July 29, 1939


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


Karl Jellinek
                     [New York City, USA]

Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger (sister of KJ)
Leopold (Poldi) Schlesinger (brother-in-law of KJ) (see Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger's bio)

Siegmund Jellinek (father of KJ)
Berta S. Jellinek
(mother of KJ)

Siegfried Jellinek(brother of KJ)
Martha H. Jellinek
(sister-in-law of KJ) (see Siegfried Jellinek's bio)

Karl is still optimistic about the rescue of his family from Nazi-Austria and the family’s eventual reunion in New York. Details of marvelous amenities built-in and bargain purchases for his New York apartment, housework, Karl’s sending family members affidavits, resumed Zionist organization activities, visits from relatives, new friends, former Zionist fraternity brothers, and to his “sunchild” infant daughter.

                                                                                                                                                             (View German transcription)

                                                                                          New York, July 29, 1939
My dear ones,

In my last letter to you, which you surely received, I wanted to chat about myself in detail, but Gustl and Grete’s visit got in the way of that.1 Now three letters from Gisela are in front of me, as well as one letter from Sigl2 and Martha. 

First of all, I want to inform Sigl that in the course of this month, August, he will receive the affidavit for him, Martha and Erich, through the arrangement of a cousin of Karla’s, Sarry Eckstein, who, as I have already written to you, is very good and pleasant to us and with whom we have become very good friends. She is employed at the German Council as a counselor, and she will take us to the theater next Wednesday. For the first time in one and a half years, I will really see and hear something artistic again. 

Last week we bought some furniture for the room to be rented out, that is a double bed, a wardrobe, a table, two armchairs -- all that for $45 to be paid in three installments. So far, everyone who has been in our apartment was delighted and congratulated us on it. It was very good that we took the two daybeds and the bar3 with us; these items look very high-class and elegant. In addition, in our so-called bedroom, is our tea table, a built-in-cabinet, a stool, a standing lamp and a carpet, and the room is complete. In the foyer, we have a big round table, four chairs, two easy chairs, everything upholstered in red, a real bargain. [Yiddish: metzyeh] Altogether, everything was bought for $10. The Venetian mirror and a pair of [ . .?. . ]. In the kitchen, a table with three arm chairs; everything else, such as the refrigerator, a big closet for dishes, glasses, etc., new gas stove and sink for dishwashing is contributed by our landlord. In addition, our apartment has a complete, well-outfitted bathroom with a shower, toilet, washbasin, and all the little things such as a small cabinet for toiletries and a railing for towels. There are chandeliers installed throughout the apartment, built-in closets for clothes, hot and cold water, central heating, linoleum in our kitchen, parquet floors in all [other] rooms, everything freshly painted and decorated; and then there is an elevator in the building, so that the monthly rent of $50 is not as high as you may think, considering that I won’t have to pay rent for six weeks. That means that until September 15th, I don’t have to pay rent.4 As I plan to rent out the room next week for at least $20, that [effectively] reduces the rent to $30. Considering the fact that we have a direct view of Broadway, it is not a lot.

On Saturday night, we were invited to Margot Zentner together with Dr. Hirschhorn. On Sunday, Karla and I worked the whole day in the apartment to arrange everything in order to welcome our relatives honorably; bought fruit, cakes, etc., prepared coffee and were ready, but the guests did not come. So we treated ourselves. On Saturday I also attached the Mezuzahs in our rooms and recited the “shecheyanuh ve higiyanuh” blessing.5 I really don’t know if that is the right blessing; anyway I assumed that was the right one because it is by God’s grace that He let me come here happily; it was God’s invisible hand that for nearly a year has sheltered me from manifold dangers in distant countries, and it is God who will also help us here so that we can soon lead a middle class existence. I must also thank God that he allowed my dear parents and my siblings to live through the whole time with relative ease, and allows us all to hope that in the not too distant time, we will sit at one table and sing “Smires.”6 at a Sabbath table with a white table cloth. - - -

The next ones to come here are Maxl and Poldi, whom I thank with a grateful heart for all he [Poldi] did for me and the whole family, and to whom I am happy to be able to return a kindness in this serious, difficult time. Poldi should only persevere and be in good spirits. The hour of liberation will come soon !!! Please tell Max, to whom I will write soon, the same. He should stay strong during this interval in Shanghai. For him, who is so handy and skillful, America is the country of the future. Anna and Miron will come in 1940, and I can already see a big studio on Broadway where Anna with her lack of language skills will talk ‘a hole in the belly’ of her customers. - - Then Gisela will come with the parents and the whole family will be happily reunited, assuming that Hugo and his young love and the children don’t go to Erez [then-Palestine]. In any case, I am very happy and thankful that Hugo is finally at the point of landing in a happy marriage. But it should happen soon; otherwise something will surely get in the way. What is [happening] with Hugo’s children? You are silent regarding their departure from Brünn, so that I must assume that the 

