Monday, October 12, 2015

June 29, 1940: Isolated Freedom

Letter from  Annaiese Thieman of American Friends Service Committee to Opa


June 29, 1940
Mr. Thomas Doeppner,
McPherson College,
McPherson, Kansas

Re: Ella Doeppner

My dear Mr. Doeppner:

We received your letter of June 3rd regarding your mother's immigration problems but also things have changed since that time to such a considerable extent we have not yet been in touch with the different addresses, because no transportation facilities are available at present and there is no saying as to when they may become available again.

I want to correct one misunderstanding and that is that a person who gives an affidavit for a prospective immigrant has not at all to be an American citizen. The question is merely one of financial responsibilities and if you have friends or relatives who came over a while ago but would financially be able to give an affidavit for your mother they certainly can do so. The American citizenship is important for preference quota and as soon as you would be an American citizen you could get your mother on first preference which only takes a few months - but I am afraid you are still too far away from that.

As to Holland we have not heard from our Center since the invasion but just the other day we heard from a so-called "Aryan" young girl who had married a Jewish man after the German laws were enforced that she so far has not been molested in Holland and hopes to be able to emigrate. We have no information about possibilities of transferring money from Holland to Germany but redoubt very much that it can be done.

We think that immigration possibilities from Germany to Palestine are nil at present but at a later date one perhaps could take up possibilities for transit stay for your mother at the Dominican Republic with Mr. George Warren of the International Migration Service of 122 East 22nd Street, New York City, New York. If you think that those friends whose addresses we have would be able to raise at least $2,000 for your mother it might not be quite impossible to get her into Santo Domingo temporarily - but all this unfortunately is rather theoretical at the present time. I hope to hear from you again if and when you have found information or suggestions.

Sincerely Yours,

Anneliese Thieman

P.S. Since this letter was dictated your letter of June 26th arrived. I think you are right- it is a little early for your cousin's friend to prepare a affidavit of support for your mother, but it probably would be of quite some encouragement for her to know that somebody in this country is willing to send these papers.

I do not think that the people in McPherson who told you that the German quota is not even filled are right. According to the present status the German quota is filled for sex to seven years to come and even though a number of people at present may not be able to leave the immigration number of your mother would not be called that much sooner. If you would inquire at the American Consulate you no doubt would get the reply that your mother will have to wait for several years until her quota number is reached. I certainly would not suggest that you already try to prepare the necessary affidavit papers.

At present the passage possibilities from Europe to this country are very restricted. The American Export Line stops in Lisbon but neither Spain nor Portugal at the present time admit German Jewish refugees for transit stay. There is still the possibility of going via the Trans-Siberian Railroad but we do not recommend traveling that route in particular not is the traveller is an older person. Once a month a small boat leaves Petsuma, Finland, for New York City but that is sold out for months to come.

We feel pretty sure that until your mother's number will be called up the world situation would have changed again and there is nothing which we can do right now in regard to your mother's immigration.

Sincerely yours,

Anneliese Thieman

This is the second letter like this that Opa has gotten. This letter is even more final with the last line reading: "there is nothing which we can do right now in regard to your mother's immigration."

When Anneliese starts talking about some temporary stay in the Dominican Republic, I knew she was stretching for ways. You can tell that the American Friends Service Committee have literally searched every route and loophole. They know the exit of one tiny boat from Finland, they even have the Siberian railroad as a not-so-good possibility. The thing that is keeping Ella stuck in Berlin: the quota system. She is years in line. Opa's false hope that perhaps the line was going by faster because people couldn't get the required affidavits gets squashed. Anneliese says that even if people aren't getting out, it still won't get Ella out sooner. 

I do remember reading somewhere that the US actually didn't get their "quota" filled each year, and it was because of how impossible it was to get out of Europe and into the United States.

What do you do with a letter like this? What did Opa do? In his autobiography he mentions having to write his mother a letter when he finds out there is no hope of getting her out of Germany. Is this when he writes that letter? How on earth do you write a letter like that to your mother?! How infinitely frustrating it must have been for the AFSC folks and for Opa. They were powerless. They fought in every way they knew how and yet they were rendered useless by a number. 

