Etsi Omnes Ego Non
Sound installation, loop, 2:08 min, 2011
The sound work raises the question as to whether an individual can resist the tide of the masses and maintain his own position. To what degree is this possible? And for how long?
The sentence “Etsi omnes ego non” is repeated over and over by many different voices. It is initially cited with meaningful intonation by numerous individuals speaking at different times and speeds. Gradually a rhythm sets in. Not until everybody chants the sentence in time does it actually become comprehensible – but also somewhat absurd.
Etsi Omnes Ego Non, short version in lower quality, 0:47 min. (original 2:08 min)
Roughly translated, this sentence means: “Even if all others..., I will not.“ It stems from the Latin Vulgate version of Gospel of Matthew, which reads: “Et si omnes scandalizati fuerint in te ego numquam scandalizabor.” The New International Bible translates it as: “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matthew 26:33). It is spoken by Simon Peter, who subsequently does disown Jesus.
“Etsi omnes ego non” frequently appears in connection with the German Resistance movement against the Nazi regime.
Joachim Fest first heard the phrase from his father, Johannes Fest, who was dismissed from his position as head teacher on the grounds of his beliefs in 1933. He was allowed to return on condition that he joined the NSDAP but refused, even though he had seven children to feed. Joachim later picked up on his father’s maxim, using it as the title of his autobiography, Ich nicht (literally: I not), which was published posthumously. Viewed in its historical context of Nazi Germany, the phrase was intended to express the idea that we should follow our convictions and refuse to serve an unjust regime, even if others choose otherwise.
“Etsi omnes ego non” became the mission statement of Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, one of the conspirators that plotted against Hitler on 20 July 1944. It also became the motto of the grandfather of publisher Klaus Wagenbach, who displayed it above the door of his house in brass letters. When forced by the Nazis to remove it, its imprint remained on the rendering of his house. The sentence can also be found on the tombstone of philosopher Giuseppe Rensi (1871 – 1941), who published many writings against fascism.
Recording and editing: Sven Blessing, TV-Werk Munich
Speakers: Tiziana Bruno, Michael A. Hofmann, Werner Josten, Dr. Frank Klauser, Birgit Kobold, Michael Mayr, Doreen Mönig, Dr. Elisabeth Salch-Klauser