Letters from Else, July to August 1939

Letter: 5 July 1939

5th July 1939, page one
5th July 1939, page one
5th July 1939, page two
5th July 1939, page two

Gleiwitz, 5th July 1939

Dear Werner,

Because I don’t have much to do today, I will reply to your letter I received today, so that I know with certainty that it will reach you at least on Saturday, and on Wednesday I hope I get some news from you.

We are pleased that you are well and are managing to have some outings. As soon as you get to London, it will be even more interesting. You have to be happy with your present circumstances. You have already been there four weeks and you might not be able to have a trip to London for some time yet. You will be interested in the enclosed newspaper cuttings, which I found a few days ago and forgot.

Is your affidavit available? Perhaps you have to make a written application – 10 days (or 20) seems a long time. Do you have your correct registration number? I would have to blame myself if I hadn’t found the article in time, but you are also to blame because you must have read it yourself ­– you were home on the 20th May and you were trying to discover how much you would have to pay for your visa. But at the time you didn’t possess the affidavit so the notice wouldn’t have been any use to you. I always will have to look out for my grand boy.

I was pleased with the letter from Dr W; it says it all appears that all your preparations will be successful. Are you thinking about the financial implications or something else? I am pleased that you are in contact with the people from the Camp in E. and it would have been even more beneficial if one knew how long such preparations will take to be realised. One can only hope for the best. Our flatmates are not in a good mood. The fate of the passengers on the St. Louis had sad consequences and it is questionable whether they will be able to leave in spite of the fact that they have paid their fares. I am very sorry for them. In any case I have hung a plaque in the communal house. Some friends of B would like to move in with us. That would mean three people and would give us even less space. They have a 14-year old boy. He was sent to the camp from here a short time ago; the food is not to his taste. As you are cooking the rice yourself? You must appreciate the taste. Are you adding parsley?

The amount must be quite plentiful. Uncle Fedor sends you his regards. He sent us a letter from Betty today; she is going to the seaside with suitcase. A relative who has lived in Paris for 20 years was asked to leave. I have not heard from Myst for a long time. I must write and ask about your letter. I did not get a reply about the children. Perhaps one should enquire in Berlin or Beuthen. What do you need to send to Mrs Sol?

We all send you our love dear son – especially your


It occurs to me that Heinz says Dr Erwin Kohn, whom he has met, is employed as a Nurse not a doctor. Did you put mothballs in your blankets? I know your address by heart now. Hope you are alright; we are all quite well.

(Translation by Helga Brown BA Dip. Ed. née Steinhardt)

Letter: 13 July 1939

Letter: 13th July 1939 – page one
Letter: 13th July 1939 – page two

Gleiwitz, 13th July 1939

Dear Werner

Your letter, this time arrived 24 hours later than the last one, and I looked forward to it with great longing. The letter was sealed with sticky gum – did you do that? I like to think of you working during the holidays. I have repeatedly considered it to be healthier for you to work outside and find friends you like; it is worth a lot. Have you met L. Kohn? I don’t find him very likeable and I don’t think you do either, but he has a sister Rosel and a brother in London, who has been there for ages, whom he visits from time to time and perhaps he can you get an invitation. Perhaps he won’t do it because you weren’t very keen on cultivating connections with relatives in earlier times. And regarding Dr E[ngel] – why shouldn’t you contact him, when he has already done so much for others? You can explain to him that it concerns a visit to Bloomsbury House in London to contact the American Consulate. Kurt Berg is still living in Bloomsbury House. Do you think you could try and enclose a note – a mark? I don’t think it is possible that I misunderstood – the possessors of affidavits that haven’t been registered have to register and must inform the American Consulate. I didn’t think I could have made that up. I think you didn’t want to take the information with you in case you mislaid it. Do you want me to send it on to you? In any case, write a letter to the consulate to say that you can’t appear personally right now. Don’t worry, dear boy, about your future while there is something you can do. There is nothing you can do if the paths are obstructed – just wait and hope, don’t you agree. Do you still speak to Dr Breslauer? I think he will be able to tell you the whereabouts of your friend Treseck. He was at Dr B’s house, because that is where Mrs Schufter got to know him. I was pleased to hear that you are content with your food. I was told that English vegetables are very watery and the meat almost raw. Do you get fruit sometimes? Lately, I was informed that it is possible to send you parcels of clothes, but I will have to find out more details. I will send you cigarettes, because the English ones are said to be scented. Perhaps you can get them for nothing from non-smokers and make some money. Do you agree? I had a letter from Mysl the other day. Uncle had the affidavit from Auntie Sack; he has now received permission to stay in Poland. With regard to the children – he received your letter and has written to you. Berthe told him that children living in other countries won’t be sent away. A strange decision, as these children were sent away on account of their German nationality. Bureaucracy reigns, or perhaps not.

