Last Letters from a Nazi Prison

Standing in the Light
Helmuth von Moltke before the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court) in Berlin, January 10, 1945 (BPK Bildagentur / Art Resource, NY)

These letters were excerpted from Last Letters:The Prison Correspondence 1944–45, translated from the German by Shelley Frisch​ and published this month by New York Review Books. Used by permission.

 

Freya and Helmuth James von Moltke are thirty-three and thirty-seven years old as we meet them in late September 1944. At that point, Helmuth had been in Gestapo custody for nearly nine months, and during this period the couple met only under supervision and exchanged letters that passed through Gestapo censorship—so all communication needed to involve caution. Helmuth had been arrested for warning a colleague that a secret police spy had infiltrated an anti-Nazi circle of friends, and that the colleague faced imminent arrest as a member of the group. By September, that circle of friends had been tried for the capital crime of “defeatism,” invented by the Nazis for those who failed to believe that Germany would win the war, and Helmuth’s colleague had already been executed.

Before Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg detonated his bomb in a conference with Hitler on July 20, 1944, it had looked as if Helmuth, an international lawyer, would manage to survive his imprisonment. The Gestapo had remained unaware of his conspiracy with about twenty-five trustworthy civilian friends in the years 1940–1943 to draft the structure of a democratic German state after the Nazi system had collapsed. The plenary discussions had taken place at Kreisau, the estate Helmuth had inherited from a Prussian field marshal. There larger gatherings could be disguised as weekend parties—all the more so since the field marshal continued to be much revered by Germans, including the Nazi hierarchy. Following Helmuth’s arrest early in the year, his friends, including Peter Yorck von Wartenburg, had joined Stauffenberg’s plot and a number of them had been arrested, tried, and executed. In the process of investigating the conspirators’ background, the Gestapo identified the “Kreisau Circle,” led by Helmuth and Peter Yorck, as the source of their opposition. Once Helmuth’s own conspiratorial activity had been exposed, he was transferred to Tegel Prison.

Both Freya and Helmuth clearly understood that his transfer to Berlin for trial in the “People’s Court” was a prelude to his own almost-inevitable execution. They initially anticipated that both the trial and the execution would take place within the following month, but there were several delays. By a stroke of luck, Harald Poelchau, the Protestant prison chaplain at Tegel Prison, was an unidentified co-conspirator in the “Kreisau Circle” who now had regular access to Helmuth. For the first time in nine months of Helmuth’s imprisonment, now, at Tegel, he and Freya were able to communicate via almost daily clandestine letters that Poelchau smuggled past the guards. Over the arc of this correspondence, they declare their love for each other, strengthen one another for the parting they have to contemplate, and find solace in their deep faith that even death cannot part them. Freya seeks permission to visit her husband, which is granted repeatedly. Both experience these meetings with great intensity, though the first visit triggers a particular wave of anguish in Helmuth as he contemplates his end. Outside the prison, Freya continues her efforts to save Helmuth’s life, gaining access (undoubtedly thanks to the revered family name) to the much-feared political judge Roland Freisler and to Heinrich Müller, the head of the Gestapo. It soon becomes apparent that there is no chance of clemency.

Helmuth lays out the fundamental reasons why he opposed the Nazis from the beginning of their rule in his farewell letter to his two young sons. Freya, for her part, clearly states that there could be no compromising with the Nazis. If death was Helmuth’s fate, this was a death that had meaning. Her sense of their unity would sustain Freya after Helmuth’s execution and throughout her life. Just six months after his death she was able to write to her mother, “I’ll never be truly alone again in my life, since I was able to part from Helmuth in such a beautiful manner.”  These letters between her and Helmuth remained her private treasure until she donated them to the public in the last year of her life. First published in German a year after her death in 2010, they are now available for the first time in an English translation.

—Helmuth Caspar von Moltke

 

Freya von Moltke (Courtesy of the von Moltke family)

Freya to Helmuth, September 29, 1944

 . . . I will have to go on living and that will be hard, but it will work out, because I will be able to go on loving you. I will love you in God and not disturb you on the paths you’ll take, and I will love God more and better than I have before. But please, when you die, it must be in the certainty that apart from God I belong only to you. These fifteen years, that was our life, my Jäm; what comes now will be a life for the little sons, for other people, for things—I don’t yet know what, but my life, our life, my beloved Jäm, that is now coming to an end here. You always told me that you would die young. You promised me seven more years, but why talk about quantity. Quality is what counts. . . . Your life seems beautiful and complete to me. You’ll die for something worth dying for. It’s uninteresting in the extreme that you might have gone on to become a “great” man. . . . If you have to die now, I believe your death will have meaning. . . . 

