August 9, 1938

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

Gisela Jellinek Schlesinger
Karl Jellinek
[Vienna, Austria]
Hugo Jellinek - inserted brief comments in the margins of Gisela J. S.'s letter, before he passed it on to Gisella Nadja J.
[Brünn, Czechoslovakia]

Hugo Jellinek (brother of GJS and KJ)
[Brünn, Czechoslovakia]

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

Gisela, her husband, Poldi, their family members and neighbors are struggling with the Nazi regime’s anti-Jewish persecution, such as the forced, demeaning takeovers of their businesses and apartments. In her long, detailed letter, we mainly read of Gisela’s anguished responses to events, as well as her practical efforts to help her nieces, siblings, cousins and parents cope with the new harsh reality. Gisela also reports on her attempts to maintain some semblance of the old order and values, such as her intent to obtain her old piano for daily practice with her young niece Anna.

Karl’s shorter letter contains equally powerful, ominous signs concerning the “unsustainable” situation for him and relatives in Vienna. The significant good news in both of these letters is about Karl’s receipt of requisite affidavits from the USA, as well as a Merit Certificate for admission to Mandate Palestine, Gustav Jellinek and Miron Nadel’s emigration prospects, and the receipt of Gisella Nadja Jellinek’s letters from Mandate Palestine.


Vienna, August 9, 1938

Dear Hugo!

Yesterday, Monday morning, I went to Stockerau1 by bus, in order to see what is going on there, because Poldi was in Vienna on Friday and visited Karl. I did not want to write to you that this Zogelmayer has already been in the shop for three weeks, and that he went to Dr. Boyer (Boyer is a notorious Nazi criminal)2, who supported him very much and instructed Poldi to immediately carry out a precise stock-taking in the presence of Zogelmayer and to submit it to him.

After the stock-taking, Poldi, in his stupidity, even handed the store keys over to Z., so that he would not think that goods were taken away. This idea can only spring from Leopold’s brain; it is his [Leopold’s] goods and none of that man’s [Zogelmayer’s] business. I reproached him terribly for that and also for the fact that he did not quickly sell bigger lots for the 300 butts.3 (as I already advised him)4 In fact, he should have taken 30 butts, for with this business, he [Zogelmayer] hit the bull’s eye and entered such a well-established business with just a couple of shabby old coins.5 All this, Poldi only did in his insane fear of a commissioner. Since they are so mean in Horn6 and were so upset about all daily expenses, Poldi was afraid too. But the commissioner is taking his money every day and does not care about anything else. At least that’s what it is like in Stockerau with Sofer and Redlich. The firm of old Sofer will be taken over by two shop assistants of Hellmer. According to the stock-taking, the goods are worth 85,000 [Marks]. Half of it was immediately cancelled, the remaining remnants will be used to pay all the debts of the house, etc. and the remainder will not be much. So far, they can keep the apartment (but how long ?7). Already in September, both children will go to Palestine to their aunt, and the parents intend to follow subsequently. According to an order by H. Hammeter, all Jewish stores had to be closed yesterday, and all Jewish apartments with Aryan landlords were given eviction notices; so old [Mr.} Gross too (78 years old, living 40 years in this building).8

