December 10, 1944 - February 10, 1945

Author(s) / Origin of Letter
Recipient(s) / Relationship to Author(s) / Destination of Letter
Summary
Anna Jellinek Nadel
[Woollahra, an eastern suburb of Sydney, Australia]

Karl, Karla, and Michaela Jellinek (brother/sister-in-law/niece of AJN)
[New York City, USA]

Anna writes about mostly positive details of her life in Sydney, Australia, in which she, her husband, Miron and young daughter, Trudi, found refuge from the Nazis. She and Miron are working hard and prospering from the success of their photography studio business. Anna also includes her fears and hopes for the fates of her and Karl’s siblings: Max, who had escaped to Shanghai, China, as well as Gisela, Siegfried, Hugo, and his family, and of their father, Siegmund, all of whom had not been able to escape Nazi-controlled Europe.

 
 

(View German Transcription)

M. Nadel’s Studio

Exclusive Portraiture

366 Oxford Street, Woollahra, Sydney


Phone: FW 5798

December 10, 1944

Beloved Brother, Carla, and Michi!1

I received with great pleasure your lovely2 detailed letter of the 12th of September and am very happy, that my detailed letter revitalized you and that you are at last satisfied with me. I’ll do my best to be so thorough again today, since after such a long silence on my part, I indeed have much to tell you.3

We’re so buried in work, that I find myself forced to work from 6 in the morning until late at night and on top of that I have to take care of the household. I do have a maid who comes every morning for three hours, but not on Saturdays and Sundays, and she also doesn’t cook. And Saturday, in particular, is our most difficult day—the morning is filled with customers,4 and in the afternoons there are sometimes 10‐14 weddings—all the while 12‐16 cars wait in front of our business, because they all want to commission our work—they often pay the chauffeurs some British Pounds to wait.

[Page 2]

I began this letter 14 days ago, but dear Miron made me go to the beach with him in the middle of writing the letter; unfortunately, he won’t go a single step alone, or should one say ‘Thank God.’ In the meantime, various things have happened to us, namely, our dear little Trudi came back home for a 2 month holiday and we’re very happy to have her with us and would be happiest to have our only child permanently [at]5 home. The second happy news is that we got a very beautiful modern flat after lots of looking and waiting. It caused me a great deal of anxiety and financial trouble, but it was worth it. We’re finally living like civilized people6 and Trudi is so happy to have her own room. The flat is only 5 minutes from the beach and so now we walk barefoot wearing our swimsuits to the marvelous Bondi Beach. We closed the shop for 10 days until after New Year’s and my dear Miron is recovering very well, knock on wood.7 There is always a cool breeze here, even on the hottest days, and my good hubby, as well as the rest of us, sleep significantly better here. Once again, everyone is impressed by my competence and looks at us as if it were a miracle that we got a flat. The main thing is that we are happy where we are and remain healthy. — Ame

I ought to find a maid; I don’t want to send Trudi away anymore; unfortunately there is no substitute for me at work, otherwise I would be like Carla and devote myself entirely to my child and household.8

[Page 3]

Continuation, Feb. 10,1945: I really should be ashamed of myself and deeply beg for your forgiveness, since only now am I continuing this long‐promised letter. I really wasn’t able to [write], because I was so worried about dear Miron; he suddenly lost weight [ ? ] and was prescribed a strict diet. He visited 4 doctors —our people.9 One said that he had too much acid, another believes he has too little, and since he suffers from acute hypochondria, he imagined that he was seriously ill. He made me terribly afraid, because he said to me, I think you will soon be widowed, because he is convinced that he has cancer and the doctors are hiding it from him. The doctors let him come again and again — unfortunately there are few decent people here— until I energetically demanded an X‐ray, which to my great satisfaction turned up nothing. It was simply his weak nerves and ever since he read the report himself, he has been eating everything and looking well again! He is also getting some injections to improve his nerves, and god willing, on March 9th, we will [be] in the mountains for a 2‐week vacation. We will be handing the responsibility for the shop over to our incompetent employees for the duration of the vacation. Miron does not want to travel10 alone, so the vacation will cost us even more. Health is more important. Our dear child had a good rest. I have taken in a Jewish woman who spends 3 hours at the beach [with Trudy] every day. She really loves the big waves. Next week I’ll take her with a heavy heart to a boarding school. She is looking forward to the change of scenery.

[Page 4]

I got all your lovely letters, as well as your last letter from December 29th. I’m so grateful to you, that you write so often. God willing, it will get somewhat better for you. [I am holding ?] your telegram and I am so happy, [together] with you and dear Carla, that you have had a healthy baby girl. I wish the beloved baby “Bertha” all the happiness in the world. I’m so happy you gave her the name of our wonderful, noble mother.11 I hope too that I’ll hear the voice of dear Max. We still don’t have an antenna in our new flat, because the workers are buried in work, but one of them said he could do it next week. Yesterday I read in the Herald here that 1000 Jews were liberated from Theresienstadt, and may God grant that among them is our dear brother Hugo with his family. It breaks my heart, that there is so little hope that we might ever see our dear noble sister Gisa, as well as our dear papa alive again. For our dear clever Siegl12 I have the definite hope, that he may have found some way to save himself. May God let it be true.13 Unfortunately, we have no relatives here at all and sometimes feel very alone. I am happy that dear Gustl14 visits you sometimes, and that he is doing so well; he deserves it too.