Aunt Hedel came to visit Sunday and just as it was during your last presence here, when she wanted to go to the station in the evening, she decided to spend the night here; she only left Monday morning, after helping me to clean the house in the morning and clear up the bedroom. I couldn’t set aside any other day, as the weather was so bad; it is forever raining. Is it the same with you? Your ears must have been burning Sunday and Monday; we were discussing how lovely it would be if you could spend your holidays at home, like you used to. The empty school playground upsets me all the time and depresses me. So as not to depress you as well, I will tell you something amusing to end up with. Aunt H tells me that Bau W has no prospects; he would like to go to the camp. Did you write to him? His daughter is a domestic helper in England, he says. I am so sorry – I can’t visualise it. It isn’t really funny. Keep well, my dear son, and in good spirits. Grandmother and Father send their love.

Lots of kisses


The enclosed article is probably not news to you. If private schools are being financed by R.V., then they will have to close, because their funds are provided from the same source as state schools.

A reply coupon is enclosed.

Letter: 20 July 1939

GL 20 07 1939 side one
GL 20 07 1939 side two

Gleiwitz, 20th July 1939

Dear Werner

It is definitely better not to expect a letter and then to be pleasantly surprised by receiving one, as was the case. So, on Tuesday I was not expecting a letter from you at all; although I would have liked one on the 16th, a Sunday, I did not think there was a collection on Sundays. I was overjoyed to have news of you. It looks as if you have a chance of obtaining employment in an office and I can understand that you would prefer such a job. I expect you would find more satisfaction in such employment. The organisers in the camp will be pleased for you and it is important that you stay in contact with your acquaintances and that you will be able to take up the invitation from London. As regards the Australian project, it was mentioned in the newsletter; if I am not wrong I think it is in the North West of the country, which is suddenly a consideration. The land is wonderful, a representative says, but one has to be aware that great effort and hard work will be required from the settlers. Who knows what the climate will be like?

You would have been interested in the enclosed article from the newsletter. I can’t find it, concerning the Director Hirsch, who would have been your boss. On Monday, Ruy is finally travelling from Hamburg to Dover. By yesterday, all official documents were completed without any particular problems and their boat leaves on the 29th.

I do not have any replacement [accommodation]; eventually, I could find a home, but for 20 marks without breakfast. My supplement is too small. Aunt Klara will be visiting us on Sunday. I thought she would be accompanied by Aunt Hedel. A short time ago Betty passed her public health exam. I don’t know whether it will qualify her for teaching P.E.

I don’t have any other news. I am very tired as yesterday was wash day. I will have a rest today; the constant going up and downstairs makes one feel jaded. I couldn’t get hold of the cigarettes. It wasn’t till Saturday, Sunday and Monday I received them as samples. If the customs charges are too high, 25 shillings, you will have to inform me. There is a possibility of using Ecuador, which is charging 25 shillings a month. The English lady told Ruth that it is very difficult. It is not a good thing that you have so little fruit. Sell the cigarettes and buy fruit.

On the whole we are well and lively. We are satisfied with that. Father and Grandma send their regards. Kisses dear son.