I think about Opa in a small town in Kansas, cushioned from the war by thousands of miles of dirt and oblivious people. He was as safe as he possibly could be. Yet, how could he feel good? How could he feel the tips of his freedom if he knew that every other member of his family were in caged fear of the Nazis? And how frustrating that his freedom meant nothing, it could not be shared or transferred, he gained no power in it. It was an isolated freedom.

All he could do was the next day's work. He had to live his freedom that no one else in his family had. He had to keep trying so that just in case the realm of possibilities opened even an inch- he might be ready.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

June 28, July 4, 1940: Confusion from the INS

Letter from Salisbury of INS to Opa


U.S. Department of Labor
Immigration and Naturalization Service
June 28, 1940

Mr. Thomas Doeppner,
  McPherson College,
      McPherson, Kansas

Dear Sir:

Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of June 5, 1940 in connection with your desire for an extension of time of your temporary admission to the United States.

Enclosed is form of application for extension of time of temporary stay, which you may execute in duplicate, have sworn to before a person authorized to administer oaths, and forward to the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the port of your arrival in the United States for appropriate action.

The renewal of your immigration visa should be taken up with the American Consul nearest your place of residence, the issuance of visas being a function of the consuls, who act under instructions from the Department of State.

Very truly yours,

By direction of the Commissioner,

E.E. Salisbury, Assistant.

Letter from Opa to Kathleen Hanstein of American Friends Service Committee


Thomas Doeppner       McPherson, July 4, 1940
McPherson College
McPherson, Kansas

Mrs. Kathleen H. Hanstein
American Friends Service Committee

Dear Mrs. Hanstein,

Today I received the enclosed letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, and an application blanc to extend time of temporary stay. I filled it out as asked and sent it to New York. I do not understand the last paragraph of the commissioner's letter in which he writes about "renewal of my immigration visa." Does that refer to my application for a student visa? If so, which consul should I write to, since there is no mail communication with Holland?

I would like you very much to answer these questions. I am having a harvest job ow close to McPherson, as wheat scooper, and after harvest time I am able to work in the college library. I enjoy the work very much and am looking forward to my next year at McPherson College.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas Doeppner

Poor Opa. He is learning that the US government has its flaws in communication. For all the trouble he went through to have his paperwork just perfect and to get the important student visa- he has a temporary visitor's visa and the government doesn't really seem to care what he does with it. He is trying to upgrade his visa to a student's visa (what it should have been in the first place) and trying to make sure he doesn't get deported... and the INS has sent him two equally non-helpful letters. This one at least gives him a means to get some sort of legal extension for his stay in the United States, but it's as if the INS didn't even reference his case or questions in this response. 

Opa forwards his confusion to Mrs. Hanstein at the AFSC and hopes she can help him. I imagine he would like to blow the whole thing off as the INS has seemed to do his immigration question- but then he would have every right to fear that his negligence would cost him his entrance. I think in the back of his mind, Opa is hoping to graduate quickly from McPherson so that he can provide a valuable affidavit for his mother, even if things seem pretty hopeless right now. You never know when a door might open. So Opa has to play by the rules as much as he can. It's too bad the INS doesn't really seem to care to tell him how.

Friday, October 9, 2015

June 25, 28, 1940: 5th Column, Psshhhh

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


June 25, 1940
President V.F. Schwalm
McPherson College
McPherson, Kansas

My dear President Schwalm:

Mr. Lowell Wright, when he visited our office recently mentioned the concern that seems to have arisen in the minds of some people as to the reliability of the two young Germans now on your campus; namely, Dr. Walter Naumann and Thomas Doeppner. Mr. Wright saw the records of these two men which indicated how highly they were recommended to us and from what reliable sources. He said that he would report to you on this but thought that it would also be helpful if I would send you some material in writing which could be used in response to any questions which may be raised.

In the case of Dr. Naumann, he was first referred to us by Mrs. Elsa Brandstrom-Ulich, the wife of Dr. Robert Ulich of Harvard University at whose home he stayed when he first came to this country. The Ulichs are personal friends of Dr. Naumann and recommended him to us most highly. If you feel that it would be helpful for you to have direct word from Dr. and Mrs. Ulich I am sure that they would be glad to answer any inquiry which you may address to them. Dr. Naumann also stayed at our hostel here in Bryn Mawr for seven weeks following his visit with the Ulichs. The hostel is directed by Mrs. Karoline Solmitz, who is herself a refugee and the widow of a prominent anti-Nazi newspaper publisher who was one of the first concentration camp victims. Mrs. Solmitz recommended Dr. Naumann as belonging to the best type of German immigrants.

