Monday, August 31, 2015

March 31, 1940: Mama Illness

Letter from Ella to Opa


Berlin Charlottenburg, March 31st, 1940

My boy, my beloved Henschenboy:

So much joy I have not had for such a long long time, when finally your letter came today, the first one since December, or was it the beginning of January, and it took only about 10 days to get here.

So you should have gotten my letters as well.
Henschenboy I believe I have not written to you for almost 3 weeks. You can imagine in what state I have been running around, but your letter today has put some life back into me.

From Patti I received a letter beaming with happiness. Now I have calmed down about her and I am happy with her. The in-laws seem to be dear people, and I wish so much that her happiness will last for her whole life.

Your letters in which you wrote about your exams, about Patti’s engagement and the planned car trip, as you mentioned today, have not reached me yet. I think that now the mail service will work better.

Henschenboy where did you get a car? Does it belong to a friend or can one lease one for a day? In my thoughts I made the trip with you and I am happy that it was nice.

Are you by now able to ride? (I think it says horseback riding) Or do you have to learn it a bit? I can see my boy racing through the land on such a wild horse!

Henschenboy also be careful when driving a car. Naturally I am always worried, because as you know it is the Mama Illness to worry. For Mamas always think, that when they are not able to watch their children, it does not work right. But I know Henschenboy that both of you are doing very well without Mama now, and that I can rely on you.

Patti and Papa wrote me that you are progressing well in your work. Great!! Henschenboy it would be a crying shame (actually the same words on German) if you would have to discontinue your studies, maybe there is a chance for you to earn some money, as well as study. Naturally you should not over exert yourself.

Little Henschenboy How much I would love to be with all of you. I know you are doing all you can do, so I can come! By now it is very very urgent for me, and therefore I beg you to do everything possible, so maybe I could get to an in-between country first!!!!!!!!! Please contact Ellenruth immediately, you can reach her through Irving Hirsch or Rose.

A few days ago, Anni came by. She is serving her compulsory year, in a household in Eichkamp (Very nice area close to Berlin) and she likes it there. She looks wonderful, is kind and smart, we talked a lot about you, and I read one of your letters to her. Your very last one has not been returned to me by Patti. We looked at the postcards, all 4, from McPherson and my longing grew stronger and stronger.

You ask what I do in my free time. Luckily I do not have a lot of free time. I give many lessons, and you know how much I love to teach. When I get home I have to correct papers, prepare for the next day, do some household chores, so I do not get together with many people.

All relatives and friends are nice and kind to me. Most of all I see Stiers, Aunt Juling, Habe Yeibl(??)., Emmi Sim., Engels, Loewes, Annchen, and sometimes somebody from the Quakers. Almost every second Sunday Miss Stein is here with that delightful child, which I love very much. Right now Aunt Bertha and Tilly are here, but I sent them to the Engels, so I have silence and peace to write to all of you.

I wrote to you that Lotte Wittkowski was here to see me, I am sure. She helps me a lot, but is very very different from Anni. I have not talked to Hilde W. for a long time. I will write to her in the coming days, and arrange to meet with her, I could not reach her by phone, even after several attempts.

Henschenboy now we will write regularly every week again, since the letters seem to arrive.
I kiss my beloved little one,
Your Mama

You know the term "helicopter parenting"? It's a big deal in parenting circles right now. It's a term to describe parents who are constantly trying to control their children or keep them from having any painful or harmful experiences- to the point at which the children experience very little risk or what we call "life." I don't think Ella qualifies for helicopter parenting as she certainly allowed her children absolute independence- they are in other countries! However, her little safety reminders crack me up and remind me of this term.

Ella has a name for her over-protective behavior: "mama illness" - it's perfect. I laughed at this- hey- at least she's aware of her little obsessions about her kids being safe.

Safety becomes sort of a theme of this letter as Ella's attention turns from praising Opa for his good studies and fun times, to her own urgent need to leave the country. She says "by now it is very very urgent for me" and even talks about getting just into any country to help in the process of getting to either Opa or Patti. 

