Gottfried's Letters — 22.10.34
In 1934, my cousin Gottfried Ballin was arrested for involvement in an anti-Nazi resistance cell in Cologne. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit high treason, imprisoned, and eventually deported to Auschwitz, where he was murdered. His letters from the prisons and concentration camps where he was held have been collected and I’m attempting to translate one letter a week. This is the sixth letter in the series.
(Stamp: Cologne, October 26, 1934 District Court, Section 25)
In general, letters are supposed to be of one piece, but prison letters are something abnormal anyway, and so I can try out a new method here. I write to you every day, whatever comes to mind, and if I think the letter has enough substance, I'll send it off. First a little criticism! You had promised 2 letters a week, two connections between Steinfeldergasse and the prison, 4 or more longing pages full of words and thoughts from outside life into my solitude, will remain indefinite for the time being, which perhaps makes it even more oppressive. Pre-trial detention has two major disadvantages compared to criminal detention: the uncertainty of the future and the isolation. One as the need to talk to his peers, to exchange ideas; it is also unnatural when an organ is partially forced to work, and the mouth is not exclusively intended for use. Silence is only beautiful when you can have it when you want and when it's possible to break it when you want. My temperament demands that I sometimes let my words run free. You only realize what the smallest freedom is worth when you have lost it completely. This may be an old insight, for me it is new in practice.
I read Lessing's letters with great pleasure; he had a strange relationship with his parents, with whom he lived at loggerheads throughout his youth. Even in his letters to the father, whom he is said to have loved according to his biography, I actually miss the warm tone he adopts towards his friends. The era may play a part, but I don't quite trust the biography. - By the way, why did you choose the 3rd, 4th and 8th volume?
The Kölnische newspaper has certainly never had a reader as good as me. I read everything from political editorials to the stories of Franz vom Duffesbach and learn quite a lot; the supplements, edited by the first class staff, are extremely interesting. Not only in politics and smaller current events, but also in literature, science, technology, etc., I'm up to date. Long-forgotten school knowledge is refreshed and expanded.
The translation is a lot of fun: your translation “art historical considerations” probably describes the content better than “philosophy of art.” The Taine, Lessing, and the newspaper, that's varied reading that you can live with for a while, but I'm becoming a glutton now and I want to try and see if I can attend prison school. The sergeant doesn't think it's possible, but I can try it. I want to learn where I can. I have a critical mind and some prior knowledge, so I can weigh up what I'm learning.
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