With love from Mother

Enclosed info.

(Translation by Helga Brown BA Dip. Ed. née Steinhardt)

Letter: 24 July 1939

24th July 1939
24th July 1939

Gleiwitz, 24th July 1939

Dear Werner,

You will be surprised to receive another letter from me, by air-mail this time. An S.O.S letter. On Saturday midday my grass-widowhood came to an end, because I went to collect Father. Sadly, he was not allowed to accompany me and up to now he has still not returned. I am trying hard to obtain more information. Tomorrow, I will go again to try and find out more. Now I have been advised to get into contact with you immediately, so that you can make it your priority to obtain a visa for Father personally. As you are not completely free yourself, you can undertake little yourself, but I would like you to contact the authorities in charge, to set things in motion immediately. Perhaps in this case they will not adhere to the age limits so strictly for accepting someone for a place in the Camp. I myself cannot get away because I cannot leave Grandmother on her own. There must be another way – the housing shortage might be a solution – an occupation for me in another household might be a possibility. You must not give yourself a headache on this account. Sent 25 cigarettes on Saturday. I hope you didn’t have to pay customs duty on them; they were a sample.  Yesterday the Aunts were here; it was of course a joyous gathering. With God’s blessing, my dear boy, I hope you can have some success.

Greetings and kisses from your Mother

(Translation by Helga Brown BA Dip. Ed. née Steinhardt)

Letter: 27 July 1939

Letter: 27th July 1939 - page 1
Letter: 27th July 1939 - page 2

Gleiwitz, 27th July 1939

Dear Werner

As your weekly news only arrived today, I wanted to wait before I let you know that father arrived home on Tuesday afternoon at 1.25 after I phoned the appropriate authority in the morning. He is obliged to give evidence of emigration by the 1st of October. On Tuesday morning I collected the required from the assistance board. Frau Wienskowitz, whom you may remember, knew what to do and thought we had a son in England, that perhaps he could make arrangements for us. If that happened I would be very happy.

In the last three days, Sunday and Monday, father is very depressed; he weighs 134 lbs, which is far too little. Aunt Hedel, whom we informed after his return, arrived yesterday to welcome him. If you would like to hear more from us, then if you can get leave – travel on Thursday, the third of August to Dover where the Cordillera will land with the Bujaltouskys on board. They didn’t know the exact time of their arrival. Frau Buj, if time permitted as she has several things to do in Hamburg, was going to ascertain the time of arrival and let you know. In case she does not have time to do this, you could find out the time of arrival. The ship is heading for Boulogne the same day.

Besides I am curious to know with whom you conducted the conversation regarding scientific questions. How is it that you have not put it in writing? Is it because they want to keep you busy, because they have tired you out, or because you didn’t come out well. Can one ask the Director or not? Don’t forget to congratulate your grandmother on her 85th birthday on August 2nd. Hopefully the cigarettes arrived safely without you having to pay duty. We hope to hear from you very soon dear son.

Thousands of kisses and greetings.

Your loving mother

Much love from Grandmother

Reply coupon enclosed.

At last I am home. They were very strenuous weeks for me. How glad I am to be outside. I am on tenterhooks to hear your news.

Your loving father

(Translation by Helga Brown BA Dip. Ed. née Steinhardt)

Note: we don’t yet know what Leopold’s note refers to here. I understand that at some point he was ‘subject to a police action’, which was deemed by the family to have worsened his heart problems. It might be this, but future translations may make it clearer.