A side note- this was a common strategy for refugees, sort of a loop-hole. They would go to a country that had more relaxed immigration rules. Then from there they would apply to go to a more desirable country. Germany was bursting at the seams with people trying to leave, and only so many people were allowed into the United States (the "quota"). Going to another country was kind of like going to a different line in the grocery store- only it's like going to the cashier at the pharmacist. You basically had a different set of rules, a different quota (and less people fighting to be in line), and perhaps a better chance at getting to America from a random country that had nothing to do with the war, then say an aggressive country like Germany that would not welcome you back anytime soon. The problem is that it was still tough to get into these countries, and you weren't guaranteed to get to your desired destination. So you could potentially get stuck in a very unfamiliar country without family or friends to support you. Ella was considering this option- which to me shows how urgent she felt the need to get out of Germany. 

She than talks a little about Anni- Opa's crush from the Quaker youth group. She talks so kindly of her- it's sweet how Ella indulges Opa's crush and lets him know how Anni is doing and that she visited and they looked at pictures. I think Ella genuinely liked her, which makes me wonder how much Anni changed from this person to the woman I met in 2013. She was very interesting, but obviously disturbed and scarred by her life experiences. 

Ella stays busy with work so she doesn't have to face the silence, the mama illness, or the fear that is rising in her. She also gets visits from family, friends, neighbors, etc. The list of folks she provides is a list of mostly family. Some names we don't know. I love that Ella sends her company away so she can have peace and quiet to write her letters. Ha.

I wonder if some of her habit of listing all the folks she is in touch with and who pay her visits- if that was an act of protection. She knew her letters were being read by Nazi censors. Perhaps she thought that if she appeared to be connected to a good amount of people from all over (which she was), that she was somehow afforded a layer of protection. She wasn't a nobody that wouldn't be missed. I'm not sure she thought it out quite that detailed, but I'm sure she must have thought about it. 

It seems the letters are flowing easily now, and now Ella shouldn't have to worry as much because she'll hear more often from Opa. We (readers now) know that Germany is only about a month or so away from a large-scale attack on Western Europe that will be frighteningly successful. Who knows how that will affect their ability to get letters back and forth.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

March 29, 1940: A Sense of Urgency

Letter from August to Opa

Amstelveen, March 29, 1940
My dear boy,
I’m going to mail this letter on Monday, because early Tuesday morning the first KLM airplane is supposed to take off for Lisbon, where the mail should end up on the clipper. That would mean that the mail only needs around four days to get from here to New York, five or six all the way to you. The plane leaves two times a week, Tuesday and Sunday evening. Tell me when you get it, and I’ll do the same with your letters. If it works right, we’ll have moved a good bit closer to each other!
Mama still hasn’t gotten anything from you.  What’s wrong? Under these conditions, write here, that’s certainly more reliable and with the new airplane also faster.  
I’ve gotten letters from Mama, from which it’s clear that she wants to get out as soon as possible. What’s behind that, I don’t know, but I take it she’s living in fear of being made to go to Poland too. I suggested to her that she go to Palestine in the meantime, just to get out. She started to, too, I just don’t know if it will work, but she wrote to me that I needed to send her 200 dollars travel money, and as quickly as possible. Naturally, I promised, and have to see how I’ll get it together. The important thing is that the thing works. Besides that she also wrote to Frau Herz in Grenoble about a possibility for her and the Franks in Switzerland, where Frau H. supposedly has connections— for what my opinion is worth, I think it’s hopeless. Mama writes in her letter to Frau Herz that she’d like to do everything she can to get the approval within a month. It surely could be that this deadline has to do with the Franks, who are in much more danger in Güstrow. But that’s just a guess, and the main thing remains that we have to see to it that Mama gets out of there quickly. In any case, in Stier’s letters to Uschi you don’t get the same sense of urgency.
I’m writing all this to you so that you know what’s going on, even though I don’t think there’s anything you can do from there.  
Patti, meanwhile, was in Chalon at her in-laws’ and everything went wonderfully. I’m sure she will have already written to you about that. At the moment I’m waiting on her Paris address, she wants to leave Chalon on the 26th.  
What are you up to, Tall One? Did you survive your dust storm? Answer my last letter quickly, which will possibly get there right after this one. Why am I not getting any pictures? Regular mail is taking up to seven weeks now, so you’ll have to sacrifice the 30 cents. When is my cottage finally going to be ready?

