Tuesday 23 January 2024




Wednesday 8.3. 1939

My dear Gretel, yesterday I received your dear letter of Sunday, as I do every Tuesday, and took great pleasure in it because the contents did not affect my mood as negatively as they do most of the time. It is good that you have a little more time for yourself now, at least you can spend Monday and Saturday afternoons as you please, although you still have to deal with too much correspondence. Forgive my scribbling, I am trying for once to write to you while I lying down, because in the afternoon that is better for my leg. And to lie down and do nothing is terrible for me and only fatigues me. Yesterday I looked through the old account books while lying down, and through he housekeeping book of my dear grandmother, all of which is to be pulped, together with the contents of another bookcase, as well as Der Morgen [a German-Jewish literary magazine founded by Julius Goldstein, Emma’s son-in-law, published between 1925 and 1938] – or should I not do that? But what will happen with it in future? In the afternoon I am more hands-on (although I’m talking about my leg!) and at that time I also have A[delheid]’s [Emma’s maid] help. First the laundry was put away, then the (finally cleaned) bookcase was set up – earlier on, there was still broken glass in it from 10. 11. [a reference to Pogromnacht, when Nazis rampaged and destroyed Jewish property]—but with almost no books, and why bother? Last week I gave away a huge number, including several novels, to Babettchen, to whom Mrs. Schweizer, her sister, has set a good example. In other respects, too, she is a woman who does an infinite amount of good and constantly cares for the poor. This time your letter was opened by the foreign exchange office, and some time ago the same happened with one of Lilly’s [emma’s oldest daughter]. But they miscalculated. They could see only what good and loving daughters I have, so ha-ha! And you write that you are now in possession of the clearance certificate for the furniture – so what’s next? Who notified you of this? I wish you’d write in a little more detail about these things, also if anyone else apart from me reported to you about the tax ruling of 800 Marks, and why suddenly such a large sum. Your friend Kahn [?] threated through his advisor to force an auction. The letter was addressed to my administrator, with a copy to me. I am waiting what the future will bring. I just want to know who will take care of your furniture – since I will shell out the money for it. I don’t want you to be under any illusion that you will have the furniture by 1.4., as much as I would wish it for your sake. Aunt Pauline, who emigrated in May, has only now come into possession of hers. It is true, however, that there were constantly new difficulties and new regulations. On Saturday afternoon I had pleasant visitors, and in addition I invited Mimi [Emma’s sister, Wilhelmine Bing]– indeed, I can’t seat more than 4 persons at the table in the living room. I bet you 10 to 1 that you won’t guess who my visitors were, but not to make the test too hard on your curiosity, I will tell you that they are Lilly’s friends from Hanau. I even let them take along the fine little handkerchief which you left behind in the summer – it would be regrettable if it got into the wrong hands. Well then, they are approximately 2 hours [away], you will find the address in the list of names in the green address book. Besides, Mimi knows about it, and I am sure you will have an opportunity at some time, when it’s worth your while, to fetch the handkerchief or have it brought to you. That answers your question of last month.

            This morning I received a list of silver items one may keep or must surrender. I wanted to tell you in case you don’t know about that, and I am glad I no longer have much silver, yet sorry for every single piece that I must surrender. Last week I forgot to write to you about a letter from Rose which came to my address but was meant for you and asks for your address. She writes from Villars [skiing area in Switzerland] (the highest and most beautiful place in all of “Bexen” [Bex, town at the foot of Villars]), where she accepted a position for a few months. – Now that I have gotten up, I see that the letter is for me after all. She just wants to know whether you are still en France [in France], etc. and where, and she complains bitterly that she has lost a great deal on account of her husband’s brother, that she couldn’t pay the interest (ses intérêts), that’s why she took this job. Yet she kindly invites me, if necessary, to come to her, saying that she had always room for me. She wants your address – should I give it to her? I am sure she will not ask you or me for anything. If you do not write to her, I will, she is there only until 20.3.

