May 10, 1946

Author(s) / Origin of Letter
Recipient(s) / Relationship to Author(s) / Destination of Letter
Max Jellinek
[Shanghai, China]

Karl Jellinek (brother)
[New York City, USA]

Max bitterly describes the conspiracies against him that claimed that he collaborated with the Japanese when he was a radio reporter in Shanghai during the war. His anger and hurt is intense because he actually took frequent risks of severe punishment by the Japanese and German authorities to do just the opposite; he gleaned the truth of what was really happening in the war from a shortwave radio, and then informed his thousands of refugee listeners by “using various trick translations.” The defamers’ additional, patently false accusations that Max had managed to earn enough from his ‘collaborationist’ radio work, to live in luxury, eventually led to people’s disbelief in the slander. Max also writes about his poor health, his concerns over reuniting with his wife, Stella, and obtaining a visa and ship passage to emigrate to Australia.


Shanghai, May 10, 1946

Beloved brother,

I am hereby acknowledging the receipt of both of your letters from April 12 and 16, as well as the package containing men’s and women’s clothing and the three issues of the “Aufbau1 all of which arrived during the past week.

If anything were calculated to put me into panic mode, then your last letter would be sure to do so. I know perfectly well that it is your brotherly love which causes you to be alarmed and to entreat me to leave Shanghai at the first available possibility. But I also know that your alarm can partly be traced to your concern for me, which has robbed you of cool, factual judgement. That can in part, be ascribed to the fact that you have received insufficient or incorrect information, in large part from Mr. Buchwald, which takes it for granted that my arrest is only a question of time. (I will return to Mr. Hans Buchwald’s news later.) - To continue: there is no longer any personal danger to me at all; on the contrary, this unspeakably mean attack against me has proven to be a boomerang, and has basically marked the beginning of his backward movement. [downfall?] Believe me, I have neither the desire nor the talent to play Michael Kohlhaas.2 However, in this case, it was absolutely necessary to uncover this frame up, to find these anonymous slanderers and to send them packing. I was originally at a disadvantage, because even in my most pessimistic imaginings, I could not believe that such a scenario could be set in motion against me. I am, therefore, in the dark as to what provoked these guys to such abysmal meanness, and I keep asking myself to no avail, how such well-known facts could be turned into their opposites. The US Army brass only considered them proven because four or five people confirmed their truth. I totally can’t understand the fact that I was given no opportunity to defend myself against these accusations.3 Only a crass mistake on the part of my slanderers made it possible for me to make a breakthrough in uncovering the worthless fellows behind the conspiracy.4 In order to support their lies, they claimed that I had lived high on the hog. By doing that, they overshot their mark, because everyone knew how badly I was doing, and thousands were aware that I, like the majority of emigrants, stood in line for hours on end to get some, usually not very edible, food from the soup kitchen of the Joint [Distribution Committee]. I was glad when one of the people doling out the food gave me a bit more, to a certain extent, as recognition and reward for my activities as a radio reporter. 58 kg, [= ~128 lbs.] fully dressed, was my weight at the end of the war. That was the result of being so sick and my nerves being shot. Three solid years of daily fear that the Japanese police would get us. We, in the [radio] Station, knew the truth, which we gleaned from the shortwave radio in the absence of the Japanese authorities. I transmitted these truths in my reports by using various trick translations. How often the Nazis tried to throw me out of my saddle! The German consulate complained repeatedly about the anti-Axis tone of my reports, citing the incriminating sections. Then I would have to appear before the censor, a Japanese man with a doctorate in German literature. Then he would address himself to my defense. This was partly due to his vanity and to prove that his far from excellent knowledge of the language was really top notch, and partly due to his hostility to the Germans. It became particularly egregious in 1944. At one point, I was subjected to a six hour long hearing because I had reported something, the dissemination of which was forbidden. That time, they almost got me by the neck. When Germany finally capitulated, I wanted to resign for the umpteenth time, but my request was refused. I probably could have forced the issue, but that would undoubtedly have brought about my arrest. My pay, translated into American money, was about 3 or 4 dollars per month. Without the scanty support of the Joint, plus occasional employment, I would have perished, as did so many others.

Now can you understand the depth of my bitterness and deep disappointment when all of this broke over me?

