Letters from Else

An English translation follows each image of the original letter in German.

Please click on the German letters to enlarge them.


Letter: 30 May 1936

Given the date, this letter is clearly a response to the news that Werner has finally been allowed to complete his degree at the university of Breslau.

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30_05_1936_002 and 033

Tost, 30th May 1936

Dear Werner,

Hurrah! I just found your lovely letter in the box. Thank God you have survived it and done so well. I am happy and congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. I prayed in the Temple on both days, in spite of the fact that I didn’t know you were having such a strenuous time. It really worked out so well for you. There was only one sentence in your last card that made me think this was what will be, will be. It will be weakened by the reference to the month of June. After the event I am still agitated, so much so that my hands are trembling. If dear God has helped up till now then he will carry on helping you. Now you can sleep during the Whitsun holidays and carry on relaxing when you get home. I am anxious to know details, of course. As for the goods you can’t get into your suitcases – get a large box and send it by train. That will be the cheapest method of transport.

Now hearty congratulations,

From your Mother

Heartiest congratulations from me also, and I am glad that at last you have got it over with. In spite of my retirement I was nevertheless worried. You can tell us all the details when you get home. Your winter sweater, you can place into the box, that way you will have less to carry. A healthy au revoir.

Lots of love, Father

Dear Werner,

Many congratulations from me too. With God’s help you have got through. I hope you will find some employment soon with a good salary. Do you not want to say goodbye to Uncle Martin? He would be very pleased with a visit from you. He will have written to you. Margot is celebrating her 21st birthday with Heinz. Looking forward to seeing you.

Lots of love, Grandma

You will have written, hopefully, to the aunts and Uncle Kurt. You will have to pay a farewell visit by Saturday 6th, won’t you? I tried to recover my strength as a 45-year old, but in vain, unfortunately. Did you like the lady? Grandma would like you to visit Uncle Martin Bloch, on Gartenstrasse, because he is very fond of you and very kind to us.

Greetings, from Mother

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

30 May 1936, Envelope
30 May 1936, Envelope

Letter: 7 November 1936

7th November 1936, page 1 7th November 1936, pages 2 and 3

Tost, 7th November 1936

Dear Werner,

How, in spite of everything, the years have passed so rapidly; you are a quarter of a century old – the last few years have probably not been bright for you but, with hindsight concerning the general situation, still bearable. You have been fortunate in meeting with kindness and help towards your ultimate aim, and you must be grateful to God and all those who came to your aid. But now I wish you on this day that the fates will continue to be favourable to you and very soon ensure that you will be in the most congenial position, namely, enjoying independence. Furthermore, the best of health, innermost contentment with your activities, and the next 25 years of your life. God grant it!

In order to make your birthday more enjoyable we are sending a little cake and a Jewish delicacy and wish you ‘bon appetit’. The little bottle of 4711 is a present from Frau Weiss. I hope you were pleased for me on my most recent birthday. Some time ago I sold your winter wear as well as your waistcoat for 2.50 marks and obtained two pairs of winter socks for you because your old ones were the worse for wear and no longer of any use to any of us. Frau Fincher, who had spare ones for a birthday present, let me have them cheaper. The quality is not comparable to those we had before, but that is the same with all goods. It would be good if you could now obtain some shoes. Grandmother has bought you the cigarettes and also gives you some money. She fetched some flour from Paul and at the same time congratulations from Frau Weiss for you. I hope you will now manage to obtain all the necessary papers. There is no way of knowing how long it will take to obtain all the required documents. Did you receive your money from Berlin on time? As you are free on Saturday you can celebrate your birthday with joy and in peace; perhaps you can attend the synagogue as well.

Much love and kisses,

Mother.

P.S. In past years the birthday parcel was more generous; sadly, that is not possible this year. I wish you dear boy all the best again.

I have just received dates from Aunt Hedel regarding grandfather; you probably know the same. I am not writing about school; I have worked it out myself. Grandmother says at that time one started school at the age of 8. All the rest will probably suffice. The Death Certificate will be posted today, so Auntie believes. On Monday evening I sent our Wedding Certificate by Express and hope you have received it.

Aunt Hedel says the package for you is even bigger but her income is smaller. For you this is a pleasant disproportion. I am not as efficient. I am enclosing 10 marks so you can have a happy day. Once again, greetings from the heart and a birthday kiss,

Mother

P.S. Don’t forget father’s date of birth/birthday. Change it to the 26th.

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


Postcard: 14 February 1937

Gleiwitz, 14th February 1937

From Weissenberg, Tost, Upper Silesia, Ring 20

Dear Werner

I couldn’t get anything done in B[euthen] yesterday. Father called on the gentleman twice but he could not make contact. Apparently no-one was home for the entire afternoon. I can only hope that you have had some info. I don’t know if my trip to B. is still necessary. Perhaps I will receive news from your letters which will arrive here tomorrow or Tuesday – then we will know more. I hope you will hear something to your advantage. The eight no longer exist. Incidentally, we expect revenge for this card soon.

Love, especially from your Mother

To: Werner Weissenberg

C/o Frau Strumfeld

Frankfurt

Fichardstrasse 9 II

*Note: I do not know what the ‘eight’ refers to. And is the ‘revenge’ something to do with this being sent on Valentine’s Day? I have no idea.


Letter: 3 November 1937

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03-11-1937_page 2

Tost, 3rd November 1937

Dear Werner

By the time this letter has reached you, you will have completed two weeks of work behind you. I hope you will have coped better. The first experience of professional work is always difficult, I know that from experience. Not everything falls into your lap; if you want to succeed you have to put an effort in and thank God if you are successful, because the time to celebrate is when you have achieved success through work. The feeling of over exertion will, I hope, in fact I am confident, be alleviated and if you get interested in your activities and become accustomed to them they will no longer upset you, which I think is the case at the moment. Anyway, my dear child, I wish you a Happy Birthday – the second you will have celebrated in Frankfurt. May you remain healthy, then you will enjoy your employment and have success, and your abilities will not be unappreciated. No-one has your welfare more at heart than I, and I hope that God will at least grant me that wish.

To make you stronger I am sending you a little taste. It will be especially tasty between supper and bedtime. The Aunts will certainly provide you with cake. I was supposed to get oranges from Paul, yesterday; there weren’t any. I am enclosing a few as I have recommended them – drink some of the juice before breakfast. It only takes a few minutes to cut them up and squeeze them and the work will be worthwhile and you will have extra strength. Apart from the juice they will supply bulk to your stomach and the vitamins contained therein will enter your bloodstream. And one feels more energetic and fresher, livelier. Around Christmas, apples will be cheaper. Take my advice and have a daily intake of fruit – please follow it. I am enclosing a lemon press. Frau Str is going to be so kind and clean it. Father is giving you two bottles. “Just keep taking the tablets” or, on this occasion, the juice.

