March 23 - Early May, 1939 (?)1


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


Hugo Jellinek
Fritzi Fränkel (see Hugo Jellinek's bio)
                [Brünn, Czechoslovakia]
Gisella Nadja Jellinek (daughter of HJ, stepdaughter of FF)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]
Hugo expresses great admiration and burgeoning love for Fritzi Fränkel, but anger and pain re: Brünn’s recent occupation by the Nazis, and the change in his personal situation from distinguished, brave WWI Austrian soldier, who impartially helped all of his fellow soldiers, to persecuted and reviled Jew. Also, details of Hugo’s as well as Berta and Anna’s daily life in Brünn. Also, Fritzi expresses warm interest in Gisella Nadja.

                                                                                                          (View German transcription)


Certainly the future is shrouded with impenetrable, black cloths and one cannot envisage anything with certainty, but this noble and genteel woman, this good Jewess and Zionist, this industrious, hard-working housewife, admired for her art in the kitchen and in banking as well as for her talent as a seamstress; this rare benefactress and caring maternal heart; this woman with her social nature and sweet buoyancy; this jewel I never want to lose. – It is a pity that you cannot cast your eye about this magnificent apartment; this marvelous kitchen; this modern, famously appointed bath; this balcony on the second floor with the view to the most beautiful park in Brünn, the Winterholler Square, or as it was called previously, the Square of the 28th of October, (the founding day of the Republic); in this laundry alcove, even this is a reflection of the good homemaker; if you could be here with us, in our midst, watched over by this genteel and very smart woman, certainly everything here would be to your liking and you would likely be loathe to leave your new mother and faithful father to go back to the place that draws you so mightily.

The image of this, my beloved friend, would not be complete if I did not mention that this brave woman, after the death of her beloved and idolized husband (three years ago), despite her desperate frame of mind, continued to run the business (leather goods for hairdressers), provided food and shelter for his girls, and all that without even a servant girl.

Truly this is a woman equal to the most rigorous requirements of our Grandmama: “At the hearth and on the horse.” We both, I and my

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good-hearted intended, think about you often, and this intelligent Jewess is very interested in your letters and pictures. With all my heart, I wish I could indulge you with these uncommonly tasty, extremely nutritious and plentiful meals; but that is but a wish to dream of. Once, when I was half asleep, I dreamt so vividly that we were standing under the “chuppa” with Aunt Gisa and a very posh Grandpapa, and then two charming bridesmaids, with the two very interesting and hale nephews of my bride as groomsmen, an immense throng of guests and relatives – Mrs. Fränkel belongs to one of the best families in this town – and suddenly you stormed in still dressed in your travel dress and hugged us all, kissed us: “And both lie in her2 arms and weep in joy and delight”......

Everything would be well if the times were not so sad for us Jews. We must likely pack our bundle soon and I believe that we will sooner be with you than you with us. I am so sure that Mrs. Fritzi wants to emigrate only to Palestine. It is a pity that you cannot get visas for us, but perhaps you could still be helpful to your parents in some way. Think it over if time and leisure allow. Truly, I really have nothing to fear by going out into the world with such a heroine of a truly Jewish woman. This hard-working and clever woman would mend and arrange the laundry and everything else with such skill that would be a joy for you to behold. Ah, I forgot to tell you that my bride, while she cooks, after straightening up – and everything sparkles and shines (a là Stella) –, mends things
on the sewing machine and thus earns quite well on the side. And although she works so hard, she ...[…??...] me the whole day for a mere 4 kč, which is practically nothing. In the afternoon, we go to visit clients together; in the morning, I sometimes see to commissions [?], and in the evening, after a delicious supper, we go to visit Lussinka. Right now, Berta is doing Madame’s3 hair; she always styles it as if she [Madame] were going to a ball. But she [Berta] is also indebted to this unassuming benefactress, as she has recommended very many elegant customers. So, in this way, Bertuschka earns very well and pays for her rich quarters and clothes and shoes, etc. on her own.

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Only occasionally does she receive pocket money from me for unexpected expenses, as a supplement. But altogether, she [Berta] is very hard-working – and especially since our dear, clever Mrs. Fränkel found her a modern hair dryer for a modest sum, and what’s more, on an installment plan – she is visiting ladies of a higher class who have her give them a “water permanent.”4 Apart from that, she is very nice to Lussinka, does her [Lussinka’s] hair every Sunday herself, so that our youngest looks like a young princess; she is beautiful with that becoming hairstyle. She has also bought herself very stylish dresses from the money she has earned. But Lussinka is also very good to Bertherl and often gives her something from her hard-earned money.

