March 28, 1941

Author(s) / Origin of Letter
Recipient(s) / Relationship to Author(s) / Destination of Letter
Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger
[Vienna, Austria]

Karl Jellinek (brother of GJS)
Kreindel/Karla E. Jellinek (sister-in-law of GJS)
[New York City, USA]

This letter shows how Gisela’s current life, that of her husband, Leopold, and of friends and relatives are preoccupied with emigration out of Nazi-ruled Austria. Amid reports of telegrams from the US and Lwów, and of visits to her parents, cousins, friends and an overcrowded temple, Gisela writes of her and Leopold’s upcoming medical examinations. One must pass the exam and also show possession of a ship ticket for emigration, in order to be granted a visa. Gisela demonstrates her awareness of Nazi censorship by her use of abbreviations and obscure references, but at this late time, she still seems to have hope and expectations of escape.


My dearest,Vienna, Friday March 28, 1941

I awaited a letter from you the whole week. Poldl acknowledged receipt of your Telegram from March 25. Today Egon, the cousin from Martha Kl.1 was here and brought the promised Easter gift, which Poldl received with a 1000 thanks. - - - I will still go to Walter’s mother this evening and I also have to give spring greetings there. I have visited her 5 times and she still doesn’t have a letter to show me from her son. I told her that our and your last letter, respectively, is from the second of February; she hasn’t had any mail since the end of December. In his card to you, Poldl described exactly how it came about that we finally were summoned to a doctor’s examination. We have to bring a scheduled ship ticket with us. Yesterday as I was returning from visiting the dear parents, I was at Else and Selma’s. Both were home, look good; I showed them the telegram and Selma received on this day the invitation to the examination, but she can’t do it as long as she cannot show the very important ship ticket. - They have already telegraphed Irmo2 two times this week; they would like to find them a temporary location. As soon as I receive the understanding that poldigisls3 papers are sufficient, we will telegraph once more.

The Mathilde affair is completely in order and also not yet due.4

[reverse, address side of postcard]

I am just now coming from the temple where, unfortunately, I couldn’t get in, because of overcrowding already at 5 o’clock. A few weeks ago, I had the same experience. Next time I will go already at 4 o’clock. One displays piety again!!!. I always felt it from the heart. This week, unfortunately, Mother had nerve pains in her right arm and shoulder. I rubbed her with all possible mixtures. Father is stylish. Sigl wrote a wonderful telegram on March 17.5 Hans writes to Selma that Sigl looks stunning. - -

[typed along the right and left sides of the all-text side of postcard:]

Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh.6 All the best, kisses to everyone. A letter follows. - -

This postcard has an imprinted 15 RM stamp (RM = abbrev. for Reichsmark - the currency in Germany from 1924 until 1948) and an affixed 40 RM postage stamp, each having an image of a male profile in low relief on a coin, and the words “Deutsches Reich” (German Empire). The circular postmark is dated, Vienna, 3.28.41. There is also a larger circular stamp with the Nazi symbol of a swastika in an eagle’s claws and the following words inside the circle’s circumfrence: “Oberkommande der Wehrmacht” (High Command of the [German] armed forces). There is another word in the upper left of this circle, whose letters are very unclear, but may be “S t y r ü f t “[??] Gisa’s return address translates as: “Sender (abbreviated) Gisa Schlesinger, Vienna, 2nd District, 9 Czerning Street, apartment 27, or Post Office box 94.” The three numbers pencilled in under the NYC address: 2408, 1958 and 1266, are probably identification codes of government censors.


Translated by staff of Leo Baeck Institute, Dec. 2010. Footnotes added by P. Jellinek


1. Gisela probably was differentiating between Martha Hirschensohn Jellinek, who was married to Gisela and Karl’s brother, Siegfried Jellinek, and a different ”Martha,” who had a suname beginning with the letters “Kl.” It is possible, however, that Gisela crypically wrote the abbreviation “Kl.” for “Klager,” the German word meaning “plaintiff and “complainant.”

2. “Irmo”may refer to Irma Schafer Morberger, maternal first cousin of Karl and Gisela’s, who escaped to NYC. Gisela may be cryptically writing that Irma and her husband Marcel, have telegraphed concerning the ‘temporary location’ to which Selma and Else can escape from the Nazis; i.e., a hiding place in Vienna. Else could well be Else Schafer Skoutajan, one of Irma’s younger sisters, who was in hiding in Vienna for much of the war, finally managed to escape to Cuba ca. 1943 - 44 and after about two years there, was admitted into the US, where she reunited with her three sisters in NYC. The non-Jewish husbands of Else and Gabriella, (the youngest of these four Schafer sisters) divorced each of them in Vienna, very soon after the Anschluss.

3. Gisela must again be writing somewhat cryptically here (and also saving precious postcard space) - the affectionate nicknames of her husband and herself: “Poldi”and “Gisl” .

4. I think Gisela is referring to Mathilde here, (Karl’s mother-in law/Karla’s mother). If Math. is a coded abbreviation for ”Mathilde,” then perhaps, Gisela is continuing with a coded abbreviation for the German word “Affaere.” Gisela may therefore be referring here to some affair, business, incident or episode with which Mathilde was involved; perhaps the ‘affair’ or ‘business’ of Mathilde’s (ultimately failed attempt at) emigration to the USA, or the ‘business’ of some payment which had been imposed on Mathilde, but was not yet due, payable, or expired.

This ‘affair’ or ‘business’ might even have referred to damages, wreaked during the November, 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom, to Mathilde’s perfume shop at Zirkusgasse 27, 1020 Vienna, which the Nazis forced the Jewish victims to pay for — and for which Mathilde may still not have completed payments. [?]

5. Sigl was one of the nicknames of Siegfried Jellinek, one of Gisela’s four younger brothers. It is likely that this March 17th telegram was the last or among the last few telegrams or letters from Siegfried to his family before he was murdered. See Siegfried’s Biography page and the last extant letter from Siegfried to his brother, Karl, dated January 18, 1941.

6. Rosh Chodesh (Hebrew: lit.: head of the month) marks the beginning of a new month of the Hebrew calendar and the birth of a new moon. Traditionally women have had a special relationship to this day, abstaining from tedious work and/or enjoying celebrating the day and studying Torah with other women.

It is doubtful that Gisela could have truly celebrated this Rosh Chodesh, but it is interesting that she mentioned it to Karl and Karla.