March 1940

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

Gisella Nadja Jellinek (niece of GJS) (via Marianne Robicek)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]

This letter gives detailed personal news of Gisela’s and her parents’ difficult circumstances during the previous harsh winter, as well as updated information garnered from intra-family correspondence about the varied situations of her then globally dispersed siblings and friends. Some of the letters that Gisela received led her to believe that several of her close relatives could soon escape to America, revealing that Gisela did not and could not know that she and almost all of these same relatives would be murdered in the near future.


xxxxx March 19401

Dear Mrs. Marianne!2

I would have liked to write to you in great detail earlier, but unfortunately, I kept waiting for a letter from dear niece Gisushka.3 As you know, I immediately sent a long and detailed reply to the long letter from December 17, which you were so kind to send me. I cannot stop wondering why I haven’t received any further news yet, whereas the Hahn family received some 20 letters from Erwin. Maybe you, dearest Gisushka, do not have any money; if so, please ask aunt Stella for some; dear uncle Karl or aunt Anny will gratefully pay her back.4 Dear Dad5 drops us a line almost every day, and thank God he is very happy in his new marriage and his wife is a very good and fine person. Your father cannot praise her enough; in every respect she is a good hostess, cook, business woman and lady of society. - Bertuschka6 found a new and very good position for herself, where she does not have to feel committed all the time and in which she is free on Sundays and holidays. Now she is able to earn some additional money doing hairdressing and manicuring. Have you received the new pictures of Bertha? She has become an exceptional beauty with a wonderful figure, and she always dresses very nicely and elegantly. Now it is possible to send some money, and I will support her a little bit. Putzerle7 is very happy and she often writes sweet letters to me. She only wants to go where I am going. I asked uncle Karl [Jellinek] in America for an affidavit for Bertha and I sent him a picture with particulars. She should be able to go soon because she is eligible under the Russian quota.8 It should not be difficult for uncle Karl to obtain an affidavit for such a hard-working young girl. On February 1st, we received a telegram from uncle Karl to uncle Poldi, stating that he has already obtained an affidavit for Poldi. Unfortunately, the letter has not arrived yet, because the American mail is very slow, but on January 2, the dear uncle [Karl J.] wrote a very nice and detailed letter; the dear children9 are developing very well, thank God. They are being cared for in a wonderful day nursery10 and Karla can go on working at the bank. Uncle Karl made some money by standing in for someone. All this is not the right thing yet, but I am sure that he [Karl] is going to make his way. Karl is already very well established in society; [he] is already the president of of a large association that he organized, of Jewish Zionist academics.11 On December 13, he arranged a big Hanukkah festival, for which everyone had to wear a tuxedo or an evening dress.12 Karl gave a wonderful welcome speech in which he also mentioned his beloved one left behind in Europe. He always remembers us, and he is probably spending numerous sleepless nights. Has uncle Karl already written to you? In an airmail letter, I asked him to send you linen, clothing and shoes immediately, because you are unfortunately very poor. They have such a huge circle of friends, and our cousin, Irma Schafer (Morberger)13 is such a good person, so she probably gives him a lot for you too. Also, uncle Gustav’s wife, [= Gustav Jellinek and wife, Grete Jellinek] who opened a fashion house there, is certainly going to contribute; uncle Gustav loves you very much. He has been studying day and night, and towards the end of January he took his [English language medical] exam. I haven’t received any news yet about how it turned out; very good, I hope. This exam is supposed to be terribly difficult; even assistant professor Aschner failed the exam there, although he used to be a leading authority in his field in Vienna. Imagine, uncle Karl’s brother-in-law, Mr. Bertisch,14 whom you know and who used to live in Prater Street, is already going to America next week, and I am going to give him a sweet pink dress with a little matching coat, that I knitted for Micherle.15 For the little American, the dear little son, Bernhard, I knitted a very warm sweater. Aunt Martha and Erich are still going to America in March; poor uncle Sigfried [sic] is not feeling well at all in Lemberg, but he will also join uncle Karl soon.16 Aunt Martha is sending him all the necessary documents and he is going to have his medical check-up at the American consulate in Riga. This year’s Seder will be on April 22, and this year we will be all alone. Last year I still had 16 guests and I worked very hard. This year we will be very lonesome; hopefully, dear

[written on the right edge of the first page] Write Immediately

Dear Mrs. Marianne, a thousand thanks and kindest regards to you and your loved ones.

[Also note in the lower left corner of page 1.: the censor’s marks consisting of the stamped numeral “1154,” followed by the handwritten ”/2.”

