Nelly Sachs was born in Berlin, Germany on December 10, 1891. She is most recognized as a dramatist and poet in addition to a spokeswoman for the Jews. In 1940, with the spread of Nazi power, and persecution of the Jews in Europe, Sachs escaped with her mother to Sweden. However, the experiences and emotions of Nazi persecution and the Holocaust left a deep impression on her memory. It was these memories of the Jewish people’s devastation that influenced much of Sachs’ writing.
At the age of 15, after reading Gösta Berling by Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1909, Sachs and Lagerlöf became correspondents. Lagerlöf instructed the adolescent Sachs on the techniques of imagination and creativity. In 1940, Lagerlöf helped Sachs flee to Sweden, but died before Nelly arrived. In 1947, Sachs published her first volume of poetry, In den Wohnungen des Todes (In the Houses of Death). Through these poems and future volumes, including Und niemand weiss weiter (And No One Knows Where to Go) finished in 1957, she laments over the horrors of the Holocaust as well as the exile of the Jewish people. Nelly Sachs powerfully illustrates her poetry by using metaphors and symbolic prose.
Nelly Sachs was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966 alongside the Israeli writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon. At that moment, Sachs realized that while Agnon embodied the future of the Jewish people in Israel, she stated “I represent the tragedy of the Jewish people.”
Nelly Sachs passed away from cancer on May 12, 1970.