Thomas Doeppner was recommended to us by Dr. Albert Einstein among other people, and  I am enclosing the translation of an original letter from Dr. Einstein which is in our files. I think that Dr. Einstein and his attitude toward the present German Government are well enough known so that his sponsorship of a person is doubtless sufficient to allay any possible suspicion. However, Mr. Doeppner was also well known to Mrs. Albert Martin one of our workers abroad who wrote to us to the effect that she would not hesitate to take Thomas into her own family. I am asking Mrs. Martin to write you directly in more detail about Thomas.

I hope that the information that I have given you will be sufficient to meet any question that may arise in regard to Dr. Naumann or Thomas Doeppner but if there is anything further you think we might do which would be helpful we shall be very glad to hear from you to this effect. I hope also to be able to send you within a few days a reprint of an article in regard to the refugees which I think may be helpful to you in meeting general questions which may be raised.

Sincerely yours,

(Mrs.) Kathleen Hambly Hanstein
Associate Counselor

Letter from Kathleen Hanstein (AFSC) to Mrs. Martin 


June 25, 1940
Mrs. Albert Martin
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario

My dear Mrs. Martin:

As you can imagine, we are seeing the question of possible fifth column activities in regard to the refugees whom we are endeavoring to aid and I have been asked to make a statement to McPherson College, McPherson, Kansas, in regard to Thomas Doeppner which could be used to allay any question which might arise in regard to him.

As you doubtless remember, Thomas is the son of August Doeppner the manager of the United Press Association for Holland and Belgium. He arrived in this country in November 1939 ad secured a scholarship at McPherson College through our efforts. Our record contains a letter which was written by Thomas to your husband and on which you had added a note to the effect that he was an active member of the "Jugendgruppe" in Berlin and a good boy whom you would not hesitate to take into your own family.

If you could write a letter to President V.F. Schwalm, McPherson College, McPherson, Kansas, telling what you know of Thomas and especially giving any information which would establish his status as a genuine refugee, I am sure that it would be a great help and we should also appreciate having a copy of your letter.

Mary Rogers asks me to send you her greetings. As you can imagine, the new work for the care of evacuated British children means that she is now busier than ever which could hardly have seemed possible.

Sincerely yours,

(Mrs.) Kathleen Hambly Hanstein
Associate Counsellor

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


Miss Kathleen H Hanstein
Associate Counsellor
Friends Committee

Dear Mrs. Hanstein:

Your letter regarding Mr. Doeppner and Dr. Naumann reached me yesterday.

We have no further questions to ask you now. We are not hysterical about the situation here, however the excitement regarding the so-called Fifth Column Activities which was created immediately after the defeat of Holland created some discussion here which gave us slight concern. I think the matter has blown over and there will be no further questions at present.

I realize the difficulty or doing much about such matters. If I were personally accused of disloyalty, I might find it difficult to produce documentary evident of my innocence.

I thank you your letter.

Sincerely yours

V.F. Schwalm

The letters leading up to V.F. Schwalm's response are carefully constructed letters of people who are walking on eggshells. They are hoping that the freedom of these refugees that they have fought hard for won't slip away with one conspiracy theory. It is understandable that people might have suspicions after Holland and France's quick defeat. It is understandable that the folks at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) are scrambling to address those suspicions. However, if the community listened only to fear, then how would Opa and Dr. Naumann really prove themselves "innocent?"  

In his response to these careful letters, V.F. Schwalm does the equivalent of dropping the mic. I love it. He basically says: we're not worried, those that were- are over it, and if I had to prove my innocence in some cracked up plot- it'd be a challenge. This ain't my first rodeo. We're not concerned- thanks and goodbye. Mic Drop.

