This article is an excerpt from Anni.

Born in Germany in 1909, Annemarie Wächter encountered ideas and people in her adolescence that unsettled the simple faith of her childhood. Her letters and diary entries describe her unlikely journey back to faith. Anni’s roommate at college was Emi-Margret Arnold, who described to Anni the Bruderhof, a community that her parents, Eberhard and Emmy Arnold, had established near Fulda, Germany. Anni later recounted:

Emi-Margret told me some of the inner back-ground of the community she came from, but I could not understand it. I sensed that she had a real belief in God, a firm basis, and that is what we mostly discussed, but I was afraid of it. I wanted to be very sure that this really was the truth and that I would not find out, after a year or two, that it had given the appearance of being real when it actually was not. So I was somewhat critical, even though in another way I was attracted. I did not want to bind myself to any firm belief or to commit myself.

As she entered her twenties, Anni’s discontent and seeking intensified.

Diary, November 10, 1929

Tillich says, “Youth means being gripped by the infinite, and therefore youth is religion.” Who is it that is gripped? 

I would just like to know whether it’s really different for us than for mature people – I mean those people who really stand for something and who don’t simply exist. It must be strange to have a worldview. What does believing and not believing mean anyway? What is religion, and who has it? Where do great people get their beliefs from, their conviction? Have they had an experience of God? Tillich says, “Youth means being gripped by the infinite, and therefore youth is religion.” Who is it that is gripped? We can’t believe anything anymore, because we know too much. Everything has its name and is classified and arranged neatly in its place. Of course, people say that to be eternally seeking and not finding means an incomplete development, but to me it still seems the best option. Who can dare commit herself to a certain course for the whole length of life?

Diary, June 28, 1930

This is true objectivity: to be able to conquer your own self enough that you can acknowledge what is right, and then to fight for that with your whole inner arsenal. No one grows through neutrality; the only result is insipidity and nonsensical philosophizing. It just makes you stupid. This type of inner loneliness is the worst thing there is. Sometimes it could kill you.

Annemarie Wächter All images courtesy of Annemarie Wächter’s family.

Diary, April 3, 1931

It has been almost a year since I wrote in here. And what has happened since then? Much and nothing. It seems as if the world has come to a standstill for me because of the weakening relationships with those my own age and with other people in general.