            A few days ago someone from the Staedtische Sparkasse [municipal bank] called concerning your taxes. I referred the gentleman to Dr. Kraus [Emma’s legal counsel, former mayor of Mainz]. [I said that Kraus] took over those matters because I am too old and sick, and he ought to call him. Have you heard anything about that? K[raus] no longer tells me anything, I assume that he corresponds with you directly and that you know more than I. Perhaps this matter is connected with your furniture – I don’t know a thing about it. When Milly [Amalie Schwarz, emma’s sister, who later left for Riga and Great Britain] is there, I assume you will talk to her, then she can report to you about Leo herself. That idiot has only now, that is, a short while ago, applied for an extension to his resident permit.  I am glad that family M will come to you shortly, but it is tragic that the poor man has to go on suffering so much, just like poor L in L – which again shows the duplicate nature of the cases. Here the weather has also turned warmer, and I frequently air out the apartment and sometimes also go out on the balcony – but that’s not possible today because of the stormy weather.

            I want to conclude because Mimi will soon arrive, perhaps also Georgi [perhaps Georgine Eller, Emma’s sister], and then I won’t be able to continue writing, or rather to send off the letter, because Adelheid has been participating in air raid safety exercises for more than 8 days, and I want her to take the letter along around 7.30. Prior to that of course she will look after my dinner, and everything is prepared for that.

            Stay healthy, my child, and be especially careful in this March weather. By the way, did you solve my riddle? I don’t think it was hard.

All my love and heartfelt greetings and kisses from your loving mother.


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.

Thursday 18 January 2024




Wednesday 1.3. 39

My dear Gretel, although I am rather tired after a bad night, I did finally get up for an hour before the meal at noon, after I had dozed on the chaise longue all morning – if only to work up a little appetite for the meal, to have a little conversation with you, and to answer your dear letter of Sunday. In the meantime, I was glad to have a postcard from Lieschen and find out that she spent an evening with you, and I was happy that you make exceptions [to your routine] and do occasionally spend an evening with others. It is not good at all to be always on your own. Lieselein wrote to Mimi [perhaps Wilhelmine Bing, Emma’s sister] that you plan to become independent soon. I suppose that refers only to your intention to rent a small apartment for yourself. Or do you have any other plans? I was glad that you spent an afternoon with Wolfgang [Gretel’s oldest son] and his family once again and I send my heartfelt thanks to him for his kind lines and for the prospect of hearing more of him soon. Yesterday, toward evening, I had a really pleasant surprise: Willichen [?][presumably Willy, Emma’s nephew] came here with his mother [Jenny Saarbach, Emma’s sister]. He arrived yesterday morning, just for the day, and left again yesterday evening, because he will show up on your side within the next few days – finally! It took especially long in his case. Mimi also came right away, and he gave her an apparently good tip for Leo, which goes via Berthe, to whom M[imi?] wanted to write yesterday already on Willy’s instruction.