August writes a letter with slightly less anxiety than the last one, although you can tell he is still concerned about Opa's visa and making sure he stays in the United States.

Here is where we get a better picture of how people talked about what was happening to the Jews in Germany. August does not know what to think. I think he struggles between a sense of urgency by what he hears and knows to be true, and a sense of security (albeit false) that those sort of things don't usually happen on a very broad scale. So he's guessing that Ella's sense of urgency has some validity to it, but he doesn't know exactly what to do about it. He promises her $200 travel money, I wonder if he follows through on it. August suggests Palestine (seen as a safe place for Jews to go) and Ella seems to be looking into every chance of getting out of Germany. Switzerland is also a possibility through a friend who might have connections.

In this flurry of activity and fear, people like the American Friends Service Committee and other helpful organizations pop up to help these people. However, so do people who are looking to make a quick buck in scams that lead people to believe that they are getting a ticket out - but really just lose their money. I have read about these scams, but the more I see the fear and reality of the people who are scrambling to find a way out of Hitler's reach, the more these scam artists are making me sick to my stomach.

Everyone agrees that Ella needs to get out- no matter where or how. August is not sure why Ella feels the urgency, but her sister (the Stiers) don't seem to feel that same urgency. I think that it is kind of unusual for August to be this frank about Ella's situation and her frantic desire to get out of Germany, especially since he says that Opa can't really do much about it where he is. However, I do think August is trying to be honest and let Opa realize just how serious the situation is- in case he can do anything.

It looks like August is familiar with the dust storms of Kansas- and Opa is now personally acquainted with them. (I wonder how that first dust storm experience went?!) August is still anxious to hear Opa's response to his letter of questions about the visa and what he is going to do next year. He's pretty much demanded that Opa spend the extra money to have the letter sent airmail rather than by the slower ship. 

In the end, August wants pictures, and to know when his cottage will be ready (his on-going joke that he's going to move to America to a cottage in the woods).

I think August is a little overwhelmed and not so sure what is going to happen. He's trying to get a handle on something concrete- at least hoping that Opa stays safe in the USA. He's trying to make sense of the rumors and the news, and communicate despite unreliable letter delivery. All the while, August knows that the Nazi's are likely to invade in the spring... but when? And how will that go? April is just around the corner.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

March 15, 1940: Everything is Awesome!

Letter from Patti to Opa (with a Post Script from Maurice)


Grenoble, March 15, 1940
My little Hunschenboy,
That was certainly a fine, sweet, little brother letter this time—so sweet and nice and so heartfelt! Thank you so, so much, my little one. Maurice was also really happy about it and concedes to you the right to be my guardian up until our wedding. Only, I don’t want to answer to you now, and not to Maurice later, either.  
I don’t have your letter here now, I sent it to Papa Boy who was getting worried because of your silence, you lazy little bum. I promise you, I’m going to forbid my children from uncle-talk, (or "I won't even let my children call you uncle") I do hope you’ll let them play with your toys, though! Even with Maurice I’m afraid he’s going to have so much fun playing children’s games that he’ll forget about the children.
A few days ago we had a visit from Maurice’s mother, who was very anxious and wanted to see what kind of monster had trapped her little boy. She turned out to like the monster, though, and immediately invited it for the Easter holiday. So I’m going to go stay with them for 8 days in Chalon(...) and then back to Paris, and in June, after exams, we want to get married. I am really, really happy about the visit from his mother, who is a very sweet, smart and simple woman. Without the approval of Maurice’s parents we wouldn’t have been able to get married. For us personally, this formality isn’t important, but it does, after all, have its advantages, and Maurice’s parents and Putschi wouldn’t have it any other way.
Papa wrote to me that you passed your exams with flying colors. I really congratulate you on doing so well. Maybe you’ll actually make something of yourself after all! Maurice, by the way, who knows German very well, only took away the two expressions “impudent beast” and “old goat” from your letter. For that, he also says nice things to me though.   
Don’t complain about the shape of my eyebrows and the color of my lips! First of all, the passport photo is unnatural looking and was ordered from the photo man, second of all, I wear very little makeup, third of all, red cheeks are prettier than pale ones, fourth, my bushy eyebrows were ugly, fifth, all I wanted to do was give them a better shape, sixth, don’t you have anything better to fight with your sister about?!
When are we going to see you, you impudent little badger? I can’t think about my trip to America right now. If by winter the war’s still going on and Maurice has to go away, then maybe for two semesters, but I can’t think about staying there, because Maurice doesn’t want to leave his parents.  
Send me pictures of you and your friends! If you write to me now, send the letter to Paris [area] poste restant [general delivery] since I don’t have an address yet. I’ll write again from Paris, and if I have some time, another really detailed letter beforehand.  
Maurice (his last name is Lamoure, you nosy little thing) also has a few lines to write you.  
Terribly many kisses and two little smacks, 

