirit. Perhaps if we let seriousness become apart of our blood, we too may feel the terrific power of being serious.