August 17, 1939

Author(s) / Origin of Letter
Recipient(s) / Relationship to Author(s) / Destination of Letter
Hugo Jellinek
[Brünn, Czechoslovakia]

Gisela Nadja Jellinek (daughter of HJ)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]

Hugo writes lovingly of Fritz Fränkel, whom he is plalnning to marry soon. The fact that Fritzi has already acted in a generous and motherly way towards his 17 year-old daughter, Berta, is just one among many of Fritzi’s personal qualities and deeds that Hugo extols. Hugo writes of his anticipation of the family’s reunification in Palestine, in response to the plans and instructions for this reunification that Gisella Nadja’ described in her June letter. Hugo also optimistically tells Nadja that she and her sisters will have a noble “. . . mother again on earth” worthy of succeeding their deceased mother, Natasha.

There are a lot more emotionally and poetically written hopes in this letter, that were heartbreaking to read by Gisella Nadja for many years after she found out about the murders by the Nazis in 1942 of her father, her “future-mama,” Fritzi, her two sisters, her aunt Gisela and other family members. Gisella Nadja was able to feel proud however, that she followed her father’s inspirational advice to “stay true to her golden heart” and to her courageous endeavors for the establishment and development of an independent state of Israel.


My cherished child!Brno, August 17, 19391

The soul was quiet, but the head wouldn’t allow it to
believe that we are so long without news from you,
my small brave girl. Now, at last, a letter and one quite
well done and very heartfelt. Your gold-aunt Gisa
forwarded the same one to me and you could always
send the letters to me or to your aunt Gisa,
[including messages] for your beautiful little sisters,
and so save the expensive postage.2 In any case, I get detailed
reports from our “pearl-family” twice a month and on that occasion,
she3 always encloses your letters. Or the other
way around: you send me the lines meant for Vienna and I forward them.
This time, there are two of us who are delighted about your ideals,
wishes, dreams and hopes; namely me and
my bride, Fritzi, your future Mama. Tuesday, the 15th,
we had intended to get engaged, but following a very regretful
“accident” (Jewish fate), from which I recovered, thanks to the kind
nurse, my noble and self-sacrificing bride,
I had to postpone the engagement till the following Sunday.
So I ask you also, even if later [this refers to when they should
toast Hugo and Fritzi], celebrate [by toasting] me in spirit
with your chosen one. My bride, a lady
of the most elegant society of Brünn, from one of the most respected
and pious houses here (her grandparents were District – Rabbis
in Mährens), and urge for a speedy wedding, to which I have no objections.
We love each other very much and it is appropriate to
congratulate me. Then above all, you, my dearly
loved children, have a mother again, on earth. I have waited long
and considered before I have chosen a suitable successor to our
God-resting Mama.4

(View German transcription)


This I definitely know, that this coupling of
hearts would be blessed from heaven by my Natuschka, out
of her eternal love for me and you, my sweet children, since you would not
be able to find a braver, nobler and more capable, feeling Mama.5 We have
known each other only a month, this very desirable and not poor widow
has rejected counselors and highly placed solicitors with wonderful salaries
to unselfishly present her heart to me and my whole family.
What idealism and rare courage it takes in our tragic,
difficult days to prefer to follow the course of the heart
and to join a hard and sorrowful life in-stead of preferring
one without worry and trouble. Although we are not at all married yet,
since August 1, I had to move in and eat in her wonderful model apartment.
We live in the most elegant part of Brünn, where
professionals, educated persons or artists can feel
happy in this our splendid, extremely tasteful and idyllic6 surroundings.
From the front balcony you can see the wonderful flowers and
tree plantings of the bordering “Winterhollerplatz” and from the
court-yard balcony, as well as from the light and roomy kitchen,
and from the maid’s room, we enjoy the view of the magnificent
front garden. I already told you of the modern arrangement of the bathroom,
as well as the drawing room, in which very often,
my “nephew” Heinzi, Lussinka’s admirer, makes god-like music.
This charming and from – God gifted artist and musician par excellence,
will soon enter the Jerusalem Conservatory.7
Of course he will look you up and bring good Austrian shoes8
and the like. Another very smart “cousin” waits
impatiently for the journey to Palestine that was certain to depart on the 15th
of last month. It would still also be fortunate for all Jews here,
I should say, vital and life-saving, if the big
transport to Erez would already depart. Everybody wants to get away from
here to Erez and most of all, I with my Fritzi and both sweet [golden]
“silly girls.”9 With such “women-folk” one can well cross the whole
world, because these are healthy, smart, strong, industrious and capable [. . ?. . paper torn away here].

