July 25 - 27, 1939

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

Anna Jellinek Nadel (sister of GJS)
Miron Nadel (brother-in-law)
[Sydney, Australia]

Gisela tells of her heavy sadness, as well as the intense frustration, stress and disappointment that she experienced in dealing with the Nazi tax authorities. She had made arduous efforts on behalf of her sister, Anna and her brother-in-law, Miron, to avoid paying the “Jew Tax” that had been levied by the Nazi regime on Miron, along with all of the other Jewish victims of the November 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom. She had also sought compensation for Miron’s looted photographic equipment. Gisela writes about her husband, Leopold’s attempt to console her after her failed ordeal. Finally, Gisela transmits the heartening news about Hugo’s new relationship with Fritzi Fränkel and provides Anna with seven varied recipes, that include quick yeast dough, Hunter’s Roast and Nut Cake.


Vienna, July 25, [1939] Tisha B’Av,2 Tuesday

My beloved ones!
Because today is such a sad day and dear father is fasting and [sitting] on the low stool,3 mourning over the destruction of Jerusalem and praying, I am in the right mood to write to you. All of my efforts and sacrifices in time and money, which lasted for several months, all the humiliations and insults I endured were in vain. When I arried at Ullmannstrasse, [street name of the Tax Authority office] beaming with joy over the reply from Berlin [which said] that the Jew Tax was cancelled on my request, the assistant was very embarrassed and did not dare tell me the truth. He sent me to another clerk, who bluntly told me that the machines4 had already been sold. Bönisch (this dog)5 had already ordered a liquidator in order to get his money. Bönish received 450 Marks for the machines, which he had to return to the tax authorities because the Jew Tax had not been paid yet.
However, when the tax authorities were notified that the Jew Tax for Miron Nadel6 was cancelled, these gentlemen returned all of the money to Bönisch. This very man, [the second clerk] who dreadfully shouted at me that the clean Mr. Nadel left with debts, told me then [:”] I know the name of the liquidator, but it does not at all occur to me to tell you the name; go to the Property Registration Office, they’ll tell you.[“] When I said humbly, my brother-in-law did not leave debts, he shouted at me so that tears were running down my cheeks because of all the excitement. I said, the health insurance [company] had already demanded 75 Marks, and in addition to the 800 Marks for the windows, the manager of the house demands the rent for the [Miron’s photography] studio for the period from January 1 through August 1.7 Thus this bastard [Bönisch] received every thing and we made out the worst.8 I left feeling crushed and I had to sit down at the Meidling tram stop and have a soda water. I felt sick from the terrible heat and all of the stress. When I came home, my nerves could not take any more, so I had to lie down without telling the parents what had happened. I had done everything so nicely, having been everywhere, gone on all the walks of pure repentance, made all the payments, the social security, the community tax, etc. I [even] took poor Dad with me. The biggest mistake was that you handed the 100 Marks there, and that despite all the urgencies of the “Transit” nothing was done. The “Kosmos” would have released the machines immediately, and even would have taken care of the extension and mailed everything. You are always unlucky in your choice of your suppliers and carriers, and everything you paid is wasted money. This Mrs. Sch. is as false as a snake, and did not lift a finger in the whole matter. She had the cavalry captain9 proceed in one way to the Property Registration Office in our matter,10 so that the assistant would quickly deal with my request. This way too, turned to be worthless, since the matter was returned to the tax authorities in Ullmannstrasse, who had to send it to Berlin. Berlin made a fair judgment, for some reason. Right from the beginning when I heard that it was going to Berlin, I had a certain hope that it will be done properly there. What good was all my cleverness and my masterly request? How does the sad joke go? “Operation succeeded, patient died.” The parents were so sad and Mama had a relapse because of all the excitement and I had become completely crazy anyway. My husband kept consoling me: “See,” he said, “they have taken everything from us and we still have to sit here. Miron and Annerl are in wonderful Australia and do not have to starve. Other people were like Willy11 and they have become broken old men now, or [in other cases] a wife received only an urn. Miron and Anny are young and diligent; they will make their mark in life soon.” Hugo, [Jellinek] to whom I nervously told the story, scolded me for being so upset and assured me that you will achieve the same results as you had in your “first successes” soon. The letters he writes are very sweet and encouraging — knock on wood!12 — they are our sole pleasure. If I have time, I will make copies of them for you, Karl and Maxl; you will be pleased.13 First of all, with this lady [Fritzi Fränkel]14 he really won first prize. Imagine, she went with Hugo to 87 year-old uncle Eduard to introduce herself. Furthermore, because Eduard’s daughter is not well and Arthur is not a good son, she [Frtzi] sends him pastries,15 and every Friday, the [words of the Sabbath] blessings over the wine.16 How she loves the two children17 and how she introduced customers to Bertha; how she is pampering Hugo with the best things. She is an excellent housewife and cook and nevertheless, a complete lady, only associating with high society. [Apart from that] she is a hardworking businesswoman and has a wonderful and clean apartment.

