05. September 1938


L., on Sep­tem­ber 5, 1938 

Dear Ms. [Lau­be]!

The echo of last Sunday long reso­na­ted with me, and the­re was no dis­cord in the sound. Your ques­ti­on at the end of the let­ter said to me that you too were satis­fied. Alrea­dy when I was on the train, I was vexed by my own inept ans­wer: “Yes inde­ed, it was very nice.” You should not have asked. I will not per­mit you to belie­ve that a small annoyan­ce could so easi­ly put me in a bad mood. I was not chag­ri­ned at all that you paid our train sup­ple­ment. You know my atti­tu­de: you are sacri­fi­cing to tra­vel the far­t­her distance; I earn in one day what you earn in two; a young woman must cal­cu­la­te dif­fer­ent­ly than a young man. I awai­ted your let­ter. If it had not come on Fri­day, I would have begun to wonder.

It was good that our con­ver­sa­ti­on tur­ned to your past rela­ti­ons­hip; it was our con­ver­sa­ti­on that lead to that direct­ly, you were not respon­si­ble for that. I am not curious. I will never try to for­ce you to talk, as I know and expe­ri­ence it for mys­elf that it can some­ti­mes be hard to find the just the right word. I assu­me that you are no lon­ger con­ce­aling anything decisi­ve for the con­ti­nua­tion of our friendship. If I ask you to tell me some details only every so often, then only to free you from them and so I can bear them with you, for I am complicit.

When you told me that he gave up his posi­ti­on for you, I was a litt­le sho­cked, first, becau­se I thought: it has alrea­dy come to that bet­ween them, but then that this rela­ti­ons­hip was so laden with con­se­quen­ces for the young man. This rela­ti­ons­hip began under a bad omen. You sought to for­get but were not yet free intern­al­ly. He sought total trust, he wan­ted you com­ple­te­ly. We will be glad and thank­ful if he finds hims­elf again. In my eyes, you did not lose. It was not impul­si­ve­ness and flat­te­ry that led you to him. But you have impres­sed me. Now I am even more cer­tain that your incli­na­ti­on is not super­fi­cial. So what is my atti­tu­de about it now? You come [to me] with the riches of a [pri­or] love — I [come] poor with distrust and doubt, will exami­ne [it] first, con­si­der. I can­not do other­wi­se. That is pro­bab­ly a man’s way of doing things. And it is a safe­guard; for once I have said yes, I must stay true to it. I ask you to under­stand this [about me] and be pati­ent with me.

You may wri­te that you feel spur­ned. Yet you can­not say that I have spur­ned you. I would like to make that clear yet again. Spur­ned, that means rebuf­fed in this con­text. I have not rebuf­fed you. I sim­ply had not reck­oned with the pos­si­bi­li­ty of a rela­ti­ons­hip and initi­al­ly brushed it asi­de as implausible.

I am a per­son who reck­ons realistically.

I sup­pres­sed my fee­lings so long as I felt that the time was not yet come.

I wan­ted to approach a woman only once I had some­thing to offer her.

When I saw my com­ra­des at age 16 going around with girls, I had no under­stan­ding for how they and the girl[s] could hold out/off for six years.

When I loo­ked around for girls, then I did so among tho­se who were the same age as I.

I almost began to doubt whe­ther you were on the right track when you wro­te: “I know that ano­t­her young woman meant a lot to you.” She fell out of my reck­o­ning just becau­se of her age.

I coun­ted you among the youngs­ters, among the girls of slight and low spi­rit for whom a dal­li­an­ce doesn’t mat­ter. I know that I did an injus­ti­ce to you by it.

But tell me yourself, how could I belie­ve that a young woman, without any encou­ra­ge­ment, could lose her heart to a man 13 years her elder? And I wri­te this, as far as I know: until the long holi­days in 1937, I am not awa­re that I am guil­ty of any glan­ces [your way].

It was in the Fall of last year. We were wal­king alo­ne from Choir prac­ti­ce, you pro­bab­ly arran­ged it that way. At our par­ting it bro­ke forth from you, from qui­vering lips, dark and uncan­ny, with a clear, deep voice, grip­ping my hand, I wan­ted to with­draw it: “I have heard you are lea­ving, I thank you — —” You got no fur­ther. With a mol­li­fy­ing word, I cut off the speech.

Well, it is only real­ly today for the first time that I am sor­ry that I did not lis­ten to you, that I did not alrea­dy offer this young bur­ning heart a litt­le reli­ef. I did not intend this out­break of emo­ti­on, I fea­red it (the memo­ry of it does not need to be embarr­as­sing for you) becau­se I did not want to nou­rish any fal­se hopes. I recall qui­te clear­ly that, at the next dance, I coaxed you with many light words to avoid stir­ring up the past. From that evening on, I knew that you had an interest.

Now you should torment yourself no lon­ger and be cheer­ful again.

A few more words might belong here in asso­cia­ti­on with last Sunday. I can not be cynical.

Being cynical—that means to pull down the cor­ners of your mouth and sneer arro­gant­ly at someone.

A cyni­cal per­son is devoid of kindness.

I could never der­i­de you, and if I were offen­ded by a fault or a fail­u­re in you, I would make you awa­re of it, perhaps not immedia­te­ly, that can­not always be mana­ged, but when a good oppor­tu­ni­ty arose.

You can­not be wily.

Young women beco­me wily when they roam around with dis­so­lu­te men. Wily young women play with love, their sen­si­bi­li­ties are no lon­ger pure and deep, it is sick­ly. Being wily in love is to be unclean in love.

You are too sweet-natu­red and kind for that, could not easi­ly knock someo­ne off. That is betray­ed alrea­dy by the soft fea­tures of your face.

That pla­ces you in a cer­tain degree of danger:

You attract men who hope to find an easy game. You will not be able to fend off the more pushy, wily people.


Just as one may not touch all things if they ought to pre­ser­ve their beau­ty, so one may not speak of all things if they should remain dear and holy.


That which is most bles­sed can­not be put into words.


Much beco­mes com­mon once we bespeak them, once we put them in our mouth.


Once our hand is sna­red by sin, it beco­mes visi­ble; once our mouth is sna­red by sin, it is not less gra­ve just becau­se it is invisible.

You should not take the­se remarks as direc­ted at you.

Yes­ter­day I did not get to wri­ting the let­ter. I sat down direct­ly after school. Now I will bring it with me and tomor­row I know it will be in your hands, in your pret­ty, cold hands.

May it give you con­fi­dence that not­hing dark, ali­en has for­ced its way bet­ween us. 

Good-bye and best wishes,

[Roland Nord­hoff].

Plea­se fol­low and like us:
05. Sep­tem­ber 1938

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