Gisella Nadja Jellinek Gal

1920 - 2014

(click photo to enlarge)

Gisella Nadja (aka Gisa, Giserl, Gisl, Giselkind, Gisuschka, and Gisuschkerle) was born in August 1920 to Hugo Jellinek and Natasha Kasalaskaya in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She was named Gisella at birth, but adopted the name Nadja when she came to Palestine. Her mother died when Gisella Nadja (hereafter called Nadja) was six years old. Four years later, in 1930, her father managed to flee with her and her two young sisters, Berta and Anna, from Tashkent (then in the Soviet Union) to his parents’ home in Oberhollabrunn, northwest of Vienna, Austria. After Nadja attended the Jewish school in Graz for one year, she and her sisters lived with their grandparents in Oberhollabrunn until 1938. Nadja attended a public school and finally, an agricultural training school, in preparation for her planned emigration to Palestine.  Nadja had become an ardent Zionist and joined the Zionist Revisionist youth organization Betar.

Nadja departed from her uncle and aunt, Karl and Kreindel/Karla Jellinek’s apartment in Vienna on June 6, 1938, to join a group of fellow Betar members traveling from Vienna to Piraeus, Greece. They were able to ‘pass‘ as German/Austrian scouts. From Piraeus, a convoy of three boats that Moshe Galili had organized as part of his Af-Al-Pi (Despite) project, brought these 381 young people to the northern shore of British Mandatory Palestine, from where they were immediately dispersed throughout the country. While at sea, Nadja had to throw all of her documents and photos overboard, and upon landing, she had to cease speaking German and begin speaking Hebrew immediately. All this to avoid being detected and arrested as a new “illegal” Jewish immigrant by the British, and possibly be forced to return to Nazi-controlled Austria.

In 1999, Nadja gave the present writer (P. Jellinek) the originals of about sixty of the larger set of letters that she had received in Palestine from 1938-1941 and 1946-1965. In our related conversations in 2006, Nadja spoke about her early years in Palestine. She described how as an eighteen-year-old, she felt excitingly free of the old Austrian manners and cultural restraints. She had four years of joy, despite her hard, dangerous underground work fighting the British as a member of her Betar group. But in 1942, her joy disappeared when she found out with shock how ‘bad it was in Europe, that they were [mass) killing Jews...’, among whom, it was ascertained later, were her father, sisters and many other members of her family.

Nadja was able to move past her grief over the loss of her family and make a remarkably positive and engaged life in Israel. In 1944, she married Laci/Chaim Gal from Kosice, Slovakia. Laci had also escaped from the Nazis to Palestine and had also lost his parents and most of his family.

Nadja enthusiastically worked for many years administering first aid at the beach in Rishon Le Zion. She and Laci had two sons: Eitan and Nimrod. The older son, Eitan, was married and the father of two young children, when he was killed while commanding one of the first tanks into the Golan in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Nimrod has lived with his wife and two children near his parents in Rishon Le Zion for many years. Together, Nadja and Laci enjoyed their relationships with their sons, daughters-in-law, five grandchildren and six young great-grandchildren, until August 2013, when Laci succumbed to cancer. Nadja passed away peacefully in her Rishon Le Zion apartment in July 2014.

Letter Index for Gisella Nadja Jellinek Gal


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


Gisella Nadja Jellinek
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]
Hugo Jellinek (father of G/NJ)
                       [Brünn, Czechoslovakia]
Gisella Nadja lovingly advises and entreats her father and sisters regarding urgent plans for them (and Aunt Gisela) to emigrate to British Mandate Palestine, despite the severe British restrictions. Gisella Nadja longs for them all to join her in Rishon Le Zion, where she has already been living for a year.

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