His son, Otto, who came from Haugsdorf9 to live with his father until he receives a new apartment, was called to see Mayor Meyerl, who shouted terribly at him, and made him sign that he will leave Stockerau immediately. (Meyerl is a young snotty brat)10 Arthur Gross was left without any compensation and does not have an apartment either. Every day, Poldi waits for the apartment eviction notice, unfortunately, and I haven’t even slept ten times in this beautiful, wonderful apartment. There are so many armed forces and so many officers coming to Stockerau (preparation of a new putsch (revolt) to Bohemia)11, and therefore, they all need apartments, and such a nicely renovated apartment is very suitable. Old Jelinek12 was released from detention after three months and has to leave Germany in October. He is not going to return to Stockerau and has rented an apartment in Vienna. Young J. has to leave already on August 25. Karl Skutezky [family friend and/or colleague of Karl Jellinek] is already in Australia. His brother and Paul Breyer are joining him this month. In Hollabrunn, too, all [Jewish] shops and apartments have to leave the main roads; hopefully father will still be allowed to keep his apartment - it’s impossible to imagine the misery. We received a very long letter from Gisa13 in which she writes almost the same as she wrote to you. Gustl14 has just been here and asked me to let him take Gisa’s (my daughter has been in Palestine for 3 weeks)15 letters in which he was very interested, and also because his wife is very interested in them. Pauli has already sent her some chothes, but we’ll send her some too. Bertha has an old Dirndl,16 she cannot wear it there; she should pack up everything she does not need. Please ask at the post office if it is possible to send a parcel from Brünn to Palestine. It is possible from Vienna, and three kilograms of weight cost ten Schill[ings]. Paul really behaves like the best friend in the world. He’ll go there [to Palestine] with the next transport, which is leaving in a couple of days. That’s a great reassurance for me; if he sees that she [Gisella Nadja] is not well there, he will take her to America, because his sister is married to an American consul. Also, I have to go on telling you about poor Poldi. On Thursday, at 6 p.m., some man took Poldi to see Hametter.

[reverse side of page]

(View German transcription of comments in margins)

He shouted so terribly at him [Poldi] like no one had ever before in his entire life (to intimidate him, as Poldi is a tense human anyhow) [“] How could you do the stock-taking? Why do you have so big a stock? How dare you [!] We and not you, are going to Aryanize,17 [“] and it continued in this tone. These were the most horrible minutes in Poldi’s life. Then he asked: where is your wife? After his answer, [“] In Hollabrunn, with her old sick parents[“], he said [“She will not be able to stay there, and also not in Stockerau, for your wife made a statement that 6 Nazis must be hanged [“], and he had 5 witnesses for that. This slander18 is the worst that can happen to you. I therefore did not show my face in Stockerau at daytime, and I have gone through a couple of sleepless nights. Everything is supposed to be lost; all Jews now sacrifice their entire fortune.(the foray of Hitler)19 Gustl is also losing everything and is leaving happily for America in October.

In a couple of weeks, Ignaz20 is going to London at the request of a big company in his field. This week or the week after, Gustl and Nazl will take their leave of absence. I am very much afraid that father is going to be upset; he has been very broken lately. He doesn’t like the food anymore and you would have much less occasion to be annoyed, because he rejects supper almost every day. I cook a lot of vegetables and things that are easy to digest, and the parents like my cooking very much. In her last letter, Gisa21 wrote to Grandma that she is so infinitely thankful to her for training her so well in cooking, and that all take delight in her culinary skills. Now she first understands how valuable mother’s intention was! [in teaching her to cook]. Today Miron22 is summoned because of the Aryanization, and it is very likely that he will have to give everything away soon. Miron (brother-in-law)23 has the prospect of getting a job in London; he received a reply to his application. However, all they want are interior photographs; that is, inside an apartment, and that is not particularly his strong point. But he will certainly get himself some nice photographs, and once he is there, he can look for some other position. Anna is going with him as a home worker. We do not know yet what will be with the child, [Trude] since she is not yet able to stand. Yesterday, Anna went to Dr. Bauer, who treated her foot, and he said that all was fine, but it will certainly take another couple of months until she will be able to walk. Karl’s child [Michaela] will be able to walk soon, and here is the big news: through an uncle of Karla’s, Karl is getting an affidavit for America. This uncle is very rich; he has a bank, and he answered Karla’s letter with a telegram which arrived Friday at 7 p.m.: “Affidavits on the way. Uncle Rubin.” Apart from that, Karl received a so-called “Merit Certificate” from Palestine. 3000 academics from Vienna applied and 18 were accepted, Karl among the first. I believe however, that Karl is more suited for America, and that he’ll sooner find a job there, since 5 uncles and aunts of Karla’s have larger enterprises there, and they are certainly going to help him. It will certainly take until the end of the year because there are thousands of affidavits [needing to be processed for the granting of visas] at the American consulate here. Mother is very composed regarding the great farewell, but father takes everything very seriously. Sigl [Siegfried Jellinek] and Martha are very busy; everyone is still left with a lot of laundry to do, clothing, etc. before leaving.24

