January 8, 1940

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

Gisella Nadja Jellinek (daughter of HJ)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]

Hugo praises his new wife, Fritzi, and his eldest daughter, Gisella Nadja, for each of their good deeds, strong spirit, values and idealism. Hugo states that he shares Gisella Nadja’s Betar Zionist movement ideals and major goal of “. . . the establishment of a Jewish national home in Erez.” He also writes about how Fritzi is making him very happy, as well as generously, kindly and wisely helping Gisella Nadja’s two younger sisters. In addition to Hugo’s closing, fatherly pleas and wishes for his 19 year-old eldest daughter, Hugo optimistically asks Gisella Nadja to wait to get married until he, his new wife/Nadja’s new mother and her two sisters arrive in Mandate Palestine.


 Brünn, 8.1.19401  

My precious daughter! Now I am once again extremely happy as I came into my elegant home, my noble courageous, sacrificing and unselfish wife, the Mama who is already proud of you, handed me your letter. As much as a person can be overjoyed here, it’s me. I and my pious wife thank the Eternal that our ideal young house mother2 is so healthy and despite overcoming much, shows such an unbroken fresh spirit. I understand your idealism only too well, as even I, at the time of the comfortable and good life, bad the medical faculty “farewell”, and went to war, for love of my fatherland in the gruesome, murderous war against the former Czarist – pogrom‐Russia, for the glory and honor of Germany. ‐ ‐ ‐

Until now I stayed loyal to my ideals; I feel myself to be the true son of the presently unhappy Jewish people, watch and defend the customs and ceremonies of our religion and always follow the words of the Bible: “do good to your enemies.” With friends that is obvious. I am also Bethar3 through and through, a disciplined and strongly self‐critical fighter for our common sacred goal for today: “for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Erez.” —

(View German transcription)


Now to private matters: You now have a new Mama of whom you, my beloved daughter, can be very proud. A Jewess, equally pious and nationalistic, an honest soul who is deeply unhappy when she cannot do good. A Mama who already deeply and sincerely loves you and your two beautiful sisters; is also a model housewife; you know, my Gisuschka, that I don’t say that of anyone so glibly. I am loved by my honest and upright wife, just as deeply and without demand like once from our Mama, may she rest with God. My Fritzinko [Fritzi] also already loves our pitiable love and angel of the family, your namesake, [Gisella Jellinek Schlesinger]4 as if we had already known each other God knows how long. God grant that you can convince yourself of everything soon. My dear wife is also a true and caring friend and advisor to your fine sisters, for pampering is not always the wise and benevolent path. ‐ Mama obtained a very good position for the fashionable Bertuschka, [Berta] where she thrives and blossoms and has no other worries except her toilette. But our coquette dresses herself also tip‐top; you would say yet again “idiot.”5 Lussinka, [Anna] our “pigeon‐toed, clumsy one,”6 our dear “methodical [?] daydreamer”7 keeps house for my noble, brave, but unfortunately, very sickly in‐laws. Due to the regular work, she has developed and is strong and healthy ‐ ‐ you wouldn’t believe such a metamorphosis could happen: from a spoilt, anemic, sickly and weak child, bloomed a healthy, fresh, strong and attractive young woman.

You see that our Mama in heaven stretched her protective hand over all of us. You too, my “Rose of Jericho,”8 thrive on holy ground to be an exemplary being. Please maintain your precious health and don’t cause us any unnecessary worry.9 Preserve your purity and youth and lead, completely, as in my and your noble Mama’s understanding, a harmonious life. Wait to get married, wait until we come.10 At our wedding on the 22.X. 1939, you, my brave Maccabee, stood at my side. —

I am already looking forward today to your next letter!
202P11 Forever your faithful Papa Hugo

(View German transcription)


Translated by Anne Fox; edited and footnotes by Brian Middleton, Paulette Jellinek and Alla Zeide.