I love V.F. Schwalm. I also love that these two refugees became such an integral part of the community at McPherson that there was not a real concern about their loyalties. I'm sure that in other places and other refugees, they got a lot more grief when these fifth column theories came out. Opa's community at McPherson did not succumb to the fear, but rather continued to embrace his presence in their community.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Spotlight on Fifth Column Theory

Spotlight on Fifth Column Activities

This is Jason again! I have admitted to Sarah many times the ways in which my high school history classes have come alive through this project and how I am mindful of just how little I paid attention in these classes (Sorry, Mr. Wallace). So when a reference was made to fifth column activities, I realized it was something I had probably learned, but was not coming to my mind. So I will give a little background on how this term came about and then the reality of this issue as it became relevant for Opa.
Wikipedia defines it generally as “any group of people who undermine a larger group—such as a nation or a besieged city—from within, usually in favor of an enemy group or nation.” The article goes on to say the term came from the Spanish Civil War when Emilio Mola, a Nationalist General, told a journalist in 1936 that as his four columns of troops approached Madrid, a "fifth column" of supporters inside the city would support him and undermine the Republican Government from within. The term was then widely used in Spain. Ernest Hemingway used it as the title of his only play, which he wrote in Madrid while the city was being bombarded, and published in 1938 in his book The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories.

It became a tactic in the military world and was suspected to be used particularly when Holland and France were taken so quickly by Germany in 1940. Many credited it to the help of Nazi sympathizers in those countries. This idea was escalated by a series of photos in LIFE Magazine on June 17, 1940 (pictured here, with a transcription of the text below so you can read it). Following LIFE, TIME and The New York Times also ran articles about Fifth Column activities becoming an issue. 
It is no coincidence that in late June, there are rumblings about both Tom (Opa) and Professor Naumann and whether they could be participants in this. It makes me wonder how many refugee students were experiencing this and how many were actually adversely affected because of these fears. As I look at other refugees files, I will be keeping an eye out for this and might report back more. I would also be interested to see if any other college presidents took the time and energy to stand up for their teachers and students amidst this scrutiny.


Speaking of Pictures...These are signs of Nazi Fifth Columns Everywhere

The destructive ability of the German Fifth Columns in recent weeks has made Americans justifiably suspicious of Nazis living in their midst. For several years LIFE photographers, poking their cameras into all parts of the world, have run across many a German Fifth Column in the making. Shown here is a worldwide sample, including non-Germans like French Canadian Fascists (directly below) and young American Nazis (opposite page), whose dubious loyalty to their native lands makes them fellow travelers in the Nazi camp. The inclusion of pictures of successful Fifth Column elements in Czechoslovakia. Poland and Belgium on page 13 is a brutal reminder that the striking power of these small Nazi groups is not to be sneered at. Together these photographs serve as Exhibit A to the claim that Hitler is seeking world domination. 
Of the millions of Germans living abroad, most get their cue from the Deutsche Auslands Organisation (“League of Germans Living Abroad”), an organic part of the German Foreign Office. The Auslanders have orders to deal only with other Germans in all social, economic, cultural and political matters. Germans slow to accept Hitlerism find themselves ostracized, boycotted and sometimes beaten into a more rapid conversion.
In this easygoing hemisphere these Nazis and their allies have been allowed to turn hard-won native liberties into foreign-instigated license. Now, under the stress of total war, Canada has outlawed 16 “communazi” parties, arrested several leaders. In Latin America, especially Uruguay, a much-needed housecleaning is in progress. Significantly in the U.S. the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week pressed plans to add 500 new agents to its force to spot and fight this hydra-headed menace. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

June 26, 1940: Is there Hope?

Letter from Opa to Miss Thieman of AFSC


Thomas Doeppner           McPherson, 6-26-40.
McPherson College

Miss Annelids Thieman
American Friends Service Committee
20 South Twelfth Street
Philadelphia               RE: Ella Doeppner

Dear Miss Thieman,

My cousin in New York wrote to me the other day and mentioned a friend of hers, who is able and perhaps willing to give an affidavit for my mother. However, my cousin told hi, that it would be useless to give any affidavit for the time being, because it would have to be renewed different times before it can be used. On the other hand, I heard from people here in McPherson, that there are just a few people in Germany who are able at all to leave, that the quota for Germany is not even filled. If that would be true, the American council would probably give the visa as soon as an affidavit is present. I would like very much if you would tell me which of these two contradictions is right. It is not sure if I shall be able to get the mentioned affidavit at all, and thus it is rather a general question: Shall I go ahead looking for an affidavit, or would that be of no use?

