Thursday, December 6, 2012
Reading Between the Lines
I’m falling into a new rhythm. Typically I read on request from categories chosen by whoever is visiting Voices at Hand. These past few days in Norfolk County my discussions with gallery goers have been so lively and varied I’ve let the thread of conversations determine readings.
Art—specifically art that grows out of reflection and national guilt—was the thread that led me to a series of letters written by a man living in Germany during the rise of the Nazi party and throughout war. Johann, who suffers from tuberculosis, is the only family member left in pre-war Germany writes to his mother and siblings in Canada from 1930 to 1945. His letters are full of details of daily life, hope, and if you read between the lines, bone chilling references to the Nazi fervor taking hold.
After the 15th of January 1930 the camp is to be kept up by the Mennonites. They don’t know what to do with the people. No one can go to Brazil anymore in 1931. In Paraguay there is a terrible epidemic and Canada is closed.
July 1st 1933
Next week I begin with studies again. Politically here in Germany huge progress is being made. The small parties are all dissolving. This is carried over to the churches as well. The fragmentation of the churches is come to an end. Nationalism is covering all.
The Second Advent Sunday, 1936
At this time Germany has the best living conditions. The land laborers have it almost as good as the farmers themselves. Everything is dictated from above. Farming has become part of the process to renew the German people. We workers are helping to develop a four-year plan. In spring I want to be with you.
May 1st 1937
Today is a national holiday. I took part in the whole move. Around noon we heard a speech by Adolf Hitler. He described the difference between the first of May here and in Russia. I cannot describe the enthusiasm.
August 6th 1939
I have taken on different employment since Oct 1st in Braunsberg in a small mill. We do not fit in in this country. Lies and betrayal are the order of the day… Once more we want to try to save ourselves, if we don’t like it we will pack our bags and go to Canada…I have not gone to serve in the military. The practice has been cancelled.
November 26 1939
We are all in good health and enjoying life. Our household is not large, but free from worries. Our guarantee here in Germany for our future and our old age is not large property, but the nation for whom our work now counts. We will never be wealthy here, but no one is to be cold as long as the German nation exists and our Füher and his spirit continues to live.
From the 16th of August to the 10th of October I was in the military service. I participated in the field expedition in Poland. I was occupied as a blacksmith for shoeing the horses. I have seen much pain and suffering. May God soon give us peace in this world… If another emigration from Russia takes place, they will settle here in what was formerly the Polish region, we will then join those people.
June 7 1945
Some time ago I received your cherished letter. For a long time I have been wrapped in silence…every hour I think of you. I do not know how my future will turn out.
In June Johann was living in a Sanatorium. He was never heard from again.