December 17, 1939

Author(s) / Origin of Letter
Recipient(s) / Relationship to Author(s) / Destination of Letter
Hugo Jellinek
Fritzi Fränkel (see Hugo Jellinek's bio)
Anny Jellinek
Heinz Rosenzweig
Aunt Else (aunt of Fritzi)
[Brünn, Czechoslovakia]

Karl Jellinek (brother of HJ and brother-in-law of FF, uncle of AJ)
Kreindel/Karla E. Jellinek (sister-in-law of HJ and FF, aunt of AJ) (see Karl Jellinek's bio)
[New York City, USA]

In one of the few extant letters to his siblings, Hugo tells of the difficult, but not yet mortally dangerous circumstances he is experiencing in Brünn. Hugo lovingly praises the character of his new wife, Fritzi Fränkel. He recounts her altruism and devotion to caring for her late husband, to Hugo himself, and to her late good friend, Maria Mayer. Hugo feels very fortunate that Fritzi has chosen him over suitors who have higher social status.


(View German transcription)

I am very delighted about your l[ast] lines.
Many regards and kisses on the hand from Heinz Rosenzweig
[written upside down, in the top margin of page 1., above the printed
business name in the letterhead.1]

Brünn, December 17, 1939

My Dear Ones!

7 o’clock in the evening – we are still sitting in the little overheated
small room of the unfortunate in-laws who have their heads bandaged
most of the time.2
Lussinka [Anny3] and Heinzi 4 “devour their abundant dinner. ——
Elsa is unfortunately sitting muffled and is complaining about her
bitter pain, for this poor, poor and good woman has been afflicted
with arthritis [pain] in her right upper arm for 14 days: God tests his
favorites in fire.
“Pumpkin,”5 I say to my Fritzele, “slip into your poor little winter
coat with the almost shabby, narrow fur collar.” But this is
my selfless Fritzele: Working, laboring from early in the morning until
late at night,
but never for oneself, only for others…. At this moment, I am thinking:
elegant coats with
rich fur trimming do my daughters have –
and you, my wonderful wife, buy a knitted west for your “Hugolink”
which, nowadays, is not only of high relative value, but is also of high
value. But this is how this noble, altruistic nature is: For one self a life
full of
effort and trouble, making heaven on earth for others - - -.
What a wonderful life she could live, how many rich and highly
gentlemanly suitors would strive to lead this “treasure” home. But
if she chose me, an “unknown Maccabee”, so if I have
successfully achieved “plucking this flower”6, then I have to
thank the omni benevolent Dame Fortune for arranging our
acquaintanceship just like in a novel.
That Fritzele almost became the sister-in-law of your kind Ms.
does also not lack spicy romanticism.
However, the following lines do not mean to strut or to brag,
but they shall be read as a contribution to “life’s mazy and intricate
As the sister – may God rest her soul – of your neighbor, who was
always so kind to our mom,
was one of the best friends of my hearty Fritzele —

p.2. (on reverse side of p.1.)

and not only [due to] the weekly séances in the café “Esplanade”, but
also the numerous visits in
Fritzele’s wonderful apartment, assured and deepened this pure and
intimate friendship which was based on
the harmony of two noble female souls. The late [woman/friend] was
also after the time of poor
Hugo Fränkel’s death – who died too early and after deep suffering – a
devoted comforter and deeply
sympathetic friend during those very grievous years of mourning…
The very day, when the German
troops invaded here 9, this poor woman was carried to Julienfeld10
the weather was
terrible then: at the cemetery, we trudged through deep dirty snow.
Everyone of the scarce escort
paying the last respect was broken-hearted, and in addition, full of
sorrow and dejection
caused by this gloomy background. . . . . Of course, also my faithful
Fritzele was among the
mourners – also today, in spite of the cold and snow flurry, we visited
the grave of
Maria Mayer, which is already surrounded by beautiful granite, and
the stone will probably be erected
soon - -
But also the Oberstaatsrat11 Mayer, who was known for his esprit and
felt esteem for my intelligent and optimistic Fritzele; but these
feelings of esteem
and reverence were also mutual feelings. - - - And I don’t know why
nothing “came out
of it”, after various sides put out feelers ~~
I am writing the continuation at my parent’s, with many people
around me. That is to say, at home
it is quite cold, we have not been heating since three weeks, besides
the kerosene oven in the
big kitchen once in a while – Lußinka and Heinzile just came back
from a stroll and
Lußinka already placed three large slices of bread with jelly in front of
her. [?] Would she only have developed
such an appetite with you, (dear sister?) ! Apart form that, for the
time being, nothing has changed and everything is well.

