Wednesday 15 November 2023


The Leo Baeck Institute, New York, has in its archive a collection of letters dating from 1938/9, a precarious time for German Jews. The writer is Emma Neumann, née Gutmann, of Mainz. The addressee is her daughter, Margarete (Gretel) Goldstein, née Neumann, who has escaped to England. The correspondence illustrates Margarete’s unsuccessful attempts to arrange for her mother’s passage to England and the increasing harassment and persecution Jews suffered in Nazi Germany during 1938/9. The earliest item in the correspondence is a postcard addressed from Emma to Gretel in London. The postal stamp “12.11.38” shows that it was written two days after Kristallnacht (literally “The Night of Crystal”). The name refers to the shards of glass littering the streets after an organized Nazi rampage, which resulted in the destruction of numerous Jewish establishments. 

 My dear Gretel, I would have liked to write earlier, but I was in no condition to do so, although I am fortunately unhurt, and that is the main thing. I am camping out in the backroom, where it is quite cozy, I receive visitors there, etc. and have even managed to sleep well. Thursday was not a good day, but it is over now. I felt like Hannibal in the ruins of Carthage [referring to the defeat of the African general Hannibal by the ancient Romans in 202 BC]. My rooms in the front are gradually being restored to order. It is a lot of work for Adelheid [Emma’s maid?], but she had help yesterday, and I had various, quite capable workmen who put all sorts of things in order again. The glaziers, mainly, had a lot to do, and then there was also your postal order. I will see to it that the payment is sent today, but please don’t cause me a lot of work. I can’t manage to think of anything. I have to stop writing – massive numbers of visitors, Babettchen [unidentified] has just come, Lene (?) Hasch (?). etc. Bab[ettchen] stayed here, could not remain in Oe. 1000 greetings and kisses, Your devoted mother. Greetings to all. 

 FOR MORE LETTERS SEE MY NEXT BLOGPOST. For the originals see LBI Archives AR 7167/MF 720.The translation is by Erika Rummel and Susi Lessing.

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