On February 7th of 1909, a 30-year-old mother of two by the name of Emma Hauck was admitted to the psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, having recently been diagnosed with dementia praecox (schizophrenia). The outlook improved briefly and a month later she was discharged, only to be readmitted within weeks as her condition deteriorated further. Sadly, the downturn continued and in August of that year, with her illness deemed “terminal” and rehabilitation no longer an option, Emma was transferred to Wiesloch asylum, the facility in which she would pass away eleven years later.
It was around this time that a heartbreaking collection of letters, some of which can be seen below, were discovered in the archives of the Heidelberg hospital; all written obsessively in Emma’s hand during her second stay at the clinic in 1909, at a time when reports indicate she was relentlessly speaking of her family. Each desperate letter is directed at her absent husband, Mark, and every page is thick with overlapping text. Some are so condensed as to be illegible; some read “Herzensschatzi komm” (“Sweetheart come”) over and over; others simply repeat the plea, “komm komm komm,” (“come come come”) thousands of times.
None were sent.
A selection of these letters feature in the original volume of Letters of Note. Eternal thanks to the Prinzhorn Collection for their assistance, and for granting permission for these documents to be reproduced. Thanks, also, to Moose Allain for bringing them to my attention many moons ago. If you’d like letters of note to be regularly sent your inbox, sign up for the newsletter.