Kisses Your Hugo

Due to space limitations only warm
regards from aunt Else

My dearest ones, I do not know how you will judge the state of mind
of my
Hugole12 after having read his lines above, I am afraid he
is not quite sane! You will be very
unpleasantly surprised some time. I want to break it to you gently
already today.
We are happy and content, which is the
most important thing in these hard times. We are always delighted by your
lines. Stay healthy, many kisses from

Your Fritzi13

Such chutzpah! 14 days of strike. . . .14

[written upside down at bottom of p.2.]

Many 1000 kisses from Anny

(View German transcription)


Translated by Janina Wurbs, Berlin, Germany; some edits & footnotes by P.Jellinek


1. The owner of this tea export and alcoholic beverage business, Josef Gansel, was most likely Fritzi Fränkel’s father and thus, Hugo’s new father-in-law. Hugo wrote on the defunct business stationery that his father-in-law had probably brought home after his business had been ‘aryanized.’

2. It is unknown why Fritzi’s parents have their heads bandaged most of the time.

3. Anny and Lussinka were nicknames for the youngest of Hugo’s three daughters, Anna Luchia Jellinek, b. 1924.

4. Heinzi was an affectionate nickname for Heinz Rosenzweig, Fritzi’s nephew; thus a new cousin and friend for Anna.

5. Literally: “little mouse,” term of endearment, followed by “Fritzele,” a Yiddish diminutive and affectionate inflection of Fritzi’s name.

6. Literally “to break this flower” = to pluck a flower. Probably an allusion to the line that can be translated as: “Only love can break the flower of love” in Friedrich Schiller’s late 18th century poem Die Begegnung (The Encounter). Could also be a quote or allusion to the ancient Roman poet, Ovid’s Amores (Love). It is also a common motive in fairy tales. Very poetic and erudite way to say that Hugo got what he wanted, Fritzi, as his loved one.

7. “Hofrätin” is an old German and Austrian honorary title; she is the wife of the Hofrat. Literally: a member of a council, councilor.

8. Quote from the “Dedication” of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play “Faust.” Two of multiple alternate English translations are: ”life’s labyrinthine and erring course“ or “life wanders in its labyrinthine flight.”

9. March 15, 1939.

10. = today’s Juliánov, a locality/neighborhood in the greater metropolitan area of Brno. The Old Jewish Cemetery of Brno, established in 1852, was located south of Juliánov; called by its former German- language name of Julianfeld under Nazi occupation. This cemetery is the largest Jewish cemetery in the Moravian - Silesian region of the Czech Republic and the oldest in Brno.

11. title of a high member of the government

12. Fritzi's addition of the Yiddish-derived affectionate and diminutive “le” or “ele” to Hugo’s name, is similar to Hugo's use of “Fritzele.” English equivalent: “dear little Hugo.”

13. Fritzi’s sense of humor here, as well as her expression of happiness and contentment, show her remarkable resilience and strength of character. [PJ]

14. This was most likely written by Hugo. One strike to which Hugo may have been referring, as described by L. Rothkirchen in her book The Jews of Bohemia & Moravia: Facing the Holocaust, was begun on the first anniversary of the Munich Agreement, September 30, 1939, by “. . . workers of the capital [who] refrained from using public transport. . . “ On pp. 113 - 14, Ms. Rothkirchen describes additional ‘defiant’ acts, such as mass gatherings and demonstrations, encouraged by the exiled President Beneš and organized by home resistance groups, but these do not seem to have been strikes.