Berta Schafer Jellinek

1859-1941

Berta (aka Babett and Bertha) was born in October 1859, in the town of Gewitsch in the South Moravian, Czech region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her original family was wealthy. She was married to Siegmund Jellinek by arranged marriage in 1883. She had two brothers: Max and Siegfried Schafer.

Berta was always described as “tüchtig” – very capable and exact in domestic skills including cooking, baking and cleaning. She was strict and influential in her teaching of these skills to her daughters and granddaughters. Gisella Nadja especially carried on Berta’s emphasis on baking cakes and cookies that not only taste good, but are also prepared neatly and are pleasing to the eye. We also know that Berta enjoyed playing the piano and listening to the informal home performances of chamber music by her sons and daughters.

Berta had diabetes in her last years and her eyesight was failing. She died in Vienna in August 1941, in the ‘Old Age Home Hohe Warte’ from diabetes complications. It is likely that these complications were exacerbated by inadequate insulin and other medical care, forced neglect of her dietary restrictions, and psychological trauma. Berta’s niece, Leonore Schafer, wrote in 1952 about Berta’s death: “...one has to admit unfortunately, that it was good that way, that she did not have to experience the terrible suffering in a concentration camp...”1

 

1. From the first page of Leonore Schafer’s 1952 letter from Vienna, to her first cousin (and Berta’s daughter) Anna Jellinek Nadel.

 

Letter Index for Berta Schafer Jellinek

 

Date
Author(s) / Origin of Letter
Recipient(s) / Relationship to Author(s) / Destination of Letter

Summary

Max Jellinek
Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger
Siegmund Jellinek
Berta Schafer Jellinek
              [Oberhollabrunn, Austria]

Gisella Nadja Jellinek (niece of MJ and GJS, granddaughter of SJ and BSJ)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]

Gisella Nadja’s Uncle Max and Aunt Gisela write brief, but strong, telling statements, such as “Everyone wants to leave but cannot.” Grandparents Siegmund and Berta wish Gisella Nadja God’s blessing and protection.
August 11, 1939

Siegmund Jellinek

Berta Schafer Jellinek
                            [Vienna, Austria]

Karl and Kreindel/Karla E. Jellinek
(son/daughter-in-law of SJ and BSJ)
                              [New York City, USA]

Siegmund and Berta are each reassured by news that Karl, his wife and daughter have settled into a new apartment. Siegmund prints the Hebrew letters of the blessing for affixing a mezzuzah and for expressing gratitude for having reached this moment of security. He expresses longing to be together again and hopes that “eventual overriding righteousness” will allow him to “live through these times.”

Berta adds her concerns for three of her other children: Max, Siegfried and Anna. She also encourages Karla, who is pregnant, and writes of Siegmund’s and her own good health and of her feeling warmly towards Karla’s mother.

June 1-5, 1941
(Est.)
Berta Schafer Jellinek
Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger
Leopold Schlesinger
Siegmund Jellinek

                              [Vienna, Austria]
Hugo Jellinek
Fritzi Fränkel

                 [Brünn, Czechoslovakia]
Gisella Nadja Jellinek (granddaughter of BSJ and SJ, niece of GJS and LS, daughter of HJ, stepdaughter of FF)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]
Sad, final messages from each of the letter writers, including from Gisella Nadja's own father. Each close relative seems to try to reassure him/herself and Gisella Nadja of his/her fate and expresses love and yearning to be together again.

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