August 28 - 29, 1938 (?)1

Author(s) / Origin of Letter
Recipient(s) / Relationship to Author(s) / Destination of Letter
Berta Jellinek
   (see Hugo Jellinek’s Bio.)
                [Brünn, Czechoslovakia]

Gisella Nadja Jellinek (sister of BJ)
[Rishon Le Zion, British Mandate Palestine]

Berta writes lofty, idealistic 18th birthday wishes for her older sister Gisella Nadja, and for herself too. Berta also gives a spirited report of her recent bicycle accident, symbolic resistance, work and studies.


(View German Transcription)

Dear Nadja!, Brünn
Don’t be angry with me
that I am writing to you [only] now, but I know
that I haven't missed anything,
since you know some things better than I, as our dear father writes very often, but
I already found an excuse
as you have already heard by letter.
I have ventured on a racing tour
and my target was a beautiful
red-and-white marble savings bank
building. You have also
certainly heard about my “laurels,”
haven’t you? Now pay attention: my hand, swollen,
bruised, wrapped in blue-white-red
– the Czech flag – and a white bandage – let’s
forget ? about it,2 sitting at home for a week,
the bicycle, the tire – lung-damaged –
the air outside – torn – tire, Geez! Goodby! –

(View German Transcription)

[page 2.]
handle bar – commanding, a quarter to the right,
left – straight ahead, break your neck and leg.3
This can’t happen to you with your oranges.
You really have to excuse me,
I came home tired from work
and then the worry about our loved ones. (?)

Business is picking up a bit again,
since everyone is returning from vacation,
unfortunately, but thank God, I have
registered at the continuing education school
and this Thursday, September 1, will be
our first day of school. The reason I say unfortunately,
is in part because I’m paying for it,
in so far as I have school three times a week in the afternoon,4
and yet I am glad, since I hope that
I will learn something new that I can use in business
and again earn a few more crowns.
Soon it will be one year that I have been learning,
Amen!and three years more.

(View German Transcription)

[page 3.]
I have gotten a lighter hand
so that my work
goes a bit faster now.
Belated congratulations
on your 18th birthday and
I wish you whatever you wish for yourself,
long life, health,
heroism, courage, to be a good Chavera,4
and that your ideal
will be realized and not to forget
[:] plenty of work
oranges etc., otherwise you won’t be happy!!!
(I hope I have wished you enough).
But don’t feel bad:
my birthday will also be forgotten.
I alone will only know it.

(View German Transcription)

[page 4.]
I alone will wish myself birthday wishes,
and wish for myself the things
I have decided to become
and fight for my ideas and convictions.
It doesn’t matter, maybe —

Soon, a Chavera named Gina Greetings to
will be coming to Erez, in fact, in Bethar.5Michl and to
Get in touch with her, we know each other the blond fellow
fairly well and she has much to tell you.

I hope you are satisfied with my letter.
If not, (send it back !!!)
understand me? yes, it is good!6
Happy birthday, once more!
In anticipation of a speedy and detailed letter about
your well-being, I kiss you and send warm greetings,
your dear sister Berta

(View German Transcription)


Translation by Laura Jockusch; edited by Brian Middletown, as well as Brigitte Balkow and Ursula Eckelmann ofSütterlinstube, Hamburg, Germany


1. We can be fairly certain that the year of this letter is 1938, primarily because Berta sends belated 18th birthday congratulations to Nadja, whose 18th birthday was August 6, 1938 and secondarily, Berta’s somewhat upbeat tone and her registration for school also seem to indicate that this was written before the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia of 1939. This year of 1938 is additionally corroborated by the letter’s reference to “. . . this Thursday, September 1, . . .” and the fact that September 1, fell on a Thursday in the year 1938.

From Berta’s phrase “. . . this Thursday, September 1, . .” and “. . . I came home tired from work. . . ” we have estimated that the days that Berta wrote, as Sunday, August 28, or Monday, August 29; either could have been work days for Berta, who did free-lance hair-dressing work, and either was a few days before, and in the same week as September 1, 1938.

2. Here, near the end of Berta’s humorous and somewhat disjointed narrative, it seems likely that the Sütterlinstube transcribers are correct in suggesting that what Berta meant by “Friede ? dar-über” (lit. Peace? over it), was closer to the meaning of the German expression, “Schwamm drüber,”: “ let’s forget about it.”

3. Expression for “Good luck.” cp.

4. It is probable that Berta is alluding more to lost earnings on the afternoons that she is in school, than to school tuition payments.

5. Chavera is the feminine form of the Hebrew word for friend, member, fellow, partner. Here and when it is next used (about Gina coming to Erez- the land of then-Palestine) the meaning is member -- of the Betar (aka Beitar or Bethar) organization. Betar, an activist, Revisionist Zionist youth movement, was founded in 1923 in Riga, Latvia by Vladmir Jabotinsky. Its basic ideals included personal dedication to the creation of a Jewish state, personal immigration to and pioneering in Palestine and systematic defense training. Throughout the 1930s and early 40s, Betar aided in the rescue/immigration of thousands of Jews to Palestine, in violation of the Brit-ish Mandate’s extremely limited immigration quotas.

6. The words “understand me? [y]es, it is good!” were written in English by Berta.