(We think there should be another page here – I hope to update this in due course)

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


Letter: 8 December 1937

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Tost, 8th December 1937

Dear Werner,

Yesterday afternoon and this morning I didn’t have time to write; that is why the parcel to you was sent off without a letter, so that you would have clean laundry and not be embarrassed, which hopefully was the case. And now I thank you very much, dear boy, for your good wishes and the detailed letter on my birthday and the fabulous pendant, which is causing me a problem, however. What are you thinking of, my son? Are you considering yourself to be such a wealthy man when you look at your bank account? Grandma used the word Grossmogul. I never considered you to be such a spendthrift – such a large sum from your first salary! A thirteenth percentage of that sum would have been sufficient and that is the amount I will retain in order not to offend you and your generous gift offer, and then perhaps a replacement for the damaged lampshade. I will buy something and the remainder – your coat will cost you something and a new bath towel. I didn’t send the old one because it is torn. You see you have new expenditure and you mustn’t give so much of your money away.

When I woke on Monday morning I was itchy truly, truly – my left hand especially and I thought that was a sign. That was really true that I would come into some money. It was miraculous. When I was at the Wolff’s house Father asked me if I had requested money from you. That’s nonsense. But the postman brought your 50 marks. I was quite confused and immediately thought it was payment towards a coat. You don’t know your Mother very well son if you thought I would immediately want it all for a birthday party. But grandmother insisted that I should bake a cake and she finally convinced me, so I sent you a taster and hope that you like it and I am sure you will be able to use the butter. It was a bit slow in reaching you? No one believes how busy you are.

I just received a card from Heinz. They are both ill with flu. Margot has such bad headaches that she had to call the doctor twice during the night. There are so many sick with it. I also had news from M. Aunt F writes that she is happy to have dealt with the matter; I thought about it night and day and finally found a solution. We are stupid – don’t know how to deal with the matter. Auntie also thinks you should make enquiries at the duty payment office about whether there is a cheaper way of sending things. She wants to send you cold (trans. fridge?) cake.

Aunt Hedel is going to make it like a ghost, or is that just a joke? If you are going to have as much trouble with paying customs duty as you had last year, it’s not worth the bother. You have enough to eat, thank God. In the matter concerning the letter from Coburg, I had the same idea. You couldn’t take the letter to school without informing everyone. I didn’t congratulate Wolff on your behalf because I thought there would be special congratulations. A belated congratulation is better than none. You could have blamed me for forgetting the date of the birthday of Wolff because you can’t be expected to remember when away without prompting. They announced they would come for supper. We went out for afternoon coffee. Dear Grandma gave me a box of chocolates, some gingernut biscuits and a pair of good gloves. Father gave me 3 bars of Palmolive soap and Uncle Fedor some silk stockings. I was thrilled with everything – especially with your desire to make my life easier, dear son, and thank you from the bottom of my heart but such a large sum I can’t accept.

Stay well.

Love and kisses Mother

P.S. If you don’t want to wear the old coat, perhaps you can send it back in the holidays. Perhaps I can find someone to buy it. Much love.

Upside-down note: Mr Schuft brought Grandma and me 10 marks as a Chanukah present.

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


The letter that follows is clearly responding to news of Werner’s release from Dachau.


Letter: 6 February 1939

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                  Gleiwitz, 6th February 1939

My dear boy,

We received your telegram at 9 o’clock in the evening; it was very welcome. The first shock at receiving a telegram rapidly changed into delight. My heart sounded like a hammer and my hands trembled with excitement. Boy, my boy, what weeks they were! After receiving your next detailed news there will be more information. These lines are only intended as a first communication. We hope that in the meantime you arrived safely in Frankfurt. Father will take the letter to the post office.

Much love and kisses

From your Mother.

Also greetings from Grandma who is lying in bed. Did you receive my last letter of the 2nd and the money? Enjoy your freedom and write in detail soon.

Your Father

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

6th February 1939, Envelope
6th February 1939, Envelope

Letter: 8 February 1939

8th February, 1939
8th February, 1939
8th February, 1939, page 2
8th February, 1939, page 2

Gleiwitz, 8th February, 1939

My dear boy,

The telegram I received so happily that I kept re-reading it to make sure it was real. We breathed a sigh of relief and were no longer depressed after three months of worry. Therefore, it was great to see your handwriting on the letter from Frankfurt, which also arrived. The telegram came at nine o’clock in the evening, just as we were about to go to bed, and we didn’t get to sleep until 11 o’clock, because we were so excited. The next thing we did was to write at once to the aunts and to you, and when father took both to the post office, it suddenly occurred to me that we should have sent you a letter and telegram and as father agreed, he took it to the rail station. The address of the school was simpler, otherwise I would have had to send it to Fräulein H. Meanwhile, you will have received our message and letter. We were very pleased to hear from Frl H that you are looking well. I expect you slept well; I hope you will continue to stay in good health. Did you sleep at Frl H’s place? The prospect of seeing you soon is lovely but we don’t understand what you mean, as you know the school is always in urgent need of carers.

The addresses you want, my dear son, you will find amongst the enclosed papers; one address will be sent to you by Aunt Hedel. I don’t have your cousin’s address, as sister Recha didn’t reply to my letter. I asked your cousin Recha to let you have the address of her sister by writing; she has another sister, the eldest one – Edith – there in New York. I hope she will do this. I expect you will write to her direct quite soon and thank her for her previous correspondence. You will find in one of the letters that she went in your interest from Pontius to Pilate and that came about because your father wanted to load you on a ship to Shanghai, but I didn’t want that. When I mentioned this to Dr Honegbaum – a rep. of the Aid Association – she advised me to write to London to the Chinese authorities about a visa. But I wrote to Reha in Berlin about this request and begged her to fetch the visa personally to speed up this arrangement, but Dr Honegbaum advised me to contact London because the visa there is free of charge. You will see the result from your letter. He should have said that in the first place. Too many people are waiting, as a result of this advice, in queues for hours. I also asked Myst in a letter to give you the address of Frieda’s relations, who if they didn’t want to sponsor you themselves could, perhaps, inform their friends about your predicament and ask them for advice.

Sunday afternoon Aunt Frieda was here; she sends her love. Father has a cousin in USA – Bernard Pinoff, who has done well but that is all we know about him; we have no address, nothing. It is 30 years since we last contacted him and I don’t know how we can find out. Aunt Frieda said that in a London broadcast in German last Saturday that Holland has accepted 700 refugees. Dr Honegbaum didn’t know anything about that on Monday. Your name Israel, which was legally ascribed to you, father registered as your legal representative, in your absence, in Berlin, duty bound. You only need to apply for an Identity Card.