Unfortunately, Oskar Hirschensohn was arrested four weeks ago because of the affair, as a compensation for which, you lent him money; it does not look very good for him.25 Elsa Gross’ husband [unknown] has also been there26 for 6 weeks. All Jews from the countryside have to leave and the entire province has to be cleared soon. An unspeakable misery! Through Arno’s mother, [Arno and mother unknown] who is from Kolin, and was in Stockerau, and who unfortunately, only on the last day, let me know that she is going back through Stockerau, I am giving you a wallet with ten Reichsmarks and the stamps for Berta, that she requested from Hans. She’ll [Arno’s mother] send it to you as a specimen without value and she’ll send the money by postal order. She could not take more with her because she was afraid. But she’ll come again soon, and then I’ll give her more. Father was at the post office; he has to take a passport with him since any money he wants to send has to be marked there. Anna27 has [a] passport and is going to send you ten Marks this week and next week, Miron, who also has a passport, will take his turn. Have the Schafer girls returned the money yet?28 Anna gave 30 Marks to Hanna [unknown]. Every month father sends on time, and I am enclosing this week’s confirmation.29 Your suggestion regarding Putzi30 is not acceptable at the moment for I do not have money available right now. Apart from that, Putzi is now very attractive and healthy, see picture, and currently feels very comfortable in Hollabrunn. In the morning, she is learning to cook everything with me;

(View German transcription of handwriting at bottom of page)

on Sunday, she even made strudel dough under mother’s supervision that was wonderful to stretch. In any case, Anna will go with her to the Czech Embassy, so that her passport is in order. Gustl has especially appealed to my heart today; [by saying that] Poldi should also look into his own departure immediately, because we could die of hunger here. Emanuel [unknown] is pressing us to emigrate with him to Cairo, but I heard that Egypt does not accept Jews. In any case, we must go about it seriously.31 Sunday is the anniversary of Poldi’s mother’s death and I will travel with him to the grave; perhaps God will help us. In spite of all that, you are well situated, as now things are clearer, and you, as well as Bertha, will soon have a way of making a living. Doesn’t Bertha want to join Giserl? I would be very much calmed if the two girls were together, because Palestine is definitely not for Putzi, as she is not cut out for such hardship, as she is already quite weak from the local heat. Apart from that, I raised her in prosperity and she could not bear such privations. If I have no other possibilities for emigration for Putzi, I can always send her to you. Don’t be afraid, I myself would not have a quiet moment if this sweet child, that I idolize, were not taken good care of. At the moment, she is studying English and the violin diligently and I will bring the piano from Stockerau to Hollabrunn, so I can practice with her daily, since she has not seen a piano since March 12th. Right now I don’t have the inclination to send you a package, but I will make up for it when our situation becomes a bit more calm. Very much is on my shoulders; I must run two households, [do] the wash, etc. Anna’s child [infant, Trude] has been in Hollabrunn for three weeks and will stay until the end of the month, as Anna [Trude’s mother] has so much to do and [she] is so nervous that she is not capable of doing anything. Karl’s child [infant, Michaela] is at Tiefenbrunn’s32 and thrives there very well. I am sending several small photos that I hope you will enjoy. We wrote a long letter to Gisa and sent many pictures, as she unfortunately lost all the ones she took with her.33 We also sent her a new one of you. All of Tiefenbrunn’s siblings have gone away already, except for one brother, and they are working to get them34 out. Max35 can stay here the longest; he is well taken care of.

