Mathilde E. Eckstein

1882-1942

Mathilde (aka Mattel, Manzia, Mancia, Manzie, Nanzie) was born in July 1882 in Stanislau (Stanislawów), then in the Galician/Polish region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (today in the Ukraine and renamed Ivano Frankivsk). Mathilde was engaged to her cousin, Michael Eckstein, when she was sixteen years old and married at seventeen. Michael owned a leather-goods business. The information in Michael’s Viennese Meldezettel (official household registration) of 1914 indicates that he came to Vienna alone in 1914. We know that Michael fought as an Austrian soldier in WWI, and was wounded in 1915. Mathilde came to Vienna in 1915, with her four surviving children, Anna Chaje/Klara, Rebeka/Regina, Markus/Max and Kreindel/Karoline (the present writer’s mother). Mathilde’s first two children (whose names and birthdates, sadly, were not passed on to us), had died in infancy. Michael died of illness at age forty-eight, in November 1922.

 

Mathilde wrote “Stickerin” (embroiderer) as her occupation on her 1927 official Viennese household registration form. Many years later, when Mathilde’s youngest daughter, Kreindel/Karoline, painted flowers on the kitchen cabinet doors of our New York City apartment, Kreindel was able to share with her daughters, her sweet memory of her mother’s love of painting flowers. This one personal transmission about Mathilde causes my sisters and me to imagine that Mathilde’s embroidery work included lovely, whimsical, gentle designs with flower motifs. Probably some time after 1927, Mathilde acquired a small perfume shop on Zirkusgasse in Vienna’s 2nd District, which she owned until the Anschluss.

 

Mathilde’s four children escaped death by the Nazis, but she could not. Karl and Kreindel/Caroline1 Jellinek’s desperate attempts to secure an American visa for Mathilde failed, most likely because the Nazis had declared Mathilde "stateless",2 and because the US State Department intentionally withheld and delayed the issuance of visas to Jewish refugees during this critical time. In the beginning of 1941, when Mathilde found out about the death of Caroline’s infant son, she wrote her daughter a letter that was empathic and wise. The only hint that Mathilde was herself in the midst of a struggle to escape the Nazis was her mention of ‘learning a little bit of English.’3

Mathilde was forced onto the first deportation transport from Vienna to the Izbica ghetto4 on April 9, 1942, along with Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger and Gisela’s husband, Leopold Schlesinger. If Mathilde somehow managed to survive the horrific conditions of the transport to Izbica, and of the wait there, she would have been forcibly taken from Izbica to her tragic death in the Belzec killing center.

1. “Caroline” was the latest, Americanized spelling and form of Kreindel/Karoline/Karla’s name.

2. “Stadtlos” (stateless) was written on Mathilde’s 1942, Nazi-issued “Vermögensverzeichnis (Assset Declaration).

3. Mathilde’s densely hand-written equivalent of a letter, actually squeezed onto both sides of a postcard, can be viewed online in the Letters section of this website.

4. The small, formerly predominantly Jewish village of Izbica in the Lublin Region, in southeastern Poland, was made a Jewish ghetto and transit point for Belzec under the Nazi occupation. See the 'Nazi Records of Mathilde's Deportation to Izbica' in the Documents section.



Letter Index for Mathilde E. Eckstein

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

Summary

Mathilde/Manzie E. Eckstein
                            [Vienna, Austria]

Kreindel/Karla E. Jellinek (daughter of ME)
                         [New York City]
Mathilde/Manzie, having just learned of the death of her infant grandson/her daughter, Kreindel/Karla’s son, expresses her deep sympathy, empathy, love and compassion, as well as motherly urging for her daughter to remain courageous and strong. Regarding her own escape from the Nazis and reunification in the US, Mathilde reveals only her intense, but patient hope and longing, along with her impatience with learning English. Finally, Mathilde reports on key family members’ changed living arrangements.
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