The Arrival of Hannah Arendt
This film describes the arrival of Hannah Arendt - a Jewish, German-American political theorist and publicist - in New York and her reflections on flight and helping people start over.
Zwischen Shanghai, Paris und dem Kap:
tausende Brüder verstreut.
Zwischen Shanghai, Paris und dem Kap:
Welten voll Einsamkeit.
Meere und Schiffe und Schienen und Züge:
Fieber in unserm Gehirn –
während in lächelnder Abschiedslüge
trostlose Tränen irrn.
Wir schwiegen aus Angst nicht und redeten viel
und gaben uns sehr oft die Hand
und bauten mit Worten den Sinn und das Ziel
in ein Land, in irgendein Land.
Welches Land? Ach, es war so egal,
hielt es die Tür uns nur offen.
Nur weiter! Die Bahnhofsluft schmeckte so schal –
und der Pfiff eines Zuges hat jedesmal
tausend ins Herz getroffen.
Und immer war wieder ein Abschied vorbei.
Die Züge, die Schiffe fuhren
und wir trabten wieder ins Einerlei.
Aber Brand frass die Zeiger der Uhren
und jede Stunde schrie’s einem zu:
Was denkst du so viel an die andern?
Kann sein: Schon morgen, schon heute wirst du
selber wandern und wandern und wandern …
Wir deckten den Blick mit der zitternden Hand
und schluckten Verzweiflung hinunter.
Nur ein Land – ganz egal – nur irgendein Land –
Und plötzlich, eh man’s noch richtig verstand,
war man selber mitten darunter.
Da türmten sich Koffer zum höhnischen Berg,
man rannte treppauf und treppab
und war nichts mehr als ein hilfloser Zwerg,
für den’s kein Zuhause mehr gab.
Die Kisten standen am vorletzten Tag
wie verlorn in der Wohnung herum.
Durch die Leere tönte nur Herzensschlag
und die Wände blieben so stumm …
Und wieder ein Abschied und diesmal fuhr
man selber ins Dunkel hinaus:
Verlassenheit – Einsamkeit – Fremde nur –
und nirgends ein schützendes Haus —
Doch seltsam: Nach erster durchweinter Nacht,
da wurd es in einem gross:
Ein Mut, der im Sturmhauch der Zukunft erwacht,
und er riss aus den Tränen sich los
und er wuchs und er wuchs und er ahnte die Bahn
und zögernd folgte der Schritt.
Und der neue, der glückliche Mut flog voran
und bereit war alles und aufgetan
und der Mut riss das Leben mit.
Between Shanghai, Paris and the Cape:
thousands of kinsmen dispersed;
Between Shanghai, Paris and the Cape:
worlds in deep silence immersed.
Oceans and ships and trains and miles –
a fever of desolation.
And in the false and farewell smiles
grope tears without consolation …
Fear made us talkative; comfort was slight,
we felt for the comradely clasp of a hand.
We built the abstractions of goals and of flight
into a land; into some land.
Which land? We left the choice to fate
to find us another welcoming start.
The station air was an opiate
dulling the engine whistle’s weight
that stabbed with a shriek each weeping heart.
And each time another farewell had been said;
we left the empty silent docks;
and we trudged back to monotonous dread.
But fire devoured the hands of the clocks
and each hour had a voice of ist own to shout,
„What are your thoughts doing out yonder?
Tomorrow you too may yourself be shut out,
to wander and wander and wander …“
We blotted out sight with a trembling hand
and swallowed our despair.
Just a land – no matter – just any land!
All at once, before you could understand,
it was yourself standing there.
On the day before parting the apartment was filled
with crates, like lost, silent ghosts;
only heartbeats sounded where talk had been stilled
and the walls were bitter hosts.
Valises heaped to a monstrous height,
mocked at the tiny, helpless gnome,
and endless stairways impeded your flight:
you who no longer had a home.
Then once more farewell. The endless turmoil,
and oneself thrust into the night;
only abandonment – solitude – strange soil –
and nowhere a beaconing light – – –
But strange: a first night spent in passionate weeping
Awoke something greater than fears:
A courage, storm-born, in the future’s keeping,
and it freed itself from the tears.
And it grew and it grew, ever stringer ist tread,
and faltering, one’s step took the slope;
and searing the darkness the bright courage led
and the world seemed so eager and open ahead,
and the newly-born courage roused hope.
Hilde Marx (1911-1968) was a German-American poet, writer and journalist. She is one of the authors whose writing career was only just beginning when the National Socialists came to power in Germany in 1933, and was immediately prevented by them. As a Jew, however, she was already affected by anti-Semitism before that. She already experienced what it meant to be Jewish at the Humanist Gymnasium. After graduating from high school in 1931, Hilde Marx began studying journalism, theater and art history in Berlin. After five semesters, however, she was forcibly de-registered, as Jews were no longer allowed to attend universities. While she was still able to publish for newspapers at “Ullstein,” “Mosse” and the “Berliner Tageblatt,” this was no longer possible after their “Aryanization”. She was left only with Jewish publications, such as “Die Monatsblätter des jüdischen Kulturbundes in Deutschland,” “Die Jüdische Revue,” “Das Jüdische Gemeindeblatt,” and above all the “C.V.-Zeitung”. 11“Central Verein-Zeitung. Blätter für Deutschtum und Judentum. Organ des Central-Vereins deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens e.V. Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums.” The CV-newspaper was one of the most important Jewish weekly newspapers in the German-speaking world and appeared from 1922 until it was banned in 1938.
She did not think about emigration for a long time, but when the Gestapo threatened her with imprisonment in a concentration camp in 1937, she fled to the Czech Republic, and from there she managed to leave for the USA a year later. In November 1938 she arrived in New York. In the poem “Ballad of a Farewell” (German original: Ballade um einen Abschied) she reflects on the sudden and uncertain departure, on the farewells of many friends and relatives, who seek exile and shelter all over the world, on loneliness, but also on the courage to start anew. The poem was one of the first that Marx had translated into English in the USA by the translator Jay Williams and tried to publish.
She worked in various jobs: as a nurse for the elderly, a saleswoman, a nanny and a gymnastics trainer. However, in addition to these demanding jobs, she also tried to gain a foothold as a writer in the USA. To this end, she asked the American Guild for German Cultural Freedom for help. In 1943 she received American citizenship. In America she continued to perform as a lecture artist, with her own “One woman show” in which she combined serious with light-hearted, Jewish with Christian traditions.
In 1951, a final volume of poems from 1938 to 1951 was published under the title “Bericht,” which incorporated her experiences as an exile. She became a member of Auslands-PEN and, from the 1960s on, was an editor of “Aufbau”, 22“Aufbau”: In 1934, the first “Aufbau. Nachrichtenblatt des German-Jewish Club, Inc., New York” appeared. Initially more a club and advertising organ, the “Aufbau” soon became a news sheet about the everyday life of German (not only Jewish) emigrants in exile. This meant advice on legal matters, explanations of the New York subway system, language courses and job vacancies, tips on dealing with authorities, etc. Oskar Maria Graf and Nelly Sachs, Lion Feuchtwanger and Thomas Mann, Mascha Kaléko and many others wrote here. for which she wrote primarily theater and film reviews, as well as short biographies of Jewish emigrants. She also worked for other newspapers, such as “This Day from St. Louis,” “The Chicago Jewish Forum,” the state newspaper and “Herold from New York”.
Hilde Marx: “Ballade um einen Abschied” (1938/39)
Englisch translation “Ballad for a Farewell” by Jay Williams
Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933-1945, Frankfurt am Main.