Thursday, March 9, 2017

August 23, 1941: Kansas State University

Letter from Ella to Opa


Tom Doeppner
1119 Kearney Manhattan
August 23rd,41
Droysenstrasse 14

My much beloved boy, this letter is meant to be a welcome greeting for your arrival at Manhattan. I have total faith, that now being free and without college rules, you will find your way. Ask yourself if something is good, when you want to do it, and follow your inner voice. Some time ago, Patti wrote, whenever she wanted to decide on something, she would ask herself: What would Mama do? She knows that her Mama often has different opinions (views) than herself, but in important things she would do what her Mama seemed appropriate. You do the same Hunschen. Most of all, tell yourself you have to stay strong and pure(clean). Don't be influenced by what others say or think about you, go your way without consideration for others opinions, only with consideration for the truth and good. That does not mean you shouldn't be happy and carefree, to the contrary you should have many happy and lively hours, be young and enjoy all beautiful things, without leaving you with a bitter aftertaste. You should honor and respect all others, so to keep and have respect for yourself as well. And so that all your gifts are not going to waste, develop all your good assets for others use. How much I wish I could be there with you! Especially now to look after you and create a nice home for you. But not just for you, for myself as well. It is almost unbearable for me to be so alone here! My students and many dear friends, I miss them so much!

I do have a few new ones, but I don't think I will find such interesting people again. I know I had been very lucky, and I am grateful I had them. But there is a great emptiness.  If only I had you two with me. My other friends are very worried about me. I wish you would send them a few lines, especially Lutz and Lise. Did you ever write to Kurt? It would do him good, he is yearning for all of us so very much.  

What have you accomplished about my immigration? I trust that you have done everything needed, to speed it up as much as possible. I wrote to you at McPherson that Ann'chen went for a vacation (rest, or recovery) to the Sudetenland. Yesterday I had a nice letter from her. She enjoys the quietness there very much, she seems to have found a nice place. Hopefully she will return strengthened for a new year of work.

For Tuesday I am invited to Lichterfelde (nice part of the city) for coffee. We will talk and mend stockings, Anni is back from her trip and has the afternoon off. Hunschen, I am waiting longingly for the report on your move to Manhattan, the first impression, a description of your new room. I believe you will have a lot of work, I have a feeling that the requirements there will be larger, also very different than in McPherson. But you will face all that with confidence. Much, much luck my boy. I am with you in my thoughts. Please write in detail what you hear from Patti and Maurice, I am not receiving any mail from them.

I kiss you, my boy

Opa is moving to Manhattan. Kansas. Not New York. He's continuing his degree work at Kansas State University, where he can finally get those engineering courses he's been going for. He's been at McPherson for two years and I believe he made it a home in the best way that he could. 

Ella seems to understand what a big transition this is going to be for Opa. He was a big fish in a small pond, a foreigner who was compassionately embraced and welcomed by this tiny community. McPherson gave Opa his freedom, now Kansas State will give him the opportunity to get the education he wants. Kansas State doesn't know Opa like McPherson did, they don't have any rules for him to follow like not drinking, dancing, or gambling. He's now a small fish in an ocean.

Ella's advice is really good, while at times veering into the smothering lane- would we expect any less from our Ella? She encourages Opa to follow his inner voice, or if things get cloudy, ask himself what his mother would do (HA!). She has some really quotable advice though:
Don't be influenced by what others say or think about you, go your way without consideration for others opinions, only with consideration for the truth and good.
She also makes space for Opa to have fun, he doesn't have to be so serious all the time: "be young and enjoy all beautiful things, without leaving you with a bitter aftertaste." After that she tells him to be respectful. I could just frame this letter for my boys for when they go to college. It might make their eyes roll, but it's good advice.

Ella again mentions the loss of her students and also mentions many of her dear friends are gone. I wonder if many of them have left/immigrated? How sad, I hadn't really thought of this specifically. The longer Ella remains, the more her circle of friends would thin out through immigration, disappearances, hide outs. It's not quite time yet for the hiding (the jews aren't being rounded up at quite the speed as they will be later). But I didn't even think about how she's not only without her family, but now she is becoming steadily more isolated from her friends. Opa wrote in his autobiography that Ella had a good group of female teaching friends that she had kept in good relationship with. He never said what happened to them. Have they left? Who were they? 

Ella talks about going to Lechterfelde, which my interpreter knows as a nice part of town- this is where the Halle's lived. Olga Halle (Anni and Gisela's mother) hosted teas at her home for people like Ella who were left behind and feeling isolated without a religious group to commune with. Many jews were non-religious and therefore not connected or comfortable seeking help or comfort with the local synagogues. 

Ella asks again with confidence that Opa has done everything he can do about her immigration. It breaks my heart every time she asks. What else can Opa do? Is there any hope left? She seems to believe it. Perhaps if her friends have been able to leave, she sees that she might have a chance to.

She signs off with confidence in her boy and his new adventure at the big school. She asks for news on Patti who I don't think has written to Opa either. Hopefully he writes her a nice report on his new home, Kansas State University.

1 comment:

  1. I love that idea- have fun without leaving a bitter taste!


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