October 14, 19381

 

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

Summary

Hugo Jellinek
                [Brünn, Czechoslovakia]

Gisella Nadja Jellinek (daughter of HJ)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]
Hugo expresses outrage and despair re: the disastrous betrayals and appeasement at the Munich Conference, and the ensuing brutal persecution of Jewish and non-Jewish Czechs in the ceded Sudeten region. Hugo strongly commends Nadja for her heroic part in the fight for freedom of British Mandate Palestine. He concludes this long letter with positive, personal family news, including praise of his new friend, Therese Spitz.
 

                                                                                                                   (View German transcription)

My dearly beloved and faithful child!                     Brünn, 14.10. 19[38]

After a long time worrying and waiting, at last a solid sign of life from you. But in spite of everything, I and my two “kittens” here2 are more worried than before. We’ll look into the passport [issue] as soon as possible, but where is the passport you took with you?3 In any case, I hope to obtain a duplicate in Vienna. I’ll send money tomorrow. I hope you will receive the same. Your letter is something wonderful, the uplifting avowal of a brave, young Jewish girl. I will also apply/write to Palestine and await your opinion concerning Bertuschka and Lussinka. Lately the incidents have seemed rushed and all we Jews living around the world are terribly worried and unnerved. And the fault of this horrible vandalism is one man’s only, one whose strange, in plain words, whose strange, high politics encourage high politics of aggression, thievery and violence. This man is a great misfortune for the whole world and he has, as a reactionary “sly dog”, turned the fire of progress, freedom, democratic-human thinking and morality back by 180 degrees - . . . . . . . -

“Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are” . . . . Everywhere we see the ominous consequences of his politics of criminality approaching dark fascism. A certain Chamberlain4 has created such an unholy confusion in these dark block-heads, with his race theory, and the other of the same name,5 is dashing Europe head-long into medieval darkness, hatred, intolerance and Jewish persecution of the worst kinds . . . .

There was a land, our homeland, a free, fair land with a noble, proud people; today it has a sad population with broken hearts. . . . And a Czech minister lays a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Berlin, and all our hopes are buried with them . . . . . . .

Sudeten-German legionnaires move into the stolen land, attack6 all Jewish stores with crowbars and barrels of guns, steal everything and also “steal”7 foreigners’ land and property, plunder all Jewish assets to the last little bit, threaten



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Jews and Czechs with their blood-drenched bayonets if they dare to utter one word in Czech. After Jewish property and assets have been stolen and carried off, the regular “field army” arrives, re-establishes order and leaves our sad brothers and sisters who have remained behind, to the infamous Gestapo and the inhuman concentration camps. . . . So: bluff, cunning, deception, force of the most brutal kind, this is what they call true [higher?] politics, or Realpolitik. Only now do I understand what the Wise Man says: (Faust) “When diplomats consult, the peoples cry.” But what sort of diplomats: those without conscience, without heart, who walk over the dead; reactionaries, who with a single criminal tug, move the fire back by 180 degrees and with one stroke of the pen annihilate whole countries and thousands of lives. –

We local émigrés and repatriated citizens cry and feel for this wonderful Czech people with their broken hearts; we regret deeply the fate of these heroic poor who might have taken on a whole world and now are condemned by the dictate of a dark clique, who, despairing and bitter, look back and must confess helplessly that their fatherland, which they left joyfully in order to defend, is becoming an insatiable vulture. . . .

England and its lordships, as well as the reactionary circles in France, have foolishly smoothed the way for Hitlerite Fascism, which actually strives for nothing other than the supremacy of German imperialism, foreign rule established by the [awful] nobility and German finance magnates over Europe, with their policy of force and most brutal pogroms against Jews. And this enslavement, which is happening everywhere, they seek to hide and conceal behind smokescreens and nationalistic slogans and behind the mask of so-called “national unity.” With these reactionary and darkly medieval politics, we Jews here in Europe have nothing more to lose and must seek a country where we can live and work as free and equal-born citizens with the same rights as any other citizen. Therefore your heroic fight for the freedom of Palestine and its final victory cannot be overestimated and today represents the Zionist Star as the only star of hope of all brave Jews truly intent on fighting. . . .

Everyone here is angry about the cheap treason of certain English Lords, and this awful despairing mood is being taken advantage of by unscrupulous circles abroad and here to send false rumors to the masses, which in their overly quick search for causes of their “ignominious” defeat without a “fight,” takes up any thoughtlessly tossed-out solution. “The Jew is at fault”8 sounds from all quarters; and here, as well, begins a metamorphosis from an idealistic, democratic land to a reactionary, fascist one, a metamorphosis that is ominous for our good and honest fellow citizens. . . .

Therefore it is all the more welcome and cannot be overestimated, that

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you boys and girls there are fighting for a happy future. . . .

Here also, young people stream to the Betharim to rush to your aid . . . .

The breach of agreements is part of fascist practice; and international politics reflect the [Raten - advisors?; Saaten - strewing, seeding ?; Taten - crimes, wicked deeds ?; Verrat – treachery, treason ?]9 of the middle class, who made practical concessions with the agreement breakers. So it happens that certain “Gragos” [?] treaties are considered nothing more than a “scrap of paper.” Therefore, in local Zionist circles, the anxious question arises, arousing apprehension: will Chamberlain and his fascist-reactionary clique respect the Balfour Declaration or will he proceed in so cowardly and ominous a manner and maneuver so inauspiciously as here in Central Europe???