That is all that is important. It’s a lovely thought that when I wake at night I no longer need to worry about you in D. my dearest son. Enjoy your life and give my regards to Fräulein Hanau.

Lots of love and kisses from your mother.

Please be kind and acknowledge the receipt of this letter dear Werner. Praise be to God that the time has finally come.

Much love – father

My dear Werner

At last you will escape from your unfriendly surroundings [trans. note: I think it might say ‘released from imprisonment’]. God will be with you in your future plans.

Love Grandma

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

*The following may be the address mentioned above. Fr Hanau was Werner’s landlady in Frankfurt am Main.


Note: 20th February 1939

20_02_1939

Underneath the new address for Arthur Bloch this note states that Jamaica is around an hour and a half away from New York.


Letter: 27 February 1939

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27th February 1939 – envelope, front
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27th February 1939 – envelope, back
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Letter: 27th February 1939 – page one
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Letter: 27th February 1939 – page two

Gleiwitz, 27th February 1939

My dear Werner,

We were surprised to receive a second letter from you in the morning – pleasantly surprised, as we knew you were in Berlin on Friday evening – you used your time in Berlin to arrange your affairs. We were especially pleased that you had the chance to visit your relatives and they welcomed you so that you were able to return to Frankfurt in a more relaxed mood, and we are thankful that you are able to carry out your duties with fewer worries for your future. After you received confirmation of your acceptance by the camp we can regard your circumstances more positively. You don’t seem to be aware of our application to enter Bolivia, which was sent via the Aid Association even before you heard from the camp. I definitely couldn’t come to a decision about Shanghai; that is why Dr Honig suggested Bolivia and I agreed to finally find an opportunity for you to leave. Finally, we received your affidavit from Arthur Bloch. If I were in your place I could definitely accept that, dear Werner. Johann Heilbronns has gone to Australia, as they are wealthy, so it is possible that their brother will be released and may join you. If they emigrate to the USA, perhaps your friend in Kassel can complete the affidavit if it’s insufficient; perhaps that is what Uncle Kurt suggested. That is why you should suggest something like that to Uncle Arthur in N.Y. Don’t you think I am right?

We think that you are right in responding to Engel’s suggestion. You can choose what you want to tell me and if you don’t have enough to do at school, it could be an advantage and you could follow the advice of Dr Cohn and spend more time learning English. Is she a young or old Dr? I think she is the person the Aid Association first consulted and that she concerned herself with your affairs, so perhaps you should write to her now and again. I think your name should take the place of the person who is teaching on the timetable. In case the first transport planned to leave on the 30/4 is delayed, it will be a good idea that your name is still advertised. I am surprised that you don’t mention Recha’s husband. Don’t you like him? Or didn’t you get to know him? On Thursday I sent a letter to Recha, condoling on your behalf and asked her if she didn’t want Margot to help her, in case she needs someone in the household. I hope my dear niece has changed her preferences, so that one can send her in good conscience. You don’t seem to have talked to Heinz and you didn’t visit Heises. I am sorry about that, because I obtained the address of the Heilbrons from Richard. What you didn’t tell me about in your last letter, you can tell me in your next one, as there is so much to be told. The visit to Berlin was really worth your while and successful, thank God, dear child – hearty congratulations. If you are really leaving so soon, was our parting the final one? That would be terrible and I can’t believe it. Monday afternoon was terribly difficult: the apartment so empty and the conversation with my son absent. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I had no time for such moods. The newly appointed laundry woman didn’t come and I had to start on the task myself, she came at last.

[The letter appears to be unfinished/part is missing]


Letter: 28 February 1939

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Gleiwitz, 28th February 1939

10.30 in the evening

Dear Werner,

Although I sent a letter to you yesterday, I want to enclose a few lines with the small package and wish you a healthy appetite, bon appetite. The chocolate sauce was not a success and that is why the cake is of exceptional quality with double filling. Please tell Miss Hanau that because of the double filling the cake can’t be kept any longer. At 1.26 o’clock we received a phone call from the Villa Kuschnitzki that Aunt Frieda was passing by, and Father was to go to the station. Of course I accompanied him and aunt has already left for the station with father to travel to Beuthen from where she had come, to carry out some business. Early tomorrow morning she will return home and she sends you her love. Ilse goes to the cinema, she only pays 20 gr not 50, because she is saving up for her emigration.

I am anxious to find out if there is anything of use to us, from USA from the aunt. Incidentally, you could contact your comrade from Kassel about receiving a completion affidavit visa S from Arthur Bloch. In case you have received my letter to Frankfurt in which we discussed your steps undertaken for your emigration – you will find that there is also mention of the application to Bolivia.

Much love,

Mother

My Dear Werner,

I hope you enjoyed the cake and the orange juice. I like it. Aunt Frieda was here and I took her to the station. I hope you hear from Frankfurt soon.

Look after yourself my dear.

Father

Dear Werner,

Keep well and warm and drink the orange juice if you can. I am well and hope you are.

Love grandmother.

Grandmother is not as well as she says; we have had the doctor to her. Thanks for your last letter – Love Mother

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

Enclosed: cutting and note

Jugend - poem and note

Youth

That is luck – to be standing in daily battle

Where muscles tremble with the efforts of work

To see the action grow in its entirety

Anew to live doing one’s duty

 

To look into the eyes towards the dark future

To look ahead, but never to look back

To trust to one’s innermost strengths

The heart full of hope. That is my luck

Hans Caspar von Starden

 

Handwritten note on side of page:

Found this by chance today. Anyone who finds comfort in work is a very lucky person.

Reverse of cutting

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Note from translator: This military article on the reverse is incomplete. I believe it is a description of action by an army battalion during the First World War; it might have belonged to Leopold.


Letter: 2 March 1939

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Gleiwitz, 2nd March, 1939

Dear Werner,

Because recently you wrote that you didn’t know anything about Bolivia, I am sending you the enclosed article. It is a country which is praised, as you say, but I strongly hope that you don’t have to go there. The application was a result of the utmost anxiety. Perhaps you will be interested in the small article. Father found it and wanted me to write regarding it, but it is a letter which I can’t come to terms with. Perhaps you will find someone, in the end, who can comprehend such matters. Father is in Tost today; he wants to find out if there is anything to be had for us in the distribution of savings. I don’t believe there will be. L. Bohm has already left, she didn’t say goodbye to anyone, in my opinion he didn’t get enough.

I hope, dear son, that you are well really, and not just saying that. I wish you a Happy Purim. How was the first week in school?

Lots of love

Mother

I expect in the meanwhile the package to Miss H. has been received. The bottle of 4711 I kept back because it was too risky to send. The article/ cutting is from the Wednesday paper. The mid 20s is actually a bit too much.