[Nadja Rivlin Nadja Rivlin]5

As for me, I can only say that I am well and that I am very happy. I only hope to remain this way barring an unpleasant change in my situation, which one can unfortunately expect. To whit, Brünn has been a “German” town for a week now at the decree of the Reichsprotektor Baron von Neurath.6 What that means for us poor Jews, I needn’t tell you. What good is my one-time heroism, that I volunteered to be sent to the frontline, although as a medical student in my 5th semester, I could have gotten assigned to serve in a hospital without raising an eyebrow? What good is my bravery, my being perhaps the only one in our platoon, who, although surrounded, shot down the advancing enemy until the last moment? Who asks today about the terrible pain as a result of my stomach surgery that I underwent due to the war? And because I suffered intensely on the battlefield, I had to go to the hospital again today because I want to come to you fully healthy, my dear child.

Who appreciates now that I was a loyal comrade and helpful friend to all my former fellow soldiers without consideration of race,

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of religion; and that I helped everyone who sought my aid for the trip home from the hell that was Turkestan? My love and loyalty to my fellow brothers-in-arms cost me a fortune; and only because I loved my former homeland, Austria, so dearly, I denied myself all advantages in Russia and returned to my homeland as a poor man with three little children.

On the battlefield and during my difficult imprisonment, I held our banner high and took pains to be ever patriotic and apolitical toward my misguided comrades. And today, just because I am a Jew, I am lumped together with every possible sort of scalawags, “pig Jews”7 and shirkers. – Every time I reflect on this sad state of affairs, the words of Trumpeldor, this wonderful Jewish-Russian hero, come to mind: “Hurry, and pick yourselves up, you poor and yet so great people! Have done with anguish, mercy; have done with fear, have done with subjugation! Onward to freedom!” ---

I bear our Jewish destiny with honor, resigned to fate. As I write here in the drawing room, powerful airplanes rattle over the rooftops and drill, preparing for future “heroic deeds.” --- Yes, the situation is again very strained and bears a devilish similarity to the month of July in the year 1914 – in every way. I, however, believe that Hitler, with the “help of Chamberlain,” will take Danzig [Gdansk] without firing a shot. If I weren’t a Jew, I would be forced to admire this simple man. –

I am in constant correspondence with Vienna because [my?] unhappy parents and our dear Aunt and sister Gisa are so happy when they receive signs of life from us, especially from our “little mouse” who adds to every one of my detailed letters. Bertha is much lazier when it comes to writing and apparently doesn’t think much about the misery here and in Vienna. But I would not be giving her her due if I meant to say that she didn’t love her grandparents, her aunts and especially her sisters with her whole heart and soul. Rest assured, my dear one, that she loves you deeply and truly as well; it’s just that she is “a bit” too lazy to write because she is too hungry for life and love.

Until the next letter, many thousands of sincere kisses, your Pappi Hugo

[written along the left side of p. 4]

Dear Gisel, I read with interest the lines sent to your dear father and I hope that you don’t mind.

With all my heart Fritzi Fränkel


Translated by Anne L. Fox, edited by Daniel Gillis and Brian Middleton


1. Hugo wrote here that “...Brünn has been a ‘German’ town for a week now...

I therefore estimate that March 23rd, a week after the March 16th Nazi invasion and occupation of all of Moravia and Bohemia, is the earliest and most probable date of the writing of this letter. However, on the basis of Hugo’s description of his relationship with Fritzi Frankel, it seems possible that Hugo’s writing spanned several weeks, into early May.

2. It is not clear from the German whether the intent is “her” arms, “his” arms or “each other’s” arms. I tend to think “each other’s” is the correct interpretation. It would be interesting to find the source of this quote. (BM)

3. Apparently Mrs. Fränkel.

4. A “water permanent” does not use chemicals and therefore is not ‘permanent,’ while a true perm requires the use of sprays or other chemicals.

5. Nadja Rivlin” is written twice at this place in Hugo’s letter, in Gisella/Nadja’s hand-writing. Interestingly, Gisella/Nadja may have been ‘trying out’ here how her first name would look coupled with the last name of someone she was thinking of marrying.

6. See

7. Reference to an anti-Semitic artistic motif common in the High Middle Ages that later became an anti-Semitic caricature.



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