Another question: From your experiences which cases like this, what time do you think it will probably take to get my mother over, if at all? And: are there any ship communications with Germany after the recent changes in Europe?

I would appreciate very much if you will answer these questions. I thank you again very much for all the trouble and work you have with this case.

Thomas Doeppner.

Opa wants to know: does his mother have a chance of coming to America? He has some possible leads, he has heard some positive rumors that there might be room on the list even if Ella is far down on the numbers. He's basically asking Anneliese Thieman: is there hope?

He probably sent this letter with hope and dreading the response. He asks the question clearly, and he might not get the clear response he wants.

Monday, October 5, 2015

June 26, 1940: Mama Fear

Letter from Ella to Opa


Nr. 29
Berlin, Charlottenburg, June 26, 1940

My very dear boy,

You were correct, you should have written something about your inner feelings again.
Both of us have been busy with Pattilein’s life at this time, who now has her own, and is starting her own family, but will always remain a part of us. More and more I can feel how strongly we belong to each other. I always feel, if I stretch out my arms widely, I could physically reach you. I want you to feel and give to you lots of love and strength. I wish, henschenkind That both of you should have this and also give to me. I also believe that everything you (both of you) do and think is good and will contribute to encourage all good things. How much I would love to be with Pattilein, especially now. I have strong feelings of gratitude for her in-laws, who made her happiness possible.  Hopefully soon I can tell them all of this and prove my thankfulness. I have not received a letter from you this week. I still have not heard about your birthday, if you received Rilke. I am also very worried if you can tolerate 10 hours of harvesting in that Kansas sun and heat. Whenever I suffer a bit from heat here, I think of my little boy, and then have the Mama fear. I hope that soon I will get a detailed report about everything.
Did Hanna sent you a reply? Are you in contact with Ellenruth? Did you write to Rose?  

Through Mrs. Halle I heard that Gis received a letter from you, but she did not know anything about its contents, because she talked to Gis only for a short time. I think I will hear from her soon.  

Do you know if Pattilein will still make her exam, even though she is married now? I would be delighted if she would continue to work. She must have a profession to be able to stand on her own feet. I am waiting for your grades!!

I will now write to the Shelley’s on Sunday, I could not do it last Sunday.  

Remain my good boy,
I kiss you many times 
Your Mama

Your last letter was dated June 2, 1940

Here we have Ella reminding herself and Opa to write with their inner feelings. The last few letters have been sort of casual and wrapped up in news of Patti's marriage.

Ella takes her step by sharing her thoughts of how connected she feels with her son, and how she imagines she can just reach out and hug him. She longs to do that with him and Patti. She is grateful that Patti has in-laws who are acting as surrogates right now- and hopes that soon she can show them her appreciation. 

Ella has so much faith in the goodness of her children. It makes me so happy. Her faith in them translates into hope for humanity- it's what keeps her going. Her love for her children is profound, deep, enduring. I wonder if Opa or Patti realized just how dedicated their mother was to them. I imagine they had an inkling. 

I love that Ella calls her concern for Opa working in the fields in the hot summer "Mama Fear" - and she has a point. Kansas farms aren't a picnic. I bet Opa got pretty strong that summer!

I love also how supportive Ella is of her daughter's independence. She is thrilled for her to have a husband and to be supported spot kindly by her in-laws, but she wants her to be able to support herself and be independent if necessary. Ella was so pragmatic and seemingly ahead of her time! She knew from experience that a woman should be able to be self-sustaining. I love that she supports Patti's marriage and also her endeavor to study and succeed in that way. 

How may times I wish I could have met Ella, spent time with her, be near her. She feels like a mother to me and I sometimes have this strange longing to know her better and to talk to her. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

June 20, 1940: NO Hands in Pockets!

Letter from Ella to Opa


Nr. 28
20.VI.40 (20 June 1940)
Berlin, Charlottenburg
Droysenstrasse 14

My very beloved boy,

Finally today I received news from you.  However I am not quite comforted about you, I hope you can withstand this heavy farm work of harvesting in the heat. Please, henschenkind, write more often, inspite of being very tired. Today’s letter was dated June 2nd, 1940, the one before May 18th 1940. In the meantime you had your birthday, which you did not mention at all. Have you had news from Papa at all? Please write to me about it. I don’t hear anything from him.

