Ongoing Diary – Ruth Maier’s diary –
יומנה של רות מאיר
Some days ago, I referred to the fact that, after a very long period of silence, Ruth Maier’s famous diary has finally been published in Hebrew (“יומנה של רות מאיר – שוקן “). Ofer Aderet wrote about it just some days ago in HaAretz. The young woman came then out of some dreamy memorial. We are accustomed to read the many diaries written in various languages by Jewish teens or young adults during the second world war. Anna Frank was a sort of a child that came to some adulthood and faced the narrowness of human nature in her “Achterhuis – the place behind the house”. Etty Hilversum was an adult young woman whose personal and spiritual path along with the many temptations of her life and contacts in the Dutch society were interrogating. She was close to some form of Christianity; or maybe is it possible to think that some Christians, esp. Catholics can opine that Etty could “convert” as a secular(ized) Jewess. This is not the case with Ruth Maier.
She was known to be a very clever, intelligent teen and young woman, born into a Jewish Austrian family of Vienna. This should be taken into consideration. She belongs to the numerous Jewish families that had to go into exile from a dying-off civilzation of the Habsburg Empire and Wiener Stimmung. She emigrated to Norway and settled in Oslo. A brilliant student and poetess, she quickly met with the local intelligentzia, in particular with Gunvor Hofmo. she learnt Norwegian very soon and passed her exams in arts at the University of Oslo.
Her life has been closely connected to Gunvor Hofmo, the renown Norwegian feminist poetess. They matched together and spent most of Maier’s life together as “twin poetesses”. Some people say t is not totally clear whether Ruth Maier was an active lesbian; Gunvor Hofmo was definitely in love with the young Ruth and kept her diaries (from 1939 to 1942, i.e. from Vienna to Oslo till her deportation in November 1942). Gunvor Hofmo was deeply tied to Ruth Maier and, after her deportation, she got ill and spent many years in hospital. In 1953, she contacted Gyldendal Edition in order to publish the most insightful writings of Ruth Maier. The manuscript was not taken, maybe because it was to close to the post-war situation in Norway by that time. When Gunvor Hofmo died in 1995, the well-known Norwegian poet and reviver of Norwegian poetry, Jan Enk Vold, eagerly tried to convince the edition to publish the diaries of Ruth Maier, considered as the Norwegian “Anna Frank”. This “struggle” led to the publishing of the full diaries (ca. 1000 pages) in 2007 in Norwegian, then translated into English in only 2009.
This is a rather intriguing situation. The texts were kept hidden by the Ruth Maier’s “life partner” and “twin soul” with much care and jealousy. Is it possible to compare Ruth Maier with Anna Frank or Etty Hilversum? The context is the same: estrangement in their own native societies, they had to flee and were compelled to write downtermingling n their feelings, emotions, booklets and works, reflection. With regards to Ruth Maier, things were a bit special: she was an true Zionist but did not believe in God. Her father was a master in philosophy to begin with and worked in the Austrian post office. Her sister managed to escape to Great Britain. She regreted in her diary that she could not choose the same country as she perfectly understood that Oslo was a dangerous place, especially after the Germans invaded the country in 1942. It was for her a country of contrasts: a wide and open-minded intelligentsia, connected to full modernism and modernity. Morals as arts, literary creation were intermingling positively and Ruth discovered this new world. She did participate in many ways: as a poetess (she could write in German and in Norwegian/Bokmål), but als as a source of inspiration. Her words were much appreciated by sculptors and artists and intellectuals. She became the model of the national sculptor Gustav Vigeland. She is represented in one of his best sculptures called “Surprised” located in the Vigeland´s park of Oslo; the painter Åsmund Esval made many portraits of the young poetess.
Ruth Maier was a very strong-minded woman, with very accute insights about the development of the European society. She could challenge morals and changes of Modern civilization. It is rather strange that I was asked some days ago by a Christian Orthodox woman why we are so profoundly facing the quest of “same-sex movements”. On the basis of different and contradictory reasons, most specialists are reluctant to speak of her as a real lesbian. She was living with a woman who was totally in love with her, but nobody would assert that their relationship was physical, sexual, though it was the time of the raise of such movements that also conducted the gays and lesbians to be deported and murdered as such by the Nazis. Their connection certainly include deep emotional relationships. They lived in a very liberal system and Ruth Maier would not be a woman that could stand any fencing.