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


Letter: 5 April 1939

5th April, 1939, page 1

5th April, 1939, page 2

Gleiwitz, 5th April, 1939

Dear Werner

Your letter arrived here yesterday afternoon and your card, and just as you asked I carried out your request and took everything to the Post Office so that it will reach you on Saturday at the latest. There isn’t time to write a letter. Of the cake I made, you naturally received a quarter. I can’t make it any bigger because of financial difficulties and partly because I also only get 1½lb of flour and 3¾lb for baking matzos – it is much less than in previous years.

Your letter found me in a better state of health but I haven’t completely recovered. I had to stay in bed most of the day yesterday. In the evenings and at night I cough a lot, but today not so much. I am still hoarse. On Wednesday afternoon my head was burning hot. I went to bed with the intention of not getting up again that day, as I didn’t feel well at all, but after one hour’s rest the doorbell rang. Grandma was also enjoying her siesta. Frdl, Fathers co-worker, wanted him to work and he couldn’t refuse and they sat in the lounge, so I had to get up to talk to her and I had to give them coffee and cake and I was very cross about all that talk.

When he had finally gone, I started a letter to Fräulein Hanau because I didn’t think there would be a chance to write before Easter otherwise. I had hardly written a line, when much to my surprise Aunt Klara appeared. She had been to Hindenburg in the pouring rain to leave some valuables with Dr Jakob, found the pawn shop closed, and stayed here for one and a half hours, so left at seven; with my head so hot I was obviously feverish. I couldn’t even accompany her to the tram. Father was at the Post Office, I forgot to tell you that. At last I got into bed, sweated the whole night with a temperature of 37 and 38 later in the evening. I also had a sore throat and was very hoarse. I took some lemon and gargled, that could not make me better by tomorrow morning. My temperature dropped during the course of the next day and by Saturday I was quite well again, so I got up. A day in bed was very suitable as Fräulein Fried moved in that day and I couldn’t do much on the holy days and it gave me a chance to clean the house for Frau Bujowsky and the doors and windows. I couldn’t do too much to help.

In the evening about ten o’clock, when both Father and I were contemplating sleep, Aunt Frieda came and Father had to make up a bed for her. She went back on Sunday afternoon. She was in Berlin the previous week. We had sad news from Margot that she was in hospital for an operation, probably appendicitis. I think she is in the gynaecological ward and she should be in the surgical ward.

Our new housemates have gone away until Wednesday and it is unusually quiet, which is very good for me. Herr and Frau Buj are most kind amenable people with whom we can converse so we do a great deal of chattering, but the absolute quiet is doing me the world of good after the upheaval of two moves. We will probably have visitors again on Sunday and Monday, Uncle Kurt and Aunt. If you should write to Aunt Frieda I will borrow your letter dear Werner (maybe the reply from her). I will give it back to you.

Did you read the latest edition of the Jewish paper that Woburn House has moved to Bloomsbury House? It’s a pity about Cambridge because one doesn’t hear anything good about the camp. It is a bit like imprisonment, you can only withdraw cash at certain times, obviously no one wants to work there. It is doubtful whether Dr Engel or anyone else can find employment as he hasn’t promised you anything before you emigrated. It would have been more use to apply to Woburn House, but what can you do if you don’t have the sponsorship. We have to thank God for what we have.

Listen, you have to get mothballs for your winter coat because there aren’t enough secure wardrobes in the camp [Kitchener camp, UK]. I hope the package will arrive safely. I wish you bon appetite with the edibles and pleasant holy days and holidays. Have you applied for a passport? What news are you expecting from the R.V.? Did you congratulate Aunt Frieda?

Love from Father and Grandmother

And special kisses from your Mother

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


Letter: 6 April 1939

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                                                                                      Gleiwitz, 6th April 1939

Dear Werner,

Your most pleasing letter of the 4th arrived early this morning, otherwise I would have been able to reply earlier yesterday. You are right, my dear son, the situation is grim. The wealthy man may be able to help a poor devil, to save him from drowning.

Dr W[eil]. is a fabulous person. Within a short space of time he is willing not only to find a roof over his own family, but also to help you. He must be a good judge of people and very skilled at negotiating in such a way as to use his abilities. Many who share these attributes are not able to put them to such good use and act upon them. Anyway, we congratulate you with all our hearts and wish you the best of luck, my dear child. I hope the good God will continue to help you in this matter. If I contemplate what I have written during the last three months and nothing worked, it seemed as if there was no solution for you and the despair increased so greatly. And now! Frau Hoffmeister, so gifted as a preacher, was right, one should not lose one’s faith in God. He knew that you would be saved in your hour of need. Tears come to my eyes when I think of your predicament and the unexpected great help. I am sure you will be able to cope with the letter in English. You were, after all, a humanist and English is easier than Greek, although I do understand that the letter must be written fluently. And now I am anxious to find out when we will be able to see each other again. Do you want to leave the affidavit with Uncle M. and Aunt Recha? So as not to cause them unnecessary problems I should wait until you receive further instructions from Dr W. I forgot to inform you that yesterday the application from Form B arrived and had to be returned by registered post to the Consulate immediately. Did you inform the Aunts about this? I would rather that you informed them personally. Uncle Kurt has received the news that he has to close his workshop. Aunt Frieda says he has aged tremendously as a result of this in a few days – no wonder. Now he has, through a solicitor, written a declaration addressed to the Minster asking whether he can defer the closure for the time being. There is so much uncertainty; I am extremely upset. There is so much trouble ­– not just forms, but for the others as well. Life is almost unbearable. I am still coughing peu a peu and it is very quiet in the house, which is a blessing.

Have faith in God, my dear son and stay well. Give my regards to Miss Hanau. I wanted to write to her but there are more urgent matters to deal with, I will tell you about them verbally; it wasn’t possible to write to her. The letter to you I am writing in the evening, not the afternoon, like I did yesterday. But now I am going to bed as I am feeling a bit wobbly, probably a relapse.

Grandma sends her love; she had a heavy cold but she recovered quickly; mine was worse.

Love and kisses again,

Mother

My dear Werner

I was very pleased with your letter and read it at least three times. I was right to say in my letter to you that God will always be there for you. Anyway, I wish you much luck and lots of love –

From your Father

What you thought was a warning was meant to be a consolation. Don’t forget to give notice on the 15th, otherwise you will have to pay extra for your flat.

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

6th April 1939, Envelope
6th April 1939, Envelope

Letter: 10 June 1939 10 June 1939, page 1

10 June 1939, page 2

                                                                                    Gleiwitz, 10th June 1939

My dear Werner

When we returned from an excursion to Beuthen I was very disappointed at not finding any sign of life from you sent on the way to Belgium, so the card on Friday surprised me. It came from E [England] and was most welcome. We didn’t expect any news from there until Sunday at the earliest. Now we are very pleased that you arrived in the right place without mishap and to know that your new home made a good impression on you. We informed the aunts immediately. You can imagine that Monday and Tuesday my thoughts were about you, Wednesday morning I thought, now he has spent the night there as well.