Through Kurt I heard that Pattilein had gotten married already. I cannot tell you how much these news have calmed me down and made me happy. If only I could give my very very best wishes for my child. (she actually says as much as burning wishes, which is used in German for something you really really want) How hard it is for me, not to be able to take her into my arms, and tell her everything I wish for her, for her future. But I believe she can feel how I am with both of you! Her in-laws must be splendid people, I am very thankful, that they have given my child a home. And I believe that their love is so strong, that both of them will remain happy. I have to think of her continuously, of her and you.

Thank you for the picture. But please do not stuff your hands into your pant pockets! The Amercans have many good things you can accept for yourself, but hands in pant pockets is a bad habit.

Who is Esther ??? You never wrote details about her, or has the letter gotten lost? Anni was here last week, and always when she comes by, I am glad. She is so fresh and natural, everything about her is genuine and self evident, that is our Anni. I read your letter to her and showed her the pictures, which she took along to show to Gis, who right now has very little time. I mean pictures from the last letter.

Henschenkind on the picture of you and Professor Myers, I don’t like either one of you, must have been a bad picture, but you look very nice on the picture with Professor ?? And in Garden City you must have been giving a speech. Sports shirts look better on you than stiff collars. I will write to the Shelley family on Sunday, I am too tired today, it is very late already. In the meantime tell them that I am very grateful for their kindness to my child. I am to tell you hello from all our friends and old acquaintances, especially from Anni, who is still working way too hard. I always have to read your letters to her, and now and then I share one with her. It is good that we have different tastes, she really liked the picture of you high on the horse, and I the one in the laboratory. Hopefully she will like the one with Phil Myers this time!!!!  Will I hear anything about your birthday and the wedding at the farm? I am glad you did not drive to Chicago.

Did you write to Ellenruth? Have you heard anything from Herting? If you ever see her, give her many many greetings from me. I think of her and worry and would love to hear from her, to know she is well. Uschi is doing quite well.

I kiss you,my beloved boy. And I congratulate you for Pattilein’s wedding.

Your Mama, who is longing for all of you so terribly

Oh Ella. She embodies "Mother" in all the marvelous, ridiculous ways. Opa can't even send a picture without her telling him which shirts look better on him and whether or not he should pick up the American habit of putting your hands in your pockets. I love that you get a taste of Opa's "Americanization" with Ella's response. It's like she says- they might think that's OK- but it's not! 

I used to think that Ella's constant request for letters was a bit over the top. But now I realize that they were for her a life line. They are her only source of information, her only source of hope. Also, I think I mentioned this before, they were a sign to the Nazi censors that someone somewhere cared about her and about what happened to her. As a vulnerable Jewish woman living by herself, having a handful of letters coming from around the world, especially America, may possibly have given Ella even a thin shell of protection. I don't have anything to back this up, but I get the impression that Ella is asking for letters for many reasons, so of which we may not know.

I love that Anni visits Ella. When we visited with her in Germany in 2013, she didn't really remember Ella very well. I wish she had. Ann was also mentally a little bit off, I believe the war and its consequences did significant damage to her soul. She was not a whole, healthy person. She had become estranged from most of her friends and family. I think she always had that strong personality, but obviously not so strong or disoriented when she was with Ella. She provided Ella with a lot of comfort. I think some of the comfort she offered was that she was a very real connection to Opa. Ella saw in her that same adventurous and inquisitive spirit. For Ella- visiting with Anni and talking about Opa might have been as close as she could get to the feeling of being with Opa. 

I remember something similar to this happening to someone I know. My little sister's very dear friend was killed by a drunk driver when she was in middle school. Her parents were completely devastated. But I remember they wanted to spend time with their daughter's friends. My mom marveled at how they could do that, she thought it would be too hard for her if she were in their place. But then she said maybe it was because it was the closest they could get to having even just a part of their daughter near them again- in the memories and behaviors of these middle school kids. 

I wonder if that was how Ella felt about Anni when she visited, and Gisela. 

