January 12, 1939

Author(s) / Origin of Letter
Recipient(s) / Relationship to Author(s) / Destination of Letter
Hugo Jellinek
[Brünn, Czechoslovakia]

Gisella Nadja Jellinek (his eldest daughter, b. 1920)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]

After expressing gratitude for 50th birthday greetings from Gisella Nadja and from other close family and special friends, Hugo bitterly predicts the further conquest of Czechoslovakia by the Nazis and their ability to “eliminate and strangle” the Jews in Europe, with the “applause and approval of the rest of the ‘civilized’ world.” Hugo denounces the Nazi “beasts in human form,” who, after taking over Sudentenland a few months earlier, had begun to oppress and frighten all Czech Jews. He also condemns the betrayal by Jewish communists and other “assimilation-socialists” against their own (Jewish) people. He extols members of the Zionist group Betar, (of which Gisella Nadja was an active member) for their great courage, organization and discipline as they fight for an independent Jewish homeland in [British Mandate] Palestine. Lastly, Hugo praises and provides some news about Bertha and Anna, his younger daughters, whom he still believes will be able to get to Palestine.


My precious child! Brünn, 12. I. 1939

Next week a package with your requests --

I can’t tell you how happy your birthday letter made me; it was my most precious present. Though, mind you, I received splendid presents from Lussinka and Bertuschka1. And also from Vienna, from both my dear parents and siblings, as well as from Elsa Sulzer, a faithful friend, came very touching letters for my half-century birthday. But the Spitz family was especially thoughtful, foremost among them, my wonderful friend, Mrs. Therese. She is a wonderful human being and may God grant that we may live and work for a long time yet, as well and happy as we have till now.

But unfortunately, the outlook is not encouraging. Today in central-Europe, the land of “culture”, only violence, banditry, robbery, crime and the darkest intolerance reign. So, what is in store for us unhappy Jews other than cruel expulsion and the most criminal treatment, concerning [loss of] property and freedom. However, if the “Jews” here were as brave and organized, as disciplined and unafraid of death as the Betar2 members, then the Fascists and capitalist, anti-semitic-criminals could not play such a merry game, and with the applause and approval of the rest of the “civilized” world, not so

[Page II.]

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slowly, but surely, eliminate and strangle us Jews . . . The old traitor3 and scoundrel travels with his umbraculum4 to Rome and to other rogues, but for the unfortunate Jews, he has no time, only words- God knows, whether he would like nothing better than to copy the charming ideas and cultural achievements of Hitler and his gang in his country, if he could, the way he and his special friends5 want. It is awfully bitter and simply incomprehensible that already here too, the Jews creep around with bitter, scared, disturbed faces and have to tremble before every policeman or such, only because they are Jews, although not long ago they were Czech citizens, but today, because they live a few millimeters from the new border, are already “foreigners”, of course troublesome, because they are Jews. And the most beautiful thing [for them] and most terrible thing [for us] about this border, is the dubious reality that these arbitrary borders are still not guaran-teed and that already tomorrow, the German military boot can come marching further, and again thousands and thousands of unhappy Jews must flee from the assault of these beasts in human form. And the socialists forget, yes betray entirely contemptibly and despicably cowardly, their

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teachers and masters, their liberators from the capitalist yoke and exploitation. But not only are these traitors definitely not helping, what is more, they are the most ambitious SA and SS men and prefer to torture and kill their former faithful comrades rather than anyone else. The Jewish Communists and other assimilation-socialists should finally get it into their thick heads, that it always has been and will be an insanity and an unforgivable crime against one’s own people, when one pretends to “free the workers” instead of one’s own people.6 But all these good-for-nothing louts and vagabonds would like to go now to Erez7 seeing that in the whole world nobody is interested in these Jews who have botched things up and missed their chance. Thank God that already a hint surfaces in the brains of most of these socialist-Jews and assimilationists and their sights are set on the East. From here, every month, first class Betar8 material goes to you and we old and true, loyal Zionists are supporting this and working here in all circles for Palestine. You can be sure that I am very much an agitator for Betar

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and you also know that I am a good agitator. There is also a certain Pollak, a brother of Arthur9 [Granz or Franz ? ]10 an outstanding Betar, the bravest, most honest and in intrepid Betar that I have ever seen in my life. He is also the founder of the movement here and in Slovakia. He is very interested in your letters. I would also be happy already, if I were there with my beloved Frau S....11 - - —

Bertuschka now wants to come down as well. Unfortunately, she is too late in coming to her senses and in being reasonably cured of her socialism. Apart from that, she is very upright and industrious and I would be very happy if she could cut and style your hair a bit. Lussinka is a lovely, fine girl and will go to England in a prealiya preparatory program12, and from there to you. Hopefully you will enjoy these pictures and next time my picture will arrive. Please, when you have a chance look up Ruthie Kogos, the daughter of my cousin Bertha13. from Brünn; she is a staunch Betar member, but she can’t cook.Her address is: Ruth Kogos, Plugah Betar14 , Natanya. -- -

I am well, happy, sometimes unhappy, but for the time being still happy.
Please write soon -- your devoted Papsi Hugo

(View German transcription)


English translation by Laura Jockusch; edited by P. Jellinek and by Brigitte Balkow of Sütterlinstube, Hamburg, Germany


1. Hugo’s affectionate Russified nicknames for his younger daughters/Gisella Nadja’s sisters: Anna (b. ~ 1923) and Bertha, (b. 1922) respectively.