Maybe in the fall, I will let Putzi take some kind of course and then she can live and eat at Max’s. Perhaps I will be able to tell you more about our and Anna’s plans in my next letter; right now everything is up in the air and this situation is unstable and unnerving. My only fear is that I will not be able to survive all the farewells and agitation with my frayed nerves. I’m enclosing a copy of the letter that I sent to Hofmann today.36 I hope I have the right tone. Up to now, you forbade us to sell your merchandise; now father will get in touch with several buyers. Father writes everything down that he has sent to Willy37 so far; I add to it from time to time, but father gives the most. It is a great sacrifice, as 60 Marks, that is 90 Schillings, is half of his pension, as the [Jewish] Federation of Hollabrunn has no more money; everything has been confiscated and father no longer has his 100 Schillings. Do not worry about Oskar, as he will sell the house, and everybody knows that you lent him the money. All your papers and books are well stored with father. Hopefully, I have now told you everything and [I] close with heartfelt greetings and kisses to you and Bertherl.
Your loyal Gisa

[Beginning of letter from Karl Jellinek]

Beloved brother!   I gladly take the opportunity to send you a few lines. I am admitted38, but the situation is unsustainable here and soon there also should not be much to do for the Aryans. At the moment, they are cutting money.39

(Scroll down to view German transcription of page IV.)

I earn a little, but one must pay a lot for taxes, health insurance and various blackmailers, so that one can barely live.

Yesterday evening, we were with Anna and Miron at Gustl’s, who will leave Vienna next November, and who just terminated [the lease on] his apartment. Yesterday, Miron,40 who was summoned before the office of the guild, had to sign that he can liquidate and that he will be notified in writing as to under what circumstances. Rebert [unknown person and uncertain deciphering of Karl’s handwriting here] is grateful; he is still well-off because he can take everything with him that is needed for his trade.

Gustav is greatly charmed by Nadja’s letters and likes to quote whole lines from these letters. Suprising in these letters is [that they contain] only the [Nadja’s] political transition from left to right. I went with Poldi to Dr. Früh not long ago. He is a vigorous young lawyer and I hoped he could [help] Poldi find a new lease on life. Unfortunately, Gisela too, is wrecked and very troubled regarding the future.

I have mainly cancellation dealings and it is my task to gain time for these people and to uplift them a bit; apart from that you can’t achieve anything.

How are your prospects, dear Hugo? May God grant that you will find a job/accommodation soon, so that at least one of us will be without worries. How is Bertuschka? Hopefully she understands the seriousness of the time ?? I send greetings to all the relatives. Many greetings and kisses,
Your devoted brother,


English translation by Laura Jockusch; edited by P. Jellinek and by Brigitte Balkow of Sütterlinstube, Hamburg, Germany


1. Stockerau, is the town approximately 19 miles northwest of Vienna, in which Gisela J. S. and her husband, Leopold (nicknamed Poldi) Schlesinger had lived and owned a leather-goods business until the Nazi seizure of their business and apartment.

2. These words were hand-written in the left margin. The hand-writing and content of all of these marginal notes make it most probable that they were added by Hugo Jellinek before he passed this letter on to his daughter, Gisella Nadja J., in Mandate Palestine. All of these hand-written, marginal comments appear in blue in this translation text.

It is probable that all of the underlinings that were hand-drawn, (rather than typed) were also added by Hugo. To distinguish between the hand-drawn underlinings and Gisela’s typed underlinings, in this translation, I have typed Hugo’s hand-drawn underlinings in blue. (PJ)

3. croupon (fr.) = butt (engl.) is the thicker, core part of the leather and can be the best part of the hide.

4. hand-written commment in left margin

5. Gisela specifies “Kreuzern” here. Kreuzern were small coins of relatively low value, formerly used in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This sentence seems to mean that Zogelmayer enters Poldi’s flourishing business and makes an excellent deal in buying this business from a Jew for a ridiculously low price.

6. Horn is a small town in Lower Austria, 53 miles northwest of Vienna in which Leopold was born. It is possible that Gisela is referring here to being “mean” and begrudging of “daily expenses” of Leopold’s parents or siblings.

