Trug und Schein: A Correspondence

20. May 1938

T&S Ava­tar


O., on May 20, 1938 

Dear Mr. Nordhoff!

Three days have now pas­sed sin­ce I recei­ved your so very kind words. Allow me to express my heart­felt gra­ti­tu­de for the trust you have pla­ced in me. I know to tre­a­su­re it. I will never for­get how you show­ed me the mea­ning of the con­cepts “desi­re and love” in such genui­ne, vivid words. I was able to tell that we think the same way about many things. I feel and think several things, and yet I often don’t have the abi­li­ty to put it into words. Perhaps this is the rea­son why:

I grew up at home as an only child and was not for­ced to do without any of the things that were necessa­ry to make me into a real, pro­per, stri­ving human being. (With that I would like to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly dis­po­se of your doubts — in all cer­tain­ty, I am descen­ded from a com­ple­te­ly hono­r­able fami­ly). Still I have had to for­sa­ke my grea­test wish for mate­ri­al rea­sons. When I gra­dua­ted from the com­ple­te cour­se in home eco­no­mics, I wan­ted to train to beco­me a baby nur­se and perhaps later a kin­der­gar­ten tea­cher. My par­ents did not have the money for that and so, after spen­ding a year working in the house­hold of my cur­rent boss, I trans­fer­red to his tex­ti­le company.

My pro­fes­si­on is moder­ate­ly satisfy­ing to me for the most part. It has the bene­fit that I can make more in a rea­son­ab­le work day than I could during the three years of hard trai­ning that would have been nee­ded for me to beco­me a pediatric nur­se.— I have come to terms with it. I would perhaps not feel so dis­sa­tis­fied and lonely, if I could find what I would con­si­der a har­mo­nious fami­ly life at home. What is the use of all of the com­forts that I had in con­trast to—say—girls from fami­lies with many child­ren if I was mis­sing the har­mo­ny, the spi­ri­tu­al nou­rish­ment. The older I get, the more I see that my father did my mother an injus­ti­ce. He knows not­hing other than his work, ful­fill­ment of duty, his crea­tu­re com­forts, and going to sleep. Cer­tain­ly I rea­li­ze, he was hea­vi­ly woun­ded in the war (the mus­cles in his upper right arm were shot through, lea­ving his hand lame), and does hard labor such that he cer­tain­ly comes home exhaus­ted and is hap­py to go to bed ear­ly. But he should not be allo­wed to neglect his fami­ly life as a result; my mother suf­fers cer­tain­ly from this, she just bears it silent­ly for herself. My father is other­wi­se the best human being, it is just that his work lea­ves him with no ener­gy and—to say it directly—soul-destroyingly dull. Belie­ve me, Mr. [Nord­hoff], all of this is empha­si­zed by one’s cha­rac­ter, one’s dis­po­si­ti­on. If you take the trou­ble to arran­ge things bet­ter and still see no endu­ring suc­cess, then you grow faint-hear­ted and would rather do nothing.

Still the year­ning for a per­son who could be ever­ything to me, who under­stands me, who tea­ches me to fathom ever­ything good and beau­ti­ful in life, and that then both, as you so beau­ti­ful­ly expres­sed it, stri­ve tog­e­ther with firm faith in God to beco­me more real and more com­ple­te; this year­ning never dies in me.—

I revi­si­ted the histo­ry of my love. It was in late sum­mer of the year 1936 when I first was intro­du­ced to you. You will remem­ber that evening we left the chan­try for home with [the other gen­tle­man]. A trans­for­ma­ti­on has taken place in me sin­ce then. I took a clo­ser inte­rest in you—became a mem­ber of the club and I could no lon­ger think of choir prac­ti­ce without your pre­sence. If you were mis­sing, then for me the evenings were soul­less, and the­re were so many of them in recent times. Still, I said to mys­elf back then—a love bet­ween us can­not be becau­se, in con­trast to you, I am a poor girl—in a finan­cial sen­se and also poor in spirit. 

I tried to for­get, made new acquaintances—indiscriminately—visited amu­se­ments, wan­ted to still my sil­ly heart with some­ti­mes exces­si­ve exu­ber­an­ce and mer­ri­ne­ss. In vain! It worked for a while, then came the dis­gust, the reflec­tion, and I felt my year­ning grown grea­ter than ere befo­re. —I don’t know whe­ther it was pity that always drew me back to you. When the rest of us were all so mer­ry, you would often stand the­re with an expres­si­on on your face that betray­ed anything but hap­pi­ness. I often asked mys­elf, did he bear some secret grief insi­de? Or can life disap­point so bad­ly that one can no lon­ger win true trust from one’s fel­low human bein­gs? I pray­ed for you then and now that God might send some pure human child the strength to under­stand you and to make you hap­py indeed.

I know that ano­t­her girl meant a lot to you. If I had been cer­tain that she had been the right one for you, I would have yiel­ded to her sel­fless­ly, for I don’t want to know how I will beco­me hap­py, I only want to know that you are happy.

The abi­li­ty to wait and be pati­ent spa­res a lot of heart­break. I have memo­ri­zed the­se words I once read some­whe­re. The­re were often oppor­tu­nities whe­re I felt the urge to say a loving word to you; but I had no right, I had to remain silent.

I can­not descri­be my mood when I lear­ned of your depar­tu­re. I am not asha­med to say  that I cried when Herr. G. read your let­ter to the Choir Club. I accep­ted it as fact, God’s will knows no why. 

I wan­ted to be cou­ra­ge­ous, bea­ring the unavo­ida­ble, but I had to succumb.

Now tell me plea­se whe­ther it is in your inte­rest that we get to know each other more clo­se­ly, to test each other. Just trust me without reser­va­ti­on if you have found ano­t­her per­son whom it would be more valu­able to you to pos­sess. I will not have it if it is pity that leads you to me, but rather your honest, free will.

Best wis­hes,

[Hil­de Laube]

Plea­se fol­low and like us:
20. May 1938

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