2. The following are the main and most relevant points in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betar : Betar was a militant Revisionist Zionist Youth movement founded in Latvia in 1923 by V. Jabotinsky. Betar members fought “. . . a guerilla war against the British in Mandate Palestine”, as well as “ . . . resisted Nazi [forces’] assaults on Jewish communities,” and “. . . aided . . . immigration of Jews to [Mandate] Palestine in violation of British Mandate immi-gration quotas.”

3. Hugo may be referring here to Eugenio M. G. G. Pacelli. Hugo would have known when he was writing this letter, that Pacelli had served as Papal Nuncio to Germany and that, as the Cardinal Secretary of State in 1933, Pacelli concluded the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany. [see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Pius_XII ] Hugo probably could not have known then that Pacelli would be elected to the papacy about one and one-half months later, and as Pope Pius XII, during the war, he would “maintain [sic] links to the German Resistance to Nazism,” [see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pius_XII_and_the_German_Resistance]. However, based on the Papacy’s neutrality and failure to act to aid Jews during the war, Hugo may well have kept his overall evaluation of Pius as “traitor and scoundrel.”

Hugo may also have been referring here to Emil Hácha, who had just recently been selected to succeed Edvard Beneš as President of Czechoslovakia. Beneš had opposed Nazi Germany’s claim to the Sudetenland, and had been forced out of the Presidency under German pressure, shortly after the Munich Pact was signed. Hácha “. . . was chosen because of his Catholicism, conservatism and lack of involvement in any of the governments that had led to the disastrous partition of the country.” [see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_Hácha ]. Hugo may have had already seen evidence of Hácha’s ‘conservative’ acquiescence to Nazi Germany’s power. [PJ]

4. cp. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umbraculum The meaning of “umbraculum” being “a historic piece of the papal regalia and insignia,” makes it seem more likely that Hugo is referring to Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII as the “old traitor and scoundrel,” rather than Emil Hácha. [PJ]

5. Spezi is an Austrian idiom for a special friend – cp. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freundschaft#Wortgeschichte (the aspect of “specialness” in ’Spezi‘ is German only), as well as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepotism

6. This bitter, scathing attack seems to be against Jewish Czech and Slovak former Socialists and Communists, whom Hugo believes had opportunistically tortured and killed other Jews, and had not noticed the betrayal of their ideals, nor realized that they would be the next victims soon. [PJ and DG]

7. Erez is derived from the Hebrew word for “the land,” meaning the land of Israel, then British Mandate Palestine.

8. Betar (also spelled Bethar) refers to the activist Zionist youth movement, founded in 1923 in Riga, Latvia, of which Gisella/Nadja Jellinek was a dedicated member. See also footnote #2 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betar

9. This is a reference to Leopold Pollak, who was Arthur Jellinek’s brother-in-law, by Arthur’s marriage to Irma Pollak. Leopold Pollak, b. 1897 in Brünn (Brno), was Irma’s older brother. Arthur J. was the son of Siegmund Jellinek’s older brother, Eduard Jellinek, and thus, Hugo’s first cousin. Hugo mentioned showing one of Gisella Nadja’s letters to “. . . Leo Pollak (the leader of the Bethars).” on page 2. of his June 12, 1939 letter to Gisella Nadja. Ultimately and tragically, Eduard was murdered in December 1942 and Leopold,, Irma, and Arthur were murdered in Auschwitz in July 1944.

10. Re: the word that Hugo wrote after “Arthur,” that remains unclear: Brigitte Balkow of Sütterlinstube, wrote that the word could be Franz, as the first letter resembles the first one of ‘Frau’, 6 lines below.” Ms Balkow also considered that the word could be “Granz,” but not “Graz” or “of Graz,” as had been previously proposed. “Franz” or “Granz” would make sense if Arthur J.’s middle name was Franz or Granz, — or, possibly, this word is a different and derogatory word that Hugo used as an insulting modifier for Arthur, whose uncaring behavior Hugo had railed against in his letter of August 21, 1938.

11. Frau S. . .” must have referred to Mrs. Therese Spitz, Hugo’s first close and very supportive friend in Bruenn., whom Hugo praised at the beginning of this letter.

12. Hugo uses the Hebrew word “Hachscharah” which was the name for the Zionist preparatory training programs for young people emigrating to Mandate Palestine. Hugo adds that from the Hachscharah, Lussinka will go to Gisella Nadja, who was living in Mandate Palestine.

For more info. on Hachshara, see: p. 13 of the book Total Commitment by Yosef Almogi: https://books.google.com/books?id=MkEfcykHD5kC&pg=PA13#v=onepage&q&f=false and https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachschara

13. Bertha Jellinek was a cousin of Hugo’s by her marriage to Oskar Jellinek. Oskar was Hugo’s first cousin, because he was a son of Jetti Jellinek, Siegmund Jellinek’s sister.

14. Plugah, the Hebrew word commonly used for a group, unit or company of an army, was used to designate differently located units or groups of Betar members within the larger Betar organization.