Google’s Doodle celebrated today the 127th birthday of Nelly Sachs, a German Jewish poet. Sach fled Germany when the Nazis came to power. Her work which largely defines the trauma of the Jewish people during this period has earned global acclaim. Nelly Sachs was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Shmuel Yosef Agnon in 1966. During her acceptance speech, she remarked more famously that while Agnon’s work represented the Israeli nation, hers was simply a depiction of the Jewish people tragedy.
Sachs was born in Berlin in a very prosperous family on December 10, 1891. She studied literature and dance and immediately started writing when she hit adolescent age. Her poetry was published widely in German newspapers. At the time, the persecution of Jews hadn’t started. She even had a stories collection dubbed “Legends and Tales.”
During her early beginnings as a writer, Nelly Sachs also corresponded closely with fellow Swedish writer Selma Lagerlof. When the Nazis took over power in Germany, it became all too apparent for the Sachs family that the country was no longer a safe place for them. Sachs learned of a plan by the Nazis to send her into a forced labor camp. But reprieve would soon come from Lagerlof who asked her country to help Sachs and her family escape Germany. Lagerlof petitioned the royal family to take in Sachs and even though her father died in 1930, she and her mother managed to escape.
Once she arrived in Sweden, the first thing Sachs did was learn Swedish. She worked mostly as a translator and lived in a one bedroom apartment with her mother. During her time in Sweden, Sachs wrote a number of inspirational poems. In their tribute to her, Google said that her “haunting poem” O die Schornsteine which translates to O the Chimneys evoked the spirits of those dearly departed through the depiction of smoke that rose through the chimneys in the Nazi concentration camps. But her work is not just about the plight of Jews. It’s also about exploring the idea of forgiveness and transformation.
The Nobel Prize website has described in epic fashion the seminal work of Sachs and its significance through history. The website read that “the collections Sternverdunkelung which translates to Eclipse of Stars, Und niemand Weiss weiter that translates to “And no one Knows Where to Go”, and Flucht und Verwandlung that translates to “Fight and Metamorphosis” provided the most inspiring depiction of the suffering, the persecution, exile, and death for the Jewish people.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Sachs has won numerous other accolades. She was the recipient of the 1965 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Although her legendary work still continues to inspire many people in the 21st century, Sachs unfortunately passed away in May, 1970. She’s still one of the most celebrated figures in the last century and one of the most influential.