Friday, July 24, 2015

December 11, 1939: Sad Ella

Original Letter from Ella

Translation by Rosemarie:

Berlin Charlottenburg, Dec. 11, 1939

My much beloved boy,

Today I send only a short note ,because I am very tired. You know how that happens to me, and I start to talk foolishly.

Henschenchild,after receiving your letter I feel calm and comforted, when I think of you, but I just want to be with you!

Ellenruth left yesterday, over Oslo to New York. As soon as she arrives she will write to you.

Saying good bye was terribly hard for her and all of us. I trust her husband will do everything to help her to get over the pain of separation.

Henschenchild, I sent your letter to Papa and Patti and received it back. In the meantime Papa had a letter from you directly, he does not seem to want to send it to me, perhaps because you wrote the same things you had written to me. Nevertheless I asked him for it.
Everybody here is asking about you, I am to tell you hello from all, Emmi S., Lietz, Lise, Mrs. R., Loewes. I had to give a detailed report to the Franks, they were so happy about your last card.
Tomorrow is Aunt Berta’s birthday. This week is Chanuka. I will light the candles, will sit in front of them, sadly, full of longing for all of you.

When I came home the first evening, feeling sad, I found a surprise. Mrs.R. had lit the candles and left a lovely present for me. In a leather case a set of paring tools for fruit, and paper napkins, for the journey. So all that is missing is the affidavit, which Ellenruth will try to get. So I had a lovely evening, I am grateful for these little gifts.

So, my henschenchild, here quickly take this good night kiss.

Sleep well, awake happy and work cheerfully.

Your Mama

So my title is not all that hopeful or creative, and likely there are many of these kind of titles to come... but.... she is... just sad.

Ella has little energy and keeps her note short for fear of rambling in her sadness. I do not understand the circumstances that Ella is experiencing, but I do have some experience with the emotional fatigue that depression and loneliness can offer. Your body is sapped, your spirit is so low that every positive thing you say feels trite. Your words swarm together like mindless bees without a purpose. You fear the darkness that lies underneath and the safest thing is to silence it.  

I think it is appropriate to share/remind in this posting that we figured out what “henschenkind” means.  Opa’s niece, Helene (his sister’s daughter), wrote me
to explain an epiphany she had:änschen_klein 
Hi again,For some reason I remembered a German song that my mother sang to me that I know her mother sang to her and to Tom very often: about Hänschen (pronounced Henschen) or little Hans = Everyboy who goes out into the world all alone, and this makes his mother cry, and so to make his mother happy, he comes back. I believe it was (?is still) one of the most common, if not the most common, children's song in German. It still rings in my ears!
The association with Henschenkind had to have been very clear...
xx Helene

This of course makes the word infinitely more meaningful, nuanced, sad, and beautiful. I think the song sort of courses through this particular letter. Not that Ella wants her child back in the dangers of Germany, but that her longing for his possible return (and Patti’s as well) is nearly too much for her to bear. She longs for them to be together and Home.  

Ella mentions Chanuka- plans to light the candles and remember sadly her family stretched far away. I love that she comes home one night to these candles already lit, with a present to cheer her spirit.
The present is a symbolic present to give Ella hope that she will go to America. The more I think of the present, the more beautiful it is. The shears are tools for harvest of fruit trees which take a long time to grow and bear fruit. It is extremely impractical for Ella now (she lives in an apartment), but immeasurably hopeful that one day she will live somewhere long enough and free enough that she will pick fruit from her own trees. The paper napkins for the journey- I'm not sure what those are- but again they represent hope that Ella will have a journey to a new home. 

This act of kindness- turned a small light on in her heart.  I wonder if in her loneliness Ella turned more to her inherited faith, as ironic as that must seem in the light of the present persecutions.

“All that is missing is the affidavit”- Ella’s only hope towards freedom from German persecution, and reunion perhaps with her henschenkind.
A reminder, an affidavit is a very specific type of document, one that an American citizen signs to affirm that they will be responsible for the immigrant, even financially responsible. This had to be backed by bank statements showing financial ability and letters of good standing by community members. To get a good affidavit, you basically needed to have wealthy and well-respected family or relatives already living in America. This was obviously a challenge for many who had no one in America. There were loopholes and people willing to sign affidavits, but they were rare and complicated to get a hold of. We'll mention more in detail about this later.

Ella leaves Opa with wishes and hopes that she might hope for herself: “sleep well, awake happy, and work cheerfully.”

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