Letters from Else, 1942

Letter: 17th April 1942

17 April, 1942, page 2

Gleiwitz, 17th April 1942

My Darling,
After yesterday’s message about the forthcoming arrival of a package the birthday letter arrived for the 70th birthday. I can hardly believe that I am in my 60th year. But the mirror doesn’t lie. Thirty-five years ago it was impossible to imagine that we would ever be 60 and 70. We used to philosophise together, I know that, and we had no idea that we should have to bear such a heavy burden when we went to concerts and theatres, enjoying strawberries and whipped cream and other delicacies, or discussed the content of a good book. It’s all a long time ago. Tears begin to well up and I am no longer able to celebrate such a lovely day with you, but I congratulate you with all my heart, my trusty friend, and wish you all the best, health and peaceful days convalescing after so many years of hard work. God’s blessing for all your kindness and help towards so many.

The picture will enhance the beauty of your comfortable home and show you my appreciation for all you have done. I hope it will meet with your approval. I visited two shops in order to buy white outfits. I posted two letters to you, could have posted them direct to you without speaking to you. There were some lovely goods in the shop windows, but they were not for sale, they were about to have another delivery. I saw the picture in the window and thought it pretty. I hope it doesn’t get damaged before it arrives. I hope some of your dear ones will be present during your celebrations and you will have lots of flowers. You will have a pleasant and jolly time. We celebrated my Mother’s 70th birthday. Seventeen years have passed; some days amongst the years were not unpleasant. Yours will have been better; just as you well deserve. Your last letter contained words of comfort. Thank you very much. I read them often. You are a real writer, you have missed your vocation; you should have been a priest.

As for the contents of my letter, leave everything as it is, leave my name out of it, above all. That is best for you and best for me. My faith in you is still unbroken. No more doubts about that. I will write later with regard to contact with Werner. I suspect my brother Fedor is in Riga. We haven’t heard any news about him. My Mother is very weak in the last few weeks, suffers with depression and has heart problems. God helps me to maintain my spirits; I don’t want to be left alone. It is much more difficult than my time abroad. At that time it was easy to contact everyone; now one is parted from everyone. My Mother sends you her good wishes, although she is in bed while I am writing.

Your everlasting friend,

[Page 2; bottom left]
Many greetings to all those friends who are with you. I will send the letter tomorrow, Sunday, so that it will reach you in time for your birthday. The registered package I posted today, your R, has not arrived yet. That won’t be damaged by a longer journey. I wonder whether the rest will get there; something that I really like. I am very inquisitive; there are some things that I am really fond of. Perhaps by Monday the puzzle will be solved. Have a lovely celebration

Thousands of kisses D G


[Bottom right; across page]
You will have received my previous letter. I would love to have included a little bouquet. I went into two shops that I was allowed to enter, but between the hours of 12.30 and 1 pm and between 4 and 5 pm. I didn’t have much luck; there isn’t much in this large place, Gleiwitz. I am sorry that my congratulations will be the only ones without flowers. I am very sorry about your friend in Wuerzburg. She was married happily for a brief period. That is very sad.

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

Note: At this point, Else is using some apparently random initials (A.L.) to sign off her letters, to protect her friends and family; this one, I believe, is written to her long-time friend Fräulein Hoffmeister.

As the deportation date gets closer, these letters are increasingly hard to read, and they must have been difficult for Helga to translate.

I owe her my deepest gratitude for staying with this task.

Letter: 14th May 1942

14th May 1942

Gleiwitz, 14 May 1942

My dear ones,
Today we got the order to present ourselves at the police station on Sunday. I’m certain that our deportation is inevitable. Therefore I am sending you the enclosed. It is better that you should have it than it end up with strangers. In case you don’t receive any more news from me, don’t answer, in case your reply falls into the wrong hands.

Please send on my last greetings to my son because it is 99% certain that we won’t see him again. To find his address, please contact the representative of the Jewish Congregation in London and inform him that Werner left Frankfurt on June 2nd 1939 for the Kitchener Camp, Richborough, England. This letter must not be found in your possession. Good health, my dear. May God be with you. He seems to have forgotten us.

