Saturday, August 1, 2015

December 26, 1939: Very Quiet and Terribly Tired

Original Letter from Ella to Tom

Translation (notes written by Rose, translator) :
Dec. 26th 1939

My very beloved Henschen-boy,

That was quite a scare! Hopefully by now you are totally healthy again. I have the impression that they are taking good care of you, and the fact that everybody is nice to you and likes you is of great comfort to me. (calms me)
But that I could not sit at your bedside and take care of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please write right away how you are doing.

It’s Christmas here today.(In Germany we have the 24th,the 25th and also the 26th of Dec, all are legal holidays.)
I am so terribly longing for you.(I think miss you would be a better translation)
On Saturday Mr. Haller came by. Brought me a potted flowering cyclamen, and a nice letter from Gis, who works at a children’s home nearby, but did not have time off.

(Cyclamen come in pink, white and red, they are popular houseplants in Berlin. They prefer cool surroundings, perfect to place on the windowsills in older buildings. My mother used to have them also)
Unfortunately I was not at home, went to Annchen’s after classes for a little while, who went to Frankfurt for the holidays. I would have loved to see Mr. Haller. Hopefully it will work out next Saturday, when I plan to see the Friends.

I will write right away on Sunday. Today I am at the Stier’s, very quiet and terribly tired.
I could not make a little package (I think she means present) for my boy, it pains me very much, but my love and longing go to you, and my heartfelt wishes for your happiness.
May your life be beautiful and full of meaning. (The word Inhalt means contents the opposite of empty, I think, I could not find the proper English word)
Henschenboy, if you write to Egon and others here, enclose the letters with mine, I will forward them.
Kurt’s address
Varese, Via Luigi B 20
He was in Rome for a few days ,but then returned to Varese where he will remain for the time being.

Hanna is at a Quaker school close to Phildelphia. In my next letter I will send you her address.

I thank you, Henschenboy, that you wrote to me so lovingly and in detail. Please, please keep doing that! Right away I sent your letter to Papa and Patti and can’t wait to have it returned to me.

Your last letter was dated Dec.3rd, and I am waiting every day for the fotos of McPherson.
I want so much to know what it looks like where my boy is now.

Henschenboy you go ahead and go to church with them. Everything is good where good people gather with good intentions.
Great that you have so many stimulating chances, the German professor seems to be very nice to you I am grateful that he helps you.
Ellenruth and her husband arrived safely in New York, day before yesterday they sent a cable.

So, my beloved child be embraced and kissed by your Mama.
Stier’s send greetings

Cyclamen plant

It’s Christmastime for Ella, and she spends her holidays with her sister and brother-in-law (the Stier’s). She wrote “Today I am at the Stier’s, very quiet and terribly tired.”

I think there is a lot in this phrase. I think she means that she herself is quiet and tired, but it would work if the whole Stier family joined her in exhaustion- as they really must have. Ellen Ruth, the Stiers’ daughter, had emigrated to New York just that month and they probably were experiencing some of the same emotions as Ella. Also, there w
as some tension between Ella and her sister Marta. I'm not exactly sure what they were, but I get the impression that she visited and called on them out of obligation. Marta and her husband Erich were more connected with the Jewish community, perhaps Ella's lack of religious practice and divorce made her a bit of a black sheep?

The next part is telling of what she is going through- she cannot make a package (or send a present) for her son for Christmas. I know she’s Jewish- but my guess is that they celebrated a Christmas gift exchange when Opa was growing up. So for her to not send a present, especially this mother that is so very doting, she must have really been struggling. 

Many of the laws from the Nuremberg race laws (Hitler's first line of offense against the Jews) not only named a race to be separate and disgraced, but it also purposely created financial burdens to disenfranchise a group of people. Ella was among those. I wish we knew more about the real detail of what she endured in Germany after Opa left. All we know are her doting letters that leave out any great personal detail other than her love of her children. Of course, this one detail is why she did not tell Opa about her woes and her struggles. My guess is she wanted to shelter him from the ugliness so that he could enjoy his freedom and education. She lived, thrived, on information from her children, on their happiness. It has been a year and a half since she had seen Opa...and longer than that since she had seen Patti, her daughter.

Very quiet and terribly tired. She mentions going to Annchen’s (August’s sister) house on Saturday, but that Annchen
went to Frankfurt for the holidays. Does that mean she went to her house to be away from her own? Or did Annchen have some comforts that she no longer could afford? Or maybe I’m reading too much into this and Annchen was back this day and they were just visiting.

Either way, Ella is going through life with little to hope for at home, but full investment in her son’s life, his freedom, his happiness.

I do enjoy her blessing that he goes to church: “Henschenkind, you go ahead and go to church with them. Everything is good where good people gather with good intentions.” Sound advice we all could hear.

The year is almost over, and so many things have changed drastically in a year.  Change makes for exhaustion, and the kinds of changes taking place for Ella must have indeed made her very quiet.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I would love to hear feedback! Share your thoughts and your stories.