Friday, March 28, 2014

May 10, 1939: Opa's Version of a Request

Letter from Opa (Tom) to Mr. Martin


Thomas Döppner

    Emmakade 8


Dear Mr. Martin,

May I write to you asking for another favor?

The American Friends Service Committee, to whom you sent my letter of December 13, has written to several American universities, in order to gain my admission to the university or even a scholarship for me. Now Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, has replied that my name is being considered for a scholarship alongside several others. They have asked me to send them my school certificates, résumé, and a few references. Through acquaintances I have obtained a very nice letter of recommendation from Professor Albert Einstein, who, however, does not know me personally. Could I ask you to send a personal letter of recommendation for me to Oberlin College, addressed to Miss Helen-Mary Forbush, as well as a copy to Miss Charlotte S. Salmon, Placement Worker Refugee Section of the American Friends Service Committee?

I would like to thank you most sincerely in advance. I’m sure you can imagine how much help this would be to me, and how much I long to finally be able to begin my studies.

With warmest regards to you and your family,

August wrote Mr. Pinkley a letter requesting a recommendation for his son one day before this letter. It is pretty straight-forward with some cheeky August-isms in it. This is Opa’s version of asking for a letter of recommendation. Unknown to him, Charlotte has already sent a blank for a recommendation to Albert Martin's wife, Anne Martin, (or maybe he knows) but multiple requests won’t hurt.

Opa outlines very nicely that the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has been diligently working on his behalf, thanks to Opa’s (December 13) letter Mr. Martin forwarded them. Now there is some forward movement, namely Oberlin has expressed interest in Opa.

Opa mentions the recommendation from Albert Einstein with some humility and gratefulness, but manages to make a recommendation from Mr. Martin sound better. Mr. Martin knows Opa personally, and therefore Opa thinks it would be beneficial if he could send a personal recommendation to Helen-Mary Forbush at Oberlin and the AFSC.

Opa does the “thank you most sincerely in advance” trick as well (August thanked Pinkley in advance)- but this one sounds a little more genuine to me. Maybe it’s my own reading into it- but I sense a real warmth from Opa to Mr. Martin, where August’s letter to Mr. Pinkley was more of a professional colleague- at the water cooler- feeling.

Opa sends warm regards to the Martin family. I get the sense that Opa is really hopeful, and a little anxious, to set sail for the US and continue with his studies, and his life- which has been rudely disturbed by the Nazi regime.

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