Wednesday, September 14, 2016
February 6, 1941: I am Always Freezing
Letter from Ella to Opa
Bln. Charl. 4, 6.II.41 (Berlin Charlottenburg, Feb 6th, 1941)
My beloved boy,
Just now I came home earlier, and there I had the great joy to find a letter from you of December 22nd, and now I have even time to reply right away. I wonder if you have received my letters. Especially the one in which I wrote about you and Esther. It is so difficult for me to say anything from here, but I wish for you not to suffer like that. Surely this experience will aide you in becoming more mature. My boy will do only the best. Surely you will always feel and act in an honorable way. And so it was necessary for you not to accept the position, although I cannot imagine what kind it was. I have real faith in you, that you will do the right thing in any situation, without consideration of other peoples' opinion and without considering material advantages.
Shelly's replied very nicely to my letter, I am glad to know such splendid people are with you. I hope you will have nice days in Iowa. How far all that is! I wish we would all be together again, have a real home! Then we will let many people be part of it, everybody always felt at home (comfortable) with us - and it has to be like that again! I was happy about the news of Werner.
On Saturday I will go to see Hilda and Aunt Julig to tell them about it. Aunt Julig now lives with very nice people, next door to Hilda. Naturally I will look in on her and help as much as is in my power. She knows now that Erna has the position at the sanatorium. I assume you answered Werner right away. When you write again, which I think you will do right away, tell him hello from me. I would like to know if Mr. Ebstein has visited him already. Did he write to you? He is a very good friend of Erna, and he went to see her.
Hunschen, I already wrote to you, that perhaps I have a chance to come to you, when I have an affidavit. Be in contact with everybody possible, most of all with Rose, who gave me her solid promise to obtain one, when the time is right. Now it is right, the right time! I will write to her myself immediately. Also to Ellen Ruth and Hanna, you should also write! Now it is very urgent! Doesn't Papa have any connections over there? He should be able to do something for me. Though I am not in contact with him at all, sometimes I hear about him through Patty or Ann'chen. He has his job, his house, and longs for his children. Hunschen, naturally I got quite a fright to hear that your medical examination showed positive for tuberculosis. I beg of you to watch your health, protect yourself from colds, and not work too much. If only I could be with you. Don't be satisfied with the X-ray results, try to find out the source of these positive results.
And write to me about that right away. For that you must have the money.
It is hard to say anything about Ellen. Surely she should have not married Hans, she knew exactly how she felt about him. Incidentally she is not divorced yet, and that is good, because I am afraid this other man will be bad luck for her. But everybody has to go through their own experiences. I felt sorry for Ellen, you know how fond I am of her. I want so much to help her, and I believe she feels very much alone, even with these two men. I wrote a long letter to her months ago, but have not received an answer yet. This week I had letter from Rose. I am surprised she does not write to you. I am glad you are in contact with Hanna.
Yes, Hunschen it is cold here too, I am always freezing, but at least I do not catch a cold.
Write to me right away, how you are feeling, my beloved boy. And be careful! I kiss you very very much, my dear dear boy.
(Note on top of the page:)
Hunschen, a few more questions regarding your school time-table. I miss special "field" classes. Mostly it is for history (general and shop), when will you be working in your specialty? Please give me detailed information about that!
It looks like Opa's letters are trickling in, with Ella receiving his December letter two months later in February. I wonder if some of his letters have been lost or confiscated, or if he really didn't write that much. How I wish we had an account of his voice in this time. His letters to Anni and Gisela have dropped off, whether that is because he stopped writing or they were unable to maintain the correspondence with all their traveling.
I have to remind myself that Opa is a full-time student, working to support himself, likely writing several folks (per Ella's request), not to mention his letters to the AFSC on behalf of his mother. Then I just remembered- he's also trying to figure out his own visa. Wasn't he in danger of being deported?? What happened? It's been silent. I guess no news is good news in this case. It seems odd.