Now enough of my politics. And back to regular private affairs. Now to our youngest: Thanks to the intervention of a certain Mrs. Schrutka, the head of Berta’s Home for Girls, Lussinka10 has very quickly found employment. Namely, she is with an elderly couple by the name of Gansl (doesn’t it make your mouth water hearing that word? [gosling]) who are among the local patricians, early and mornings she helps with the household and in the afternoons she works in the tea shop. The older but youthfully cheerful woman, kind-hearted in a motherly way, is very clever, good and intelligent, and is so far very satisfied with our “ little” kitten and gives her, apart from luxurious accommodations and plentiful food, a salary of 100 Kronen [Kc] monthly, which, for local circumstances, is no small sum. Lussinka [Anna] is very busy, but for her, “work is a blessing.” Imagine this and marvel: as a result of regular activity, the getting up early (5:30), the regular bedtime and the many extended “walks,” [“Spaziergange”] our little one has developed such a tremendous appetite (like a Russian bear), that she, despite good advice and much encouragement from my side, cannot get enough [to eat], with the result that she looks much healthier than in Vienna; her cough, which always made our sweet Zinka so anxious, has subsided entirely. With such a blessed appetite, “touch wood!”,11 her weak, underdeveloped lungs may recover to be strong; also the related anemia may be cured in the foreseeable future. Of course, I wrote home of this wonderful change and this will be a ray of happiness for our loved ones in Vienna, who otherwise hear [or must suffer ?] only sadness and gloom . . . . . . .

Lussinka is slowly becoming full-faced “Akulinka” [?], just as beautiful

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and elegant as our second “artist.” Bertuschka is making progress in her work; she is particularly fond of doing her little sister’s hair, the style suits her quite well. At my instigation, Bertuschka, in her free time, visits private clients and in that way is improving herself and earns a little pocket-money. Of course, I must correct her and she burdens my limited budget quite a bit in any case. You know of course, that Bertuschka is not one of those with the most humble nature . . . but she has great character; dignity, pride, intelligence and is a very good child; also lately, she has not been so obstinate, so unruly as before and she also has an unbroken love of life and seeks pleasure, although the local political sharp reverse [?] and also a small personal “misfortune” put a tiny damper on this. Bertuschka is very industrious and must work hard and she thinks of you often as she, with her clever and clear-thinking mind, must learn to understand and appreciate such a wonderful sister as you. Although she could be a bit more diligent writer.

Now a little of my nothingness. You will see from the above, that I am very, very happy with my grand three-girl household. I have hidden the same, so warm and cozy in my heart, so that no misfortune from outside, no need, no such upheaval can touch me . . . .

I rise early, do my obligatory exercises, eat breakfast, thanks to a very good and nourishing tea, fill the day fairly well, and sleep pretty well with an open window. My accommodations are quite small; but the window is open all day like a continuation and extension of the fixed walls looking out on the alley. I correspond quite frequently with my dear ones in Vienna and send you from time to time the letters from your wonderful Aunt [Gisela]. Here as well, I have found a woman friend whom I admire very much and appreciate for her solid goodness and deep, noble soul. She is like a mother to your sisters as well. Her name is Therese Spitz and she is the happy mother of a wonderful boy, and wife to a very intelligent, distinguished gentleman. This most noble person also contributes to my happiness and induces my soul to many lyrical outbursts . . . .

I am enclosing 3 coupons. Please, did you receive my letter and the coupons that I sent you

last month via a certain Mrs. Jellinek ?12 She was apparently in your neighborhood. Also a certain Mr. Brandt-Bethar will look you up soon after his arrival. He leaves Monday 24.10. to [?].

What is with Paul?

Heartfelt kisses from your eternally faithful Papa Hugo13

Please write right away what you need, money or things, I’ll send anything at all right away.14

 

Translated by Anne L. Fox, edited by Brian Middleton

Footnotes

1. “14.X. 19” is clearly visible in the upper right corner of the first page; only the last two digits of the year are cut off. The year is almost certainly 1938 because this letter expresses a strong reaction to the Munich agreement of late 9/38, and does not include any mention of the outbreak of WWII. There are also personal details in this letter which corroborate 1938 as the year: Anna (Lussinka) has recently come to Czechoslovakia, which we know from other letters, she did in 1938, and Hugo does not write about having a relationship yet with Fritzi Frankel; that relationship began around March – April, 1939.

2. Hugo is referring to his two younger daughters, Berta and Anna.

3. Gisella Nadja and the other young Jews on the secret rescue ship sailing towards Palestine were forced to throw their passports and other identification documents overboard, to avoid detection by the hostile British Mandate government of Palestine.

4. Houston Stewart Chamberlain, British author of racist, anti-semitic book Foundations.

5. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

6. “Attack” here implies at least breaking windows, perhaps breaking through walls.

7. In Hugo’s original German, his made-up word “erraubern( vs. errauben, Engl. - steal), is in quotes, indicating a play on words with erobern(conquer).

8. Literally: “Der Jud’ ist schuld” - The Jew’s at fault.

9. The first letter of this word is particularly difficult to decipher; it could possibly be an R, S, T or V. The rest of the letters seem to be “aaten”; hence the possibilities of Raten, Saaten, Taten or Verrat.

10. The shortened form of Lussinka was the affectionate, Russianized nickname which Hugo used most often for his youngest daughter, Anna. Zinka, used in the sentence which follows is a shortened form of Lussinka.

11. Hugo wrote: “Bei so einem unberufen gesegnetem Apetitt...” Cassell’s New German Dictionary of 1914 defines “unberufen” as a “superstitious exclamation to ward off evil after speaking favorably of something; literally, “without invoking ill-luck.” Langenscheidt’s Compact German Dictionary of 1993 translates this exclamation as “touch wood!”

12. This “certain Mrs. Jellinek” could be Stella Pollak Jellinek, the wife of Hugo’s youngest brother, Max Jellinek.

13. These words were written up on the right side of the first page of the original letter.

14. These words were written down on the left side of page 4. of the original letter.

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