Lesbians (I do not write about homosexual males) question the realm of Judaism in many ways. Even if it remains at the level of strong shared emotions, Judaism would be rather flexible if not tolerant, perhaps not to the fullest, but to a large extent. anyway, there is no certitude with regards to this major moral attitude.
Ruth Maier has been compared to other Jewish women such as Anna Arendt because of her “experience” or Nazi times and her views on such a world of suffering and destruction.
She lived in a free national and though largely open Norwegian society of creation and among creators. Oslo was a strange place by that time: the king was in London, but the German resistance found a strong shelter in the country (from Willy Brandt [his Norwegian nickname for Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm”] to Horst Tappert/Derrick actor). On the other hand some Norwegian intellectuals such as Knut Hamsun turned to be on the side of the pro-Nazi party.
But Ruth Maier also participated in a Norwegian society that tried to free itself from moral chains of puritanism intertwined with constant remainders of Nordic/Norse pagansim. In this view, she is close to Sigrid Undset, the famous Norwegian authoress, a genious with regards ot the renewal of Norwegian literature. Sigrid Undset was not provocative, but had to fight all her life, depiected with much clairvoyance the true life of single women and lonesome abandoned wives, obliged to earn their money in dire conditions as they were raising their children. She also described the “prison-like” situation of the married woman at that time and the struggle for women’s dignity and social equity. In her young years, Sigrid Undset approached the leftist parties. Though she wrote with much freedom about adultery and some kind of moral transgressions, she also came closer and closer to Catholicism, i.e. the Church that, in Norway, did really help the poor and the needy and was likely to change the social conditions of men and women. Ruth Maier never came to any faith without falling into any system of despair. Sigrid Undset met with the French writer and theologian, Jacques Maritain with married converted Jewess Raissa. Jacques Maritain was deeply Catholic, “the lay cardinal” and counsellor of late Pope Paul VI at the time of the Second Vatican Council.
This shows the huge link that covers the end of the 19th to all of the 20th century.
The socialist youths that were gathered at Utøya represent or are linked to the image of freedom and futurist open-mindedness of the Norwegian society with regards to nature, society, morals, personal and collective/societal freedom. Among the members of the Storting, one should note the level of participation of women involved in politics and governmental betterment. There are also feminists and the first lesbian member of the Norwegian Parliament (Anette Trettebegstuen) and they are all committed to a specific “Nordic and Scandinavian style” that is considered as “forward”. But it is in direct opposition with some other trends that abide Norway, i.e. country-side Norse nationalism.
In 1948, most of the Scandinavian Churches were strongly backing the nascent State of the Jews, Israel. It is “nuts and shuks” that 60 years after the creation of the State of Israel, a (mentally sick?) Norwegian rightist on-hisown and former member of the extreme-right party could alone get to this sort of twin mass murder. Is this a sign of Christianity? Norwegian Christians as Pastor Solheim had opened Hebrew Christian schools. Today they are more likely to support the “Palestinian movements”.
In fact, most Protestant Churches had been deceived by Israel: the rebirth of a prophetic nation and its in-gathering of the exiled that did not want to accept or take into account the “Gentiles”. The Swedish Church goes through the same “temptation or orientation”. It does not mean it is realistic and corresponds to unexpected evolution.
On the other hand, European Christened societies are at pain with Islam. Generation after generation, rejection attacks liberal systems. Jews and Christians teach and will continue to tell each generation that nobody is a stranger, a foreigner, an alien man, woman, whatever morals concerned. Indeed, there are rules. They cannot be imposed, they are given with the power of God for the benefit of all the faithful.
Ruth Maier is more than present in the events we are going through with some confusion.
Av Aleksandr (Winogradsky Frenkel)
July 26/13, 2011- 7519 – Tamuz 24, 5771 – 25 Shaban 1432