Early July - Early August, 1938 (?)1


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


Karl Jellinek

Karla/Kreindel E. Jellinek (see Karl Jellinek's bio)
                              [Vienna, Austria]

Gisella Nadja Jellinek (niece of KJ and KEJ)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]

Karl warns Nadja of the dangers of close-minded and extreme views and of ‘in-fighting’ generally, in the “building up” of a Jewish state. Karl also writes that “Here in Vienna, it is not good, and I don’t think we can stay."

Karla (in the only extant letter from her to Nadja) similarly chides Nadja about her expression of negative prejudice against Jews from Poland, especially at that time of the burgeoning in-gathering of Jews from all over the world.



                                  Dear Nadja,


After truly the entire family has written, I also want to write some lines to you, and in a somewhat critical sense.


You know my Zionist opinion. Just as I did not agree with the fact that you were on the extreme left and I had to protect the Revisionists2 from you, I have to protect the “Reds” now.


What must be decisive is what have the “Reds” accomplished for the building up of Erez:3 were they pioneers, did they fight against malaria, did they fight hunger?


All that remains to be said is that one must first fight the common enemy, the Arabs and the British; only once one has a state can one fight against one’s own brothers, even those who are hoisting red flags. Minorities are not always right, even though they always insist that they are. We cannot afford the luxury of an “authoritarian” state, and not everyone is a traitor just because he has an opinion different from that of an ardent member of Betar,4 even if she is as enthusiastic as you are.


In Tel Aviv, I have a fraternity brother,5 Dr. Stamm, please send him my regards. In Jerusalem, you can go to see Dr. Emmanuel Pfeffermann. He is an official at the Jewish National Library, where I found him a position 14 years ago. You can find my friend, Dr. Ing. Hanns Sobeleoben6 on the Carmel in Haifa. Here in Vienna, it is not good and I don’t think we can stay. When you visit our relatives, show them the picture[?]. I have a lot to do in the section[?]. Dr. Fast [or “Fach”?] is already going to America at the end of August. 


To be continued, for today you have enough to read.


[...?] Karl


[next page]


Dear Gisl!

I read all of your letters and I could really imagine that you are toiling more than many others. Dear child, this does not have to do with elbowing tactics, as you called it in the letter to Grandma. You do not have to be in a Betar group; you can join a WIZO7 group, where you do not have to run everything alone. I was also surprised that you, in a country where finally the differences of the Jews, that is, where they all come from, should cease to exist, and one develops an understanding for each other in Palestine, -- you also think it is justified to characterize Polish Jews as ‘for what’8 etc. Here you have never done that, and in Erez, where you can see for yourself what the hands of these people can do, --there you do. Tell me, dear Gisl, how shall we ever get beyond our enmity9 towards the Polish Jews if you are doing it. The Tiefenbrunn family agreed with this opinion, but we hope that this time it was only a momentary lapse and that by the time you will have been in Erez longer, and will have had the opportunity to get to know more people, you won’t write to grandma on the basis of the acquaintance of […?] maybe one idle girl.10 “You are, after all, a highly cultured lady..... for us..... etc.” So, let’s forget about it; stay well, be reasonable, be mindful of yourself, go see the relatives as soon as possible; tell them that you are the niece of Uncle Karl, who is so noble with the family of Mathilde Eckstein,11 and that they should also find a job for you in Tel Aviv.

Be kissed from your aunt Karla.


