Hilde Marx: “We Outside”
Hilde Marx (1911-1986) was a German-American poet, writer and journalist. She is one of the authors whose writing career was only just beginning when…
Ich kaufe meine Freiheit ein
bei einem alten Mann.
Ich habe täglich da zu sein
von 9 – 9. Und dann
geh ich nach Hause und bin frei.
Kann machen, was ich will –
Da sind die Beine schwer wie Blei.
Gedanken schweigen still.
Ich bin so müd. Im Portemonnaie
sind ein paar Dollars mehr.
Was nützt mir das? Wohin ich geh,
geh ich nur ungefähr.
In langen Stunden schleicht der Tag.
Ich grüble viel zu viel.
Mit jedem neuen Glockenschlag
rückt ferner Sinn und Ziel.
Die Freiheit, die ein Dollar schafft,
ist teuer und nicht gut.
Des Tages Stumpfsinn saugt die Kraft
mir aus dem heissen Blut.
Weich sind die Nächte, süss und kühl.
Ich lieg in dumpfem Traum.
Ganz sacht verschwimmt ein Glücksgefühl
von Freiheit weit im Raum.
Der Morgen treibt mich hastig auf.
Der Bus ist übervoll.
Der Alte wartet schon darauf,
dass ich ihn pflegen soll.
Ich wende meine Blicke ab
und stecke Dollars ein.
Wofür ich meine Tage gab:
Soll das die Freiheit sein?
Oft denke ich: Ich fasse Mut
und werfe alles hin.
Der Wiesen Duft ist stark und gut,
auch wenn ich hungrig bin –
Doch ich bin feig und nehm das Geld
bei einem alten Mann
– Sehr weit, sehr weit von meiner Welt –
und lächle ihn noch an.
I buy my liberty
from an old man.
I have to be there every
day from 9 – 9. And then
I go home and I’m free.
Can do what I want –
My legs move leadenly.
Thoughts are stagnant.
I am so tired. In my wallet
A bit more money
What good is that to me? Where I go
I’m only going desultory.
In long hours the day creeps.
I brood far too much.
With each new chime
sense and goal move further away.
The freedom that a dollar brings
Is expensive and not good.
The day’s dullness sucks the life
From my hot blood.
Soft are the nights, sweet and cool.
I lie in a dull dream.
a feeling of happiness
of freedom blurs far in space.
Hastily I get up in the morning.
The bus is overcrowded.
The old man is already waiting
for me to take care of him.
I avert my eyes
And take my dollars.
What I gave my days for:
Is this supposed to be freedom?
Often I think: I’ll take courage
And throw it all away.
The scent of the meadow is strong and good,
Even though I’m hungry –
But I am a coward and take the money
From an old man
– Very far, very far from my world –
And even smile at him.
The translation reflects only the content, but not the rhyme and rhythm.
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. 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 the poem “Ballad of a Nurse,” (German Original: “Bänkellied einer Nurse”) written during the time she nursed a man twelve hours a day, she describes how difficult it is to lead a meaningful and, in her case, literarily productive life under the conditions of that energy-sucking job.
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: Bänkellied einer Nurse (Ballad of a Nurse), ca. 1939.
Deutsches Exilarchiv 1939-1945, Frankfurt am Main.
Translation from German to English: We Refugees Archiv / Minor Kontor.