 

Helmuth to Freya, October 1, 1944

 . . . I have no fear of death and I believe that I will be holding on to all of you in some form or another, and I have a creaturely fear of dying, and it pains me that I will not see you and the little sons again with these eyes of mine. I feel that I have had so much in this life that I have no right to make any more demands, but I don’t feel as though I’m the harvest calling for the reaper. . . . 

helmuth to his sons caspar and konrad, october 11, 1944

 . . . The issue that will result in my being killed will go down in history, and no one knows in what form. But I want to say the following to you: throughout my life, even back in school, I have always fought against a spirit of narrow-mindedness and violence, of arrogance and lack of respect for others, intolerance and an absolute and merciless stringency, which is inherent in the Germans and has found expression in the National Socialist state. I have also done what I could to see to it that this spirit and its terrible consequences, such as an excess of nationalism, racial persecution, lack of faith, and materialism could be overcome. . . . 

 

Freya to Helmuth, Oct 24–26, 1944

 . . . It is an odd life, hovering between life and death, and therefore so intense at times. There are hours, moments of unbelievable intensity, and then many hours go by that are still close to you, but they move along calmly, hours in these days that may be the most precious for me. My love, none of this is easy to live well and in the right way, and yet it’s so astonishing that in many respects I find it a source of great happiness. . . . Death lies ahead for you, and for me, a life alone in which our love must remain alive. We have to embrace both death and life, compose ourselves, and stay close together, my dear love: how difficult that is, yet how full of the most beautiful consolations. . . . 

 

Helmuth von Moltke (Courtesy of the von Moltke family)

Helmuth to Freya, October 26, 1944

My love, since yesterday my death has become closer and more real, and I am very happy about it. I’m in good spirits even so, or for that very reason, and nonetheless determined to fight for my life. But there is no doubt whatsoever that only a miracle of God can save me. Today, when I was half asleep, I had an odd idea, half idea, half dream. I went to Plötzensee for my execution, and the executioner said, “How am I supposed to execute just the left one without the right one; that won’t work.” And when they looked at me, you had grown onto my right side, like a Siamese twin, making an execution impossible. It was very beautiful, and then I was fully awake.

I’ve been wanting to describe the details of my daily routine to you. The times of day are guesswork, because I don’t have a watch: the first time I wake up at about 1 o’clock at night and then I read hymns aloud, mostly some particular group, one after the other, until I feel sleepy again. Then I wake up once and for all at about 5:30 and reflect, think about you, the little sons, and I enjoy that until 6:30. Then, when the others are waking up, I read the hymns in the “morning” section. Then I get up and do what I can, pour myself some water, do 100 squats, and things of that nature. At about 7:10 I’m unlocked, which is to say unchained, and wash and clean up and eat breakfast. That takes me to 8 or 8:30, depending on what I have planned. Then I write to you or do something else until 9:15, when I’m shackled again. After that I walk back and forth until 9:30 and recite psalms to myself. Then we go out and are back in at 10:10. I spend the whole morning, from 10–11:45, reciting Bible passages, to which I’ve now added Psalms 111, 118, and 139, and I recite Romans 8. In the mornings the newspaper is delivered, and if I read it, I won’t finish my reciting. At 11:45 our shackles are removed again, and then there’s always some tidying left to catch up on. At 12 the food arrives. At 1 we’re shackled again, and this time has to be used for things that would be better done with two hands, such as writing, reading with looking things up, and activities of that sort. At 1 I finish reciting my Bible passages, maybe start a hymn as well, then sit down atop my table, the bolster behind my back, a blanket under me, and your lovely blanket around me, my feet on the chair, and read. From time to time, once or twice a week, I read through my notes about my statements. On the other days, I systematically read the hymnal, write notes for myself in the Bible and hymnal. By the way, when I’m sitting, I definitely start by reading several chapters from the Old Testament before the Psalms, from the New Testament after the Psalms, from the Gospels and the Epistles. That’s how the afternoon always begins. At 4 our shackles are taken off again; then I keep on reading if I have nothing else to do, at 5:30 there’s supper, and at 6 we have to be ready for bed and the shackles go on. Then I read the hymns for evening worship, and if I’m in good shape, I ponder things, and if I’m not, I read the hymns or psalms until I’m sleepy, punctuated by thoughts of you, my love, and go to sleep early. That is the day. So far it has never really been long enough.