Until Ella sees her children again, she will continue mothering them from afar- critiquing their poses and shirt choices. If she were any different, I think it would feel inauthentic. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

June 12, 1940: Government Letters 101

Letter from James L Houghteling at INS to Opa


U.S. Department of Labor
Immigration and Naturalization Service
June 12,1940

Thomas Doeppner
McPherson College,
McPherson, Kansas

Dear Sir:

We are acknowledging receipt of your recent letter at this time so that you may know it has been received and is being given attention.

Reply to your inquiry may be delayed because the number of communications and applications for various immigration and naturalization purposes sent to this Service has greatly increased on account of unusual conditions both in the United States and foreign countries. You are assured, however, that the matter will be handled as promptly as possible.

Should further inquiries be made by you before you receive formal response, they can only serve to delay your reply as your original letter or application will undoubtedly be moving through the necessary channels of indexing, searching for appropriate files and handling by those responsible for the particular part of the work of the office concerning which you wrote.

Very truly yours,

James L. Houghteling

This letter is hilarious. Government letter 101. "Hi- we got your letter. We won't be responding for a while because we are overwhelmed. Don't ask any more questions because it makes things more complicated. Thanks!"

Oh man, I can't say much else. I guess Opa is safe to remain in the country because Mr. Houghteling sure isn't going to keep track. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

June 11, 1940: Young Again

Letter from Ella to Opa


Nr. 27
 Droysenstrasse 14
June 11th 1940

My beloved boy,

Your letter of May 18th calmed me down a bit, because now I know you are taken care of. From the fact that you were elected president of your club, I can indicate that you will be at McPherson college for the next semester.  Please, Henschenchild, write in details what you are doing, especially how Patti is, I am so terribly worried about her. As soon as you hear from her, contact me. I actually expected a letter from you today. I hope I can assume that you write at least once a week. You are the only one I hear from, since Papa not understandably still has not written. On Saturday Ann’chen called his office again and was told, Papa is doing well. Thank you for the pictures, henschenchild. You can imagine how much joy they give me!

You want me to send you a better one of me? As soon as I have one, but I look so old now! But I know when I am with both of you again, I will be young again, or should I say younger! The picture of you on horseback, with your English Professor, I gave to Ann’chen. Is she an American? I am curiously waiting for your report about the exams and your birthday, every day. Henschenchild you have to write to me more often!!!!! Next week I will visit a girlfriend to hear if they know something about Patti, they made some inquiries for me. Grete S now is in Vienna, but will probably return to Berlin.

I kiss my boy

You know the old saying "Call your mother"- the older saying here is "write your mother!!" (If you say it in a New York accent it helps).

Opa has calmed his mother with news of his being elected to be president of the international relations club. This tells her two things: that he will be in school next year, and that he is accepted among his peers. I know she must have been proud of his efforts to do all the good he could. 

Ella is desperate for mail. Her sources of mail have dried up- Patti in Nazi-occupied France is unable to write, and August in Nazi-occupied Holland seems to be unable. Ella seems to think August should be able to write. It just occurred to me that it is kind of interesting that August was writing to Ella regularly. I just wonder what the dynamics were for Ella and Emma. Perhaps they were very civil and cordial. Renate, Ella's niece, said that she heard that the family was sort of divided by this divorce and August's marriage to Emma, but that the war brought everyone back together. They put their differences aside.

I hope Opa is writing Ella often. I know she puts a lot of pressure on him and he is not idle- but she's so alone and isolated. I'm grateful that she has Ann'chen to keep her connected to news on August, and likely other benefits that come from having someone who is not Jewish looking after you.

The statement that Ella said about her aging - how a new picture would show how old she had gotten- that broke my heart. I bet that she was completely honest in this. The she said that she would be young again when she saw her children again. Sigh. 

Before I wrap this up I have to pick out the funny  and lighthearted piece of this letter. Opa sent a picture of himself on horseback with a professor. I don't know why but my first mental image when I read that was of Opa and this professor sitting on perfectly groomed show horses like in some British polo magazine. That made me laugh! Then I realized- this is Kansas. These are farming folk- and the picture was probably far more rodeo than polo. Hahaha!

Now we must hope that Ella will have a chance to grow young again.