- 2 -

I immediately realized that I had to summon all I had to vindicate myself, especially because of the need to avoid eventual material damages. As part of the slanderous campaign against me, a letter against me appeared, signed “Observer,” in the “Open Forum” of a local English newspaper, urging the authorities to examine my activities as a newscaster, because I had carried on Japanese propaganda. This letter obviously had no purpose other than to defame me, because everyone realized that an eventual examination would only have provided the need to reward me openly. Fortunately, no such examination ever occurred, and none will happen in the future. But certainly not because they have become favorably disposed toward me, but because no laurel wreaths are to be gained.— I expect some sort of declaration of my honor by the American Armed Forces in a few days, and will obviously be removed from the blacklist. In spite of all this, or better yet, regardless of whatever may come, I will leave here soon—or as soon as possible. However, the determining factor here is my physical well being. Although I have recuperated considerably in the past few months, I am still very sick. We have already had three early heat waves, and I automatically had three cases of severe diarrhea. In addition, my kidney function is unsatisfactory (kidney stones) and my heart occasionally does not live up to expectations. That is also the reason that I have hesitated to go to the doctor at the British consulate to be examined before applying for an Australian visa. I actually have almost everything ready for Australia and will get the exit visa from the Chinese government next week. That is only given after a careful investigation and is kept back in cases of suspicion of collaboration with the enemy. However, I will still not be leaving for a long time. At this time about 250-300 emigrants who have Australian permits have been waiting for departure for weeks. Since there is still no regular ship traffic and no office knows when the next steamer will come and thus leave, it can take weeks before the first 50 or 60 emigrants will leave. Since I have a very high number, I will probably have to wait the longest before it will be my turn. However, that is really all right with me, since I have not had any mail from Stella in four weeks because of the blasted mail strike, and I really don’t know what to do. For God’s sake, I don’t want to give Stella the impression that I want to delay our reunion or even make it impossible. Therefore, I can’t leave under any circumstances until I get some news from her and she takes a position of some sort. Moreover, I would only leave and flee from the summer if I saw that the distribution of certificates were to drag on for a long time. This actually is to be feared because of the shattering report of the Commission following Attlee’s speech.5 I want to get together with Stella as soon as possible in any case, and therefore do not want to begin making plans for my trip to Australia. I beg you, in any case, to please write to Stella (166 Ben Yehuda)6 and make it clear to her that if I go to Australia it is only out of the direst necessity. I am in a terrible dilemma. I have a new order to appear for an examination by a consular physician next week. Hopefully, I will be in good enough shape by then that he won’t find anything. I can fit about four times into the suit and overcoat that you sent. The things are really very nice, but I really don’t know what I can do with them, other than selling them. Alterations are out of the question, as those would cost about $50 - 60 for the suit alone. It’s a shame that you didn’t send me any shoes. Why you sent me the charming ladies’ dresses is a complete mystery. Is Sultan [?] possibly behind this, and they are meant for Mrs. Gewitsch? [?] In any case, I already gave them to her because she is not doing well despite her employment. She was really thrilled with them and didn’t want to take them at first. I also thank you

- 3 -

sincerely, for giving Heine’s Buch der Lieder [Book of Songs] to friend Leonard.

