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The American Experience
June 1941

Camp de Gurs
Ilot I, Bar. 12
Basses-Pyrenées

June 4, 1941


My Dear Children,

I was quite convinced to be able to report pleasant news of our early emigration today, but instead we find that the prospects for that are ever diminishing. You too will have become aware of that through Father's cable and I'm sure you're better informed than we about the present situation. Unfortunately, today's report by Father is nothing less than hopeless. For that reason, there is absolutely no use to wallow in great expectations, all of which would only lead to new disappointments over and over again. None of us can alter one iota of the entire situation and we must accept it as it comes. We cling to the thought that with God's help the day of a reunion may yet come soon; we already have so much behind us that we will, God willing, overcome this too in good health.

As you may be aware, we have a notice to appear at the [American] consulate on June 24, and can only hope that after that the possibility of a departure will still exist. We are anxious to hear what your cabled answer will be, dear Max. People stop by daily, all of them in the same situation, and all of them believing that they'll be able to attain their goal sooner through your intervention [at the travel bureau where he worked]. And one person clings to the next, asking for advice. All the while, we don't even know how to help ourselves. How happy it would make us to be at that point ourselves!...

I got still another letter from Mr. Thalheimer who notified me that I can expect remittance of Ffrs, 900 [approx. $20] Do take our most heartfelt thanks for it, dear Children! It would be of interest to us to find out by what route you made this remittance. Thus far, nothing has been delivered on this end and it is too bad that these days only Ffrs 400 are being paid out every two weeks. I am also still in the dark about the previous two remittances of $10 each. Did you remit them via the same route as well -- or how else, dear Gerdi? I hope [their arrival] will still be announced while I'm here [in Gurs]. You see, no matter how thrifty we are, the money runs through our fingers all too quickly, because everything is so expensive. In spite of all that, I can still save on many an item that I would otherwise have to buy, thanks to Frieda and Mrs. S. At the same time, it does depress me a lot to always have to be on the receiving end without being able to return the favor for the time being.

If, God forbid, we should still have to remain here for a longer period, the most practical approach would be to have food packages sent to us through Mr. Thalheimer, via France. That would take us much further than having to buy every single thing for exorbitant prices. Once in Marseilles, we'll need Ffrs. 1000 for both our visas and medical exams for which we applied. But it looks like, additional funds will be needed, much of which we couldn't have anticipated; unfortunately none of your many clothing packages ever reached us. That meant we had to acquire miscellaneous items. We held off with that until it simply had to be done; after all, one can't walk around in total rags. I obtained a nearly new summer suit for Father from Aunt Franziska which is urgently needed and of course I'm not asking for it for nothing. As to shoes and a topcoat, I'll have to see where I can get those because Aunt Franziska needs the topcoat for herself [Uncle Sigmund having passed away recently.]

You might think how unimportant everything is that I'm writing, yet it's quite important for us. You can't imagine how many things are being altered, sewed or knitted in this place; also by people who packed well [at the time of deportation]. Dresses, blouses and aprons, etc. are being fashioned from nightgowns, shirts or a variety of other things! We are thoroughly fed up with that and everything else, to the point where we just don't want to hear any more or talk about it!

I'd much rather have a conversation with you, dear Kurt, and want to avail myself of the opportunity now already to express my heartiest congratulation on your upcoming birthday. What I feel for you and ardently wish you, I would much prefer to tell you in person. Who would have thought that on the completion of your 21st year we must still be separated? However, by no means do I want to spoil this day for you with maudlin sentimentalities. Rather, may you be privileged to spend it in the most pleasant manner. Be assured that our thoughts are constantly with you and all the others. If only we can keep our health, so that we may once more experience some pleasant hours in your company. Even now, we look forward with delight to getting your details about it all...

I almost forgot: about a week ago, I received 1lb of coffee, half a pound of cocoa, and a nearly empty tin of cookies via Lisbon, for which I thank you, dear Children, so very much. In case we should have to be here for a prolonged period, we'd be most grateful for some butter.

As much as I'd like to continue this conversation with you, I do have to conclude now. I really meant for these lines to go to your address, dear Max and Suse, but inasmuch as I cannot send another special letter to Kurt on his birthday, this will go directly to him. We gladly look forward to your next letter and I ask you to extend our best regards to all within the family. To you, dear Kurt, once again, my most ardent wishes for happiness, a day of fun and most heartfelt regards and kisses, to all of you from your loving

Mother

June 6, 1941

Dear Children,

...As mentioned in my previous letter, I hope to receive the preliminary visa on June 24. That will enable me to apply for Mother's transfer to Marseilles [from Gurs], because she has to be present at the time the actual visas are issued. The date for that to happen depends on my furnishing proof of suitable passage. The [necessary] Portuguese transit visas can only be applied for after the real American visas have been issued and will take approx. 2 - 4 weeks, despite telegraphic application through the Portuguese consulate in Marseilles. In that case, also, BUDD [Jewish aid organization] cannot be counted on for help, however HICEM [Jewish aid organization] may be able to do something on our behalf in Lisbon.

The Spanish transit visa and the French exit visa can be obtained within a few days without any difficulties. You can see from the foregoing how complicated everything is here and how much time it all takes. Aside for that, you encounter every conceivable kind of difficulty wherever you go and you soon learn that you must never lose your patience if you expect to achieve anything at all. Otherwise I am all right, something that Mother also confirms about herself in her letters which usually take about 8 - 10 days. We have to get used to the prevailing tempo of life here...

Heartiest greetings...

Your Father

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