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.
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.