Thursday, August 13, 2015

January 31, 1940: Connections

Original Letter from Ella to Tom
(Note, again, the red censor's stamp on the pages)

Translated by Rose

January 31st, 1940 
Nr. 12 (letter number 12)

My beloved boy, yesterday was Clipper day (the airmail must have arrived on certain days, Ella mentions it in her other letters!), but there was no letter from my henschenboy. I waited all day long to be able to reply right away, so today I got up earlier to send you a note. Sadly enough I cannot wait for the first mail delivery, but I am sure you have written.

(At one time the German post office delivered once in the morning and then again in the evening, so I think she had hoped to find a letter before she had to leave for work)

I am so glad, my little big one (which is usually used for the oldest child, my mother used to call me the little big one, I am 6 years older than my sister) that you feel content and comfortable there. All these days I was thinking, if my henschenboy is taking his exams! And if I would have loved to especially care for you and would have been also especially loving to you.

Have you passed them?

And if not, it would have been not so bad, the time was too short. It is most important, that you have done everything to learn as much as possible.

It gives me pleasure that you filled your holidays with work. You had such a long recovery time, that I understand well how much joy the work gives you, especially when you feel the success.

Henschenboy, Patti was very very happy about your letter, it was written so sweet and endearing. (She actually uses the anhaenglich which means being attached)

For all of us this separation was not needed to be aware of the knowledge how close we are to each other, we knew that already.
Henschenboy, when will we see each other again?

Patti has been gone for 3 years and you for 1 ½. I don’t want to be without you anymore! Papa is also longing for you! He now writes to me so nicely! The other day he sent me a package, and right now there stands a wonderful cup of coffee beside me, which I also drink with relish in the morning, sent by Papajung.

Henschenboy please continue to write to me in all details as before, I would love to receive a short daily report about your Inner and Outer life!!!

As soon as I have read your letters, I read them to Ann’chen, then send them to Amstelveen, from there they go to Patti and then I receive them back.

When you write to me about something special, about Anni for example, and you are afraid that it will be passed on, write it on an extra page.

On Saturday I visited the Quakers. Gisela’s father read from the writings of Albert Schweitzer. Then Frank told me that Gisela received a letter from you. I think she will come by during the next few days, and tell me about it. She is very very busy and has little free time. I have not heard from Anni at all.
Hilde W. will also come soon, I just have to tell her when I have the free time.

They all like you so very much, henschenboy.
Did I ever tell you that Gudrun has gotten married? She seems to be very happy. Sadly enough I was not at home when she stopped by.
On Sunday M??? some family name, came to visit. Rose was very upset that she did not know about your stay in New York. She would have been very happy to talk to you, naturally would have picked you up from the ship, and stayed with you as long as possible.

Say, henschenboy Did you know that we have relatives in New York? Real cousins of mine, sons of my Mama’s brother.
Irving J, Hirsch
4364 171 st. Flushing Long Island, N.Y.
The other one Edwin Lester Hirsch 29 Moshula Parkway North Bronx, N.Y.
Especially the first one appears to be very nice, as Ellenruth writes. They look after Ellenruth and her husband quite a lot. I think it would be nice and correct if you would write to them. The mother is also still alive, Aunt Hennie. Rose also has contact with them.
I too, will hopefully convince myself to contact them. I wish so very much to be with all of you!!!

So, my beloved boy, I have to leave now.
I think when I come home there will be mail from you!

I kiss my beloved child
Your Mama

Say hello to everybody who is nice to you!!
Rose’s address: Mrs. Rose Grassmann
c/o Lyons
205 w. 103RD St
New York N.Y
Ann’chen (or Anneken) sends greetings also Mrs. Rutstadt.
From Aunt Marta I am to always tell you a special hello.

“When you part from your friend,
you grieve not;

For that which you love most in him
may be clearer in his absence,
as the mountain to the climber
is clearer from the plain.”

I doubt that Ella would say she did not grieve the parting of her family, but this quote came to my mind when reading this letter.

There is a moment in the letter after Ella talks of how much Patti loved Opa’s sincere, “attached” letter, where Ella says “For all of us this separation was not needed to be aware of the knowledge how close we are to each other, we knew that already. Henschenboy, when will we see each other again?” Everything about that paragraph connected my heart to this family. Patti's selective word for this feeling was "attached"- and how beautiful is that?! She felt attached, connected, through Opa's letter to her- he wrote it out of attachment to her. Ella continues this feeling when she names that bond and love they share. Then she echoes her refrain: "when will we see each other again?" That line makes my heart ache. She has been gone from Opa one and a half years and Patti for three years.

I think the special bond that this small family had was highlighted, if maybe only because of the surrounding darkness. The family is writing about their “inner and outer life” to each other. How often do we get a chance to write or talk honestly about anything in our lives? How often do we get to see the strength of our relationships despite the unraveling of the world around us? I don’t wish for the darkness to surround me, but it gives me hope that my family at a dark time in history, had the ability to shine.

Ella is almost obsessed with making connections. For Opa, for herself, for her family. She even gets a package from August, a sincere move of friendship and caring in hard times. My heart is warmed by the love that is shared. Ella lists all the connections of friendship and family. I wonder why she seems to hesitate to contact her family in New York. Didn’t she need an affidavit, or letter of support from someone in the US in order to solidify any chance of moving there? Perhaps she felt it was rude to contact with such a request.

She mentions Anni and Gisela, and now that I have been to Berlin and had the miraculous chance to meet both of these women, I understand this all so much better now. As I've mentioned before, there was a it of a love triangle here. Gisela loved Opa, Opa loved Anni, Anni loved Werner (who died in the war). We know that Gisela and Opa shared a kiss in a spur-of-the-moment gesture that meant more about friendship and loss than romance. We know that Opa still thought fondly about Anni, and it seems he was writing to his mother about his feelings. This makes sense as Patti likely didn't know Anni that well, August was probably not the person Opa talked about romance with, and Ella was a willing listener for all things private- and she would keep it confidential.

I'm grateful for all the visitors that Ella has, especially those outside the Jewish community. I wonder if Ella, knowing her letters were being read by Nazi censors, was emphasizing her many visits with non-Jewish folk to provide an extra layer of hiding and protection.

Either way, Ella was all about those she loved, those she grew close to, and those who despite the distance, still held her heart tight. Our connections make our experiences of life what they are. They give us meaning, purpose, and especially for Ella, hope.

Researcher’s Note:
Hey All...just a researching aside. The cousins that Ella mentions, Irving and Edwin, we had never heard of and knew nothing of them before the translation of this letter. In searching, we found that their parents were Hermann and Hettie Hirsch. Hermann is Sara Hirsch’s (Ella’s mother’s) brother. Hermann emigrated to the US very early (1880’s I think). Irving married Leah London and had two children. Irving died younger and Leah then married his brother, Edwin. Both Irving’s children are not living anymore, but I have spoken with and been in touch with Irving’s grandson, Rick, and at some point will share a little more about Irving and Leah’s story (a neat one).

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