On Tuesday with the first mail delivery I received a very kind letter from Frau W in which she told me that you left in high spirits, and I read those lines calmly as words of comfort, even though I know she was not telling the truth, which she wrote in conjunction with your package. I also received a letter from H[anau] yesterday in which she wrote that she misses you very much. It really has to be appreciated how much time she devoted in caring about you. I asked Frau W how one can show one’s appreciation to Fräulein H. The F you sent from Cologne has also arrived. Thank you very much; I very much hope that I won’t need to use it. Besides, with this remittance I conclude that Frau W was given the opportunity of completing her mission. The questionnaires arrived from Myst on Tuesday, with the accompanying papers included. Uncle Kurt wrote, however, that with his certificate it is necessary to have permission to travel via other countries. Its 7.37. It has been an eventful week. My every thought is about you, my dear son. Best of luck for your moving in and your new life. May God keep you well.

Everyone sends their regards, not least the aunts.

Special kisses from your Mother

NB I hope the luggage arrived safely. Did you sign for your suitcases, sleeping bag and covers?

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


Letter: 15th June 1939

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Gleiwitz, 15th June 1939

Dear Werner

It is obvious that you are suffering from homesickness, if you are expecting news from us before Monday. It couldn’t arrive more quickly! Your letter arrived Friday, early in the morning and on Saturday I sat down to write to you. Even if the post were any quicker it wouldn’t have reached you before Monday: that’s why I am answering the letter you wrote Monday and it should be in your hands by Saturday. The mail from Frankfurt sometimes arrived more quickly than from England. Yes, and we are pleased of course, mightily glad that you are well and satisfied with your life. I am sure you will get a more satisfactory occupation soon. I was very excited with your two affidavits, so that you can find the registration number in England. The affidavit for Frau S[ack] may have been sent to Uncle Kurt, or it might be forwarded to us; in spite of the very high allocation number Mr B thinks it will be valid for two years. I am surprised, dear Werner, that you are looking forward to a speedy move. Why do you want to do that? Life in the camp must be carefree. You have a right to demand more from life with a view to freedom, as everyone has; apart from a lack of money you have your liberty. I can understand that at first you were content.

We have to be thankful to those trying to help us in America. I hope we find someone to write a letter on our behalf. You must write to Frau S; she may have contacted an Aid Welfare organisation. I can’t send you another letter in answer to you, as the Post Office is only allowing us to send one a month. We have cleaned your bike, it looks really good, as I have always said – don’t be too quick to discard it. Who would have thought you could use it for excursions in England. If the camp is only 40 km from the sea, you could go on foot easily to reach it. When will you be allowed to visit E? Perhaps you did. He has a lovely flat; you could store some of your belongings there. Do you still have bunk beds? In the letter published by the camp it says you should have two pillows and three pairs of pyjamas. Why are there such strict regulations? There is no way you can afford these.

Margot and Heinz came at 2 o’clock on Sunday and left at 6 to return to B[erlin?]. I served the potato salad I had prepared for their supper at lunchtime, soon after their arrival. They liked it as we ate it warm; they had been invited by someone else as well. I think they were quite bored, as ever; they like to amuse themselves. They decided to stay overnight, pack up and leave their belongings here until their departure. Heinz has to be at work on Monday, so they had to leave early in the morning. I am glad to report that both are looking well. Margot hasn’t found a job yet. I hope she will find one soon. Uncle Jakob will be leaving for Shanghai soon; his brother who is organising the journey from Konigsberg will look after him.

Aunt Frieda has asked if we can’t meet up at the border. If it just took an hour I would do so, but I don’t think it is worth it for just an eight-minute meeting. What is there to say to one another? I have invited Aunt Hedel for next week. I am anxious to find out if she comes. She always says she will, but she never does. Frau Buj had to travel suddenly because her mother is seriously ill. I got used to her eventually, so I miss her. More and more people are going away.

Furthermore, dear Werner, all the best of luck.

Love from Mother

I hope the address is correct. I have left your card at the aunts. I have finally written to Frau W and Fraulein H and Reche.

Dear Werner

From your last letter I gather you have settled. I wish you all the best and that you will soon obtain an impressive position.

Much love – Grandma

NB Margot hasn’t found a job in Berlin yet.

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


Letter: 22nd June 1939

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Gleiwitz, 22nd June 1939

Dear Werner,

We are pleased to receive good news about your personal circumstances, which is the main thing. Less joyful is the seven-year long wait, but I don’t think that can be taken seriously; but I can’t imagine why you haven’t registered when you applied for your affidavit originally, when you were advised to do so by Dr W. What made you do it eventually? Now you have two affidavits and not a seven-year delay and a registration number without use. An ideal situation for all of us. The best thing would be for you to appeal for help for us to emigrate, when you are allowed to travel to London, with the Emigration Aid office, wouldn’t it? There might be a possibility. I expect it will be just the same in England as it is in Germany. Perhaps among the ladies and gentlemen there who teach you English as an advanced student – you will certainly be in touch, as these people move amongst the elite; others will not have time for their favours. If you write to Dr W[eil]. he will shake his head about your arrangements. There can’t be many people with two affidavits and no registration number. I am also certain that there is not a teacher, despite of Rabbi Akibe, who on experiencing so much stress didn’t contemplate death. I was really upset when I read about this. Terrible for the students and for those who found the young man. Altogether such unfortunate events have been recorded, but surely not in respect of a teacher. I have found the letter you asked me for and I will send it off today.

What does he need it for? The case of Weissenberg is not an investigation matter and it has been dealt with, or hasn’t it? The meeting with Dr Breslauer is a joke, but nothing strange, because especially since people from all over Germany are getting together. I know him by sight and he doesn’t know me at all; I suspect Father must have introduced him at the temple, but he can’t remember him. His wife is certainly in Tost as the letters bear the postmark Tost. Lisa Kohn from Beuthen is also in the camp. Kurt Nicklaus is acting on her behalf. He was here with Margot and Heinz on Saturday to Sunday. He asked me for your address; I don’t know the reason. He is a nice polite man, but there is something about him that I don’t care for, perhaps you know, you have to look at him very closely. On Sunday Heinz and Margot left early for Berlin, Heinz with a lame leg – while in the gym he dislocated his knee, but it readjusted itself. He did the same thing nine years ago and it doesn’t seem to have settled completely. Aunt Hedel wanted to write to you and to send a reply coupon. I am surprised you haven’t received it. The Goldschmidt school doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to open in E[ngland], as they haven’t replied to you. We have to put up a poster about our room soon; I am worried about that. Otherwise there is not much to tell you. I hope this letter written on Thursday will reach you by Monday. Your letter took the same time as the last one.

