Primo Levi's Correspondence with Hety Schmitt-Maas

Ian Thomson

in Answering Auschwitz

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780823233588
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241811 | DOI:
Primo Levi's Correspondence with Hety Schmitt-Maas

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A complicated, difficult man, Levi was noted for his determination to keep secret what he wished to keep secret. His late essay collection, The Drowned and the Saved typically contains many elisions and concealments. In one chapter, Levi refers to a German admirer of his as “Mrs. Hety S”; in the course of her life she wrote a total of fifty-seven letters to Levi. Hety Schmitt-Maas, the real-life “Mrs. Hety S,” had corresponded with Levi for almost twenty years and was vitally important to him as a writer. Sections of Levi's books could not have been written without her. From her home in Wiesbaden, she put Levi in touch with writer friends and other contacts in Germany, creating an ever-expanding network of correspondence among them. In this way she hoped to counteract Himmler's cynical pledge that the destruction of European Jewry would be an “unwritten page of glory.”

Keywords: German admirer; Hety Schmitt-Maas; Wiesbaden; Himmler's cynical pledge; European Jewry

Chapter.  2136 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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