Apparently all of this has not stopped Opa from girl trouble. I don't know if Ella just needs closure because he hasn't mentioned her letter where she gives her advice, or if Opa is still carrying on about Esther. Either way, I think he's got a hard learning curve when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex and relationships. He didn't have as much opportunity in his all-boys school in Germany.
Ella seems to have confidence in Opa's doing the right thing- although she says it in the same way I might tell my children before they are guests in someone's home: "I know you will be well-behaved good children!"
Ok folks- it's time for some more family trees. All the names in this letter had my head spinning, so I had to check my data (we have all sorts of reference material beyond just the letters). So here it goes: Werner is Ella's cousin. Let me give you the line up: Ella's parents were Carl and Sara (both deceased in the 1920s). Carl's brother Albert married Rosa, and they had three children- who were Ella's first cousins. Those four children are: Werner, Hilda, and Emma. Yes- that Emma. August married Emma- Ella's cousin. Werner immigrated to Palestine (now Israel), which might be where they are hearing news from. Ella is going to visit Hilda and Aunt Julig to give the update on Werner. Julig is likely a nickname for Julie- and while we have mention of Julie in other places, we're not sure exactly who Julie is, but the fact that she's "aunt" means she's close to the family. Ella names a LOT of people in her letters- and we figure out about half of them.
Again Ella emphasizes the GO on getting the affidavits for her. She is convinced she can get to the United States, though she gives little detail on the plan. She mentions all the usual suspects. Ella wonders if August has any connections, but you can tell she has very little hope in that as she hasn't heard a word from him. Of course I would imagine if August had connections, he himself would be attempting to leave Nazi controlled Holland. Emma was Jewish, so I imagine they also might be working the same circuits to try to get out. You can see here how flooded the gates really were. Even within this one family - all in different places- they all potentially want out. And all their connections are likely the same ones. If you lived in the United States and could only give a limited amount of affidavits- who do you choose? Opa's timely escape is looking increasingly lucky and miraculous.
Ella makes a segway into Opa's health, commenting on his positive test for tuberculosis. I am sort of shocked those weren't the first words out of her pen on the paper. She is obviously concerned and fearful that he is overworking himself. I never thought that to be a possibility, and thought she was overreacting in her other letters- but now I see that maybe there is some truth to it. Did Opa have to work himself to the bone to get everything accomplished? Surely he needed to keep his grades up to maintain his scholarship and stay in school. He needed to work a bit to feed and house himself as he had no financial support from his parents. Maybe he really was working too hard. If he shouldered any of the stress from his mother's letters and his fears for his family, I can see that this might have been a much more difficult time for him than I realized.
Now that I am thinking about it, I'm sort of wondering if I was too aloof about Opa's emotional experience. I thought he was likely concerned and frustrated, but I never really thought about it taking any large toll on him, physically or emotionally. You have to understand that my experience of Opa was a very steady, even-keel man. The only time he was emotional was with anger at drivers and when the baked Alaska wasn't prepared for his 50th Anniversary dinner. Seriously. The entire Doeppner side of the family is anything but emotional. I never saw Opa cry, or Grandmother for that matter. My Dad might have had choked up tears once, and his brother- zero tears have I witnessed. These people did not inherit the gene nor the culture for emotional expression. So when I read about Opa and Ella, I almost always assign that same calm, stoic exterior to Opa. I didn't want to insert my more advanced emotional expression into their experience. I forget Opa was a young man without his family in a foreign country. Perhaps it did take a larger toll on him then I realized.
Ella goes on to comment about Ellenruth's marriage, which seems to be going poorly, especially if there is another man in the picture. I love Ella's gentleness with Ellenruth- she doesn't judge her, rather just wants what's best for her and what will bring her happiness.
Then the ultimate Ella comment: "I'm always freezing, but I don't catch a cold." Oh Ella, how I love your way with guilt. It's sad though, I wonder if she has the ability to heat her space. She may not, and it gets very cold in the Berlin winters.