Many kisses from sweet Michele!12 [written upside down on top of page]


Translated by Laura Jockusch, ~2000-2003


1. Early to mid-August, 1938 seems to be the approximate latest time that these letters were written, based on Karl’s statement near the end of his letter about Dr. Fast’s planned departure for America at the end of August. We know that the year must be 1938, because Karl and Karla were still in Vienna; they escaped in February 1939. Early July would be the earliest estimate for the writing of these letters, because Nadja only arrived in Palestine around mid-June, and both Karl and Karla were responding to contents of mail that had already arrived in Vienna from Nadja in Palestine. [PJ]


2. The definition of the 1930s Revisionist Zionists differs according to the political views of the definer -- but generally, it is agreed that during the 30s, the Revisionists were an activist Zionist group that demanded that the British Mandatory Government aid in the formation of a Jewish state on the basis of the borders of Biblical Israel. Vladimir Jabotinsky, who founded and led the Revisionists, also advocated for the development of strong, militant self-defense capabilities for Jews. [PJ]


3. “Erez” denotes the Hebrew - ארץ ׳שראלpronounced “Eretz Yisrael,” or in English translation, “The Land of Israel.” [PJ]


4. Nadja was an active and dedicated member of Betar, the Revisionist Zionist youth movement.


5. I.e., a fellow member of the Zionist fraternal society that Karl led in the 1920s and 1930s, “Die Lese und Redehalle jüdischer Hochschüler in Wien” (The Reading and Lecture Hall of Jewish University Students in Vienna). It is likely that Dr. Pfeffermann and Dr. Ing. Sobeleoben were also ‘fraternity brothers.’


6. The title “Dr. Ing.” indicates a doctorate in engineering. The exact spelling of this man’s last name was difficult to ascertain. It is also unclear whether Karl meant that Dr. Ing. H.S. was working at the Technion on the Carmel in Haifa, or just that Dr. Ing. H.S. lived on the Carmel mountain in Haifa.


7. Women’s International Zionist Organization; founded in 1920 in Great Britain.


8. LJ translated these two words many years ago as “to us.” However, instead of reading the words as the German “Vor uns,” an alternative way of reading these words might be the Yiddish “Vor wus” (פֿאַר וואָס) , pronounced “far vus,” and translated as the questioning English words “why” or “for what.” Karla’s enclosing of these two words in quotation marks adds strength to this alternative view of Karla citing a quintessentially East European Yiddish-sounding phrase here, to allude to Gisl‘s (Nadja Gisella’s), stereotyping of Polish Jews as Yiddish speakers who spoke in a low-grade, unsophisticated, and non-German-sounding vernacular. [PJ, 2014]

In any case, LJ wrote that in this passage, Karla “...means that in Palestine, all the cultural differences of the Jews coming from different countries would cease to exist, and all would develop an understanding for each other through their unification. Karla wonders why Nadja, however, differentiates between certain groups of Jews according to their place of origin and cultural background. This matches Karl’s critique of [Nadja’s] negative view of the 'Reds,' which probably referred to Nadja’s criticism of Jews with a strong socialist affiliation.”


9. Karla most likely meant “enmity" here, when she used the (Hebrew-derived) Yiddish word for “enemies,” שונא׳ם, pronounced and phonetically transcribed in Latin letters as Karla did: “Sonem.”



In any case, as LJ wrote: “...it is clear that Karla is referring to their negative feelings against the Poles.”


10. There is one word which I cannot decipher; however, the sentence means that Nadja should not judge people after having met one idle girl, nor write to her grandma something which Karla only quotes the beginning of. We can infer that Nadja had written something negative about Polish Jews in Palestine and characterized them as idle. [LJ] 


I believe that Karla [my mother], who was born in 1910 in Stanisławów (then in the Galician province of the Austro-Hungarian empire, but from May 1919 - September 1939, part of The Republic of Poland), would have been particularly sensitive to prejudice against ‘Polish Jews,’ because she was considered a Galician-Polish Jew, and had been subjected to prejudicial attitudes about the inferiority of ‘Galizianas’ and Polish Jews in general. [PJ]


11. Mathilde Eckstein was Karla’s mother. Karl and Karla struggled tirelessly to rescue Mathilde from Nazi Austria, but ultimately failed. See Mathilde Eckstein‘s biography.


12. “Michele” is an affectionate diminutive name for “Michaela,” Karl and Karla’s first child, born in Vienna in 1937. See the Family Tree and Karl Jellinek’s biography.

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