October 18, 19381


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


Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger

Max Jellinek
                              [Vienna, Austria]

Gisella Nadja Jellinek (niece of GJS and MJ)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]

Gisela first gives mostly positive details about the family, such as the improved circumstances of her brother Hugo and Hugo’s younger daughters (Nadja’s father and sisters, resp.) in Brno, Czechoslovakia, Gisela’s brother Karl’s receipt of an affidavit and the satisfactory adjustment to living in an apartment in Vienna by Gisela’s parents as well as by herself. It is only in the second half of this letter that Gisela voices personal complaints at having had to move ‘three times already since March’ and about the ‘terrible’ most recent forced move out of Hollabrunn. Still, Gisela voices hope for an eventual family reunion and for the continued good health of everyone in the family. 

The overall adapting, coping and almost accepting tone and contents of this letter may reflect Gisela’s personal optimism and faith, as well as her lack of knowledge of and ability to grasp what the current persecution portended for even worse conditions to come. Gisela’s fear of the Nazi censors and her desire to shield Nadja from the entire dire truth may also have influenced her writing.

Max’s pithy greeting is one of encouragement and inspiration for Nadja and her comrades’ Zionist endeavors.


                                                                                  (View German transcription)

                              Vienna II.  Kleine Sperlgasse 1.

                                                Mezzanine, Door 222

My dear Giserle!


Today, I intended to write a letter to you, without suspecting that this morning I would receive a registered letter from father from Brünn, with your letter from Yom Kippur enclosed. With one dry and one wet eye, we read your letter and I must tell you that Paul and Aunt Anny sent you a 3 kilogram package by mail, already long ago, that contained one dress, etc. I am surprised that you have not received anything. Now, Mrs. Goldstein left for Tel Aviv with her entire family and I gave her your winter coat, a warm pair of pants and a warm pullover to take to you. She should arrive any day and will write to you right away so that you can pick everything up. She will tell you everything and especially about Trudi,3 who is very sweet and stands already. Hopefully, she will be able to walk soon.


[next page]

Also, Michaela is very smart,4 and uncle Karl was sent an affidavit for America, but it may be the end of the year before he can travel. Uncle Siegfried also wants to get away, but so far has no prospects. Aunt Anna has prospects for Australia and England as photographer.5


I have already written all that in detail, but it seems you didn’t get a letter, I am so sorry! But now, I will write regularly every week and will enclose a return stamp so that our correspondence can be on a regular basis. Aunt Anna, who is the only one that possesses a passport, will send you 10 Marks6 tomorrow. And every month she and Uncle Miron will send money to you, so that you can buy various things.

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Just now, Grandfather went with Grandmother to the Temple, as today is Simchas Torah.7 Uncle Max just came and he is reading your letter and Papa’s. Bertuschka8 has another position already that is much better than the previous one, except for fewer tips. Lussinka9 has found good accommodations for Papa, with a fine old family where he can make music in the evening. I am longing very much for you three10 and I hope we can all have a joyful reunion eventually. After three weeks, we are only now more or less all right again, but we are still missing the curtains etc. Very often in the evening, all siblings with their wives are with us and we have a big dining room with three windows. Your pictures [photos] from Russia and by Uncle Miron hang near the mirror and I look at you a hundred times daily. Could you send me a small picture of you in Palestine? 

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The Tiefenbaum family lives with us in one apartment; there is a separate entrance and they have three rooms and a water closet that they use as a kitchen. There is also a bathroom, but it hasn’t been used yet. -- The dear grandparents have already found their way here and actually live much nicer than in Hollabrunn.


On September 22, we all had to leave Hollabrunn and the move was terrible, as very many things went missing. Uncle Poldi and I have moved three times already since March, and that is no small matter. Uncle Poldi has not had a business or a house for a long time already, and now we are poor emigrants as well!


But as long as everyone in the family stays healthy, I’ll thank God for that.11


Many, many kisses,

Aunt Gisa


Many 1000 kisses and a heartfelt Tel Chai12 to all your fellow [Betar] members,

Your faithful uncle Max.


Translated by Anne L. Fox; partially edited by Gerhard Koerth of Sütterlinstube, Hamburg, Germany


1. We can be certain that the year that Gisela wrote this letter is 1938, because of Gisela’s statement near the end of this letter: “On September 22, we all had to leave [Hollabrunn…]” As  A. Fehringer documented in his book, Ihr Müsst Hier Weg ” (“You Must Get Out Of Here: the Jewish Community of Hollabrunn from 1850 - 1938”), the forced expulsion of all Jews from Hollabrunn took place between September 22 - 24, 1938


Because Gisela wrote that “...today is Simchas Torah” and the historical record of Jewish holidays shows that Simchas Torah fell on October 18 in 1938, we can conclude that October 18 were the month and day within 1938 that Gisela wrote this letter.


2. “Vienna II” indicates the second district of Vienna; the street address follows, translatable as “Little Sperl Lane 1.” In the second line of the address, after the word “Mezzanine,” which indicates the floor of the apartment, Gisela wrote “Th.”, which was the abbreviation for “Thür,” the former German spelling of “Tür” (English: door).


3. Gisela was referring to her niece Trude Nadel, by a diminutive nickname. Trude was the infant daughter of Gisela’s younger sister, Anna, and Anna’s husband, Miron Nadel.


4. Michaela was the 13 1/2 month-old daughter of Gisela’s younger brother, Karl, and sister-in-law, Kreindel.


A possible alternate translation of this clause is: “Even, Michaela already walks very smartly (or well).”


5. Miron Nadel, Anna’s husband, was actually the professional photographer. Miron’s Vienna photo studio was vandalized and looted 23 days later during the ReichsKristallnacht  pogrom of November 9 - 10, 1938. See Anna Jellinek Nadel’s biography and the April 1938, Nazi-Required Asset Inventory of Miron and Anna’s photography business in the Documents section of this website.


6. The Mark (vs. the Reichsmark) was a unit of coin currency in Nazi Germany, but it is possible that Gisela wrote “Mark” here as a quick way to refer to the Reichsmark.


7. The Hebrew “Simchas Torah” (English: “Rejoicing of/with the Torah”) is the name of the Jewish holiday that joyously celebrates the completion of the annual public reading of the Torah, and the beginning of a new cycle of Torah reading.


8. “Bertuschka” was the Russified nickname for Hugo’s middle daughter, Berta.


9. “Lussinka” was the Russified nickname for Hugo’s youngest daughter, Anna.


10. Gisela is longing for her three teenage nieces, the three sisters and all daughters of Hugo Jellinek: Gisella Nadja, Berta/Bertuschka, and Anna/Lussinka Jellinek.


11. This statement and Gisela’s statement at the end of this letter about being grateful to God if everyone in the family stays healthy seems to give the most poignant and direct evidence of the “...blindness of human beings confronted with an entirely new and utterly horrifying reality.” (Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews, vol.1, p. 2.


12. Max’s greeting used the Hebrew words “Tel Chai” (English: ‘Hill of Life’) and “chaverim” (English meaning in this context: “fellow members of a movement, comrades”). This was a kind of coded aspirational message to Gisella Nadja and her fellow Betar movement members, to remind and inspire them to keep on fighting selflessly and courageously to establish an independent Jewish state -- as the small number of Jewish pioneers and fighters had fought bravely to defend their northern Galilean agricultural settlement of Tel Chai against the attack by a Shiite Arab militia and local Bedouins in March 1920.

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