Page 62 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

Basic HTML Version

N E L L Y S A C H S — N O B E L L A U R E A T E
B
y
A . A
l a n
S
t e in b a c h
W
h e n
t h e
British poet John Dryden wrote three centuries
ago about one “Doom’d to death, though not fated to
die,” he unconsciously voiced an oracular reference to
Sachs, co-winner with Shmuel Yosef Agnon of the 1966 Nobel
Prize for Literature.
Miss Sachs, hopelessly trapped in the bestial Nazi inferno,
seemed headed for the crematorium. Except for her aged mother,
every member of her family was destroyed in the gas chambers
of the liquidation camps. One by one her friends and neighbors
vanished. She was agonizingly aware of the melancholy fate of
the children carted away to the “model” camps in Terezin
before their final journey to Auschwitz. She had already received
her own death warrant—the order directing her to report to a
“work camp.”
In Dryden’s words, she was “doom’d to death.” Mournfully
the bell was tolling for her. But providentially, she was not
“fated to die.” Not only the world of literature, but the whole
of mankind was to be enriched by this lone star shining through
the cataclysm of hatred and barbarism which had transformed
Europe into an ugly cesspool of savagery.
Through the last minute intervention of Selma Lagerlof, noted
Swedish novelist who won the Nobel Prize in 1909, and with
whom Miss Sachs had corresponded for many years, she and her
mother were snatched from the talons of destruction. Prince
Eugene of the Swedish Royal House secured a visa for Nelly Sachs
and her mother, and in 1940, “after a tortuous time and after
all the other exits had been closed,” both were permitted to
leave Germany and immigrate to Sweden. Ironically, their bene-
factress expired before they reached Stockholm.
It is this tender Nobel Laureate, reputed to be the greatest
writer of verse in the German language, who shattered the dis-
consolate prediction of T. W. Adorno, philosopher and literary
critic at the University of Frankfort, that “there can be no more
poetry in German after Auschwitz.” Later, he retracted his dole-
ful prophecy with the comment, “Sachs has disproved this.”
4 2