Letter: 2 August 1939


Gleiwitz, 2nd August 1939

Dear Werner,

Today we are celebrating the Jewish Holy Day, but everywhere is quiet, we have no guests for coffee and it is a good time for writing. I have bought flowers and baked a cake for my own benefit. We have had many letters of congratulations even from relatives who don’t usually contact us. Uncle Fedor has sent 20 and at the behest of the welfare offices a young lady came with a lovely bouquet of flowers and 10m; also Kirt Niklas came with a box of chocolates and a packet of delicious biscuits. We will keep it to eat with our coffee, but he couldn’t stay because he was helping his one-time boss with his packing. He didn’t have much time; he just called in on his way to the post office. I just gave him a piece of cake (birthday). Father took a piece to the post office too. The postage is almost as much as the value of it. The main thing is, however, that you will receive it this time and that you will enjoy the taste of it. As to the cigarettes, my son, it is your own fault. I can’t save you from the blame. Why didn’t you ask before the event not after, because the cost of tax on them is prohibitive. That is why they were returned. Haven’t you been able to calm down the officials at the savings bank? Please write and tell us how often we are allowed to post goods, then you can receive a replacement. It has occurred to me that I wrote on ordinary paper instead of airmail. Did you have to pay extra for that? A fine? Are they being returned (the cigarettes) in a packet or singly? Father stopped smoking; he was only grumpy for the first four days; he was weak but now he is looking better but he still has great problems with his heart. At the moment he is grumbling because I advised you to travel to Dover, so that you could get some money from the Aunt. Perhaps I am right in this case. Someone told him that Dover is 200 miles from the Kitchener Camp. I don’t think so, if I remember correctly, and you can’t be bathing in the sea. The Cordilla is mooring – stopping temporarily in Dover. Frau Buj. told me while showing me the itinerary of the ship; it is travelling along the Belgian coast and then the French coast to Boulogne. I would be very pleased if you could talk to these people. I miss the pleasant lady so much we both cried on packing. We have inherited quite a few items – a decent gas cooker, a bean cutting machine, an electric iron and a wine container for 200 bottles. Father will try to sell it, in addition to other small articles. They also gave us money to pay their gas and electric bills and postage for sending a box to their parents – 100m and another 100 came from the post office in Hamburg, sent by their son. They left at 7 o’clock, or 6. What do you have to say about that? You are probably just as surprised as I was. Well, of course, they were not able to take any of their belongings with them, but it is questionable whether others would have been treated similarly in the same circumstances. We had a bit of luck with regard to the money and that is to our benefit, as Father is not working yet. It is difficult for him in the heat. 15 minutes after receiving the money by post on the 31st a man came and rented a room for 14 days; after that he is travelling. He is paying 1.50m per day including breakfast. He wanted to pay in advance as usual, but so far he hasn’t paid. He was a printer with the Wanderer; he doesn’t speak. But I was told that he is a decent person.

After all your stress, you are entitled to some entertainment, dear son. Mr Ing can’t complain. Congratulations on your success in the chess tournaments; it is not surprising with the results of your previous competitions. Betty is in Le Touquet with her 2 children and her mother on the coast in a 1st class hotel for 2 months, if nothing untoward happens. She was welcomed by their Father as well as Baur. He will contact Baur or write to him and report what has been happening. The application for a passport was made today. It has been raining here nonstop for 36 hours and there were large floods. Uncle Fedor is wondering what we have to write about every week and my paper has run out. Stay well.

Lots of love and kisses, and also from Father.

NB. We have celebrated and thought vividly about 5 and 15 years past: the last was a wedding. Today there is no longer any mystery.

(Translation by Helga Brown BA Dip. Ed. née Steinhardt)

Letter: 10 August 1939

10th August 1939, page one
10th August 1939, page one
10th August 1939, page two
10th August 1939, page two