So, my love, I’ve been shackled since the fifth line of this page, and now we’re getting ready to go out. Farewell, my love, full of gratitude for the great blessing of these weeks, full of confidence that He will guide things in the way that is best for us, full of confidence, full of prayers that He may watch over you and hold His hand over you, and watch over us and hold His hand over us. Jäm.

 

Freya to Helmuth, October 26, 1944

 . . . Isn’t it strange that since yesterday I have also once again started to regard your death as the far more likely outcome! This feeling became clearly palpable to me yesterday, to the point that I felt the need to call to you again to embrace this outlook, because it is without question a blessing to be able to die with such awareness and say goodbye with such awareness, and we mustn’t, my dearest, let this opportunity to see and live it fully slip away from us by hoping against hope, and we’re not letting it slip away, but that is exactly what I have to keep thinking and saying. My dear, how wonderful that I had grown onto you, how wonderful, how comforting. My dear love, how I enjoy your still being here, that I still stand hand in hand with you, that you’re still there, that I can write to you and your dear eyes roam over my words, your dear eyes. Oh, Jäm, help me if I have to remain alone. I have to stay really and truly alone in order to keep you. But maybe the solitary path ahead of me won’t be so long. Who knows! The only thing that matters is the readiness to accept what God has given us. May He grant us—us both—the strength we need, may He make us small and Himself large within us, and then all this will work out. Good night, my dear love! Sleep well. I embrace you, and I am and will forever remain your P.

 

Helmuth to Freya, October 28, 1944

My dear love, I want to spend a bit of time on a quick chat with you. It’s the afternoon and we don’t have shackles on, because we’re supposed to be scouring, and I’ve already done that. I assume you went home this morning so you could celebrate Casparchen’s birthday. I guess that means you’re now in the train somewhere between Liegnitz and Kreisau, although I have no sense of what time it is, because it’s raining and so dark that the light’s been on the whole day. I really felt like talking to you because I was sad. There was no reason at all. But living this way, between death and life, is exhausting. Once you’re finally totally ready and prepared to die, you can’t make a permanent state out of it. Unfortunately that doesn’t work; the flesh doesn’t play along. So you bounce back to life, maybe only a little, you build a house of cards and then, when you notice it, you tear it down again, and the flesh doesn’t take well to that. It’s also an instance of practice not making perfect; it always remains unpleasant to the exact same degree. That’s how it is today all over again; then two nasty air raids during the night—always so close that you hear those big chunks hurtling down and the windows shaking during the explosion—then darkness and rain. The Old Adam just isn’t willing.

It’s especially difficult these days because I’m working on my defense and then have to summon up within me confidence that I’ll be able to mount a successful defense, and that results in an unpleasant split in a center layer of my consciousness. On the top, my powers of reason say: Nonsense; the center says: “God can help, and my attitude isn’t so wrong,” and at the same time: “Maintain your readiness for death or else you’ll undergo spiritual crises.” And deepest down is this: “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” And unfortunately, this deepest layer doesn’t always hold sway over the two higher ones.

When I look back upon these years, I find the image of the sower a fitting one. The seeds are scattered, and I’m certain that they will sprout someday, because no thought is lost in God.

So, now I’ve laid it all out for you, and that has already made things a little bit better. You know, my major sin is black ingratitude. Not only for my life as a whole—no, it’s for the day-to-day things. What marvelous weeks I have behind me; I have been given so very much. And then I act as though it would be a misfortune for it to stop. I’m certainly not entitled to more! Instead of humbly accepting every new fortunate day, I tremble with worry about whether there will be another one. Why should I actually—from my standpoint—go on living even one more day: I have enjoyed more true happiness and, most of all, love than anyone else I know. Why should the happiness of these past weeks go on for even a single day more: Who else has enjoyed this?—As far as I can see, there is only one reason for me to need to go on living: in order to get my share of chastisements.

My love, I’m writing this to you in part so that you can pray for me to learn humility and gratitude and that God’s grace is with me throughout the ups and downs of these days and I never lose sight of the firm foundation.—And that you pay careful attention to this with the little sons: Humility differs from modesty, and gratitude needs to be a permanent condition. By the way, I think Casparchen will have that.