(View German transcription)


We are not even engaged and already,
my Fritzi takes care of me and Bertuschka like a real mother.
As times are not the best, and
the income of the Jews here are affected, and the community is very
short of means, therefore the dinner table being yet more meager than before,
my intended managed to get my smart Bertuschka an easy position as
nursemaid (on a trial basis) with very nice people. There she has
a job, as well as living accommodations, and as the young woman is also a
seamstress, our “fashion model” should also fit the bill. Already
14 days ago, my intended, who has a maternal sense about her, wanted
to take Bertuschka in, so that Berta could save the expensive rent money,
but Bertuschka wrote this nonsense and infamy down,
and I, unknowingly left [the page] open to these lines.
But my fine and noble Fritzi has long since forgotten it and we are both
happy that Bertuschka is so well accommodated. My bride gave her
a gift of a beautiful new hair-drier and
50 Crowns for deposit on a luxurious light grey autumn
and spring cape of finest lambs wool. Also Bertuschka has
daily outings with the six-month old baby;
enough time to perfect her English. As she earns, she will
be much better able to judge the worth of money than before.
She can also, despite the job, have her hair done or have a manicure once
a week. My future wife advised my Bertuschka
to go for a 14 day trial, although
the registration at the police and the insurance office follows immediately.
This way, my little “Fuchsi” [Berta] will finally be able to respectably outfit
herself, and as a “grand lady”
travel to you, my golden little mouse, and be able to confidently begin.

(View German transcription)


Lussinka hopes to be fetched in November10 and we two,
we who will soon be a couple, depend on you concerning this.
How wonderful it would be if we could also travel in November!
God only knows if until then, everything will work out.
You, my dearest one on earth, be smart and try to stay healthy.
Try hard to be worthy to be an offspring of our great,
in every way honored and true-Jewish Maccabee - family.
Stay true to your self and your golden heart and
appreciate the unity and the unselfish readiness of
the brave Zionist fighters. God grant that you will be so happy
and peaceful in your soul [seelenheiter], as I am and always stay that way.
My pretty bride is also a genuine daughter of Zion, who,
in her true Jewish feelings wants only to come to you both in Erez.
It would be wonderful if our “Mama-aunt” [“Mutti-Tante” =Gisela J. S. ]
could also come to you. This is a true angel and deserves
our love and unfailing loyalty, wholly and truly. She is
such a noble and pious Jewish woman and national Jew
as well, it is no wonder if one had such patriotic parents and such an
enthusiastic and unbending Zion-defender for a brother, like your
favorite uncle Karlo!11 You can imagine what lively
thoughts pass between them and here is a
small sample of this: It is positively admirable, this
divine brotherly love, this grand, moral earnestness, this divine power and
self-mastery [or: self-discipline], this exalted love for all the members of our
family through which she surpasses herself, and
with such blazing love and selfless loyalty she warms and buttresses
all the hearts of all her faithful [or: devoted] ones in the utmost distances –
she, who is herself in such need of comforting and the balm of love. . .
And how proud and happy I am, that you, my courageous child,
not only bears her name, but are also the reflection
of her sun-blessed heart.
For this time, I close and kiss you across many, many kilometers ~~~~
Your faithful Papsi   Hugo

(View German transcription)