Gleiwitz, 10th August 1939

Dear Werner,

There were problems with sending you the sample I enclosed in your letter, about which I already knew from Mrs Bug. One is only allowed to send 400gms of goods, excluding packaging (500 gm altogether). Father wanted to find out from the Post Office and he returned with the news that you could send 2 kilos 5 x 50. I was pleased about that news, because it meant that the cake could remain whole, didn’t have to be cut, and Father dispatched 700 grms as a taster from the post office for 70D postage. That was on the Wednesday, but on Friday the package was returned with the words taster cancelled and a remark that postage cost 10d for 50 grms, so the whole package should cost 1.50 postage. The whole cake wasn’t worth that much, at least not the 100grms. Most of that would have been for the packaging – so lovingly prepared, which weighed 110 grms – so I cut a piece of the cake off and took it as a taster to the post office on Saturday, weighing 500 grms; it looked less firm, and obviously the surplus 20d postage I had already paid I had to lose. I obviously had an argument with Father and I was very angry. I am curious to find out in what condition the cake arrived at your place; probably all broken. It would be better to send individual small cakes, but for that one needs B. I will send 10 cigarettes, but without any packaging – postage is cheap for that and I hope we will be luckier.

I am sorry, dear Werner, that you couldn’t talk to B. I don’t know if Mrs B told me the correct date, or whether I had forgotten! I don’t know – probably the latter, because after the departure I was quite confused and my memory was not good. It is a good job that at least you didn’t travel to Dover in vain.

The enclosed letter from the benefit office we received yesterday. Maybe it will be of some use in Father’s affairs but it will have to be returned quite quickly because he needs it for the authorities. It would be good if you could get to London. I hope it will be not just a future wish. In a short while you will be able to meet Max K; as his wife has employment as domestic help he will be coming to London. The son-in-law of Mrs Bettchen Plesner, Mr Weissen is also coming to the Camp. If you have anything to send we could ask him to take it. Father went to work for two days but he came back with heart problems and until now he has been in bed.

What about Shanghai? I don’t think he will be able to work here in the clinic, to which he is accustomed regularly. Otherwise, I have nothing pleasant to report. I think that is enough for today.

Stay well my dear son, and be as happy as you can.

Your Loving Mother

1 ticket to Sandwich – London Special Offer

(Translation by Helga Brown BA Dip. Ed. née Steinhardt)

Letter: 17 August 1939

17th August, 1939
17th August, 1939
17th August, 1939, page 2
17th August, 1939, page 2

Gleiwitz, 17th August, 1939

Dear Werner,

Your letter took a long time on its travels; it only arrived today in the afternoon. We began to wonder whether you were in London or even ill, or, or, etc. I am pleased that you have the chance of enjoying bathing in the sea; sea water makes you stronger, but don’t stay in the water too long. The doctor advised me to stay in only three minutes – advice I didn’t heed as much as I should have, although I am now passing it on to you. I expect you immerse yourself in the water – do you have a high and low tide?

You will have received the cake but I had to take the cigarettes home from the Post Office because they are no longer accepting those types of goods. Herr Weiss left here on Monday. We were informed that Fräulein Pinkers, sister of Frau Plessant, left on the same day. I will ask aunt Hedel to visit his wife to find out if she can take the articles you asked for when she travels in a few weeks time to E. (that is, if she is still able to leave then). I would love to send you some fruit, because your few pairs of P are insufficient. When did you ask me to get in touch with the relatives of K., as you are so well informed about their leaving?

If you have to deal more with Maths, and you probably prefer that, it is a small improvement and perhaps a bigger one will follow on and everything that you are unaccustomed to will prove an advantage. August and September will be the most beautiful weather. I wrote to W. in O. yesterday and we asked when it would be convenient to speak to them, because we cannot achieve anything just by corresponding. Besides, Shanghai is blocked because there is much poverty there. Have you not heard anything about that? Because of the bad weather Father has only just been able to resume his activities. Hopefully, he will be able to carry on with them. You will, meanwhile, have received his letter with the two enclosures. We didn’t know anything about the happy solution to uncle Kurt’s dilemma; the people only write once in a blue moon and then wonder why we don’t answer promptly. We wrote after Grandma’s birthday; they must have received this, as you received yours at the same time. I hope you receive this one in good time. I would take it to the post box immediately, but it is raining and thundering again, as it has done the whole week. Sadly, my good lodger left to travel away. On the 1st of September there should be someone to take his place. Keep well, my dear boy. Father and Grandma send their love.

