Create or Quarantine
I escaped work. A morning ahead of me: to hide anywhere, to wash continuously to be somewhere, or perhaps go on soup duty. That in any case I shall do. But I can't remain without doing something, it is necessary to occupy one's fingers or one's mind. I have to create. Don't you feel this obligation, intellectual or manual - complete inactivity is the proof of death. One must invent one's wish or rather isolate it in order to reinforce it to lead to activity. Even here the majority of us have, even unconsciously, the need to create. With great difficulty they have found paper and pencil and they write. It must be their diary - deception! All of them write down recipes.
From the first day of quarantine we suffer from this total and forced immobility. We arrive deprived of everything: a shirt, a pair of knickers: nothing doing. Heaped on top of each other we should be unable to do the least thing. All that is required of us is the creation of silence: an impossibility. The day we have to sew on our numbers we have the pleasure of acquiring thread and needle. We have to return them or be punished by bread deprivation; we return them. Mind games are difficult when one isn't even able to move one's foot. Solos are authorised, some of us shed tears of tenderness, I am too young for this kind of sentimentality.
Later: the great advantage of work; but it is necessary that the yield be as low as possible. In any case it provides essential materials: needle, thread, straw mattress cloth, shirts, electric cable, paper, tooth-brush handles or tools and one trims, cuts, writes, draws. Pleasures of mind and hands which make us leave the nightmare, especially as miracles are infinite: one invents, perfects, adapts, spoils, starts again. Precious treasures which one keeps and hides with care. "To think with one's hands". One creates concrete souvenirs which one could not possibly abandon and whose loss is a real drama, which is really very illogical, almost grotesque, when our past and future fates have been decided.
Christmas gives us the opportunity to spend on others. One invents a thousand wiles to find time and materials, ingenuity is huge. We are still women. Here, to create is to resist ... Some of us continue with their recipes, others establish "The Editions of the Cross of Lorraine", collections of poetry, manuscripts to bring some distraction to the sick. Serenity and joy of creation. Somehow one gets together a Choir and lays the foundation of a new song. Information Meetings among comrades: evocation of Balkan countries, of the Russian Revolution ... Neutrality is not enough to fight against death. Despite ourselves, the works exhausts and perhaps saves us, the ruses and joys of sabotage and pleasure and imagination of us liars ... We must get out of here so we think of another life: we create reunions 'of later' in their minutest details, the projects are innumerable. To create, even and especially here, is to admit, to hope, to want to live.
These words were written by Miarka (No 46889) on 26 August 1946 about a day in her life at Ravensbrueck. It was published in ADIR's Newsletter "Voix et Visages" July-October 2003 and translated for this page by Elizabeth Harrison. ADIR is the French National Society of Former Women Internees of the Resistance.