When I look back upon these years, I find the image of the sower a fitting one. The seeds are scattered, and I’m certain that they will sprout someday, because no thought is lost in God. We cannot know whether an earthly connection will be apparent, whether our death will mean something. Maybe it will, among other things. It would be good, as that would accelerate everything. Of all the agricultural figures, the sower is the most fortunate, because he is full of hope, and no hail, no storm, no drought has yet come to curtail his hope; everything is possible. That is part of what makes sowing so wonderful.

My love, I, too, hope that we will bid each other farewell in full awareness of this life, and that we won’t spoil this precious thing for ourselves by clinging to false hope: But we must always remain vigilant that the train doesn’t leave the station, you might say, while we happen to be looking elsewhere. I’m not fully back in a parting frame of mind, thinking about your and your sons’ future lives. Sometimes I focus on the great moment of death; I tremble at the thought that creaturely fear will overpower me then, that, you might say, I will miss out on this moment that is all about keeping the faith. How very weak we are! Only grace can help us keep the faith and see the Redeemer. Poelchau would probably chuckle at that and call it pure romanticizing; he would say that it all happens quite soberly and that one is so little in control of oneself and one’s senses that nothing whatsoever can be of help. Well, I’ll have to wait and see.

I’ll quickly jot down a few hymnal verses I’m working on and learning: 208, 5 + 6 [and] 222, 7-12. And now I’ll stop. I hope all of you have a lovely birthday celebration. I thank you, my love, because I’m now quite consoled. J.

 

Freya to Helmuth, November 14, 1944

My dear love, it was such happiness, such sheer happiness, to see you. Oh, my Jäm, how beautiful it was. This beautiful time is sparkling within me. You looked so well, so good, so right, the way you have to look, just like my Jäm, just like always. I was familiar with everything and saw this with delight and saw that everything was well wrought and well appointed from within. It really was as beautiful as could be, my love, and I know that you were content as well. My Jäm, there is no question that we are as one and united, but it was so palpable that God is prepared to stand by us, now and in the future. He is truly with us. He has also helped us—helped me, in any case—to achieve this beautiful state. For while I was on my way to you, I suddenly became afraid of what my heart might do, until I recalled a beautiful passage I had read on Sunday here at the friends’ house: 1 John 4:18. Do read it. From that moment on, I was no longer afraid, and then, after waiting so long at first, I got to be with you surprisingly quickly, and I felt nothing but happiness, even though I certainly bore in my heart the possibility that I would have to part with you in this world. My dear Jäm, my dear love, my beloved, my husband, we have to bear it in our hearts as well. I say it again and again. I saw that you do, but I do too. That’s the way it should be, and you said, quite beautifully, that we mustn’t hope, but believe.[…]

My Jäm, my Jäm, how beautiful it was and how grateful I am. I’d often told myself that it wasn’t the least bit necessary for us to see each other, but seeing you was actually such an exhilarating confirmation of everything we have learned and lived through and experienced. You looked exactly the way that I hold you securely in my heart, and everything was just the way I know and love from the bottom of my heart, so dearly, so tenderly.[…] You wrote so much and so beautifully in your last letters to me. Go ahead and be quite chatty. That is my good fortune and reward. But our time together also proved that we are in complete accord in our very foundation and that this needn’t be elaborated in words!

Poelchau has to leave in a moment, so I’ll say farewell, my love. I love you very much and I’m full of gratitude and keenly aware of the words by which the two of us live. I am and will remain your P.

 

Helmuth to Freya, November 14, 1944

My dear love, […] since I’ve always turned my struggles into a letter to my beloved, I’ll go ahead and start one. Maybe it isn’t time yet and the letter certainly won’t get finished.

You can see that your proud rock has split apart once more and has again spent some time in hell. One thing is certain: if I were to spend several more months in this situation, I’d know hell better than I know Kreisau, for I’ve discovered that each time you penetrate hell more deeply than the time before. This time I was driven by my haughtiness, my lack of humility, and if Satan didn’t appear to me last night, complete with tail and talons, it is only because the light in my cell stays on at night. Your beautiful, precious, magnificent, invigorating visit, this splendor, which seemed, once again, to sum up my entire life, had made a center layer within me keenly aware once more that such a conscious parting from life is simply not an act of reason, a mere formality, but a cut into the living flesh. . . . I have learned quite a bit in the past few weeks, recited psalms and songs and biblical passages, and as an old hand, so to speak, I always knew precisely what was needed next, and then there was Psalm 139, then the redemptive penitential prayer, and then the opening words of the sacrament of the Holy Communion, and now, I said to myself, I ought to be at peace, and I stood before the good Lord feeling so certain about my request: now I’ve done everything, now hand over that peace of yours. And this haughtiness, this very routine of fighting off the devil, was my pitfall; things kept going lower and lower, and the good Lord had no intention of doing as I wished, but instead had me tortured by the devil. . . . And in my haughtiness I was not able to find simplicity. I was so haughty, my love, that you might say I was proud of my suffering, and told myself: How few people in all of Germany are capable of such suffering. I was unable to retain my faith, so I returned to gratitude, and then the image of my beloved looking so lovely in the little gray foal came to me, and I fell asleep gratefully. But I soon woke up again, and the whole thing started all over. Suddenly I was alone with my fear of being hanged—something that is downright antiquated—and alone with the devil, who cast doubt on things that had seemed utterly fixed and absolute during the tribulations I faced in October.