God be with you, my son.

Love and kisses from your Mother

N.B. We got three duvets from an offer by Selkan. Are you busy in the kitchen now? Can’t you offer lectures in your own specialist subjects. You must decide how you can make best use of your qualifications.

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


Letter: 29 June 1939

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Gleiwitz, 29th June 1939

Dear Werner,

We were pleased to receive your last letter twenty-four hours ago, and yesterday’s, and to note that you are well and cheerful. Incidentally, I showed each one of your letters to the aunts, who were eagerly awaiting your news. I don’t suppose you have written to Myslowitz but one day you will have to manage even if it is only a card. Today I received your aforementioned letter with an accompanying nice letter to a dear honourable lady ‘Um hum hum’ and what concerns you; we all miss him greatly but we are glad that he has achieved his goal and add my appreciation as well – that was what God had in mind.

I had a pleasant long letter from Frau Wallensteiner on Friday. I had asked her to tell me what I could send to Fräulein Hanau to remember you by. You didn’t answer my question as to what I can give which will be permanent, and Mrs W thinks that Fräulein Hanau will certainly be embarrassed if she receives a present now. If I send something all the same, it will be a cake, the same as I sent before; the teachers thought it amusing. I baked the cake yesterday, but I didn’t fill it with chocolate cream because it broke during the thunderstorm, but I used marmalade instead, but I promised that when the weather is cooler I will make one of my usual quality. I added a bottle of 4711, which I already had, and two photos of you as a child: one as a lead soldier, the other possibly a sheep. I didn’t really want to part with the photos. I wouldn’t have given them to anyone other than Fräulein Hanau. I know she will be pleased with the souvenirs. I posted the parcel today. Uncle Fedor wrote that he is in Cologne; he didn’t know the date of your departure. His advice came too late – he thought you could visit him by travelling to Holland, but I didn’t get his letter in time. Yesterday, Frau Bug returned in spite of the fact that her Mother is still in hospital. Herr Bug has travelled to Hamburg; there are so many difficulties facing anyone wishing to emigrate.

His son in Berlin has finally received his permit after great efforts and he is now to make a list of his possessions. Probably his son will visit here, before his parents leave. He will stay for ten days. Now I have told you enough. When you write, God willing you must tell me what it means, literally. I know what a spleen is. You don’t have a reg. number. I ought to learn English. I don’t think I will, but God will help you further.

Love and kisses from the three of us – especially Mother

N.B. I would love to walk along the coast with you, my son. If I could write in English, there would be fewer words and I would save paper.

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


Letter: 5 July 1939

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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

Mother

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

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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

Mother

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

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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

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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

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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

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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
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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_001

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

Letter: 5 February 1940

Gl 05 02 1940 side one

Gl 05 02 1940 side two

Gleiwitz, 5th February 1940

Dear Fräulein Ella,

Some days ago I received a card from your mother, which gave me the good advice to take up our correspondence again. As you can see I hurried to carry out this advice and I hope that my letter will find you in the best of health after your operation and convalescence.

Your mother hasn’t fully recovered yet as much as she would have liked because she is dashing about, which won’t be doing her any good. As for us we are very cold in spite of the fact that we do have some coal for heating. My husband has suffered from a heavy cold and he had to stay in bed. He has heart problems, which is not helped by the extreme cold. Today is a day of memories, because it was a year ago today that we received the telegram from Werner, which gave us a new lease of life, and that was the first time after many months that I got some sleep. Unfortunately we haven’t heard any more from him. The last letter he wrote was to congratulate me on my birthday. I have sent him two cards to which he hasn’t replied.

A fortnight ago, I wrote to his friend in Zurich. Perhaps you, my dear Fräulein Ella, may get the chance to show him this letter, in spite of his inability to write. His Aunts are constantly asking how he is, and send him all our own love. The Mysowitzers we haven’t seen for two months. They don’t wish to travel in the cold, the same as us. We look forward to hearing from you and give our regards to you too. Your letter was read by all of us.

Yours, Elsa Weissenberg

My dear Werner,

My heartiest congratulations and all the best.

I hope we all receive some sign of life from you.

Celebrate your birthday joyfully.

From your loving Father

My dear boy,

Hearty Congratulations.

God be with you. I am tearful. I miss you so much.

From your loving Mother

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

Note: the war had started by this time, and Werner was first in training, then in combat, and then sent overseas. Sending and receiving letters to and from Germany, with which his adopted country was at war, will have been problematic for him, to say the  least.


Letter: 13 March 1940

13 March 1940, page 1

13 March 1940, page 2

13th March, 1940

Dear Werner,

Thank you very much for your friendly reply to my card and the letter I received yesterday. One grows impatient after waiting in vain for almost two months, and nervous as well, which one is anyway. I am very sorry, dear Werner, that you don’t have any woollen clothing; that makes me very worried. Anything other than wool is really quite unsuitable for wearing in our existing temperature. We haven’t had very severe winter weather for a long time – around 27 degrees [minus 3]; this morning it was 18 [minus 8] – lovely sunshine during the day but in the evenings one’s fingers begin to freeze.

Nevertheless, we haven’t heated our bedroom as much in previous winters, but we have suffered much from the cold. The house is very exposed, that is why it is so draughty, and there are no rooms that are heated below ours. Father had to stay put for five days. I just suffered with freezing hands and toes. Grandma complains much about the cold, but undoubtedly she is better off health wise than the rest of us. We had an extra special benefit since the beginning of January – a pipe in the yard; we have to fetch water from the villa – most of the time our lodger fetches it, which is most kind of him, as Father can’t carry anything so heavy. The aunts are fairly well, they were not here in November, they would like some news themselves. We didn’t see uncle for 3 months; he came last Saturday and stayed until Monday. Conditions don’t look too good for him, unfortunately.

Dr Er, thanks to his efforts – I am delighted for his sake that thanks to the impressive title of his exhibition, it was well attended. How sad that you, dear boy, did not succeed in registering; perhaps it is time to stop wasting your time complaining. I will write to F next time. I had a card from Frau F three weeks ago in which she encouraged me to continue exchanging letters with her daughter. Today Frau F visited me herself; she had just received a letter from Ella in which she confirmed receipt of my letter and asked what happened with Frau W.

Uncle Fedor often asks after you, he does not hear from Betty. Don’t forget 24/2 [Leopold’s birthday]. It occurred to me that in the past – the Sunday Uncle Kurt was here – and Fr H and Uncle came to visit you. Have you remembered that? The Aunts were told that Herr K is giving English lessons. I will write tomorrow and ask them to come here on Sunday. Stay well my dear ones; greetings to you Herr Ettlinger and a kiss for you my dear son. Father and Grandma and all your dear ones send their love.