[At top of page, end of the letter]

I’m happy, too, that the dear Schafer family15 is so good to you. It’s already late in the evening and I’m feeling very tired. I’ll write you from now on a postcard every week. There are only a few Americans left here. Because of this the Bank is making it difficult to send money. But I hope to be lucky again, [ I ] want to do my best with it; I know how urgently you need it.16 Once more, all the best with many kisses from all of us, your sister and aunt Anny.

(View German Transcription)

(View German Transcription)

(View German Transcription)

(View German Transcription)

 

English translation by Timothy Mendenhall, digital archivist of the Leo Baeck Institute, with some edits and footnotes (including all of the interpretive footnotes) by P. Jellinek

Footnotes

1. Karla (also sometimes spelled Carla by Anna and Karl) changed her first name in the vastly different environments in which she lived. Her name at birth in Stanislau, then in the Galician region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was the Yiddish Kreindel. Along with assimilation into the different world of Vienna, came her change to Karla. And finally, suffering the trauma and deep losses of the Holocaust, while also assimilating as a US citizen, she changed to the less - German and more American - sounding Caroline.

Michi is Anna's diminutive and affectionate reference to Michaela, Karl and Karla’s then seven-year old daughter.

2. Abbreviation “l.”—usually means “lieb” (“dear, lovely”) but in context could mean “lange” (“long”)

3. The original German letter had very idiosyncratic punctuation; I preserved it as best I could, but in some cases I had to add commas or periods for the sake of comprehensibility. [Leo Baeck Institute translator]

4. Kundenverkehr=customer transactions or interactions

5. the original appears to be missing the word “zu,” as in “zu Hause.”

6. “Culturmenschen” is often translated as “civilized people,” but this is somewhat imprecise.

7. Anna used the expression “unberufen” here. which is roughly equivalent to the English expression “Knock on Wood.” Unberufen is defined in Karl Breul’s “A New German and English Dictionary “ of 1914, as a“superstitious exclamation to ward off evil after speaking favorably of something.” This exclamation also appears in letters written by other members of the Jellinek family. Karl and Kreindel/Carla/Caroline E. Jellinek often said it in our home while my two sisters and I were growing up, and I (Paulette J.) then understood from the context, only that it was a term of approbation. [PJ]

8. Anna was incorrect about Karla/Caroline’s work being entirely devoted to her children and household. Karla/Caroline was also employed as a bookkeeper at the Modern Industrial Bank (later renamed Bank of North America) for almost all of her life in New York City. She began work immediately after her arrival in 1939 as a refugee and continued her employment there for 34 years. She did take some time off after the births of her younger daughters, Roberta and Paulette, as well as after serious health issues, including minor heart attacks. It was solely her first stroke in 1973 that necessitated her retirement. [PJ]

9. Anna was probably referring to doctors who were Jewish, and possibly that they were also fellow refugees from Vienna. [PJ]

10. could be “drive”

11. Although the name given to the ‘healthy baby girl’ was in honor and memory of, and similar to Karl and Anna’s mother Bertha, the actual name given was Roberta.

12. Nickname for their brother “Siegfried,” who was tragically not able to save himself from being murdered. See Siegfried Jellinek’s Biography page.

13. This final part of Anna’s letter seems particularly poignant. Her statements reveal the lack of adequate knowledge of the extent of the mass killing of Jews, which enabled Anna, and perhaps Karl too, to keep some hope alive for their family members left behind in Nazi‐controlled Europe. These worries and hopes appearing so late in Anna’s letter, also seem to show that she had resiliently moved forward and become immersed in a ‘normal’ life in Sydney, far removed from the unprecedentedly abnormal and horrific life — and death — of Jews in Europe. [PJ]

14. Nickname for “Gustav Jellinek” Karl and Anna’s first cousin, who managed to escape to the US in April 1939 and resume being an internist in New York City. See Gustav’s Biography page.

15. Anna is referring to her and Karl’s first cousins, the four ‘Schafer sisters,’ Frieda Schafer Epstein, Irma Schafer Morberger, Elsa Schafer Skoutajan and Gabriella (Gabi) Schafer Steiner. These sisters were the daughters of Max Schafer, who was the brother of Berta Schafer Jellinek, Anna and Karl’s mother. See the Schafer Sisters’ Biography page.

16. Although Anna and Miron were succeeding financially and had the means to help Karl and his family who were still struggling in NYC to make ends meet, Anna did not manage to come through with much financial help. Karl reconciled the lack of reciprocity that Anna showed — Karl had contributed significantly to Anna’s support in Vienna for many years before her marriage, when he was able to do so as a successful lawyer — with the maxim that “some people are better at taking than giving.” [PJ]