Nazi occupation forced Czech-born film impresario Hugo Haas to flee his homeland. After living in America for 13 years, Haas explored his beliefs, which ranged from his desire to embrace life to his gratitude to God for the gifts of nature, art and friendship.
There are many things I learned to believe in during the many years of my eventful life. First of all, I learned to believe in the tremendous power of life itself and in the power of self-preservation. Through the stormy years of persecution, exile, poverty and grief over the losses of people nearest to me, I never lost the drive to go on, even in situations of hopelessness and despair. The power of self-preservation teaches you to believe in many good things; for instance, in the fundamental goodness of people.
Throughout the bad years of misfortune, there always appeared from nowhere, somebody—people, simple people, who were willing to help. Sometimes it almost seemed incredible that complete strangers would be interested in my existence. I finally arrived at the conclusion that it is not so easy to die of hunger and starvation, that there is always someone, somewhere, hidden behind your door and waiting with a piece of bread to spoil your honest intention to die and insisting in your continuing to live.
I believe in the might of nature, and I can never get tired of daily little miracles like sunrises and sunsets, flowers and trees, the firmament and elements around us. I believe strongly in the joy of creation, in useful work, in expressing and exchanging views, philosophies, and feeling.
I believe in beauty such as music, paintings, books, sculptures, expressions of emotions in all fields of art. I also believe in simplicity and logic. I don’t believe in art that has to be explained to me. Art must talk plainly for itself and to anybody equally. In the length of years, in the progress of time, one can learn to adjust oneself to understand new harmonies in music and new lights and colors in paintings, new and more daring ideas in books. But basically, one should never abandon the principles of simplicity and logic.
I believe in friendship as something given by God to make our lives worthwhile, warm and less lonesome. And I believe in love with all the consequences of joy, sorrow and sacrifices. For love is the strongest element that in the final analysis fulfills our lives. It is the strongest impression left to the end of our days and all the dear faces connected to these feelings: father and mother, brothers and sisters, wife and children, stay with us in our memories to the very last moments of our consciousness.
I believe also in the comfort of a clear conscience, which makes me feel safe in looking into my neighbor’s eyes. I believe in freedom, and I believe in democracy. I have lived now in America for thirteen years, and the feeling of freedom and security and justice became to me more important than all the material advantages, and I’m deeply grateful.
Summing up all my beliefs, which I gathered during the years of my rich life and experience, I believe strongly in some great unknown power, which guides our life and is responsible for everything that is worthwhile to enjoy and to endure. May he be called Christ, Jehovah, Confucius, or Mohammed.
Film actor, writer, director and producer Hugo Haas was born in Czechoslovakia. His father and brother died in Nazi gas chambers, but Hugo escaped to America. He became active in Hollywood making numerous low-budget movies. Haas died in 1968.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.