Mother

Hemmerdinger

Hut 9/1 Kitchener Camp

Sandwich

13th March, 1940

Dear Werner,

You probably will be interested in this letter of the 17th Feb. With it I am sending you my kindest regards.

Yours very cordially, Ludwig

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


Letter: 7 April 1940

7th April, 1940
7th April, 1940
7th April, 1940, page 2
7th April, 1940, page 2

Sunday, 7th April, 1940

My dear Werner,

Our news is more scarce. Your letter of the 7th March arrived but looked as if it had been written in haste. Are you short of time? I have so many questions and don’t receive many answers. The questions I asked eight weeks ago have still not been answered properly; only that something was happening. Maybe there was something mentioned in the letter I sent to your friend Ettlinger on the 17th February. Anyway, I am happy about your circumstances and hope they remain that way. As far as we are concerned I had a bad shock, because Grandmother suffered two strokes. It took two weeks for her to recover slightly; the stress we have been under for some time now is affecting us – we cannot bear the constant moving – even Herr T has to submit to it. It is undoubtedly the cause of her strokes. She isn’t eating much – she would be better more quickly if she ate. I often think how nice it would be if you had results for your efforts, it would have such a happy ending. On Sunday 17th March I was in Beuthen in the morning. There in the prayer hall there was a very young rabbi; there was a lovely leaving service and sermon for a school girl. I burst into tears because he read parts of your text. Obviously there was much to talk about, also in Moys where I travelled on Monday. By Tuesday I was back. Your Uncle Kurt was in a terrible mood. From the 1st March he was made to give up a quarter of his flat, because the forthcoming sale will take place, it is connected to it. Eight days since the sale, they haven’t found any alternative. I don’t know where they found any place to live. Aunt Freida was to have come here today but she is unable to. Uncle has sold many items. Elle misses school very much. Aunt Hedel wrote recently that she was prepared to look after the child, but who is going to pay the board and lodging? Aunt Hedel is really caring and looks quite well. Recently I read a letter from Bugakewsky, they have found somewhere, just where they wanted to. Frau Buj writes that her son Felix left on 1st September to be with you, probably temporarily, to the O.R.T school! The rooms were not quite ready for all the pupils. Find out about him, because his parents were very concerned that he could thrive under your influence; if he has found shelter elsewhere this will not be possible, but if he is with you the B’s wish could be granted. Incidentally, I sent a long airmail letter to them yesterday. I wrote to Fräulein Hanau as well, but I haven’t received a reply. Is your friend and colleague a teacher or is he giving private lessons Marcel? The news I get from B – Uncle Fedor has not received any sign of life from Beth; he has himself been very ill. Uncle Edgar in Berlin died two months ago. Now you know something about all of them, just as you wanted and I hope you are satisfied. Your friend and guardian with B is still there and sometimes asks about you, although I don’t agree with her views and bless you, my dear boy. Stay heathy. Much love from Grandma and all the others.

Love and kisses from Mother

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


Letter: 22 August 1940

Gleiwitz, 22nd August 1940: side 1 From Else

Gleiwitz, 22nd August 1940: side 2 From Else

22nd August 1940

My Dear Werner,

We have not heard from you for a long, long time and as I have not received a new letter from you I keep re-reading the last one I have and endeavour to gather hope from it that you are well.

I have only recently discovered that I can write to your new address; hopefully my letter will reach you quickly so that you don’t need to worry unnecessarily about us.

Nothing has changed. We still have a boarder for lodger; besides this we may get a schoolgirl to live in our guesthouse. If anything will come of it will be decided in the next few days. It would be very useful, as in this way the rent for our flat will be covered. Otherwise we will not be able to keep up the payments on the flat.

I have written twice to your friend Leopold; about four weeks ago he repeated that he hadn’t heard from you. The Aunts are all well. They were with us six weeks ago and a week later I was with them. Last Saturday Father visited them and returned on Monday. There is no good news from Uncle Kurt, he has a damp flat in Krenau and suffers doubly with the damp there and the bad weather. Ilse sent congratulations to Grandma on her 86th in German writing, with which papa had to help her. On the 29th of this month it is Aunt Klara’s birthday and on the 19th September it will be Aunt Hedie’s birthday. I wonder whether you will have time to think about them. Heinz, will be 29 tomorrow, he and Margot are both well. Uncle Fedor has no news of Betti. Thus we are both fellow sufferers my dear boy and God only knows when we will see each other again. I miss you so much that I could weep constantly and I do so often enough. Stay well my dear child. Father and all your dear ones send you loving greetings.

Meanwhile lots of kisses from your loving Mother.

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

Note: The name of the town in which Uncle Kurt was living was unreadable to the translator, but a researcher in Poland who has been helping us in trying to track down family records happened to read the letter shown above in German, and was able to give me the name of the town (Chrzanów/Krenau), which is not that far from where she lives and, importantly, quite near to Myslowitz, which is where Kurt and his family had been living previously. She was also able to tell me something of the history of Jews living there in this period, and I have since done quite a bit of reading on it, which actually explained a lot about why we have been unable to find any records about Kurt and his family. The researcher’s name is Malgorzata Ploszaj – she has been so generous with her time and knowledge


Letter: 18 September 1940

Letter from Else: 18 September 1940

Gleiwitz, 18th September 1940

My Dear Werner,

It is four weeks since I wrote my last to you letter to you. Meanwhile, we hope from day to day that a letter will arrive from you, but in vain. Dr Bresl, Max K and others have sent letters via the Red Cross to their relatives, but there is nothing from you. How come? Do we have the misfortune that just your letters have got lost? You can imagine that I am worried. I go to bed thinking about you and get up with the same thought. The other day I wrote to Vera K to ask her husband at the next chance about you and to let me know. It can be four months before I hear anything, but I very much hope that I will hear directly from you before then. In a fortnight it will be Rosh Hashanah. I wish you all the best – especially good health and a fortunate future. The holy days are somewhat sad, but if there is no sign of life from you they will be even drearier. I do not have any news to tell you. Aunt Klara and Aunt Hedel have naturally missed your birthday congratulations. I told you in an earlier letter that Uncle Edgar in Berlin has died. Furthermore, dear son, Father, Grandma and all the others send you their good wishes.

Lots of kisses from your Mother

Margot sent us a parcel with all kinds of useful things a few days ago.

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


Letter: 27 October 1940

GL 27 10 1940 side one

GL 27 10 1940 side two

Gleiwitz   Sunday, 27th October 1940

My Dear Werner,

This is the fourth letter that has been sent to you without my knowing if any actually reached you.