 

Freya to Helmuth, November 17, 1944

I’m so glad that you are taking a firm line, and that this line is a bold one. That makes it easier to keep your composure. My Jäm, I’m not ambitious on your behalf; the gravity of this day is hard for me to fathom. But I have faith that you will weather it well. I’m asking God to give you strength and power and serenity, Moltke serenity. In the end, they can take nothing from you but your life! Whether you lose it at the age of thirty-eight or forty-six is of lesser importance than that you die a rich man: you know the whys and wherefores; you will die in the faith that you are dying after a brief and beautiful life. You will leave me stronger, you yourself were able to help get me this way, you know that life basically comes easily to me; and we both know that we will never lose each other because our love unites us forever. All hells and all torments, all tears and all sorrow can do nothing to change that: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” Do you find that so comforting and so beautiful too, or is it beautiful only for me?

 

Helmuth to Freya, December 28, 1944

For me, a strange year is coming to an end. I actually spent it among people who were being prepared for a violent death, and many of them have since suffered that death. . . . I’ve lived in a building with all these people, shared in their destiny, listened as they were taken away for interrogations or when they were carted off once and for all, spoke with almost all of them about their cases, and saw how they coped with everything. And here in Tegel about ten, I think, from my group have already been executed. Death has become such a steady companion during the entire year. And though at first I got awfully upset when “Emil” was summoned for a “walk around the camp,” these violent killings have become such an everyday occurrence that I’ve accepted the disappearance of individual men with sorrow, yet like a natural phenomenon. And now, I tell myself, it’s my turn. Can I accept it like a natural phenomenon in my own case as well? That’s the frame of mind in which I came here; actually I only thought the detour via the People’s Court was a nuisance, and if anyone had told me that death sentences could also be imposed at the request of the accused by means of an order of summary punishment and be carried out at once, I would have made that request in late September.

 

Freya to Helmuth, January 6, 1945

 . . . My love, you now have to focus everything on the path ahead of you, on the trial and on death. You mustn’t think about me anymore, and you don’t need to either, because my love will surround you tirelessly and irrepressibly. It will envelop and warm you when your enemies encircle you, it will go with you wherever you have to go. Never, never, never will it have an end. It has made my life rich and will keep my life rich. We will always find each other in our love, here or there. We were happy, we are happy, and we will stay happy. Together we are grateful, and together we are in good hands; we will stay together, and death cannot part us. I’m not complaining, because we have to be willing to lay our lives on the line. I approve of everything you did, from the bottom of my heart. I don’t want to start making grand statements that would make it seem as though we’re not as one, but since we are, this is also a part of it and it gives me courage and composure and pride. But this goes too far in pointing to your death: we ought to consider that outcome possible, but we don’t have to believe in it firmly. First we need to fight, and for this fight you need my love. You have it, you have me . . . 

 

You mustn’t think about me anymore, and you don’t need to either, because my love will surround you tirelessly and irrepressibly. It will envelop and warm you when your enemies encircle you, it will go with you wherever you have to go.

Helmuth to Freya, January 10, 1945

The following legal principles were decreed: “The People’s Court holds the view that the failure to report defeatist statements like Moltke’s, statements of this kind from a man of his reputation and position, is itself an act of treason.”—“Anyone who discusses highly political questions with people who are in no way competent to engage in such discussions, especially those who do not at least actively belong to the Party, is already on the path to committing high treason.”—“Anyone who presumes to pass any sort of judgment about a matter that is for the Führer to decide is on the path to committing high treason.”—“Anyone who himself objects to acts of violence but prepares for the case that another, that is, the enemy, removes the government by force, is on the path to committing high treason, because he is then counting on the force of the enemy.” And it went on and on in that vein. This allows for only one conclusion: anyone not to Herr Freisler’s liking is guilty of high treason.