Grenoble, March 15, 1940
Dear Tom.
Your last letter amused us greatly, and gave us much pleasure. Please excuse me if I only write very briefly now -- but I really have a lot of work. I would very much like to meet you - since we were born the same day and look somewhat alike, I'm sure that we'd get along famously!
I look forward to your next letter and send my brotherly regards, Maurice Lamoure

Patti is really the quintessential older sister. I love it. She writes with sort of a maternal voice to her "fine, sweet little brother." This *thrilled* Opa- I'm sure. At least she gave him the title of guardian even if she made it clear no one got to tell her what to do (way to go Patti!). It's interesting, the person who translated this letter is about my age and made a little footnote on that comment by Patti. She wondered if they were joking since August was still alive (and we would assume the father would play this guardian role). I didn't even see it as odd until I read the footnote. I think this is a subtle sign of the kind of relationship Patti and Opa had with their Father. I think they loved him and felt loved by him, but there was a certain distance there. Patti and Opa acted parental towards each other- I think in a way to fill in some of the gaps. They were all separated at this point, August has been sort of outside the family circle- welcomed- but not part of the inner circle. Ella is sort of the third wheel of the three, as they keep hard truths from her (she's nervous enough). So Patti and Opa take care of themselves, but are there to protect the other if needed. Their relationship continues to fascinate me- the more I read their letters and speak with Helene (Patti's daughter), the more perspective I get on how very close and yet very different they were. 

Patti is playing the happy fiancé role in this letter, laughing about future children, parental approval, and other typical markers of a newly engaged couple. You might have noticed that they were glad to have formal approval from Maurice's parents and Putsch (Ella)- but no mention of August in that part. I don't think it is a purposeful omission to make a point- it's just part of their natural thinking.

It seems that Opa made fun of Patti's shaped eye-brows and lipstick (read: things that make her look like a grown up woman). Patti pretty much tells him to get over it.

Patti plans to go to Paris, take her exams and get married. She mentions traveling to the USA (it seems Opa suggested it) and how she's not sure she could go and stay there long- Maurice wants to stay near his parents. I thought it was interesting that she wrote "if by winter the war is still going on..." I wonder if this was just hopeful thinking and she knew it would likely be longer, or if she really thought it might only last that long? The way Patti talks about America, it's as if she'd planned on going at some point.

This letter is so odd to me- it's almost like a denial letter. She completely ignores the war (except to mention it in passing like this small inconvenience that will last a couple semesters). She talks about going to America like it's easy to do. I know Patti has been careful not to obsess or worry in her letters (so as not to cause worry to the recipients) but this one seems almost too chirpy and happy. Does that make me cynical? I don't know- but I almost feel like she is more nervous and worried about life because she is so chirpy and silly in this letter. It almost feels fake. And Patti does not strike me as a fake person- maybe that's why it feels so off.