Translated by Anne L. Fox, edited by Brian Middleton and Manuel Swatek


1. “Brno, 17.VIII” is visible at the upper right corner of the page, but the page is torn off immediately after the “VIII.” The year of this letter has to be 1939, because the contents of the letter reveal that it was written when Hugo was already involved in a serious relationship with Fritzi Fränkel, (which was not the case in August 1938), and a short time before Hugo’s marriage to Fritzi, which took place in October 1939. There is also much in this letter that is in response to Gisella Nadja’s letter of June 3, 1939. The calendars of 1939 and 1938 provide corroborating evidence that the year was 1939, in that Hugo wrote in the middle of page 1., that on “Tuesday, the 15th, we had intended to get engaged. . .” The 15th of August 1939 fell on a Tuesday, whereas the 15th of August 1938 fell on a Monday.

2. Hugo means that Gisella Nadja could write to her sisters in the same letter that she wrote to her aunt Gisela, who was still in Vienna and who would forward Gisella Nadja’s letters to Hugo, who would, in turn, give them to the two sisters/Hugo’s younger daughters in Brno, — or Gisella Nadja could write to her sisters in the same letter that she sent directly to her father, Hugo. Gisella Nadja would save on postage by utilizing either of Hugo’s suggested methods,instead of sending a separate letter addressed to her sisters. Gisella Nadja wrote in her June 3, 1939 letter that she had not been able to write because she lacked stamps and paper.

3. “she” refers back to the previous sentence’s “your gold-aunt Gisa,” Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger, who was still in Vienna with their parents;

4. Here and in the next sentence, Hugo is referring affectionately to his first wife, Natasha/Njura, whom Hugo had come to know, love, (and later, marry) when he was a wounded prisoner-of-war in Uzbekistan and she was his nurse. Natasha/Njura was the mother of Hugo’s three daughters. She died in 1926 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

5. Hugo used “Mamele” here; the Yiddish diminutive and affectionate term for mother.

6. Hugo uses the word “Tuskulum” here. Tuskulum refers to the name of Cicero’s manor in ancient Italy. It is used to denote an idyllic place. (MS)

7. It is likely that this Heinz Rosenzweig is one of the two persons listed as an “Austrian Victim of the Holocaust” in the digital indices of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center.” The evaluation of ‘likelihood’ is based on the January 1921 or May 1922 dates of birth listed, which fit with the likely age of a nephew of Fritzi, an admirer of similarly-aged Anna and an energetic, talented musical aspirant to musical training in the Jerusalem Conservatory. The fact that this Heinz was still in Brno in January 31, 1940 [see Hugo’s reference to him and his greetings in the margin of Hugo’s postcard of that date], and that neither Gisella Nadja nor anyone else in our family ever heard from him again, also makes it more likely that Heinz was killed in the Shoah, (rather than his being the one other Heinz Rosenzweig, listed in USHMM’s data base, who survived the Shoah and arrived in Australia between 1946 - 1954.

8. Hugo writes “. . . gute Haferlschuhe. . .“ which are traditional Bavarian and Austrian shoes, that are thick-soled, leather, and low cut around the ankle, with the laces set to the exterior sides of the feet. These kind of shoes are part of traditional male Bavarian dress, along with leather pants, (Lederhosen) and are (still) part of a traditional female Bavarian or Austrian outfit, along with a tight-bodiced Dirndl dress.

9. “Fratzeln” is the diminutive for “Fratzen” which means “baggage,” noted M. Swatek, the transcriber of this letter. It is also idiomatic for “silly little girls.” Hugo may or may not have intended a humorous ‘double-entendre’ here between his ‘silly little’ daughters and ‘baggage’on his journey to Palestine with his new wife.

10. Lussinka was the Russified nickname that Hugo called his youngest daughter, Anna. Hugo is responding here to the news in [approximately the middle of] Gisella Nadja’s June 3, 1939 letter that the leader of her Betar unit “. . . wants s to marry Putzi [Anna] in a faked marriage” and bring her to Mandate Palestine in November. It is most probable that the outbreak of WWII made this plan impossible.

11. Hugo is referring to his younger brother, Karl Jellinek, by his familial nickname.