I told Dr. Kraemer, one of my most enthusiastic listeners and critics, about your letter. He spontaneously declared that, as one of my many thousands of radio listeners, he would describe his impressions of me and my activities. Since he has not yet completed his letter, I’ll send it with the next mail. And that brings me back to the case of Hans Buchwald. Under what circumstances did he receive this report from Shanghai, and with whom is he connected? First of all, there is no Social Democratic Party here. Therefore, this report can only be of a private nature, and I have a strong suspicion that the author of the report about me is a member of the circle of the slanderers. Now I swear to you that I will set everything in motion [move heaven and earth] to find out the name and address of this worthy gentleman. This matter has now become officially expanded because the Chinese government, as official representative of the Austrians, known as the “Austrian Community,” has taken up the matter. In fact, I reported it there and the official led me to understand that under these circumstances they will write to Mr. Buchwald at your address in order to examine him and elicit more information. We really want to force proceedings against these slanderers who have been sending dishonest reports from here into the wide world about various emigrants, and cheerfully murdering their reputations. Please make every effort to get him to give you a copy of the reports that he plans to disseminate to the Viennese authorities, or that he has already sent to them. Then you must send them to me or directly to the Austrian Community, 548/7 Dalny Road. I don’t have to tell you that by doing this you will be doing me an extremely valuable service, because then we will be in a position to send these vermin packing and render them harmless. Another victim of this sort [of persons] is Ossi Lewin, the erstwhile publisher of the “Jewish Chronicle,” who was personally viciously attacked in the “Aufbau” at one time. It is unnecessary to state that all of this is a terrible perversion of the truth. This gentleman, incidentally, an old Zionist, was in Japanese custody for three months at the beginning of the war, and was then under the usual terrible pressure. You can not imagine how wantonly this man was judged, to put it mildly. By contrast, the real collaborationists, though few in number, not only run around freely but enjoy their considerable well-being, and are highly regarded because of their unbelievable financial position. (The golden calf). Karl, there is finally an opportunity to penetrate the anonymity of those who have made these reports. I am greatly surprised that the “Aufbau” published the report about Lewin without first assuring themselves of the veracity of the report about him. I must say that the Austrian laws in regard to the press in a case like this were very praiseworthy. Criminal, wanton attacks of this sort were impossible.— Then, when I pressured the English newspaper here to give me the name and address of the editor and of the correspondent who had attacked me under the pseudonym “Observer” and threatened to lodge a complaint against them, the strange fact emerged that the sender of the letter had left this earthly realm six month earlier. Yes, in China, people write letters to the newspaper even from the hereafter. In response to my renewed inquiries, I received only polite shoulder shrugs and regrets, made with a frozen smile, and that these were the only names and addresses they had for me. From what I can gather, Emanuel Siegel had the same experience. In his position as chief of the Joint Distribution Committee, he was similarly subjected to an insulting attack in the same newspaper by someone under the pseudonym “Much worried refugee.” Naturally, a complaint would have been impossible because of financial considerations, aside from the fact that we were dealing with a newspaper that is close to the Chinese government. Thus, no Chinese lawyer would have instituted such a complaint. ---Please write to Stella and to me immediately. So much has descended on my head that it is a wonder that I can still think half-ways sensibly. In addition, the Shekel Campaign7 is now taking up all my time. We must gain control of the [World Zionist] Congress; that is, together with all nationally minded Zionists. [Remember] Tel Chai8 and a thousand kisses to all.

Your faithful Max


Translated by Esther Bates; footnotes by P. Jellinek


1. The Aufbau (English: “building up”) was a German language newspaper, founded in 1934 in New York City, to publish news for German-speaking Jewish refugees. It was published in NYC until 2004. It is now published in Zurich.

2. Max is referring to the main character and title of the novella published in 1808 by the German author, Heinrich von Kleist. Max and Karl might have read this novella in school, or in any case, been familiar with the plot and that Michael Kohlhaas had come to signify someone who fanatically pursues justice. The story, based on a 16th century legend, tells of the horse dealer, Michael Kohlhaas’s extreme measures to try to obtain justice for a wrong perpetrated against him. Among several online sites with more information:

3. Ms. Bates, the translator, thought that Max “was so angry that he typed Anwuerfe, but meant Vorwuerfe.”

4. Ms. Bates wrote that Max’s tone here, “really implies something like bastards.”

5. Clement Attlee was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain from July 1945 to October 1951. However, we do not know to which Commission report and to which of Attlee’s speeches, Max was referring.

6. Karl would have known that this address was in Tel Aviv.

7. Max was probably taking a leadership role in collecting Shekels, which was the symbolic name given to the specified annual monetary contributions for membership in and the right to vote for delegates to the [World] Zionist Organization Congress. The number of Shekel-holders in a particular community determined the number of delegates for whom that group could vote to represent them at the Congress. The opening of the 1946 Zionist Organization Congress was delayed until December, so Max still had time to increase the number of Shekel-holders, and thus try to increase the number and influence of his “nationally-minded” representatives at the Congress. More information about the history of this “Zionist Shekel” democratic contribution system, can be found at: and!prettyPhoto.

8. Max’s use of the Hebrew words “Tel Chai” (literal English: ‘Hill of Life’) was a reference to the small number of Jewish pioneers and fighters who had fought bravely to defend their northern Galilean agricultural settlement of Tel Chai against the attack by a Shiite Arab militia and local Bedouins in March 1920. Karl would have understood and resonated with Max’s reference to “Tel Chai” as a rallying cry to continue to fight courageously and selflessly to establish an independent Jewish state. Max also sent a “heartfelt Tel Chai” to his niece, Gisella Nadja and her fellow Betar movement members, in his October 1938 letter, similarly, as a coded aspirational message to remind and inspire them in their fight against the British Mandate and for statehood.