Lots of love and greetings from your


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

Letter: 18th May 1942

18th May 1942

Gleiwitz, 18th May 1942

My Dears,
The time has come; tomorrow we will leave, either with or without mother. Mother is not sure, but it is very likely the latter. It is difficult to find the strength to carry on with life. We have to clear our place out. If you are not allowed to write in German, I will if necessary resort to turning to Frau Birnbaum to inform Kurt, who is the neediest. In case the Birnbaums are still living their at the address. Alternatively, ask if they have received my two notes via B. I am going without anything except for 10 marks in my purse. You can guess how I feel. Don’t write here. Many thanks for everything.

Yours, A. L.

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

Letter: 22nd May 1942

22nd May 1942 side 1
22nd May 1942 side 2

22nd May 1942

My dear ones,
A thousand thanks for the telegram and the lovely letter with the words of comfort. I trust you with all my heart but I am frightened to death. In case there is danger in informing you of Werner’s address. What you do not know is what is about to happen here. I begged you not to pass Werner’s address on but you must have misunderstood, although I thought I made it clear. There is a risk that I might be betrayed. I know what is happening but you will not be aware of it, that is, you don’t know how they are mistreating us. In case it is found by others, please don’t write to this address. I am going mad thinking there is danger in everything. I wish I hadn’t written anything down at all. The fact that mother and I are still here is a miracle. I am really worried that you may have sent additional information to England. I wouldn’t have given you his address if I had realised that there would be misunderstanding. I should have warned you about the dangers.

We seem to have been mistaken for a family named Weissenberg who live at the front of the house (or a house at the front) and they are glad that we are still here. On the 27th or 28th there is another transport departing and I expect we will be on that. I am just taking one rucksack, as my mother cannot carry one. It will contain clothes for summer and winter, no bedding , and necessities for 2 people. It must weigh no more than 20 kilos, but I wouldn’t be able to carry more anyway. If you pack more than you can carry you have to leave it behind and set off without anything. We can take enough bread for 2 days, sliced and a flask of cold coffee. They are talking about taking us to Poland but a Russian destination is also a possibility. They have even deported an 89-year old woman. Everyone has to go to the police station into the Air Raid Shelter. What kind of reply is that to your kind letter. I will post this now, so that you understand about the mail to England. Thanks for your kindness and trust. My very last greetings and kisses.

[No signature]

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

Letter: 25th May 1942

25th May 1942 side 1
25th May 1942 side 2

Reading this final letter from my grandmother to her dear friend, I want to hold on to her, and hug her, and let her know she is still thought of, and remembered with love. I wish I had known her. Her letters indicate a brave woman, living a life that is beyond all my understanding in terms of what she had to bear. As far as we know, three days later Else and Hermine were deported, probably to Auschwitz, where they probably died. At this stage, I think I have to accept that I will never know any more about where and when my beloved grandmother and great grandmother died.

Gleiwitz 25th May 1942

My Dear Friends,
You will have received my letter by now, in which I begged you not to do anything. I hope you are not cross with me because I wrote in such an agitated manner, but I was so frightened. As long as the war lasts, there is nothing I can do. We cannot, of course, go into the occupied zone, my mother and I are just one example. We are perishing. It is just one more wartime sacrifice, isn’t it. Unfortunately, I will have to decline the chances: on Wednesday at the latest we will certainly be off, it may even be before then.

Therefore, please do not reply to this in case your letters fall into the wrong hands of others. And I thank you a thousand times for your kind words of comfort. I know how heartfelt they were and how much you care, and every time I re-read your golden words, remember regretfully how we used to spend lovely spring holidays with you.

I am afraid we will certainly not meet again; in P, my dears, we will be completely isolated. And if we object they will use force. What do they know with their pretension of culture? Above all, it makes us despair at their malice and meanness. And how pleased I am for you, as you do not, as this kind of behaviour makes one doubt the humanity of mankind.

You thank me for my love; all I have done is given you trouble and grief. God will reward you for your kindness and care. If you should write to Frau Bisch, perhaps you could send her the same sender’s address as you have. I don’t know where we will be. I don’t receive acknowledgement of anyone, it is all in God’s will. My clear source of comfort, stay well. If I don’t write you will know that it is because of impossible circumstances. My sisters-in-law are no longer in Beuthen; they wrote to me previously. Completely devastated. My last farewell.

Love and kisses
[Signature illegible]

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