Lenteloos voorjaar & De wereld waar ik buiten sta
The sharp, humorous and moving diaries of a woman in hiding
When the personal effects of one of the most important post-war Dutch poets, Hanny Michaelis, were found to include her diary from the German occupation of the Netherlands, it caused a literary sensation. Like Anne Frank, Michaelis was Jewish and forced into hiding. Inevitably, the diary is being compared with Anne Frank’s.
The large number of notebooks have been published in two annotated volumes: the first covering 1940 and 1941; the second 1942-45. In 1942 Michaelis had to take the drastic step of going into hiding. On 1 January she noted:
‘Even the fact of sleeping in my own bed, in my own room, tonight for the last time does not fill me with the sadness I’d feared.’
She was determined to remain in high spirits; despite the tears welling up when the light was turned off on her first night in her new room, she wrote: ‘I don’t feel so very unhappy.’ In the words of the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, the diary balances between ‘heights of optimism and pessimistic depths’.
Hanny Michaelis hid under a false name, working as a live-in maid in an author’s household, which gave her the ‘privilege’ of being able to read books, write, and – despite life-threatening circumstances – meet well-known writers and artists.
Michaelis was clearly more mature than the younger Anne Frank, but similarly, her diary became her most important ‘conversation partner’. She describes her youth passing and tells of her early attempts at literature and her terrible uncertainty about the fate of her parents, who had been deported to Germany. She eventually discovered that they were murdered in 1943. Michaelis survived, producing a unique testimony of a dark time.