Lots of love and kisses from your beloved Mother

Grandma wants you to know that dear Heinz has his birthday on the 23rd

(Translation by Helga Brown BA Dip. Ed. née Steinhardt)

Note: travelling to ‘E.’ will have meant to ‘England’ in this context. ‘W. in O.’ refers to Wilhelmine Hoffmeister in Osnabrück, where Else lived for a time when she was younger.

Letter: 24 August 1939

24 08 1939, Page 2

  Gleiwitz, 24th August, 1939

Dear Werner

Your letter arrived only today with the first delivery, but I was not worried about the lengthy pause, because I suspected you used the lovely weather to spend some time at the seaside. I am pleased that you were able to enjoy bathing and able to raise a smile or peals of laughter. Yesterday a Mr Angress came to visit; he is a good friend of Burg. He applied to go to the Camp in February, but he didn’t hear any more about it. He made half-hearted attempts to emigrate to Columbia where he has an eighteen-year-old son who is a decorator; he is also interested in Shanghai. Both attempts were unsuccessful. He wrote to the R.J.F., to a Herr Ernst Rosenthal, and now he has received confirmation from the Camp and hopes to be travelling in the next few weeks. He will bring you greetings from us. He doesn’t know whether he will need his ticket for L. himself. In case he does not need it, he will let us know; perhaps Mrs W can take you the ticket for Dover Ramsgate. What do you think? I have found out that Dover is not far from Ramsgate, or the other way round; or you could cycle there, as you like cycling. Even if there is not much in it for you, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity. In any case, you can greet Mr Wbg. You met him at Margot’s wedding. While your grandmother was lodging with Mrs Plessner, and you can ask him if matters have been settled. What will happen to the ticket to L in case you don’t receive the invitation in time?

Incidentally, you couldn’t get the address of Rabbi Galliner via Uncle Fedor? Maybe he has connections that could be useful to you. Rabbi Galliner from Gelsenkirchen is also in England. In the first place he will seek to be of help to his Frankfurt brothers, so it is questionable whether he will be there for you. Mr W in O is especially appreciative; he phoned father in the middle of September in order to present himself to us and if necessary to assist. He couldn’t get over his surprise about the six W and thought, in his hands, it would have been handled completely differently. Father is a broken man; he can’t carry on working, nor getting up so early. He goes to his place of work but the doctor has told him he is no longer able to carry out the work because of his heart failure. Didn’t you have a reply from the American Consulate yet? And you don’t hear any more from Dr Weil, since you address each other as ‘Du’? Do you still correspond with Frankfurt? I replied to the letter from Mrs Wallenstein of the 15/7 the day before yesterday. I hope she is not angry with me. Are you speaking perfect English now? It occurs to me you could be cheeky and approach the Chief Rabbi Dr Herz in London and ask if there is any possibility of your obtaining a teaching post in England. Max Kaiser wants to travel in a few weeks, after Aunt Hedel’s news. How can I give him the goods at the last moment and eventually get them back? I don’t understand what he wrote before, whether it is more, or less, convenient for me.

I don’t like the polo shirts at all, but they are good enough for work; the main thing is the size is right. Please send the letter from the Aid Association back as soon as possible. The Sh(?) was still open, so there is no talk of fantasising. If it is closed father’s case can well be seen as more urgent than I have declared to people; besides, Berlin has informed me of the cost of a third class passage but will also pay for a different passage, so that was nice to know. Stay well dear son. Hopefully I will write again next week.

Love and kisses from your Mother

Lots of love from father

Lots of love from your loving Grandma

Enclosed 1 reply coupon

Win O reminded me of these names, I expect his brother paid his expenses

Envelope: 27 August 1939

The few envelopes we have provide address confirmations, as well as interesting bits and pieces of historical information. Here, for example, the letter was sent airmail – which might not seem surprising in 2016 – but in 1939 …

1939_08_27_envelope front
27th August 1939, Envelope, front
27th August 1939, Envelope, reverse
27th August 1939, Envelope, reverse