[Page 2.]

uncle Poldi will still be around; I cannot imagine being separated from my good, brave husband and I cannot leave the old parents; I would perish of homesickness. If it weren’t for her homesickness, poor aunt Anny17 would be very well, but she suffers from homesickness and longing for her parents; she always says in her letters that she turned into an old and heart-broken woman. Her poor girl, Trudilein, had to lie in a plaster cast for another six months in Sydney, because the professor in Vienna had set her little feet badly. Can you imagine what poor aunt Anny and her poor child went through again? But now her feet are fine and aunt Anny said in her last letter that the girl can run like a weasel. Also, intellectually, she made up for everything now and she can speak a lot of English already. The child turns three on May 7, and I can hardly cope with my longing for her. If I did not have the hope that some day I would be reunited with all of my far-off loved ones, there would really be no more happiness in my life. Both parents were sick with severe flu for almost fourteen days. Can you imagine what I went through day and night? Dear Grandma is very critical when she is sick and because she was very troubled by her cough, she gave me enough [problems] to solve. Dear Grandpa had a severe head flu, but was a very patient patient. But God the Almighty heard me and cured our dear parents. This past winter has been a very very cold one, and some days we did not even have any heating fuel; as a consequence, the poor parents caught colds. I myself caught a severe flu too, but I could not take care of myself and could rest for only three days. Dear uncle Poldi always brewed me tea; I had no appetite for eating anyway. A couple of days ago, I heard that Gerty Schubert’s father died in London as a result of an operation. Poor Mrs. Schubert and poor Gerty; they are said to live on knitting. I cannot even write to them because no one knows their address — an immigrant tragedy. Uncle Ludwig Schlesinger,18 who has been on his way since November 13, is supposed to have arrived by now; he had to stay in Sulina19 for months. I asked him to look for you and visit you. We still haven’t received a message from him, but I hope that he complied with my request. Uncle Poldi also asked him to visit you, and besides, he [uncle Ludwig] loves you and your sisters like his own children. Your father [Hugo Jellinek, Gisela’s brother and Gisella Nadja’s father] keeps writing that our sweet Putzerle20 venerates me and uncle Poldi in deep love, and that she longs for us and realizes now, how well-intentioned we were toward her. Did you receive all the pictures from the wedding?21 Can you imagine how pained we were that we could not be with dear Dad on this very happy day? - Dad is said, touch wood,22 to look very good and his wife outfits him with the best set of clothes. In fact, my beloved Putzerle [young Anna Jellinek, Gisela’s niece and Gisella Nadja's sister] is the source of her father’s happiness, and grandma is so happy that she can still share in her son’s happiness. Both grandparents wrote some personal lines to Daddy, because he asked them to. In a few weeks, it will be two years that we [Gisela and Hugo Jellinek] haven’t seen each other; with you and me, that is also the case.23 I beg you, my dear child, above all, take care of your precious health, because everything can be replaced, except life and health. Dear Bertha wears only thin silk underwear in this cold and has a cold as a result.24 She also had a lot of trouble with her stomach, but it is all right now. She could have lived with Mum and Dad, but out of love, [for her father] she does not want to cause dad any annoyance; she is such a good and fine child.25 `Your father is very sad because he receives hardly any news from you. I beg you to write to him; you are his only concern. He is attached to you with great, deep love, and he is very proud of his heroic girl. Uncle Maxl wrote that he has already written to you a few times without receiving any answer. Aunt Stella26 also wrote to uncle Maxl. - - Yesterday Mrs. Marianne Robicek’s sister, Klothilde Hahn, told me that her daughter Mimi had written to her, that aunt Stella is very good to her [to Mimi] and that she [Stella] teaches Mimi how to iron stockings and how to make flowers and gloves. I am very happy about that, and I can thank Mrs. Marianne directly for that here. Aunt Stella went on this trip with Miss Mimi, for almost six months.27 - - -
1000 warm kisses from all of us.
Aunt Gisa

[page break]


Translated by Laura Jockusch, ~ 2000 - 2005; edited and footnotes added by P. Jellinek


1. As seen in the scan on right, each of the two original pages have a triangular piece of the paper torn off in the middile of the top and the middle of the bottom, further obscuring the date which had been x-ed over.

2. Mrs. Marianne Robicek, an old school friend of Gisela’s, then residing in Yugoslavia, was the secret conduit for letters from Vienna and Brünn to Gisella Nadja in British Mandate Palestine. Mrs. Marianne forwarded all of Gisela and Hugo’s letters and Gisella Nadja’s replies. So, Gisela J. S. is actually addressing her niece, Gisella Nadja throughout this letter, except for a short greeting to Marianne Robicek written along the right side of page 1.