7. hand-written comment in right margin

8. hand-written comment in left margin.

9. Haugsdorf is a small town in the district of Hollabrunn, Lower Austria, Austria and approximately 12 miles north of the town of Hollabrunn and 55 miles northwest of Vienna.

10. hand-written comment in right margin;

11. hand-written comment in left margin;

12. Gisela’s spelling of “Jelinek” with just one “l” was probably a typographical error. In any case, we do not know to which “old” or “youngJellinek or Jelinek, Gisela was referring in this sentence and in the next sentence.

13. This “Gisa” refers to eighteen year-old Gisella Nadja Jellinek, Gisela J.S.’s niece and Hugo J.’s eldest daughter.

14. Gustl was the nickname for Gustav Jellinek, Gisela J.S. and Hugo J.’s first cousin. Gustav was the only son of Jetti Jellinek, Siegmund Jellinek’s sister, who survived the war.

15. This particular hand-written comment in the left margin, provides almost certain evidence that it was Hugo Jellinek who wrote these marginal comments. Hugo was Gisa’s (Gisella Nadja Jellinek) father, and Gisa was the only ‘Jellinek’ daughter to have managed to escape to and live in ‘Palestine’ at this time.

Re: Hugo’s statement that Gisella Nadja has been in Palestine only three weeks: Gisella Nadja departed clandestinely from Vienna, for the journey to Mandate Palestine on June 6, 1938, (see Gisella Nadja’s Biography page). Gisella Nadja spoke once (in personal communication), of the manifold strategies required for her group’s perilous overland and sea journey, but she didn’t mention that the journey took six - seven weeks, which is what Hugo’s statement implies. It is most likely that Hugo was correct and that indeed, Gisella Nadja’s journey did take that much time. However, it is also possible that Hugo inadvertently wrote “3 weeks” or lowered the actual number of weeks for some (un-known) purpose. [PJ]

16. The Dirndl, the traditional dress worn by women in Austria, South Tyrol and Bavaria, has a disttinctive tight bodice, puff sleeved blouse, full skirt and apron. It is not clear from this sentence and the following two, whether Gisela thought Bertha could not wear the Dirndl dress in Brünn, because it was associated with (Nazi) Germany and Austria, and/or thatGisela was advocating for the dress to be sent to Gisella Nadja in Mandate Palestine, because Gisella Nadja had a greater need for additional clothing at this time.

17. Aryanization meant that shops, firms or any kind of capital were taken over by non-Jewish “Aryan” owners; in most cases through “sales” at ridiculously low amounts of money that did not equal the actual worth of the goods.

18. Although I could not find the word “Schekerbilbel” that Gisela uses here, I am sure that it means “slander” or “smear campaign,” becuase the Hebrew word Scheker means “lie” and Bilbul, or Yiddish Bilbel means “confusion,” “mix-up.” (LJ)

19. Hand-written comment in right margin

20. Ignatz Jellinek was Gustav’s brother. Nazl was most likely Ignatz’s diminutive nickname.

21. Gisa and Giserl refer here to Gisella Nadja Jellinek, who was Hugo J.’s eldest daughter/thus the niece of the letter’s author, Gisela J. S.

22. Miron Nadel was the husband of Gisela’s younger sister, Anna. In the Documents section of this website, you can see Miron’s Asset Inventory, (aka Jewish Property Declaration) of April 1938. The Nazi regime required Jews with assets of 5000 Reichsmarks or more, to submit these Asset Inventories. Miron owned a successful photography studio in Vienna.

23. hand-written comment in right margin;

24. Siegfried (affectionately nicknamed Sigl and Friedl) Jellinek was Gisela and Hugo’s brother. Martha Hirschensohn Jellinek was Siegfried’s wife. Although Gisela writes of Siegfried and Martha’s plans to depart from Vienna, we now know that they did not succeed in escaping the Nazis. You can read on Siegfried’s Biography page about Siegfried’s deportation from Vienna to Nisco, Poland in October 1939 and about Martha and their son, Erich’s deportation from Vienna to the Riga ghetto in Latvia, in January 1942.

