Nelly Sachs Additional Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Leonie (Nelly) Sachs was born in Berlin on December 10, 1891, the only child of William Sachs, an inventor, technical engineer, and manufacturer, and his wife, Margarete (né Karger). The family lived in very comfortable financial circumstances, and Sachs was educated in accordance with the custom for daughters of the upper-middle class. Although both of her parents were of Jewish ancestry, Sachs’s family had few ties with the Jewish community and did not practice their religion. Sachs attended public schools from 1897 to 1900, but for reasons of poor health was removed and received private instruction until 1903. She then attended a private secondary school for daughters of wealthy and titled families and finished her education in 1908 without any formal professional training. In the summer of that year, she fell in love with a man whose name she never revealed. That experience, which ended unhappily, escalated into a crisis, making Sachs consider suicide. The man was later killed in one of Germany’s concentration camps.

For the next twenty-five years, even after the death of her father in 1930, Sachs led a sheltered and not particularly noteworthy existence. She produced some poetry, read extensively, and did watercolors, some of which have been preserved in the Nelly Sachs Archive in Stockholm. In 1906, Sachs received Lagerlöf’s novel Gösta Berling (1891) as a birthday present. Her admiration for the writer resulted in a correspondence between the two, and Sachs sent Lagerlöf many of her own literary experiments. Through the intervention of Lagerlöf and the brother of the reigning Swedish king, Sachs and her mother received permission to emigrate to Sweden in 1939. Shortly after Lagerlöf’s death in 1940, Sachs received orders from German authorities to appear for deportation to a work camp. Leaving all their possessions behind, Sachs and her mother fled Germany, arriving in Stockholm on May 16,...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In almost eighty years, Nelly Sachs (saks) moved from affluence to poverty, from her native Germany to exile in Sweden, and from obscurity to fame. On her seventy-fifth birthday, in 1966, frail but radiant, she received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The only child of Jewish businessman Georg William Sachs and his young wife, Margarete (née Karger) Sachs, Nelly grew up surrounded by loving adults: her parents, maternal grandmother, and great-grandmother. They lived in richly furnished apartments, with gardens large enough for Nelly to have a roe deer, goats, and dogs as pets. In the evenings, her father played the piano and she danced to the music.

Sachs’s emotional suffering first manifested itself when she was seventeen. A brief romantic involvement with a man she never named precipitated anorexia that required her to be hospitalized for more than two years. Her attending psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Cassirer, restored her to health by encouraging her creative writing.

Sachs then returned to the shelter of her parents’ home. She began corresponding with the 1909 Nobel laureate, Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. In 1921, Sachs’s first book was published, Legenden und Erzählungen (legends and stories). It was a rare attempt at prose and shows clearly the influence of other authors. Sachs had not yet found her poetic voice.

Sachs’s father died of cancer in 1930. Around this time, her interest in German Romanticism led her to Professor Max Herrmann and to new friends in his circle. These contacts were to save her life. Two friends from this circle, Gudrun Harlan and Vera Lachman, were instrumental in the Sachses’ escape from Germany.

Like many assimilated Jews, Sachs and her mother reacted to initial reports of Nazi persecution with disbelief. Only after the pogrom in November, 1938, did Nelly write to Lagerlöf to ask for help. Gudrun Harlan, who was...

(The entire section is 787 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Nelly Sachs shared the 1966 Nobel Prize in Literature with another Jewish author, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, and is often studied in conjunction with other twentieth century German Jewish authors. Although Sachs was a member of a persecuted race and wrote about the Holocaust, her work contains no hatred or desire for revenge. She expresses her feeling of tremendous loss in terms of concern for the effects that such extreme disregard for life may have on the balance of the world. Sachs’s work is not depressing, but it conveys a transcendent vision.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The major work of Nelly Sachs (saks), written during and after World War II, is a witness to the Holocaust. In 1966, when she shared a Nobel Prize in Literature with the writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Sachs commented, “Agnon represents the state of Israel. I represent the tragedy of the Jewish people.”

Sachs, born in Berlin in 1891, was reared in one of its finest neighborhoods. An only child, she early on demonstrated an interest in the arts, particularly dance. Her earliest published writing, which she wished not to be included in her collected works, are neo-Romantic in their traditional rhymed forms and rootedness in Nordic myth and German mysticism. Not until the 1930’s did Sachs, having become acquainted with...

(The entire section is 759 words.)


(Poetry for Students)

Nelly Sachs was born Leonie Sachs on December 10, 1891. She was educated in Berlin, the only child born into an upper-class, liberal family....

(The entire section is 610 words.)