I couldn't help but start singing that stupidly catchy song "Everything is Awesome!" It's like Patti is singing that to herself to drown out all the scary parts.

Maurice writes a few lines in French that are kind of awkward- but what do you expect? At least he's writing. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

March 15, 20, 22, 1940: We Got This Covered!

Letter from V.F. Schwalm (President of McPherson College) 
to Kathleen Humbly Hanstein of AFSC


Kathleen Hambly Hanstein
Refugee Section of the American Friendship    
      Service Committee
20 South 12th St.
Philadelphia, Pa.

Dear Miss Hanstein:

The same committee that planned for the coming of Mr. Döppner last year is considering the possibilities for next year. We are attempting to help him find work for the summer and also planning to try to arrange so he can remain here next year. I am hopeful that it may be so arranged.

He is doing quite well and seems to be making satisfactory grades. The poor boy has had some horrid experiences the past few years and we are attempting to be helpful to him. I hope he is happy in his work here.

Very truly yours,

V.F. Schwalm

My take: President Schwalm is basically telling Ms. Hanstein: we got this. He's staying here, he's happy- there's no reason why we can't hang on to him one more year. He's nearly paternal in how he addresses my Opa. I am afraid Opa might have played the victim a little bit, but in this case, it's not the worse thing he could do. It sounds like McPherson is prepared to do what it takes to keep Opa around.

Letter from Kathleen Humbly Hanstein to President V.F. Schwalm


President V.F. Schwalm
McPerson College
McPherson, Kansas

My dear President Schwalm:

I was very glad to receive your letter in regard to Thomas Doeppner, and to see that there is apparently good chance of his being able to remain there through the summer and the coming year. As soon as your plans for him have been definitely worked out, I should appreciate hearing from you again.

Again thanking you for your kind interest in this boy, I am,

Very sincerely,

(Mrs.) Kathleen Hambly Hanstein

Mrs. Hanstein is so relieved that McPherson is ready for another round of Tom Doeppner. If you think about it- this saves her the leg work of figuring out how to get him transferred to another school or get another scholarship. Also - it gives Opa another year to settle in and adjust to American life. SO in a way- this response is a big, fat "Whew!"

Letter from Elmer Dadisman of Student Christian Movement in McPherson College 
to Kathleen Hambley Hanstein of American Friends Service Committee


Dear Mrs. Hanstein:

In response to your letter of a short while back to Dr. V.F. Schwalm, the Student Christian Movement, who sponsored the project to bring Thomas Döppner to our campus this year, has had the matter up for careful consideration, and plans are under way for his support for another year. We expect these plans to be carried on to completion with the same sort of co-operation as of last year.

Will you please get in touch with the State Department immediately for permission for him to stay for another year? We wish that all requirements might be met in due time, and feel that you are better acquainted with the situation as far as the State Department is concerned, and can better correspond with them. Will you kindly let us know how things stand from time to time so that we will have full knowledge of the status of the project?

We have at hand a copy of the sheet "Instructions to be Handed to Each Alien Applying for a Nonquota Visa Under Sec 4(e) as an Immigrant Student". Under requirement 7 concerning his working while in the country, would there be any objection to his working this summer to meet part of his expenses for next year? If his visa should be renewed, would there be any different limitation about his working here during the summer months?

Hoping that we can work together to the successful completion of this project, I am

Sincerely yours,

Elmer Dadisman,
Co-chairman of the Student Christian Movement.

Before Mrs. Hanstein can get too comfortable, she gets her marching orders for Opa's visa work. My guess was she was already on it- but this letter is so detailed, it makes me proud that the folks at McPherson were so well-versed in the visa laws for Opa's sake. I wonder if these folks told their children and grandchildren about this experience, and how convoluted the laws were about immigration. Either way, this is almost like an answer for us to August's anxiety letter: they got this!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

March 13, 1940: Anxiety Letter

Translated by Rosemarie 
Amstelveen, March 13th 1940

Dear Tom,
I thank you for your birthday wishes, which arrived yesterday. Unfortunately my letter was already gone, so I have to send this one now.