25. Oskar Hirschensohn was Martha Hirschensohn Jellinek’s brother, born in 1898. Unfortunately, we do not know anything about “the affair” or the money Hugo lent as a “compensation.” We only know that Oskar was ultimately murdered in the Holocaust.

26. “. . . there . . .” probably refers to imprisonment in the Dachau concentration camp, which was closest to Vienna of the Nazi concentration camps opened by this time. It is also possible, however, that Oskar H. and/or Mr. Gross were imprisoned in Buchenwald (opened for males in 1937), or Sachsenhausen concentration camp (opened in 1936).

27. Gisela is referring to her younger sister, Anna Jellinek Nadel, here, and not her niece, Anna J.

28. The ‘Schafer girls’ or ‘Schafer sisters’ were Gisela and Hugo’s first cousins. They were the daughters of Berta Schafer Jellinek’s brother, Max Schafer and Max’s wife, Paulina Schafer. You can read more about Frieda Schafer Epstein, Irma Schafer Morberger, Elsa Schafer Skoutajan and Gabriella Schafer Steiner on The Schafer Sister’s Biography page.

29. It does not become clear from the context of this sentence, what is sent and what weekly confirmation is meant here. (LJ)

30. Putzi and Putzerl were affectionate and diminutive nicknames for Anna Jellinek, Hugo’s youngest daughter and thus,Gisela J. S.’s niece.

31. These few lines are the only lines in the entire letter in which Gisela writes of her and Poldi’s own need for emigration.

32. From Gisela’s mention of the Tiefenbrunns here and in other letters, we can ascertain that the Tiefenbrunn family were Jewish, and were good friends and neighbors of the Jellinek family in Hollabrunn.

33. Gisa (Gisella Nadja) had to sneak ashore in the night, to evade the British patrols who did not allow the Jewish immigrants to enter Palestine. She had to discard any identifying information into the sea before her group waded ashore.

34. Gisa and the one leftover brother

35. Max Jellinek was Gisela and Hugo’s youngest brother.

36. Hofman is unknown, and unfortunately, the copy of Gisela’s letter to him is no longer extant.

37. Willy Jellinek was already then imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp. Willy was Gisela and Hugo’s first cousin, once removed; that is, Willy was the grandson of Jetti Jellinek, who was the sister of Gisela and Hugo’s father, Siegmund Jellinek. Jetti’s son Oskar Jellinek, and still another woman named Berta Jellinek, were Willy’s parents.

38. Karl is most probably referring to the imminent receipt of affidavits from the US, which, at this time, he would have probably assumed would assure subsequent receipt of the requisite visas for entrance into the US. Fortunately, this assumption proved correct for Karl, Kreindel/Karla and Michaela, but because of the Roosevelt Administration and the US State Deptartment’s, increasingly restrictive, obstructionist and anti-semitic immigration policies, hundreds of thousands of Jews and others did not receive US visas in time to escape murder by the Nazis and their collaborators.[PJ]

39. Karl may have used “. . . schneiden sie Geld” - (engl. “they are cutting money”) idiomatically here, to mean that the “Aryans” were making money from their discriminatory, abusive ‘transactions’ with Jews, such as forced taxation and seizure of property. Other similar, more literal meanings of “. . . schneiden Geld” in this context, could be “cutting down,” or “reducing” the money of Jewish people, or “reaping” money from new unjust appropriations from Jewish people.

40. As noted earlier, Miron Nadel, was Karl, Gisela and Hugo’s brother-in law, by his marriage to their younger sister, Anna Jellinek (Nadel). He was a photographer and the owner of a photography studio in Vienna. He escaped from Vienna to Sydney, Australia — without his photographic equipment — but with hiis wife, Anna, their daughter, Trude, and all of their lives! He was able to acquire new equipment and open a successful photographic studio in Sydney.