Sunday, March 18, 2012

The First Descent into Hell-Continued -Letter to a Prisoner

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The archivist at Brandenburg found, among the legal documents, a personal letter to my father from a friend of his, Oskar Gellman, dated January 17, 1936, with an extra note by Erna, whom I assume to be his wife.
            His friend not only decided to appraise him of the mundane events of his acquaintances during the time her was in prison, but also to entertain him and keep his spirit up. Why the wardens would have kept just this letter, I have no clue, but the writer is so very vivid and ascerbic in his wit, that perhaps they kept it as an example of how funny these Jews could be. His writing verges on the Rabelaisian and he pokes sharply at his friends and acquaintances.
            It is a window on the mood of Jews in the early years of  the Hitler reign, as the Nuremberg laws were taking effect while the ultimate horror  awaiting them was something as yet unimagineable. Clearly, the author says nothing at all about the Nazi regime, since he is aware that the letter will be read by the authorities and understands the potential impact on my father’s pending appeal of anything at all material to his incarceration. He can only make reference to it as a one –time moment of stupidity that does not match my father’s fine personality and sterling character, which he pointedly emphasizes ( as does Erna). In light of the fun he pokes at his circle of friends, one can see how highly he regards my father in contrast. There is no reference to the status of Jews, per se, but clear references to the general difficulties in finding secure employment or economic security for some of the people involved and a general sense of wishing to leave. The one reference to politics is to the Italian occupation of Ethiopia and the fear of war between the British and French against the Italians in the Mediterranean.

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