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 . . .