April 16, 1947

Author(s) / Origin of Letter
Recipient(s) / Relationship to Author(s) / Destination of Letter
Karl Jellinek
[New York City, USA]

Gisella Nadja Jellinek (niece of KJ)
[Rishon Le Zion, Mandatory Palestine]

Karl expresses sorrow and deep regret that Hugo, (Karl’s brother and Gisella Nadja’s father) and Gisella Nadja’s sisters, did not survive the Shoah, even though they could have, if they had escaped “illegally” to Mandate Palestine, as Karl had advised them to do. Karl writes positively about his three young daughters, his own and Karla’s Zionist activities in New York, as well as his sole surviving siblings, Max and Anna, and his nephew, Erich, all now residing in Australia. He commends Gisella Nadja on the new cafe that she and her husband, Lazi, are managing and entreats her to help his seriously ill brother-in-law, Max Eckstein, in Tel-Aviv.

                                                                                                                                                        (View German transcription)

(English heading on business stationery omitted from translation)

NY 4/16/47
My beloved Gisa,1

    I received your letter of March 9th only today and I hurry to answer on the same day, as I feel that you are waiting for a letter that will inform you about all that is happening with us.

    It is 11 o’clock at night, Carla2 went with Mrs. Fass, the widow of Ludwig Fass, to a meeting of Hadassah; my three daughters sleep sweetly and I just gave the youngest one a bottle of milk and held her for a while because she was restless – now I have the necessary quiet and concentration to chat with you.

    That was really a surprise and a happy one at that, to hear from you that you are an owner3 of a cafe. I wish you and Lazi much success and my innermost wish is to be in the position to be your guest. I am really proud of Lazi and you, and I beg you to describe everything to me in detail. I do hope that the men understand well and tolerate that it will certainly help the circumstances for the women not to be present. I know from my experience as a lawyer that women are capable of bringing about a misunderstanding4 into the best relationship.

    A few days ago I received a letter from Sydney that gave me great pleasure as Max’s5 condition has improved greatly and Erich works very diligently in Miron’s business. He already independently produces passport photos and all are very satisfied with him. As Max writes, he brought life into the place and even Miron is happy with him. He has the humor and the nose from Siegfried, the thriftiness from the Hirschensohn's; a good combination.6 Stella7 arrived in Melbourne today and I hope that all will go well now, after both will have learned that a dictatorship in marriage from one side is impossible and each side has to concede a little. Anna behaves marvelously and acts like a mother for Max and Erich.

                  (View German transcription)

    I would ascribe the fact that Stella did not say good-bye to you to the unusual circumstances with you being in Erez8. I assume that she will write to you soon.

    What you write about conditions in Erez9 supplements my knowledge that I have obtained from reports. Right now I heard that this hero Gruner10 has been executed with three others. Here with all Jews, there is great mourning and the Zionist movement grows day by day. I am very active and Karla too works very well for Hadassah, whenever and as far as the children afford her time. My children are very well-behaved and with God’s help, I hope that you will see them personally. People stop in the street and admire the children, especially Roberta, who is named after my late mother. I remember that you once wrote that you are so thankful to her that she encouraged you to cook and do housework and how that has benefitted you in Erez. How wonderful it would be if your sisters and our beloved Hugo could also be there with you. Unfortunately, like Erich, they were stubborn and did not follow my advice to go to Erez “illegally.” How much it would have spared us all and what good fortune it would have been for you.11 How happy I would have been to do everything for your sisters as well, to bring them to Erez. Here we have an economic depression and also politically, it doesn’t look good, which also partly affects me, although it is already significantly better than last year.

    Now I and Karla have a big appeal which is close to my heart. Max Eckstein12 in Tel Aviv is seriously ill and needs help. He is not in a position to earn anything and the situation is apparently desperate. I beg you to minister to him; consider it as if you are helping me. I believe that you should visit him right away and I am sure that you will do everything in your power to help this brave young man to get on his feet again. It wouldn’t be only a great Mitzvah, but it would make Karla and me happy if I knew that you do it wholeheartedly. As far as I can judge the situation, he needs thorough treatment in a hospital or rehabilitation home. Please don’t be discouraged by his delicacy of feeling, tell him that you act on my behalf.

    I hope to hear from you soon. Best regards13 to Lazi.

            Your devoted Uncle Karl

                  (View German transcription)


Translation by Anne L. Fox and Daniel Gillis, edited by Brigitte Balkow and Ursula Eckelmann of Sütterlinstube, Hamburg, Germany

Handwritten by Karl Jellinek on his insurance business stationery, which identified him as “Insurance Broker,” with the State Mutual Life Assurance Company’s Julius Selling Agency in downtown New York City.


1. Karl has reverted to his earliest nickname of “Gisa” for Gisella Nadja; he addressed her as “Nadja” in his 1938 letters.

2. Karl’s wife, originally named the Yiddish name of “Kreindel,” was called “Carla” (also spelled Karla) in Vienna. Gisella Nadja would therefore have known her as Carla. In any case, Karl continued to prefer calling her Carla in New York, even though, Carla changed her name, once again, to the more American-sounding Caroline.

3. it is not written whether Gisa is the owner of the cafe; she is the person who runs the cafe.

4. The German word “Mißton” that is translated here as “misunderstanding,” can also be translated as “dissonance” or “discordant note,” and the German words “in das beste Verhältnis,” translated here as “into the best relationship,” can also be translated as “under the best circumstances.” But however these last sentences in this paragraph are translated, the generalized negativity about women’s ‘capabilities’ that Karl expresses, even if derived from his legal experience, is likely not to have been appreciated by Gisella Nadja, (or present day readers!).

5. Karl is referring to his younger brother, Max Jellinek, who escaped from Vienna to Shanghai and finally, a sick man, was able to leave Shanghai for Australia in 1946. See Max’s Bio.

6. Siegfried Jellinek was Erich's father, and “the thriftiness from Hirschensohn's” refers to Erich’s mother, Martha Hirschensohn Jellinek.

7. Stella Pollak Jellinek was Max Jellinek’s wife. During the war, they separated; Max found refuge in Shanghai, China and Stella survived the Holocaust in Mandatory Palestine.

8. Karl is most probably referring to Gisella Nadja’s clandestine activities in Lechi, the underground Zionist organization fighting to expel the British forces from Palestine and establish an independent Jewish state.

9. Erez (or Eretz) denotes Erez Israel, (Heb. אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל and is the Hebrew name of the Land of Israel. The meaning of the term Erez has varied since its Biblical origins; however, it was the official Hebrew designation of the area governed by the British mandate from 1919 until 1948.

10. Dov Gruner was hung by the British regime in Mandatory Palestine for taking part, as a member of the staunchly Zionist, Jewish underground group, Irgun, in an armed raid on a British arms depot and on a police station. Gruner refused to recognize the legal or moral authority of the British court, nor admit guilt and would not “ partake in his own defense . . . [or] co-operate with counsel. . . “ His only regret as he faced his death, was that he had not “. . . succeeded in achieving enough” in bringing about a sovereign Jewish state. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dov_Gruner

11. See Hugo Jellinek’s and Siegfried Jellinek’s Biography pages for more information on their own tragic fates, as well as the fates of Hugo’s two younger daughters and Siegfried’s son, Erich. Erich managed to survive the horrific abuse that he endured at Auschwitz between the formative ages of 18 - 21.

12. Max Eckstein (c.1912 - 1990) was Karla’s brother; thus Karl’s brother-in-law. Karl and Karla had helped Max get from Vienna to Mandatory Palestine before the war. Max lived in Mandate Palestine and then the State of Israel for the rest of his life.

13. literally: many greetings