Then came my objection that the police and the Abwehr had known about it, whereupon Freisler was seized with fit of rage number 1. Everything Delp had experienced up to that point was trifling by comparison. A hurricane was unleashed: He banged on the table, turned as red as his robe, and thundered: “I won’t put up with that kind of talk; I won’t even listen to something like that.” And it went on and on in this way. Since I knew anyhow where this was heading, it was all the same to me: I gave him an icy stare, which he clearly didn’t appreciate, and suddenly I couldn’t help but smile. This then spread to the associate judges, sitting on Freisler’s right, and to Schulze. You should have seen the look on Schulze’s face. I think that if a person were to jump from the bridge over the crocodile pond at the zoo, the uproar couldn’t be greater.

 

Freya to Helmuth James, January 13, 1945

 . . . You, my love, have stood completely in the light. Thank God things were the way they ought to be with you, my dear, very blessed and very beautiful, but I didn’t help you with that, even though I wanted to so badly. All this is very difficult to describe, because it isn’t clear enough to me for me to be able to describe it. I just have the distinct feeling that I didn’t do it right, that the peace during those three days [of the trial] wasn’t peace from the dear Lord, no matter how hard I tried. I spent every day, from morning to night, trying to be there with Him and for you, and all the effort we went to with all our beautiful texts, with all our precious experiences, has come to naught. People didn’t notice this on the outside, nor did I notice it myself; I don’t even know if Harald [Poelchau], for example, has picked up on it. But at midday on Thursday, when, in spite of it all, I was right up against my physical limits—in every way—and realized that I couldn’t manage to accompany you in my thoughts all the way to your death, yet wanted to so much, again and again, your letter arrived, and I saw that I’d done it wrong; it was quite clear that my letter couldn’t touch your heart, or—how should I put this—missed the mark, because I myself was off the mark. Then I grew quite small and poor, shattered and wretched, unlike any other time in my life, so small, so miserable—yet there you were, alive—what good fortune! All the activity with Carl Viggo [von Moltke] overshadowed that feeling during the day, but I was well aware of my puniness. By 5 I was here again, shattered in body and soul, and as I was lying alone on my sofa here, feeling totally exhausted, I suddenly knew the right way to go about it, and now I think I know it through and through, even though I tremble at this certainty, as you did about yours back in November, and even though I don’t yet dare bestir myself and am still walking carefully and as if in a new way. When I came out of my room this morning and Dorothee [Poelchau] saw me, she happily declared: Today you look altogether different again! That is true. How can I describe it. The difference between life before and life after death is truly not big, and even the step that seems so huge to us is small and so much more natural than we think. Now you’re still living with me, and one day you will suddenly go on living—no longer with me, but only inside me.

 

Helmuth to Freya, January 14, 1945

Good morning, my dear love. Are you feeling all better again? I quickly want to read your letter through once again. Yes, my love, I understood it all well. It is nothing new, but the certainty now rests more deeply by one more rotation of the screw.[…] When I left the courtroom after the sentencing, I thought I’d be going straight to Plötzensee, and was very cheerful about it, and quite lighthearted. At the moment, I think it would be a matter of indifference—that word is not the right one, but you’ll understand what I mean—to me if the door were to open and I were taken away. If I think about the anxiety I used to have, especially in November, when the telephone rang in the main office and Herr Claus was summoned, I can only be filled with gratitude as I try to fathom the grace that has been granted to me.

My love, the trial is over; I don’t have to deal with my defense anymore, and the clemency initiatives will make demands on all of you and not on me, which means there is now room in my brain and in my time, as I can’t engage with anything but the Bible and hymnal the whole day long. I may have only a short time to live, and in all human likelihood I won’t survive until the end of this month, but I still want to live as though I’m to remain alive; anything else is nonsense. I’m not happy with the idea of “just reading”; instead, I’d like something to sink my teeth into, as it were. You really have to see—please—what you can get for me. I could, of course, continue with the Kant, but I’d rather like to begin learning Russian. I’m not gifted in languages, but maybe I can learn enough to be able at least to read it.

I guess you’ll be going to slaughter your pig in the course of the week. Greet everyone for me . . .  My love, we will keep on going from one day to the next until we are reunited, in this world or the one beyond.

Published in the September 2019 issue: 

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