This morning I did not get around to continue writing because first my tenant, or rather the tenant of Mrs. A [?] came downstairs and brought me a wonderful bouquet of lilacs, then came my administrator with whom I always need to discuss all sorts of things, and as is the case most of the time, it was 2 o’clock until I finally ate. In future I will have even more business with him, and you will as well, because we learned yesterday that from 1 April on the lawyers and trustees are no longer permitted to work for us, so that Dr. K[raus] [former mayor of Mainz, handling Emma’s affairs] will also be history by then. It would be disastrous if this happens before your tax affairs are in order, but Director Dietz believes that you will probably hand over the matter to him. The two gentlemen are well acquainted and on friendly terms with each other, and Mr. D[ietz] is also informed about all these matters through me and through K[raus] – have you heard anything yet about this? I am sorry to hear that Hannah [Gretel’s daughter] is in such pain, I hope she will soon be well again. I am glad that your lecture was a success – a ringing [a pun? The German “ringend” can also mean “clinking”, i.e. monetary] success, yes? As for your readiness to help me, my dear child, I am very grateful for your offer and that you and Lilly [Emma’s daughter, living in Buenos Aires] are willing to look after me here. I would be sorry, however, if that became necessary. So far I still manage quite well, and what is much more important, I think I will be able to pay the two payments [taxes on assets, to be paid in 4 instalments] in May and August without further help. There is a chance that I will be able to pay on 1 April the tax … by 1 February of this year, I will be paid a sum exactly equivalent to this instalment, and the second instalment in August is also taken care of, because I will still be paid 500 Marks out of Lilly’s locked account. In February the Department of Finance in Frankfurt paid the sum directly to the local Department of Finance, but in case I am no longer in a position to do the transaction, it would be a great comfort to know that that money will not be used for other purposes. Now, lets’ hope that I am still around to see 1 April, or the money is lost to us. If I tell you that I do not want to live much longer, you mustn’t hold it against me, my dear Gretel (but keep this confidential), as I have to suffer a great deal of pain, and this will hardly improve, because miracles no longer happen! So far I still have enough courage and the will to go through with it. Nights are usually better than days, they are only occasionally bad, like last night. Ernst [her doctor], who happened to be here yesterday, gives me medications to ease the pain, and I just took a new medication with my tea a little while ago – I hope it works better than the last one. As long as you stay healthy and don’t work so hard, my dear! Indulge yourself occasionally, which you can do with the money you meant for me.

            Mimi [Emma’s sister Wilhelmine Bing] is due to come soon and probably also Georgi [probably Georgine Eller, another sister of Emma’s]. She is more frequently with me than before because she has fewer distractions than earlier – neither theatre, nor concerts, nor anything else. You could feel sorry for her and even Gustel [Auguste Gutmann, Ferdinand Gutmann’s wife] commiserates with her. And now goodbye for today, my dear. A[delheid] [Emma’s maid] should take the letter along with her afterwards. Warm greetings and kisses,

Your devoted mother

[on top of first page:] Warm greetings to the children.


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.