I am in a hurry with it, because the closing sentence in your letter worried me. You write, you did not know yet, if you can earn enough, to continue your studies next year. Was that just a careless (sloppy) sentence, or are you trying to say that you are having headaches about how to finance your further studies, and does it mean that perhaps that unconsciously nurture the idea not to continue? In addition to that what do the $400.00 consist of (I think he means what would be covered with that). What do you mean, when you say you would have to earn half of it in the summer? Where will the other half come from? Are you thinking about an additional scholarship? Which leads to the question, how are your chances for a new scholarship?

If I have things straight in my head you have to, after the Mc Pherson year has passed, attend a technical school, and because you were credited with one year, will have 2 years behind you after McPherson.
Or can you, without losing time, stay another year at McPherson? Could it be possible, that you can stay the second year under the same conditions as the first? What steps could you take to get a scholarship to attend a technical school, which will be needed for you?

Please answer all these questions in detail.  If needed, I could for the time being, add some to it. (I think he means money) That would change, if we succeed to get Mama out of Germany, because I would have to support her totally. How much that might be depends on the circumstances, and is absolutely not possible to foresee. But we cannot make any long term plans at all anyways. What is important is, to push through (survive) from one half year to the next. And to be able to do that one has to be determined! Are You?
Or do you have any doubts in regards to your studies? Write to me openly and uninhibited about that!

What is the situation with the Quaker camp?  Are you sure, that later it will count as a practical year for you? Is there a chance, from there, through the Quaker connection, to get a scholarship? Also taking into account, that you would be at the camp during the critical “June and July” time, you know what I mean, and be well taken care of.  

Already now you must take these things into your hands, with all attention and energy, so nothing will go wrong! Please write to me in detail about all this, yes?

Be careful driving a car. Most accidents happen in the early times, just as one starts feeling confident (secure). You know that I during that period had a collision. Actually, the brake malfunctioned, but today I would have taken something like that into account, while driving. The whole thing is a question of responsibility. How are you doing in school? I assume they will give stricter (Stronger) marks or has it been terribly strict already? Most of all give me exact figures for all alternative conditions (situations).
For one half a scholarship, and three quarters, etc.


This anxiety ridden letter made it all the way across the Atlantic and half the United States into Opa's hands. I'm absolutely sure it was written in complete and total concern and care for Opa's future and well-being. 

However. If I had received this letter from across the Atlantic ocean and half the continent- I would perhaps have had to breathe in and out and count to ten... or maybe yelled out in annoyance. After everything that Opa had done and been responsible for, here was a letter with nothing but question marks and a frantic feeling of the other shoe dropping. This might just be my knee jerk reaction, I know August sincerely cared and was genuinely concerned that his son would lose everything he had worked for.

The sensitive June-July time that August mentioned is (I'm making an educated guess) that time when his current visitor's visa expires. August shows his confidence in the Quakers by his hope that Opa will be under their care and watchful eye in that time. 

The main gist of this letter is August trying to figure out what Opa's next step is- and seeing how he can be a support in that. I think it is interesting that a lot of people are thinking about Opa's future right about this same time frame. 

I think Opa may have resented August's comment about supporting Ella if she does make it out of Germany. August was supposed to be paying alimony and child support after the divorce, and according to Helene (Patti's daughter)- the general knowledge was that August did not keep up with that support. 

Either way- anxiety travels even over the decades, as I see this letter today and get an anxious feeling from it. I understand it, if Opa were my son and I knew he had the chance of being shipped back to Germany just as the war was ramping up- I'd be pretty anxious about it too.

Talk about a lot of pressure- don't just keep your studies up- make sure you don't get deported back to Nazi Germany!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

March 11, 1940: No Hundsgemeinheit Here!

Letter from August to Tom (Opa)

Translation- (and I'm going to comment throughout the letter this post):
Translated by Rosemarie

Amstelveen, 11 March 1940

My dear TALL ONE,

A few days after our exchange of telegrams, your long letter of February 2nd arrived. And at the same time the official notice from the college of your exam results. To be on the safe side, give them my complete address, because they wrote “Amstelveen” only. I congratulate you to the results, which considering your difficult circumstances, are extraordinary good, and made me very happy.  Emma spoke proudly about it, when the Buurman’s were here for my birthday. So now I have ½ century behind me. 

