The Life of Nelly Sachs – a profound Jewish writer who survived the horrors of Nazi Germany and the holocaust

Nelly Sachs, (full name; Leonie Sachs) was born on the 10th December 1891. She grew up in Berlin, Germany, where she studied music and dancing at a young age, and later on began writing poetry. She was educated at home due to her frail health, and although she showed early signs of talent as a dancer, her protective parents didn’t encourage her to pursue a profession, most likely due to the ever rising prejudice in a rapidly growing Nazi -Germany. Therefore, Miss. Sachs grew up as a very sheltered, introverted young woman and never married. As the Nazis took power, she became terribly ridden with fear and horror, to the point where she temporarily lost the ability to speak. She was good friends with Selma Lagerlöf, a Swedish author and teacher, and also the first female writer to win a Nobel Prize (Nobel prize in literature, 1909).  It was thanks to her that Nelly and her Mother escaped Nazi Germany. Shortly before her own death, Lagerlöf had intervened with the Swedish royal family to secure Nelly and her Mother’s release from Germany. They managed to escape on the last flight from Nazi Germany to Sweden, just a week before Sachs was scheduled to report to a concentration camp.

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Sachs and her Mother settled in Sweden and she claimed Swedish citizenship in 1952.  However, after her Mother’s death, Sachs suffered several nervous breakdowns characterised by hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions of persecution by Nazis. She spent a number of years in a mental institution, where she continued writing, even while she was hospitalised. Eventually, Sachs recovered sufficiently enough to live on her own, although her mental health would always be fragile. Her worst breakdown was ostensibly triggered when she heard German speech during a trip to Switzerland to accept a literary prize. However, she maintained a forgiving attitude toward a younger generation of Germans, and corresponded with many German-speaking writers of the post-war period. Her experiences resulting from the rise of the Nazis in World War II Europe had transformed her into a poignant spokesperson for the grief and yearnings of her fellow Jews.

“World, they have taken the small children like butterflies and thrown them, beating their wings, into the fire–” 
― Nelly Sachs
Nelly won a Nobel Prize Award for Literature in 1966, and died on the 12th May, 1970.