Wednesday, September 13, 2017

July 31 & August 4, 1943: See You Soon

Red Cross letter from Ella to Opa. Sent on July 31st, 1943; Received Dec 1, 1943



Tom, happy about your studies Stay strong! Admiring Miss Hertz, Greetings to her, Hanna, Rose, Shelleys. We are healthy; I teach. Hoping for a reunion!

Annchen, Mama

Date: 31st July 1943
Signature: Ella Doppner

Red Cross Postcard from Opa to Ella Sent August 4th, 1943 
(looks like it was received November 1943)


American Red Cross
Washington, D.C.
International Red Cross Committee
Geneva, Switzerland
Civilian Message Form

Name: Thomas W Doeppner
Street: 1011 Moro Street
City: Manhattan   State: Kansas
Citizen of: No Country 
Relationship to person sought: Son
Chapter: Riley    Date: August 4th, 1943

(News of personal or family character; not more than 25 words)

Dear Mother,
Birthday greetings! Received your and Gis' letters today. Keep your chin up, I'll see you soon. Am still teaching, but anxious for last semesters.


Name: Frau Ella Döppner
Address: Droysenstr. 14
         Berlin- Chlbg 4
Country: Germany
Identifying Data:
Birthplace and date of birth: Ottenson 8/4/89
Citizen of: Germany

A few thoughts on these. I imagine Opa's heart did a leap every time he received a Red Cross postcard from his mother. The delay of delivery was painful enough, but at least you knew that they were OK three months ago. The news within was not so important as the fact that his mother was still home, able to write. They were never able to share much (she never seemed to write about any of the family who went missing). I wonder if perhaps they may have tried and those letters never made it past the censors. Either way- proof of life is better than anything, and I can't imagine the sustained anxiety and brief relief that these Red Cross Postcards offered. 

I noticed that in Opa's letter, he fills out the citizenship question with "No Country." He had no citizenship! In a way, this is true. His German citizenship would have been revoked due to his jewish ancestry (and he revoked it anyway), he wasn't a citizen of Holland, and he certainly wasn't a citizen of America yet. 

Opa wrote to Ella on her birthday, likely not a wonderful birthday for her, but I know she was so happy to receive his greetings eventually. Ella would have been so touched that he thought of her and wrote her on that day. 

I've said this before, but the lightness that Opa writes with is a function of survival and forced optimism. "I'll see you soon." They both knew there was a small chance that was true, but the hope of it might be enough to keep their souls afloat. 


  1. What I read in the first red cross letter after the part "Stay strong!" is the following: "Admiring Miss Herz (meaning a female name and the literal translation is "Miss Heart"), greetings to her, Hanna, Rose...
    Next part after "I teach" is "Hoping for a reunion"
    Love how your family's story is unfolding! Please keep up your detailed posts.

    1. Jasmin- Thank you! I'm going to make the correction now. Love how helpful you have been and how diligently you have followed!
      -Sarah :)


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