FINALLY someone finds out Opa's exam scores!! It took the school mailing his results, but hallelujah- he did well! Something for August to brag about on his 50th birthday (really young if you think about it!).

What do you say about our Patti? 1 ½ years ago, I met the boy at the Cøte. (I think he is talking about the French Riviera) He is very nice and intelligent, although he looks a lot like you, was born on the same day and studies Math. Isn’t that peculiar? I assume that Patti wrote to you about everything. The two of them are happy and want to get married as soon as circumstances allow. Pretty soon he will be drafted, and who knows what the future will bring. Naturally, at first Mama was frightened (startled), but now she seems to have accepted it. I would have liked it differently also, but considering the situation in Europe, one cannot say much about it. Both are decent people and that’s what counts. In any case, now she is not so much alone, even though they have to part again now, because she is going to Paris for her exams.

It is kind of odd and yet not that Patti found someone who is a little like her brother. (They even share the same exact birthday!) In a sweet way, we all sort of look for positive attributes in our companions that we admire in our family members. August is supportive of Patti's relationship, and confirms that Ella is too- although they both had their misgivings about it. It was odd because as I was reading this, I was thinking- oh- Patti will kind of be like the war brides we hear about from way back.... wait- this is the same time period.... Patti was going to be a war bride! In America, before the men went off to war, they married their girlfriends because no one knew what was going to happen in the future. It was this energy of "seize the day" because tomorrow was so unpredictable. Now that I'm combining my perception of the war brides in the United States and Patti's experience, it just puts flesh and blood and personality on those events. Of course those people got married. Why the hell not?! Everyone was just waiting for the hammer to fall in the "spring offense"- so why not grab all the happiness you could get now? Even August and Ella get this.

Your letter of February 10th has been the only one for the last 6-7 weeks, that came here or to Mama. Also the one, in which you wrote to Mama about your Exams, is still missing. It is really better if you send everything through me. Your letters give me great joy, my boy! I passed on the most important details to Mama, also to Patti, and read only the general things to Emma. Don’t you have to start thinking about your extension? Write to me about that! By taking all in account, you have to use all possibilities, to not be put on a ship.  

August tells Opa to send everything to him (likely because he thinks mail from the USA to Germany is taking longer than it would if he received it and then sent it along). However, he follows that command with the statements that he sent the highlights of his February 10th letter to Mama and Patti and just the general stuff to Emma. Perhaps he is censoring on Opa's behalf- but if I were a 20 year old boy, I would prefer to do my own censoring. Not that it matters because they all seem to swap all his letters anyway. It's a little bit funny (and expected) that Emma doesn't get many details.

August is concerned about Opa's visa extension. Opa was only technically given seven months upon arrival, which means he has three months left at the end of March (the month this letter was written in). That's not a lot of time, I see why August would be anxious. He tells Opa to do all he can to keep from being shipped back. I imagine August is also keeping in mind the threat of a spring offense from the Germans, and so Opa's ability to stay put in the USA is especially pertinent.

The Leap Year story was a lot of fun. In regards to your old ties here, that is something you naturally have to decide yourself. Personally I don’t think you have any obligation, when a new experience is really strong, and mutual comes to you. For all that you were way too young in Berlin. In regards to the other lighter (easier) things, they are personal views and beliefs, and depend on the partner. But you do know you have to be very cautious over there? I do not see a “Hundsgemeinheit” (lovely long German word!! Treating somebody like a dog) to Anni in that. Only you may never promise something you will or cannot keep.  

I love that Opa is telling his Dad about his girl problems. It seems like he is flirting with or interested in some girls state-side and feels a sense of obligation to Anni. The irony, of course, is that he has kissed Gisela, and Annie has not returned his affections. Either way- August gives Opa permission to flirt and cautions him not to make any promises he can't keep. I love the long German word that means "to treat someone like a dog." We need some more words like this in English! Not so sure why Opa is looking for romance advice from his Dad who is married to his mother's cousin.