[Reverse side, p.2.]

XVIII. Day of Cooking, Monday,18 June 26, 1939

Quick Yeast Dough

1/2 cup lukewarm milk, with a [tea]spoon of flour, a pinch of sugar, 3/4 dk.19 yeast, stir and scatter a [tea] spoon of flour on top. Let sit at a warm place for a couple of minutes. Then add 7 tablespoons of flour, some salt, 1 egg yolk, 2 taplespoons of oil; stir a coupe of times. Let sit for about half an hour. roll out on a board , fill with spinach or [“Hscee” ?] stuffing. Cut out doughnuts.20 Let sit again on board and deep fry.21

Hunter’s Roast

A piece of lung roast, lard with bacon,22 add salt and pepper and fry in a little fat. [Take out the meat]. Fry an onion in the oil, add root vegetables cut into “leaves.” add a piece of tomato or tomato paste, a piece of pumpernickel, add the meat, cover, and let stew in its juice, slowly adding the liquid. When the meat is soft, pass the juice [through a sieve] add a cucumber cut into “leaves,” capers slightly chopped, freshly steamed mushrooms and 1/8 liter of white wine.

Soup Garnish (Egg Consommé)

1/16 liter of milk, salt, chopped green parsley, 1 egg yolk, 1 egg whisked well. Cook over steam in an oiled pudding form for 40 minutes. It is also possible to use a small pudding form.

Fruit Foam Slices

25 dk. flour, ca. 12 - 15 dk. butter stirred firmly, a bit of salt, 5 dk. sugar, 1 egg yolk ( In case the dough does not stick together, add a few drops of lukewarm water or lemon juice.) Knead dough quickly. Let sit for a half hour in a very cool place. Roll out to the size of the baking tray and poke into it. Bake to three-quarters’ doneness (very light) and take out of the oven. Let cool. Spread jam on it (also possible to top with cooked fruit). Beat egg whites until very stiff23 (stiffens quickly if you add an eggshell full of very cold water before whipping). Add 7 dk. sifted sugar to the egg-white foam (“Schnee” (snow), but very slowly. Spread on cake and top with fresh fruit (pineapple) and grill in the oven for several minutes.

XIX. Day of Cooking, Tuesday,24 June 27, 1939

Brain Pudding

30 dk. skinned brain, fry some onions with mushrooms, add the skinned brain and tear with a cooking spoon. Then make a simple Bechamel sauce (3 dk. fat, 3 dk. flour, 1/8 liter boiling milk). Let cool. Add to Bechamel: some salt and pepper, 2 egg yolks, one after the other, 10 dk. diced, cooked pork neck roast or smoked meat, 2 tablespoons blanched green peas. Mix well, add two whipped egg whites and put in a well-buttered pudding form (also crumble). Steam for 40 minutes or grill in a gratin form for 20 - 25 minutes in a hot oven.

Larded Veal [- “vogerln” ?] in Creamy Sauce

Veal [“Motschunken” ?], larded, salted. Fry some onions in fat, add meat and chopped green parsely. Let stew for 40 - 50 minutes while gradually adding liquid. Add 1/8 liter of cream, mixed with a mocha spoon25, and stir into the simmering juice. Add some drops of lemon juice before serving.

Nut Cake with Nut Filling

Whip 5 egg yolks with 10 dk. sugar. Add 5 dk. ground nuts, cinnamon, 3 dk. flour and 3 dk. breadcrumbs. Add whipped egg whites, stir lightly, put on an unbuttered baking tray and bake for 15 minutes in the oven at medium heat. Let cool, cut into halves and fill with nut filling. Spread jam on top and pour coffee glazing [so that it overflows over the entire cake].

