Volume 5  –  document 24

On 20 June 1942 Ruth Maier describes her ambivalent feelings towards other Jews and towards Austrian members of the Wehrmacht1HL-senteret, Oslo, Ruth Maiers arkiv 008. Published in Ruth Maier’s Diary, pp. 394–395. This document has been newly translated from German.

Handwritten diary of Ruth Maier, entry for 20 June 1942

20 June 1942

I was in a synagogue. It was quite strange. The Jews came well-dressed, wearing hats. One man, with a white shawl and black cap, prayed before a sort of altar. He prayed and sang. The Jews often joined in, half singing, half speaking. (It was like being inside a beehive.) Whenever I closed my eyes, it was like being in the Orient. Sometimes I could make out the word ‘adonoi’. That is Hebrew: God.

I did not feel that I belonged there. I was a stranger. The Jews had black hair, they were small and dark. I saw them as Jews and myself … as … a non-Jew. There was something in me that drew back from them. – In the past it was different.2It is thought that as a child, until around 1926, Ruth Maier belonged to the Israelite Religious Community of Vienna.

On the other hand, I am so close to the Austrian soldiers. I wanted to talk to them. My people, I want to say. And yet they are not my people at all. Their way of speaking touches me so deeply. On the train I consoled one of them. He was talking to a Norwegian girl; she asked him where he was from. From Austria, he said. That made me feel really good. Later I saw many with the green peaked cap. They were so familiar to me. Their way of speaking is like a lullaby.

I have come to the strange conclusion that I don’t know the Jews after all. It is so sad. I’d like to be together with them again. To love them undividedly. As I used to, when I was with Dita3Ruth’s sister, Judith Maier. in the Zionist association. They sang Hebrew songs. In those days I had a sense of where I belonged.

This document is part of:
Western and Northern Europe 1940–June 1942 (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2021)