henny gurland + the suicide notes

...In the meantime, you must have heard about our terrible experience with Benjamin. He, José, and I left Marseilles together in order to share the trip. In M. I became rather good friends with him, and he found me suitable as a traveling companion. On the road through the Pyrenees we met Birmann, her sister Frau Lipmann, and the Freund woman from Das Tagebuch. For all of these 12 hours were an absolutely horrible ordeal. We were totally unfamiliar with the road; some of it we had to climb on all fours. In the evening we arrived at Port Bou and went to the police station to request our entry stamps. For an hour, four women and the three of us sat before the officials crying, begging, and despairing as we showed them our perfectly good papers.

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We were all sans nationalité, and we were told that a few days earlier a decree had been issued that prohibited people without nationality from traveling through Spain. They permitted us to spend a night in the hotel, soi-disant under guard, and we were introduced to three policemen who were supposed to escort us to the French border in the morning. The only document I had was the American one; for José and Benjamin this meant that they would be sent to a camp. So all of us went to our rooms in utter despair. At 7 in the morning Frau Lipmann called me down because Benjamin had asked for me. He told me that he had taken large quantities of morphine at 10 the preceding evening and that I should try to present the matter as an illness; he gave me a letter addressed to me and Adorno TH. W ... [sic] Then he lost consciousness. I sent for a doctor, who diagnosed cerebral apoplexy; when I urgently requested that Benjamin be taken to a hospital, i.e., to Figueras, he refused to take any responsibility, since Benjamin was already moribund. I now spent the day with the police, the maire, and the juge, who examined all the papers and found a letter to the Dominicans in Spain. I had to fetch the curé, and we prayed together on our knees for an hour. I endured horrible fear for José and myself until the death certificate was made out the next morning.

As previously arranged, the gendarmes called for the four women on the morning of Benjamin's death. They left José and me in the hotel because I had come with Benjamin. Thus I was there without a visa d'entrée and without customs control; the latter took place in the hotel later. You know Birmann and can judge our situation when I tell you that when she and the others arrived at the border up there, they refused to go on and said they agreed to be returned to the detention camp in Figueras. Meanwhile I had gone to the police station with a certificate from the doctor, and the chief was very impressed by Benjamin's illness. So the four women received their stamps. (Money also exchanged hands, and quite a bit of it.) I received my stamp the next day. I had to leave all my papers and money with the juge and asked him to send everything to the American consulate in Barcelona, which Birmann had telephoned. (The people there refused to do anything for us, despite a lot of explanations.) I bought a grave for five years, etc. I really can't describe the situation to you any more exactly. In any case, it was such that I had to destroy the letter to Adorno and me after I had read it. It contained five lines saying that he, Benjamin, could not go on, did not see any way out, and that he [Adorno] should get a report from me, likewise his son.