Nut Filling

12 dk. ground nuts, 5 dk. sifted sugar, 3 dk. breadcrumbs, cinammon, lemon zest. Stir with 1/8 liter boiling milk. Let it cool and if you like, you can also add some lemon juice and rum.26


Translated by Laura Jockusch, Annotated by L. Jockusch and P. Jellinek, edited by P. Jellinek


1. Gisela included the year of 1939 in dating the two “Days of Cooking” recipes on the reverse side of this paper. In addition, all of the events in Gisela’s narrative had to have taken place in 1939, and the Jewish observance of Tisha B’Av took place on July 25, in 1939.

2. Tisha B’ Av (Hebrew for the ninth day of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar) is the majorJewish communal day of mourning and fasting for all of the disasters and loss that are believed to have been suffered by the Jewish people on this day. The destruction of the First and Second temples in Jerusalem are the main losses traditionally commemorated. For more information, see: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tisha-bav-101/

3. Sitting in a low stool (or low bench or box) is one of the humbling traditions of Jews in mourning during Tisha B'Av or during the seven days following the burial of a loved one. The practice is called "Shiva" or "sitting Shiva," derived from the Hebrew word "שבעה," pron. "sheevah" meaning "seven."

4. The "machines" referred to were most probably enlargers and other photographic processing equipment that had been stolen from the photography studio of Gisela's brother-in-law, Miron Nadel during the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10, 1938.

5. Gisela used "Kelev" the Hebrew word for "dog" in a strongly derogatory way here. A looser translation would be "Bonisch, (the bastard)."

6. Miron Nadel was Anna Jellinek Nadel's husband, and thus, Gisela's brother-in-law. Miron's photography studio on Mariahilfer street in Vienna, was wandalized on the night of the November 9th Kristallnacht progrom. Miron was also arrested during this pogrom and imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp until Anna was able to secure his release by showing his visa for emigration out of Nazi Germany. Please see Anna J. N. Biography page for more info. We believe that the 'Jew tax' that Gisela writes about, was the huge 'fine' or 'tax' of 1 billion reichsmarks ($400 million at 1938 rates) that the Nazi regime imposed on the Jewish community in German and Austria, to pay for the damage that they, the Nazis had wrought. In addition, the German state confiscated insurance policies owned by Jews that might have provided compensation for the massive damage. One of many sources for more info. on the November 1938 pogrom: https://www.ushmm.org/collections/bibliography/kristallnacht

7. The “800 Marks for the windows” were to repair the store-front windows of Miron’s former photography studio that had been broken by the marauders during the November ’38 Kristallnacht pogrom. The “rent” demanded was for the period of over six months after Miron’s photography business had been looted, destroyed and no longer existed. In addition, Miron had not even been in Europe since January 1939, when he had managed to escape to safety in Australia.

8. Unfortunately, we do not know all of the specifics of the following parts of this letter that refer to monetary transactions connected with Miron’s photography studio and Miron and Anna’s emigration from Vienna. But we can read between the lines of details, that Gisela was trying to settle the accounts of her brother-in-law and sister, as well as receive just compensation for their losses. We also see that Gisela retained a sense that these were the normal times that she was accustomed to and that she could attain absolution from unjustified ‘debts,’ and justice overall from the Nazi regime. Gisela also does not yet seem to fully realize the dire peril she and her remaining family in Vienna are in, nor (as seen near the end of this letter) that her brother, Hugo,as wellas Fritzi and Hugo’s two younger daughters, Bertha and Anna are also in.

9. Cavalry master or cavalry captain was the military rank of a commissioned cavalry officer in the German army. In WWII, that broke out just a little more than a month after Gisela encountered this officer, he probably served in the light reconnaisance units within the Waffen SS.

10. Office dealing with financial and capital matters.

11. Willy Jellinek, the then 23 year-old son of Oskar and Berta Jellinek, and thus Gisela’s 4rst cousin, once-removed, was imprisoned at this time in Dachau Concentration Camp. Please see Oskar Jellinek’s Biography page for more information.