The last one contained congratulations for Rosh Hashana. This time I want to give you best wishes for your forthcoming birthday.

One of these days I hope I will be sure that you actually receive the letter, so that  we know that you’re getting them; we will be happy that you are well. In any case, I wish you all the best for your 29th birthday. All those who want to write to you themselves wish you all the best and that you will stay healthy, and enjoy fulfilling work and a happy future. Enjoy a happy birthday in your circle of good friends. You know on that day in particular I will be thinking of you, as I do every day. We are generally healthy. We spent a pleasant holiday.

Uncle Kurt spent five days with us, which we enjoyed. On the first day of the holiday the fact that he was here made us feel less lonely. The only drawback was that we had no sign of life from you. Other than that, Uncle and his family are not doing very well but at least, thank God, they are healthy and so are the aunts, who send you their best wishes. There are special greetings from Fräulein Hoffmeister. She wishes you all the best. Some weeks ago I wrote to Frau Vera K and I begged her to ask her husband to ask after you. God be with you my dear boy.

Once again all the best

Mother xxx

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


Undated letter: written sometime shortly after October 1940

Undated to Leopold and Werner: post October 1940

No date (but, given the other information here, after October 1940)

Dear Leopold, dear Werner,

I was overjoyed yesterday, when after five months’ gap, your letter arrived. It was high time, as such a long delay does not help my nerves, as you can imagine. I hope you are well and lively, as you were on the 12th August. I wrote to you on several occasions on the 24/6, the 22/8 and the 18/9. The last letter contained birthday congratulations for you Werner. If it reaches you at all, it will be late. Nevertheless, I hope my wishes for you will be granted. I am sure the day will have stirred many fond memories for you and will have contributed to the passing of a pleasant day. As for me, of course, I was not at all happy. On the whole we are tolerably well; so are the aunts. Ten days ago we gave up one of our rooms to the mother of our boarder, that is to say, she is sharing the room with grandmother. Our bedroom is now the larger room with access via the entrance.

It involved a large rearrangement. Grandmother thanks you very much for your good wishes. Congratulations for the aunts have not yet been received.

Unfortunately, there is no good news from Uncle Kurt. I have already written to you that he was able to visit us, in my last letter. Your friend and patron also asked Aunt Hedel about you.

We hope to hear from you again very soon. A thousand thanks to you, Leopold; we hope to hear from you very soon too.

I have been asked to convey greetings to you dear Werner. Stay well.

Love and kisses,

Your Mother

Enclosure: one reply coupon.

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


Letter: 10th February 1941

10th February 1941 From Else

10th February 1941

Dear Leopold, dear Werner,

I have received your birthday congratulations: the first on 27th January, the second on 6th February. The fact that they arrived a little late doesn’t matter at all; they brought me great joy and I thank you very much for your many good wishes. May God grant their fulfilment. Naturally, my thoughts were with you on the 8th of December, my dear Werner. I knew that you would be thinking of us on the 7th November just as much. I think I know what your biggest wish is.

The 6th of the month is also an Anniversary. When in the evening at 9 o’clock the telegram arrived. Do you remember? You will think as if I don’t know, no doubt. We are very pleased that your state of health is good, that is the most important thing. We are fairly well all of us, Uncle Kurt with the family, the Aunts. Father, however, is constantly under the doctor’s care because of his heart. I send you greetings from everyone and also my dears from Uncle Fedor who had news from Betti for the first time. She is well. I wrote to Lisbon on the 29th January. Aunt Hedel is also going to write. Did Mark not tell you we asked him for news of you? Dear Leopold, thank you so much for your last card. I thought I could make out the name of the place of your residence from the postmark. I hope in the meantime you have received good news from your brother-in-law. I do hope that my letter will reach Werner. To you I also send my heartiest greetings. I almost forgot the most important event – on the 22nd your Father will be 60. I would certainly have remembered the birthday; I might have forgotten the nought. I look forward to news as speedily as possible.

Love and kisses, Mother


Letter: 6th April 1941

6th April 1941 From Else

Saturday, 6th April 1941

Dear Leopold and dear Werner,

Our delight at receiving your letter was even greater as we had not expected it. We were able to ascertain, thank God, you are in good health. Our health varies with the weather, especially Father, whose condition is very dependent on the weather. Your two birthday letters, as I have already informed you, dear Werner, I received in February. We were completely alone on that day as the aunts only came on the 22nd February and Uncle Kurt, unfortunately, was unable to come because he had a very bad attack of influenza; however, he has recovered quite well.

Even Ilse, who was 12 on the 11th, was very ill. Heinz announced the arrival of a little daughter Rachel three days ago. Freida is 48 years old today. So now, the grandmother is great-grandma and I have become a great-aunt. Margot is well; she is in the best place, in hospital. Saturday and Sunday are Easter Days, which Father is thinking of spending in.

Even Herr Tich is travelling. I must stay home, as I don’t want to leave Grandma on her own. Hopefully, we will have spring weather instead of continuous rain. I wish you, my dears, a happy holiday, and special thanks to you, dear Leopold. I hope my letter will find you in the best of health: many heartfelt greetings.

Mother

Also, much love from your little dear ones.

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


Letter: no date 1941

no date, 1941
no date, 1941

no date, 1941

Dear Leopold,

Since your letter of the 2nd April, to which I replied on the 6th April, I have not heard anything from you, which I very much regret. I must, therefore, interrupt this long gap and ask how you are. I am hopeful about your state of health as well as all other respects. I am sorry I cannot report anything but bad news from us. There is little good to tell you about Uncle Leo, whose state of health leaves much to be desired. As for grandmother’s left eye, according to the optician she has no sight in it. There is not much sight in the other eye, the right one – it is also weak. I am very unhappy about it. Uncle Kurt complains about his rheumatism and as for myself, I just carry on as best I can. The aunts are fairly well, thank God; Uncle Leo is spending today and tomorrow with them. Dr K wrote to aunt H recently – her husband is giving lectures in N.Y. I have already mentioned that the Kornfelds had a little girl, I wrote about it. There are all sorts of things I could write to you about, but it would make the letter too long. I wonder if we will converse again face to face? Anyway, I wish you all the best and that goes for your friends too. Please tell them.

Many hearty greetings from all of us and especially to you.

Your aunt Else

Please let us have your news very soon

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

Note: we assume there must have been either a relative or close family friend with the name Leopold (given that Else refers to herself as ‘Tante Else’) – another mystery yet to be unravelled…

At the bottom of this letter, Werner has written: “arr. 28/10/1941”


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 69th 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

(Grandma)

[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

A.L.

(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

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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.

Your
[No signature]

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


Letter: 25th May 1942

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.
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25th May 1942 side 2

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)