1. Hugo used the printed stationery of the tea export company of Josef Gansel. The company’s “registered trademark of a “Hand with the flower” appears in the top left corner and various teas and alcoholic drinks are listed along the entire left side. We do not know how Hugo obtained this stationery. One possibility is that the company was forcibly taken over from the Jewish man, J. Gansel, by a non‐Jew (“aryanized”) who changed the name of the company, and then, somehow, Fritzi or Hugo got this defunct stationery. It is also possible that Hugo briefly worked at this company.

2. Anne Fox translated “Hausmussinko” as “Housemother,” However, Hugo did not write “Hausmutter” but rather, “Hausmussinko.” I believe that Hugo derived “mussinko” from the Yiddish word “mezinkeh” – meaning “the youngest daughter”. “Hausmussinko” may therefore be a hybrid word that Hugo originated, to signify that Gisela/Nadja was acting as a housemother in her Bethar communal settlement, but that she was very young to be in that role.

3. Betar is the name of the activist, ‘Revisionist’ Zionist youth movement that differed from the official World Zionist Organization in its beliefs in how to attain the establishment of a state with a Jewish majority in the ancient ‘Land of Israel (Erez).” Besides massive Jewish settlement and the promotion of private enterprise, the Betar movement resolved to establish a Jewish army in Palestine.

4. Hugo is referring to his elder sister Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger here. When Gisella (called just Nadja, later, in Mandate Palestine and Israel) was born in 1920 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Hugo did not know whether anyone in his family back in Lower Austria was alive, and so, inconsistent with Ashkenazic Jewish custom, he named his first daughter after his eldest sister, his second daughter, Berta, after his mother, and his youngest daughter, Anna, after his younger sister.

5. Hugo used the term “Tulli,” colloquial for idiot.

6. “kasbalpa” is a colloquial Russian word applied to people one loves; coming from the Russian words for “bear” and “paw”, meaning someone who has a heaviness of gait, someone who walks in a funny way, such as waddling or pigeontoed. (Alla Zeide, native Russian speaker, independent scholar and Russian translator)

7. Hugo wrote to Gisela Nadja “. . . unser ‘medeojesche noschka’,. . . “ Gisela Nadja told Paulette J. in October 2006, that “Noschka” was a character who daydreamed. Gisela Nadja explained that whereas her middle sister, Berta, accomplished tasks quickly, Anna, the daydreamer, did things more slowly and distractedly, so much so that something might even fall from her hands. (But Anna focussed when she played Mozart and Beethoven on the piano and learned French). Gisela Nadja added that her own tendencies were in-between her sisters’ extremes, and that “I know what I want, and if I stop in the middle, I know exactly where to continue.”
However, Alla Zeide, the Russian native speaker and translator ‘suspected’ that the word “noschka” in this context means “our small burden” or “small load.” “Nosha” means burden or load in Russian and “ka” is a diminutive suffix.
Anne Fox translated the adjective “medeojesche”preceding “noschka,” as “methodical.” Ms. Zeide thought that “methodical” was “out of place both stylistically and contextually.” But, It seems likely that Gisela Nadja correctly remembered her father’s reference to “noschka” as a daydreamer, and that “methodical” could have described Anna’s contrasting qualities in a humorously sardonic way.

8. Hugo’s metaphoric use of the “The Rose of Jericho . . . on holy ground. . . ” is based on the Rose of Jericho plant’s remarkable ability to survive and return to life when conditions are moist enough, even after years of dessication and seeming death. It is interesting that Hugo knew about this plant, aka. Resurrection plant — possibly from reference to it (as a kind of tumbleweed scattering its seeds) in II Kings:19 or Psalm 83 of Asaph in the Hebrew Bible.

9. Hugo is alluding to Gisela Nadja’s participation in dangerous, covert actions against British control of then-Palestine.

10. Gisela Nadja did wait to get married. Until 1942 she did not even know of the genocide being perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators against the Jews and others groups in Europe. Then probably in 1944 or 1945, she learned that her father, his new wife, Fritzi and her two sisters, Berta and Anna, were among those murdered, and so she knew that tragically, her wait was no longer of any avail.

11. “202P” is pencilled in and appears to have been written by a censor.