Speech Enroute to the US - Purim, March 5, 1939


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


Karl Jellinek
          [on ship to US from Holland]

(Probably typed by Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger)
                              [Vienna, Austria]

Therese (Resl) Spitz (additional hand-written greetings) (see Hugo Jellinek's bio)

                 [Brünn, Czechoslovakia]

Hugo Jellinek (brother of KJ)
Therese (Resl) Spitz
(friend of HJ)
                        [Brünn, Czechoslovakia]

Gisella Nadja Jellinek (niece of KJ, future stepdaughter of T(R)S)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]

Karl Jellinek’s impassioned speech opening a Purim celebration held on board a ship to the US from Holland.  Karl expresses strong belief in the eventual rescue of all of his relatives and of all persecuted Jews in Europe, and in the need for unity and cooperation of all Jews in the building of the Jewish homeland in British Mandate Palestine.
Hand-written greetings were added after the text of Karl’s speech, by Hugo’s friend, 'Resl' Spitz.



Welcoming speech by Dr. Kal Jellinek on Purim 1939, March 5, on board the Dutch steamer "Vendoom"1

Chaverim, Chaverot,2 Ladies and Gentlemen, venerated guests, brothers and comrades in fate!!

          On behalf of the organizing committee, I have the high honor to greet and cordially welcome you.
          With great pleasure and satisfaction, I welcome in our midst our Captain and all the officers of this ship; we do not only recognize you as the leaders and steerers of this ship, whom we entrusted with our destiny for the course of this journey, but we recognize you also as the representatives of the Dutch people, to which the Jewish people is bound in deepest gratitude for all the evidence of humaneness3 and benevolence, which were shown to us again and again in the course of the centuries.
          We have invited you to celebrate the Purim festival with us, the festival that is also called “festival of lots”, which reminds us that more than 2000 years ago, the Jewish people was saved from destruction, which was intended by Haman, minister and advisor of King Ahasveros, saved by Mordechai and Esther with the help of God. The attack against the Jews failed and Haman was left with his well-earned fate.

          We too, want to celebrate the Purim festival today, bound in remembrance with millions of Jews who celebrate this festival in all countries on earth, on the ships of all oceans and nations; some silently and withdrawn in melancholic memory, others in boundless love of life and vitality, as befits a natural people.
           Released from the sorrows of everyday life, free from existential anxieties which already may get hold of us within the next days, released of the burning sorrow for our old parents, siblings and friends whom we left in our home country and who we hope will soon follow us,4 we want to celebrate this festival joyfully and thank our lot that we were fated to go on the journey to a welcoming America on this Dutch ship “Vendom.”5
           In the bottom of our hearts we are a people with a very positive approach to life. 2000 years of persecution, suppression, disparagement and humiliation could not destroy our inner strength. With unbroken courage, proudly held up heads, in the awareness of our right, we departed from our homelands for a new part of the world, in order to achieve new opportunities for a better life for ourselves, our children, and, with God’s help, our parents and relatives as well.
          It was the help of the Jewish community, which in most cases made it possible that we could go on this journey, and, thanks to the Jewish relief committees in Holland, we spent a couple of beautiful and carefree days in this god-gifted country; now the Jewish community of America will pave the way for our first steps in the struggle for our new existence.
          For some of us, buried sources of Judaism have been revived in these days and a nearly extinguished chord has begun...

                                                   [next page]

...to sound again and everyone of us experienced the truth of the sentence: “Kol Israel Chaverim,” “All Jews are bound together in fellowship.6
As the Jewish community over all countries and oceans cared for us in a fraternal manner, we want to thank this community with all our might as soon as we will have solid ground under our feet again. Our gratitude should not only embrace our brothers and sisters left behind, but should also benefit the entire Jewish community.
          The Jewish people is about to establish a new home in Palestine under most difficult conditions. This enterprise is difficult, very difficult, but the achievement of sovereignty has never been an easy task for any people, so the achievement of our national freedom too, demands the cooperation of all; of people of good will, who do not indulge in negative criticism, but who will instead, contribute their spiritual and material energies to the construction of our old – new land.
          In the same way as the human heart is meant to supply all parts of the body with the necessary amount of blood, already now, Palestine, is meant to be the country that nourishes the Jews who are dispersed in all parts of the world; to provide them with the nourishment which is necessary to preserve their substance and to unify all Jewries to a single Jewry. Return to Judaism, before the return to the Jewish land.
And thus, the words of the unforgettable chief Rabbi of Vienna, Dr. Zwi Perez-Chayes, should be our reminder and guiding motto: “Every beat of my heart, every spark of my spirit, every hour of my life should be dedicated to Judaism and the social liberation of humanity; God give me power and strength.”
          Now I must give my warmest thanks to all the people who helped to organize this evening. While wishing you all “Happy Purim” I declare the celebration to be opened.--