3. Gisuschka was an affectionate, Russianized nickname for Gisella Nadja Jellinek; probably originated by Gisella Nadja’s father and mother during Gisella Nadja’s first six years of life when her parents were living in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, then – Soviet Union.

4. Aunt Stella was Stella Pollak Jellinek, the spouse of Max Jellinek, with whom she was estranged and physically separated at this time. Stella had managed to escape from Vienna to Mandate Palestine and Max had escaped to Shanghai, China. Max Jellinek, Karl Jellinek, Anny Jellinek Nadel were all Gisela J. S.’s siblings, and thus also aunts (or uncles) of 19 year-old Gisella Nadja.

5. Gisela J. S. is referring to her brother and Gisella Nadja’s father, Hugo Jellinek, who had married Frtizi Fränkel in October 1939, and was living in Brünn, (Brno) then-Czechoslovakia.

6. Bertuschka is the affectionate Russianized nickname of Bertha (aka Berta). Bertha was Gisella Nadja’s next younger sister, born 1922.

7. Putzerle is one of the affectionate and diminutive nicknames for Anna (aka Anny), Gisella Nadja’s youngest sister, born 1923 or 1924.

8. Gisela must have used “Russian” for “Soviet Union,” because Berta was born in Uzbekistan and not Russia. In Gisella Nadja’s written and spoken communication with Paulette Jellinek about this issue, Gisella Nadja indicated that “Berta and Anny had Russian passports” — but that the America consulate denied their requests to emigrate to the United States, arguing that they were not in danger, because they could go to Russia.

9. “the dear children’ are Michaela Jellinek, born August 1937 and Bernhard Jellinek, born October 1939.

10. This 24-hour child-care facility in which Karl and Karla were compelled to place Michaela and Bernhard, was ‘deep into’ Brooklyn, more than an hour’s subway ride away from upper Manhattan where Karl and Karla lived. It may have provided good infant and toddler-care up to that point, but it is where Bernhard contracted and died of meningitis approximately six months after Gisela wrote this letter.

11. The “society” (Gesellschaft) into which Gisela might have imagined Karl being “well established,” likely consisted of the Jewish, Zionist and refugee community in New York City. Wthout relevant extant letters from Karl to Gisela, we can only guess that Gisela filtered whatever Karl wrote, with her memory and world view of early 20th century Viennese Jewish ‘society’ and with Karl’s established status in that past ‘society,’ as well as with her wish to report encouraging and postive news to 19 year-old Gisella Nadja, who revered her uncle Karl. The organization that Karl established and led for most of his remaining 38 years of life in New York City, was called “IGUL” - (Alumni Association of Zionist Fraternities of Austrian Universities). “Igul” (עיגוֹל) is a Hebrew word meaning “circle.”

12. If tuxedos and evening dress were truly required at the Hanukkah festival in NYC in December 1939, there are several possible inferences that the contemporary reader can make: 1.) Karl still maintained a hopeful, forward-looking and defiant spirit, 2.) He asked his fellow Jewish refugee participants to dress-up and communally celebrate Hanukkah, to help buoy their spirits and contribute to a renewed sense of dignity and normalcy, despite the upending and uprooting of their lives and their continuing struggles, uncertainties and fears, 3.) Karl was not fully knowledgable and could not have been fully knowledgeable of how terrible and life-threatening the situation had become and would only worsen for his family and for all Jews left behind in Europe; 4.) Karl may have still ‘envisioned’ the formal dress that members wore to festive social events hosted by the Jewish Zionist organization he led in interwar Vienna, 5.) in NYC, Karl was no longer as much under the enotional influence and full impact of the completely topsy-turvy social structure and overall environment that had immediately developed in Vienna after the Anschluss. For more information about the “Halle,” the Jewish Zionist organization that Karl led in Vienna in the 1930s, see Karl Jellinek’s Bio. page, as well as the article by G. Ratscher-Riedl, that will soon be posted and whose title in translation is: “A Spiritual Center of the Viennese Jewish Student Body;”

13. Irma Schafer Morberger, along with her sisters, Frieda Schafer Epstein, Elsa S. Skoutajan and Gabriella S. Steiner, were the daughters of Max and Paulina Schafer. Max Schafer was the brother of Berta Schafer Jellinek, who was Giselas’ mother.

