This is Renate’s farewell to Candida. We do not know any more than what Renate has reported. Candida went to New Zealand. If you recognize this picture, please let us know.
Candida, my best friend who had arrived in Holland the same time I did, had left this morning with her brother and four-year-old sister to sail unaccompanied to New Zealand, which surely was the end of the world. I would never see her again. I could not eat, could not swallow. Her seat was empty: Candida was no longer at school. As Germany committed ever more aggressive annexations, Candida’s parents had decided to move their children out of Europe.
Candida was my gifted, individualistic friend. She was the daughter of a free-thinking lawyer who was forced to smuggle his children out of Germany; therefore, she and her siblings attended school in this peaceful haven, this center of tranquility in the deep woods of Holland. Candida had short hair like a boy and talked with a slight lisp, wrote poetry, and painted with a sensitive brush. She was deeply serious, worried about good and bad—politics and philosophy.
This tight-knit community had a remarkable esprit de corps. Here, the students did all the cooking, cleaning, and garden work. They built a swimming pool and studied hard. Home talent provided the entertainment. In the evening, we would gather in the festival hall where thick carpets covered the ﬂoor and Gobelin tapestries covered the walls. Candida and I sat cross-legged without shoes, and by candlelight, we listened to ﬂute, piano, violin, and song. If tears ﬂowed during those quiet times, it was because someone had been notiﬁed of the death of a parent in a concentration camp, the incarceration of a brother or sister, or because a close friend had left for the other side of the world.
Teachers and students carried heavy burdens but laughed, worked, meditated, and worshiped together; we made the present vibrant because we feared the future. We sang “Orpheus and Eurydice” and performed Hamlet; the medieval play Everyman resounded on the worn steps of the castle.
While the world around us was violent, cruel, and in ruins from war, we tried to survive by holding on to beauty and truth. We loved each other, knowing this might only be a brief moment of joy before death, knowing that we might have to bid farewell forever to our best friend, Candida.
Death came. Six of our classmates were on board the Simon Bólivar when she ran into a mine in the English Channel and sank. One student, just turned 17, joined the British Royal Air Force and was shot down over Germany. Teachers and students who were left at Eerde after the Germans invaded Holland were loaded on a bus early one morning and taken to the gas chambers. The castle then stood eerie, quiet, desolate, and sad. Only memories inhabited the halls. Echoes of laughter, song, and weeping could be heard among the ancient oaks. Candida . . . Candida . . . Candida.