Robert A. DeGray, Ph. D. Edmund Husserl a very Short Introduction to his Phenomenology 1859-1938


§ 1. THE RESCUE OF EDITH STEIN’S NACHLASS



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§ 1. THE RESCUE OF EDITH STEIN’S NACHLASS
What ever happened to Edith Stein’s “unpublished manuscripts”? That is to say, which include her personal letters as well as all her posthumous writings which she was forced to leave behind at the “Convent at Echt” after she was arrested and picked up by two Nazi “Gestapo” SS guards and then deported to the East? What ever became of them? Were they lost? Did anyone attempt to “collect” or preserve Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross’ Nachlass for the sake of posteriety or not?
To help answer some of these above questions, I wish to briefly turn to the story of the “rescue and salvage” of Edith Stein’s Nachlass by Father Hermann Leo Van Breda from the ruins of a tiny convent located near the town of “Herkenbosh,” in Holland after the Nazi-occupation and bombings which nearly totally destroyed this small convent during the Second World War.
Thus, the story of the salvage of Edith Stein’s writings begins with Father Van Breda’s efforts to try to collect and preserve her “unpublished manuscripts” or Nachlass for posterity by the “Husserl Archives” immediately after the Second World War.

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In order to achieve this goal he would begin with an extensive search at the convent of Echt in order to try to locate Edith Stein’s lost manuscripts in Holland.
Thus, shortly after Edith Stein’s death, Fr. Van Breda travelled from Leuven, Belgium to Echt, Holland in March 1945, by military vehicle, along with the “Carmelite Prior” of Geleen in order to attempt to locate Edith Stein’s Nachlass which had been lost during the Nazi occupation and bombings there.

Their task was to try to rescue Sr. ‘Teresa Benedicta of the Cross’ writings.


Once in Holland, they met with Sisters Pia and Sr. Francisca who had just returned back to their Echt convent after the Nazi occupation of Holland. Again, the purpose of Fr. Van Breda’s visit was strictly a search and rescue mission. That is to say, it was an attempt to try to locate Edith Stein’s lost manuscripts, personal letters, and other documents in order to try to preserve them in the interest of posterity for scholarly purposes at the Husserl-Archives.
Did they ever find Edith Stein’s unpublished manuscripts?
At first they found nothing in their search of the convent of Echt where “Sister Benedicta had kept her manuscripts in her cell before two Nazi “Gestapo” SS guards knocked at the door of the Echt convent and demanded that she pack and leave (in ten minutes) before arresting her and her sister Rosa.
However, after driving on a little further ahead by military vehicle to the small town of “Herkenbosh” (in bitter ice-cold weather), they searched a tiny convent

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there which lay in total ruins from the German bombings of this town; it was here that Fr. Van Breda found over three quarters of Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross’ manuscripts, personal letters, and documents which were heavily soiled, torn, and scattered throughout the ruins of the tiny convent. They had found the Nachlass of Edith Stein.
Says Sr. Teresia Renata Posselt,
All contacts with the Carmel in Echt were broken off, as Holland was occupied by the Allies.

Earlier, the Sisters in Echt had suffered a great deal during the defense of the town by German troops, and had to abandon their convent for a short time. Fortunately, they had previously put the papers

left by Sr. Benedicta into good order and stored them away. Thus everything remained in safety until

the sisters were suddenly forced to flee from Echt on January 6th, 1945, before a wave of retreating troops. All of them were taken to “Herkenbosh” in Germany military vehicles. But three days later several Sisters managed to return to Echt to salvage some things. At that time they brought Sr.

Benedicta’s writings back with them in two bags.

We wanted to hide them in the cellar of the little convent, that resembled a house of cards and that had given us shelter, Mother Antonia recounted, but the Prioress did not permit it due to lack of space. So the bags were left upstairs. We asked at the Franciscan house in Vlodrop whether we might store them there, but severe shelling prevented the request from getting attended to for three weeks. Long before this, we ourselves had been driven out of “Herkenbosh,” and although Sister Pia was left behind to look after Sister Francisca, who was wounded, she could do nothing. Danger and destruction were everywhere. Once we were in “Leinarden”, communication with the South was disrupted for months. We were powerless.

Eventually, in March 1945, a military vehicle, carrying Professor Father Hermann Van Breda, O.F.M. director of the “Husserl-Archive” and the Carmelite Prior of Geleen, went from Leuven to Echt, where Sr. Pia and Sr. Francisca had returned. There they searched for the manuscripts. Since they could find nothing, they drove on to “Herkenbosch” in ice-cold winter weather. There they

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searched the tiny convent that was by now nothing more than a ruin, and they found, soiled, torn and scattered, about three quarters of Sr. Benedicta’s papers. 1

Moreover, in light of Fr. Van Breda’s rich find, these above unpublished manuscripts, personal letters, and other documents of Edith Stein’s Nachlass have been entrusted by him to Dr. Lucy Gelber at the “Husserl-Archives” in Leuven for the purposes of restoration and scholarly study as well as for the careful editing of all of Edith Stein’s works for future publication.
__________________


By Robert A. DeGray, Ph.D.

American University of Prague

(www.Prague-Humanities-Institute.com)

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Endnotes to Appendix I.

SISTER TERESA BENEDICTA OF THE CROSS

(1892-1942)

1. Teresia Renata Posselt, O.C.D.“Edith Stein the Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite.”

Washington, D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies (ICS), 2005. p. 63.

2. Ibid; p. 142.

3. Ibid; p. 143.

4. Ibid; p. 143.

5. Ibid; p. 144.

6. Ibid; p. 144.

7. Ibid; p. 144.

8. Ibid; p. 144.

9. Ibid; p. 144.

10. Ibid; p. 144.

11. Ibid; p. 144.

12. Ibid; p. 144.

13. Ibid; p. 144.

14. Ibid; p. 144.

15. Ibid; pp. 144-145.

16. Ibid; p. 154.

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Endnotes to Appendix II.

ON THE NAZI PERSECUTION

AND MARTRDOM OF EDITH STEIN

AT AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

(August 9th, 1942)
1. John M. Oesterreicher, “Walls are Crumbling: Seven Jewish Philosophers Discover Christ.”

New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1952. p. 369-370.

2. Edith Stein, “Self-Portrait in Letters: 1916-1942”. (The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume five), edited by Dr. Lucy Gelber. Translated by Josephine Koeppel, O.C.D. Washing D.C.:

Institute of Carmelite Studies (ICS), 1993. pp. 350-351.

3. Ibid; p. 352.

4. Ibid; p. 353.

5. Teresia Renata Posselt, O.C.D.“Edith Stein the Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite.”

Washington, D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies (ICS), 2005. p. 228-230.

6. Ibid; p. 233.

7. Edith Stein, “Life in a Jewish Family: An Autobiography”. (The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume one), edited by Dr. Lucy Gelber. Translated by Josephine Koeppel, O.C.D. Washington D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies (ICS), 1986. p. 432.

8. Ibid; p. 434.

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Endnotes to Appendix III.

On The Rescue of Edith Stein’s Nachlass

By Father Van Breda


1. Teresia Renata Posselt, O.C.D.“Edith Stein the Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite.”

Washington, D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies (ICS), 2005. pp. 224-225.



Corrections or comments to:
Dr. Robert A. DeGray

The American University of Prague /

Prague Humanities Institute

(+6 hrs. ahead of New York)



www.prague-humanities-institute.com

email: enquiries@prague-humanities-institute.com


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