I keep meaning to mention what is happening with Kurt- Ella has mentioned him a couple of times with concern. Kurt is in Italy in what we might call a "light" concentration camp. He has more freedom of movement than a normal prisoner might- but he is still a prisoner. When I traveled to Berlin to do research and meet people from Opa's life, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Renate- Opa's cousin. Her father was Ella's brother Kurt. She told his story, here is a snippet of what she told us when we talked about him:
Kurt got an invitation to report to the Gestapo and instead, he dropped everything and escaped to Italy in 1937. Charlotte (Renate's mother) went to Italy on a holiday, met up with Kurt and spent a long time there with him. It was then that she found out she was pregnant. When she had to return home, the couple wasn't sure if they were ever going to see each other again. Charlotte went back home to Berlin. Meanwhile, Kurt was arrested by the Italian police (I'm not sure the year). Renate said that the Italians weren't ant-semitic, they just arrested him because the Germans told them to. They asked Kurt what he did wrong, and he said "I'm Jewish" - they said "yes, but what have you done?" They didn't understand it. So Kurt was in a camp in Italy that wasn't too bad. Many artists were in the camp and allowed to go out and paint. Later the Germans came and made the camp a Nazi camp, and the conditions worsened. I will share more of Kurt's story as we go along in the time- but in this time he is in Italy and the conditions aren't horrible, but he is in fear and is a prisoner.
So Ella encourages Opa to write to Kurt for comfort, encouragement, hope. Ella knew the power of a kind letter from a loved one.
I love that Ella envisions Opa in a wide straw hat working out on the Kansas farms in the sweltering heat. It was probably close to the reality of what he looked like- but it is such a caricature of what a "farmer" looks like. I'm imagining Opa with a wheat stalk between his teeth, his hands in his pockets and overalls on. His mother would have a fit with that picture if he ever had one made!
I hope Opa sent her more pictures, and sent Kurt a letter, and kept living his life in freedom so that those in fear and held prisoners could have joy knowing that someone they loved was safe.