[next page]

children, as well as Hugo, don’t consider it that important to come here. I am very happy about Sigl’s advancement; at least he is reaping the rewards of my thirty years of Zionist activities that I hope to continue here. Two weeks ago, a chapter of Zionists from Austria organized here under the name of “Jacob Ehrlich” and counted 400 members right away and surely will have 1,000 members by the end of the year. In December, we will have the Maccabee celebration in a large hall. At the founding, the Rabbi, Dr. Bach, was the main speaker: “Bach Became Zionist.” The chairman is senior board member Karplus; vice-chairman, Dr. Sanel Beer, and the remainder will be formed mainly by the “Ring”,7 who also provided the initiative for the establishment. I should have taken the chairmanship, but in view of the circumstances and Karla’s condition,8 I could not take such a burden upon myself. We are, of course, members of the American Zionist Organization and I hope that next year I will be at the Zionist Party Convention as a delegate. Here, despite the depressing news from Palestine, prevails a spirit of support and fighting mood for the whole Jewish world. - How is Gisuschka?9 Has she already married her Russian? Please let me know her address as well as her new name. What’s happening with Stella?10 Hopefully this female Odysseus has at last landed in Erez. She is really going through a lot, not to mention her usual troubles. How does Shanghai get together with Rhodes? Those are problems that I might try to solve with Max here; in the meantime, I will try to send him more money, for example, half of what I get from Dr. Neumann, whom I will visit this Saturday. I do the housework, especially our couches, sweep, clean the rugs, dust all the things that get so dusty, wash and wipe the dishes; in one word, I am the maid for everything. I even go shopping, so to say, very generously, especially when I expect guests like tonight, when Irma and her husband, a girlfriend of Karla’s and Mrs. Sabine Barnett, our benefactor, come to visit. Karla is coming home later, as she earns something extra for overtime. I will do the honors in the meantime and provide the people with peaches, pears, grapefruit and lemonade. When I bought the fruit, especially the juicy pears, I thought of sweet Mama, who surely could use such a refreshing delicacy [“Labenisch”]. This Saturday, I will have a visit from several members of the fraternity [“Hallenser”]11 who live here, Dr. Hirschhorn, Dr. Zentner, Landesberg, Dr. Gottfried, as well as the relatives of Hirschhorn and Zentner, as well as my cousin, Sarry Eckstein, who supplied me with the affidavit for Sigl. You do know how passionately fond I am of entertaining guests. And that is currently my only pleasure and is not very expensive, relative to the pleasure it brings. People here are extremely industrious and one can buy everything, also in the evening, and one has to make a drastic turn-about if one comes from homey and comfortable Europe. I hope that Siegfried with Martha and Erich -- who has to change here in every respect, in case he doesn’t go to Erez - - can come at the end of the year and they will find a good home with me and a full heart. What it means to come immediately to your own; in my soul and practically, I have felt myself. Karla and I can advise you on all that you can take. One can’t rely on a relative or acquaintance, however good they are; I see that with Redl.12 whom I will seek out, and with many relatives of Karla, who are probably piqued that I have such a beautiful apartment with an elevator in the building, and not like they lived 40 years ago in the East. They don’t understand that we consider the style and decor of our home [“Wohnkultur”] more important than food. I work 9 hours daily; with the commute, it is 11 hours that one is away from home daily. When I come home at 7 o’clock, I take a bath, make the bed, fix supper, straighten up, go shopping, so that it is at best, 11 o’clock before I get to bed, provided that you make no visits or have company. Saturday I am free, but I sleep a bit late. I get up at 6 o’clock every day, clean the apartment thoroughly, take care of the mail or make a visit or have a visitor. Sunday, we are with our ‘sunchild’ [“Sonnenkinde”] Michi.13

As is my custom, I’ve wandered from one thought to another; what I really wanted to say about the fate of our family: as hard as the separation from one another, particularly from the aged parents, weighs on us; as much as all of us have suffered in this significant time, so comparatively merciful was fate to our family. In these days, it is a quarter of a century ago

[end of typed page and no further pages are extant]


Translated by Anne L. Fox and Esther Bates


1. Gustl (Gustav) Jellinek was Karl’s first cousin; Gustl’s mother, Jetti Jellinek and Karl’s father, Siegmund Jellinek, were siblings. Grete was Gustl’s wife.

2. Sigl was one affectionate nickname for Karl’s brother, Siegfried Jellinek.

3. Karl and Kreindel Caroline’s eldest daughter, Michaela, who was a very young child in that early New York apartment, remembers the “bar” as a kind of dressing or vanity table. Alternatively, Karl may have been referring to a credenza, or a buffet sideboard.

4. This refers to a “concession” period which was rent-free, in order to entice people to sign a lease.

5. Brocha = Hebrew word, translated in English as “blessing.” Shehecheyanu [vequiehmanu] ve higiyanuh are Hebrew words that appear in the last phrase of this blessing and are usually translated into English as: “who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.” This blessing expresses deep gratitude to God and this is certainly the “right blessing” traditionally and very meaningfully recited at a time like this.

6. “Smires” = Yiddish word which refers to special joyous songs sung around the Sabbath table during and after the festive Sabbath meal.

7. The “Ring” refers to Karl’s former fellow members of their Zionist organization in Vienna: Die Lese - und Redehalle, jüdischer Hochschüler in Wien.

8. Karla was in her seventh month of pregnancy.

9. An affectionate Russified nickname for Karl’s niece, Gisella Nadja, who was the eldest daughter of Karl’s brother, Hugo Jellinek.

10. Stella was Max Jellinek’s wife. They were estranged at this time, but their seeking refuge in two different places likely occurred because Max could not arrange passage for himself to Palestine, and somehow Stella could. Stella also feared going to Shanghai. Karl’s tongue-in-cheek question that follows (3 sentences later) likely refers to a delay in Rhodes, Greece in Stella’s difficult and long journey to Palestine.

11. Another reference to fellow former members of the Zionist fraternal organization in Vienna: Die Lese und Redehalle jüdischer Hochschüler in Wien.

12. “Redl.” is an abbreviated form of the name of a family; possibly “Redlich”.

13. “Michi” was affectionate nickname for “Michaela”, Karl and Karla’s daughter, who was almost two years old at this time.

Previous Letter                     Next Letter

Return to Main Letter Indexes