Europe is in a state of light tension again.  The disgusting Ribbentropf in Rome, negotiators from Finland in Moskau (Moskow?). The whole world is waiting for the results, and in spring, which starts next week, will bring the great offensive. I really cannot believe in a Nazi Offensive in the West, because the allied defense is much too strong.  One has to wait and see if the Allies in Finland and at the Baltic Sea will act. Here in Holland things are fairly quiet. Too much speaks against a Nazi Attack, Holland has strengthened his defenses very much. Perhaps soon we will know more.

So after this mention of Ribbentropf, I decided to do some light research. I say light because I am not an expert on this man or all his shenanigans, but I did at least learn a few things. One is this: NO one liked him except Hitler himself. Apparently Ribbentropf was sort of what I like to call a "tool box." He was a suck-up and had a lot of bluster and hot air and not a whole lot of substance. Despite what seems to be his reputation for being a fool- Hitler loved the guy and kept him close as a foreign minister. Ribbentropf did a great job at making a fool of himself in many countries, being as demanding as a rock star without a concert to offer. NO one liked him. Oh, except Stalin, because they hated the British together. But if your top two admirers are Hitler and Stalin and your common ground is hatred... I think things are not good. Ribbentropf was also one of the first to be hung for his war crimes at Nuremburg, and none of his Nazi colleagues were that upset about it. Really sort of a sad existence. 

I'm getting ahead of myself. So when August says that the "disgusting Ribbentropf" is in Rome (negotiating some foreign alliance with Mussolini)- he is joined by most folks in rolling his eyes. All of these movements and talks are just the slow falling into place of alliances, enemies, pacts, agreements, and general political maneuvering that is paving the way for what we know as the ultimate Axis and Allies of World War II. 

Everything here is running smoothly as usual.  Emma sends packages to Anneken, To Mama, Heiner and Hilde regularly, mostly butter, bacon and coffee. By their reactions we can see, that these things are really needed, especially since the Jews receive less than the Noble Race. Hans and Hilde seem to have a chance to go to Palestine. I do not see a way for Ella yet. My office will move in one week, so write to Amstelveen, til I give you the new address. Also write to me about the length of travel for that letter.

Emma has the job of sending packages to their German relatives of extra supplies that are rationed in Germany, but more available to August and Emma. Anneken (August's sister) is not Jewish, but the rest on that list are and their access to the goods mentioned are significantly limited. August's sarcasm about the "Noble Race" is sharp. He mentions Hans and Hilde may have a chance to go to Palestine. This was a common place for Jews to flee- in fact, this area was where today's nation of Israel was formed. Hilde was Emma's sister, so Hans was her brother in law. Their move to Palestine seems hopeful, however Ella's path is still very muddy.

Amsterdam will get an AIR-ROUTE to Lissabon, which would be great, but who knows what will happen in between again.  

Emma sends hearty greetings, she laughed a lot about your laundry and ironing story. - Hopefully your other letters will drift in soon. How are your three vices:  Zits, Bad (poor) language, Hands-in-the-face?

Poor Emma, she just isn't part of the crew. She tries. Poor Opa- August starts to wrap up his letter with mention of his zits- which I guess is part of why Emma obsessed over him having his hands on his face? It does make me sort of chuckle thinking about Opa with all the typical trappings of a young adult: zits, parents with too many questions, and girl problems. Life still moves in similar ways throughout time.

How was the Winter? How is the spring? Say hello to the Indians, your Wife and all other comrades. There was no Photo enclosed! And when will we get photos of you? Three, one for Mama, Pat and me?

To clarify: the Indians are indeed the native americans, and I'm pretty sure that was August's attempt at a joke. It is very similar to how my Dad attempts to be funny. The "Wife" I now understand from previous letters is Opa's roommate and that is what they called each other at McPherson College. 

Now all Opa has to do is push his letters across the Atlantic with greater effectiveness and put three photos in them for the family to gawk at.