The last letter my parents sent from the camps in France arrived in May 1942. My sister, Bertl, held on to this letter and the others from our parents for 68 years. When she came to live in Washington, DC, in 1947, the letters traveled with her. Bertl has held on to the letters through all her moves in the DC area.
In the late 1980s Bertl first mentioned the letters to my husband and me. After we had them translated, our extended family was able to read the letters and get some appreciation of the great sacrifice our parents made sending their five children to safety. All of my sisters and I have spoken publicly of our experience on the Kindertransport and have often shared excerpts from the letters when we speak. In fact, for a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Baden, Germany, we carried the letters back with us to Adelsheim to share them with the community that was our home before the rise of Nazism.
Bertl and I have often discussed what should happen to these letters in the future. As old age descends, this has become more of a pressing issue. At one time, Bertl was going to hand the letters over to her son for safekeeping. Somehow this never actually happened. While the letters originally were sent to Bertl and our aunt, they were meant for all five of the Rosenfeld children.
A few weeks ago, Bertl told me that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was coming to Leisure World in Silver Spring, Maryland, to talk to survivors and to collect artifacts they wanted to donate. So Bertl made up her mind and requested my company when she met with the people from the Museum’s Collections department. Early on a Monday morning I drove out to join Bertl on this mission.
It was a difficult decision for her to give up the letters, her last remnant from our parents’ hands, in which our mother wrote, “Stay all well and let us hear some good news from you soon and we send your our dearest love and a thousand greetings.” And our father wrote, “My dear good children and Hanna: We hope to find you all well which is the case with us as far as our health is concerned even though the rest leaves a lot to be desired. We would all be very happy to hear what work you do and what you are doing all the time. Also more details of dear little Esther. Hopefully you are all very good and obey dear Hannah because the aunt really only wants your best. For today our best wishes and kisses.”
Now our parents become part of the larger picture of what life was like for the people who were victims of the Nazi regime. While we have copies of the letters, the originals will be available to all who want to learn about the people who lived and died during the Holocaust. My hope is that people who read the letters will realize our parents were ordinary people who had the same concerns and hopes for their children as all parents everywhere. I feel in some ways this is our final separation from our parents.
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