Sunday 14 January 2024


16.2. 39

My dear Gretel, now that I have gotten the airmail letter for Lilly’s birthday ready for the mail, it’s your turn, my dear, and first let me confirm receipt of your dear lines of Sunday. But, please, have your secretaries put a new colour ribbon into your typewriter, I have to pour over [your letter] with my weak eyes until I can decipher everything. I am glad that Ernst [Gretel’s youngest son] is doing relatively well. Who knows what attending a technical school for a while will be good for (even if it’s [not good] for your wallet)? Maybe that will advance [his career] and may be closer to his own inclinations.  Chi lo sa? [Who knows?] – I too am always busy and have paperwork and I do a lot myself that would really be Dr. Kr[aus]’ [former mayor of Mainz, managing some of Emma’s affairs] business, for example the tax on assets yesterday [A decree issued in the spring of 1938 forced Jews to declare assets over 5,000 Marks and pay 20% taxes on them in 4 instalments]. I had all sorts of correspondence with the Mitteld[eutsche] Kreditbank in Frankfurt with respect to the blocked account of Lilly [Emma’s oldest daughter, now living in Buenos Aires], which is now a great blessing for me. I didn’t want to delay the matter, which would have happened with Dr. K. because these people have a crazy workload, especially this month, and so I managed the obtain confirmation from the bank in Frankfurt almost 8 days ago that they have sent my instalment to the Department of Finance. And I am all the more pleased because Dr. Kr[aus] charged me 25 Marks for his work on the first instalment, and this time I saved that amount. In addition I have a lot of preliminary work to do with the tax declaration and am now waiting for Dir[ector] Dietz, who was unfortunately sick at the end of last month. But he promised me this morning on the phone that he would come tomorrow morning because I had received from the district court a letter concerning the instalments, which must be answered. And so almost every day brings something new, and most of the time nothing useful. In the afternoon I almost always have visitors, such as an improvised tea with Mrs. Drexelius, who succeeded Miss Stockmann on the 4th [floor], and in addition Bab. and H.D. [?]. then also Georgi and Mimi [Emma’s sister Wilhelmine Bing], and with those two I played Rommé, as usual, until about 7.30. It is touching how Bab. and her husband are looking after me, [bringing me] things that can’t be obtained easily here or can’t be obtained at all, and [their care] makes me very glad. Do send greetings to B. occasionally [in your letter], she has of course asked me to greet you many times, and she often pours her heart out to me because she and her husband are forced to stay with relatives until they get lucky and can go to their children, first to Fritz in Lfr [?] And then to Anny, who lives near Rolf. This afternoon I expect Paul M[eyer] [a relative, Gustel Gutmann’s brother]  because I have a letter for him from Lilly [Emma’s oldest daughter], which she sent to my address because she does not know his new address and thinks Gustel has already departed, but Gustel has still problems with the clearance connected with the house, the mortgage, and similar matters [Gustel eventually fled to Riga, where she was murdered]. C’est toujours la même chose [It’s always the same thing]. Lieschen’s family (6 persons) intend to sail to Canada on the 24th of this month. An old friend of the late Mr. R. has made it possible for them all to come. I hope Karl will soon find suitable work; he is intelligent after all, and the boys (the oldest is 18 years old) can also do something. Lieschen thinks only of her obligation to watch out and take care of them all, and she is very courageous, considering the continual pain in her feet. Anna G. [Gustel’s daughter[ who visited me the day before yesterday, has a chance to go to Warrington near Manchester as a nurse – they are short of nurses in England, they say. And now don’t be alarmed: Heddel [Emma’s niece, daughter of August Saarbach and Johanna Gutmann] has given up her job because (she says) she cannot tolerate the sea climate, but also (as Anna said) because she had such a terribly small room in which one couldn’t see anything without light, even during the day. And now she has accepted a job with a lady who lives alone with her 18-year-old son. She is half an hour from London, so one fine day she is likely to appear at your place, although she does not have your address from me. But I bet she’ll find it out! Aenny [?], who has been for some months in Switzerland – in Ascona, and lately in Locarno – is not permitted to stay any longer. She too wants to go to England, probably with the help of Heddel, and (don’t laugh!) she wants to take a position as maid. You will laugh even harder when you hear that Aenny [?] (according to a report from Willy [Emma’s nephew, son of Jenny Saarbach] to his mother) earned some 70 Marks/month with short stories and the like, which allowed her to do quite well there.

Yesterday evening Lotte arrived with Juliane. They had several wardrobes and cabinets full of stuff at Lisbeth’s, which they wanted to pick up. Before she starts on her position as maid over there [in England], she will probably marry her friend, who is however a lawyer and is not likely to have many [job] opportunities. On Sunday morning I had a visit from Mrs. Wolf of Oberstein, who had already once asked her daughter in D. to convey greetings to me from…[name omitted], and I was very glad of her visit. She told me all sorts of interesting things. She had talked to you formerly, only on the telephone. I was in the middle of writing this morning, when my administrator came and stayed some two hours, as usual. First we dealt with the business of the savings account, about which I had just written a letter, and then with the tax declaration [of assets over 5000 Marks] – Mr. D[ietz] thought that could be done in a quarter hour. Hah! That declaration is so complicated this year, that no one can quite understand it and even he had to peruse each point [?] a long time. So now I have a lot of writing to do again before he comes back the day after tomorrow with the tax forms, which he unfortunately did not have with him. And tomorrow Adelheid [Emma’s maid] has to fetch a copy of the tax form from elsewhere, so I can copy it out, since he himself gives me only notes – I have to write everything myself. Today I will…[end of sentence missing]

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.