12. Gisela used the German word "unberufen" here, which is explained in the 1914 Funk & Wagnells as "a superstitious exclamation to ward off evil after speaking favorably of something," and translated as "Heaven preserve us from harm!" or "May no evil ensue!" I often heard (but did not fully understand the idiom's superstitious aspect) my parents (Karl & Kreindel/Karla/Caroline Jellinek) when they said "unberufen" in similary favorable contexts." (PJ)

13. Gisela writes "Ich werdet Euch benachezen." Literally in English: it will give you pleasure. It is interesting to note that "Benachezen" is a Germanized Yiddish word of Hebrew origin; "nakhes," (pleasure, satisfaction). Benachezen therefore means to have pleasure to be pleased.

14. Gisela is referring to Fritzi Fränkel, whom Gisela’s brother, Hugo Jellinek, eventually married in Brno, approx. three months later. For more information on Hugo and Fritzi and their October 1939 marriage, please see Hugo Jellinek’s Bio. page and the Image Gallery.

15. “Mehlspeisen” (pastries) is a typical Austrian food, basically made of flour, sugar, eggs and yeast, and sometimes fruit.

16. Gisela uses “broches” and “kiddesch,” which are the Yiddish pronounciation of the words derived from Hebrew for blessings (ברכות, pronounced “brochót”in Hebrew) and for the blessing over the Sabbath wine (קידוש, pronounced “kiddúsh” in Hebrew).

17. Hugo's two younger daughters, Bertha and Anna.

18. Gisela mistakenly wrote “Montag” (Monday) here, instead of the correct “Mittwoch” (Wednesday).

19. “dk.” is the abbreviation for “Decagram,” the metric unit equal to 10 grams, which is equal to 0.35 ounces. ”3/4 dk.” therefore, = 7.5 grams. and 7.5 grams = 0.265 ounces.

20. The proper translation for ”Krapfen” would be “doughnut.“ However, Gisela probably means some kind of dumpling or Tortellini; a “pocket” of dough with a filling.

21. Gisela means that the dumplings should be fried in a pan with a lot of oil, so that the dumpling is “schwimmend” (swimming) in oil, but not entirely covered.

22. From Gisela’s last extant letter to Anna of June 21, 1939, we can conclude that these recipes are ones that she acquired in the cooking class that she atttended and in which she learned about British cuisine, cooking on a diet, baking and pastry-making. The derivation of these recipes from the class, may contribute to the explanation of their gross incompatibility with the most basic Jewish dietary laws’ prohibition against pork and the mixing of meat and dairy in the same dish. But another likely part of the explanation, is that the Jellinek family, like many Bohemia/Moravian and Austrian Jews, was quite assimilated and probably did not keep kosher before the Anschluss. (Their ‘Jewishness’ was expressed through their following of major Jewish traditions at home and in synagogue, as well as through community and Zionism.) Finally, an assumption by Gisela, that Anna, like herself, could no longer afford the luxury of even thinking about Kashrut, may have also contributed to Gisela’s passing on the grossly non-kosher recipes to her sister. It is also interesting to note,, that besides simply transcribing these recipes, Gisela probably is the person who annotated the recipes. We can therefore infer that she was familiar and experienced with most or all of the recipes’ wide range of generic cooking/baking terms and processes from the middle-class life she had led before the persecution by the Nazi regime.

23. Readers may find interesting Gisela’s use here of the Germanic language metaphor of “snow” for stiffly whipped egg-whites. Gisela’s instructs Anna to beat the egg whites until they are “sehr festen Schnee” (“very firm snow”).

24. Here again, Gisela mistakenly wrote “Dienstag” (Tuesday), instead of the correct “Donnerstag” (Thursday).

25. A mocha spoon (aka moca teaspoon, moka or demitasse spoon) is approximately 2/3 the size of a regular teaspoon, and is usually used to stir coffee mixed with hot chocolate in a small demitasse cup.

26. Gisela’s generously typing up these recipes to help her sister, may have simultaneously given Gisela a sense of normalcy and good feelings associated with previous times when she could find and afford ingredients with which to freely and more leisurely cook in her own home for loved ones. There are parallels here to the starving women prisoners of Theresienstadt, who were also paradoxically comforted by remembering, writing down recipes and (as stated in the book jacket) “preserving a part of their heritage and a part of themselves.” The book jacket wraps around In Memory’s Kitchen: A Legacy From the Women of Terezin. (click here to see information about this book in the Sources section). This extraordinary kind of cookbook contains a compilation and translation of the rescued scraps of paper on which the women prisoners recorded recipes, as well as poems, letters, biographical and historical information.