14. Issachar Bertisch, was the husband of Anna Clara Eckstein Bertisch, the eldest sister of Karl’s wife, Kreindel/Caroline. Issachar had been imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp, but was released as part of early Nazi policies to release Jewish prisoners if proof was shown of imminent permanent emigration. The affadavit that Anna Clara received from her uncle Rubin Eckstein, (which turned out to be the last that Rubin provided to the family) contributed a lot to Anna Clara’s securing a visa to enter the US, and with her presentation of the US visa and ship tickets, the Gestapo were willing to release Issachar.

15. Micherle is a diminutive and affectionate reference to Michaela, Karl and Kreindel/Caroline’s first child, then about 2 1/2 years old. Bernhard was Karl and Kreindel/Caroline’s second child, born while there could still be glimmers of hope and joy in October 1939. He tragically died in September 1940, about six months after the receipt of Gisela’s letter and possibly, the warm sweater that she had lovingly knitted for him. Karl Jellinek’s Biography page contains a little more information on Bernhard’s birth and tragic death.

16. Siegfried Jellinek, the third oldest of the 6 siblings in Gisela and Karl’s Jellinek family, as well as Siegfried’s wife Martha and son, Erich,never made it to the US. Siegfried was murdered by the Nazis and/or their collaborators. See Siegfried’s Biography page for more information re: what we can surmise, but do not know for certain about his murder. Martha Hirschensohn Jellinek, Siegfried’s wife, was murdered in Auschwitz. Their son, Erich Jellinek, 18 years old upon entry to Auschwitz in 1942, survived the killing center and emigrated to Sydney, Australia after the war. Gisela’s statement that Siegfried was ‘not feeling well at all in Lemberg’ (Lwów) was most probably a disguised way of stating that Siegfried’s current circumstances there were terrrible.

17. Anna Jellinek Nadel, born in 1898, was the second youngest of the six Jellinek siblings. Anna had escaped from the Third Reich to Sydney, Australia in January 1939, along with her husband, Miron Nadel and their then-infant daughter, Trude (diminutively called Trudilein by Gisela). See Anna J. N.’s Biography page for more information.

18. Ludwig Schlesinger was the brother of Gisela’s husband, Leopold (Poldi) Schlesinger.

19. Sulina is a town and free port in Romania’s eastern-most point, where Ludwig likely had to wait for a ship to transport him covertly to British Mandate Palestine. We can surmise that Ludwig had arrived in Mandate Palestine, because Gisela states that she and Poldi asked him to visit Gisella Nadja, whom we know was there since June 1938. It is interesting to note that Gisela does not explicitly identify the country.

20. Affectionate, diminutive nickname for Anna, the youngest of Hugo Jellinek’s three daughters, who was almost seventeen years old at this time.

21. See the photos of Hugo Jellinek and Fritzi Frankel’s August 1939 engagement and October ’39 wedding, that appear in the last third of the chronological display of photos in the Image section of this website. These are the relevant photos that were in one of Gisella Nadja’s photo albums. These five photos are most likely “. . . all the pictures from the wedding” but we can not be certain that is the case.

22. Gisela inserted the word ‘unberufen’ here. Unberufen is defined as “a superstitious exclamation to ward off evil after speaking favorably of something” by the German and English Dictionary published in 1914 by Funk & Wagnalls Co. This is the same kind of positive context, e.g., after reporting an important achievement, in which this writer, P. Jellinek, heard her parents respond with “unberufen” while growing up. Other old dictionary translations of unberufen are:“without invoking ill-luck”, “may no evil ensue! “ and “Heaven preserve it (or us) from harm!”

23. It seems unlikely that these calculations by Gisela, of the amount of time since she saw her brother Hugo or her niece, Gisella Nadja, are accurate, because they would denote that Gisela had not seen Hugo nor Gisella Nadja for two months or more, before Hugo, escaped from Vienna to Czechoslovakia on June 6, 1938, and before Gisella Nadja, departed covertly from Vienna to British Mandate Palestine later on that same June 1938 day.

24. This is an example of Gisela’s many (small and large) concerns throughout this period that reveals what Gisela did not know and could not know; in this case, how insignificant Bertha’s thin underwear and resultant cold would seem and would actually (tragically) be in the not so distant future.

25. Connotes that Bertha wants to enable her father and his new wife to have their privacy, which she would interfere with if she were to live in their household.

26. As noted in footnote #4, Stella P. Jellinek was Max Jellinek’s wife and thus, Gisela’s sister-in-law.

27. It is likely that Gisela purposely does not make clear which “trip” she means, and whether “six months” describes the duration of the trip or how long ago the trip occurred, because she is cryptically telling Gisella Nadja about Stella and Mimi’s (clandestine, circuitous and difficult) journey to British Mandate Palestine.