[Hand-written words of greeting from Resl Spitz in Brünn, Czechoslovakia to Gisella/Nadja in Rishon Le Zion, Palestine. Estimated late March - April 1939.

Dear Miss Giserl!
Sending you warm greetings. Still waiting for reply. How are you? Are you well? Please write soon and at great length. I may go to Vienna for Easter.
With all best wishes, your loving, Resl Spitz


Translated by Laura Jockusch, edited by Daniel Gillis and Paulette Jellinek


1. Here it says “Vendoom,” whereas in the original program, “Veendam” is given as the name of the ship.

2. The English translation of these Hebrew words that Karl spoke in both their male and female plural forms, is “friends, partners, comrades.”

3. Karl used the word “Menschlichkeit” here.

4. He means that the relatives and siblings will hopefully emigrate soon, too, and thus join those who are already emigrating on their way, meaning “the way of emigration” (“wir hoffen, dass sie uns bald auf diesem Wege nachkommen werden”).

5. The name of the ship, “Veendam” is [inadvertently again?] mispelled here.

6. Karl’s words here: “Ganz Israel ist  ein Volk von Brudern” would be translated literally as: “The entire people of Israel are brothers” or “All Israel is a people of brothers”.

7. Karl means that Jews unify in the Jewish religion first (and for those who did not have a solid Jewish identity any more, it may be a return to Judaism) and then all Jews may return to the Jewish land.

8. Handwritten from Resl Spitz (who must be Therese Spitz, the woman Hugo met in Brünn and with whom he developed a close relationship (before Fritzi Frankel, whom he married). This note from Resl Spitz to Nadja, written on the bottom of the final page of the text of Karl’s Purim Festival “Welcoming speech”, may indicate either: that this “Kopie” of the text of Karl’s speech was sent by Karl first to his brother Hugo in Brünn, and then Hugo and Resl Spitz, in turn, sent it on to Nadja. (Perhaps Hugo also wrote a separate letter to Nadja which he enclosed with this speech, which is one of the undated letters in my group or which was destroyed or lost.) Or maybe, Karl sent a copy of his speech first to his sister Gisela and his parents in Vienna, and then Gisela typed or hand-corrected ‘typos’ in this “Kopie” and passed it on to Hugo and Resl Spitz, who finally sent it on to Nadja! The hand-written corrections on this typed copy, especially the word “Esther” on page 1, could possibly be in unusually careful and defined handwriting of Gisela; or of Hugo or Resl, but they do not appear to be in Karl’s hand-writing.

[Front [on right] and back cover of event program]


On Board R.M.S. “VEENDAM”
Sunday, March 5, 1939, 9:15 p.m.
In the Dining Room of the Tourist Class

Under the Direction of the Gentlemen:

Words of Welcome Mr. Dr. Karl Jellinek
Chorus Singing 10 people participating
Palestinian Songs Miss H.C. Cohen
Mr. Rudolf Werther at the piano
Fledermaus, Paraphrase
Love Dreams No. 3
Gruenfeld }
Liszt }
Miss Betty Borger
Hebrew Recitation
Chopin Polonaise
New American Dance Music
Humorous Lectures
Dancing with Attractions
Miss Herta Freund
Mr. Rudolf Werther at the piano
Miss Florence Ferwerda at the piano
Mr. Eugen Hoffmann
the Board Orchestra plays
—  We wish you a happy arrival in the New World  —

[Inside of event program]


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