Digging deep into STUFF as part of the packing process, I got into an archive of letters and photos we brought home from J’s mother’s house after she died in 1982. I found two letters which I have translated from the German, the first in part, the second in full.
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To get the context of the first letter, you need to understand that Jacques’ family, despite some intermarriage (and despite his nom de plume, or guerre) was predominantly Transylvanian Saxon. These were people who moved to the foot of the Carpathian Mountains in the 13th and 14th centuries at the invitation of a Hungarian king, and there, despite building hilltop fortresses where the whole town would retreat during invasions from the East (which is why the German name for Transylvania is Siebenbürgen, seven fortresses), they acquired a wide swath of Mongol genes, probably the hard way, but to their long-term advantage. They were part of Austro-Hungary till 1918, when Transylvania was awarded to Romania. The educated class, to which J’s family belonged, spoke 4 languages: high German, Saxon dialect (which resembles Old English more than it does German), Hungarian, and Romanian.
In the lead-up to WWII, a number of these Transylvanian Saxons were enamored of Hitler; others, more working-class, were enamored of Stalin. The story I got about J’s family is that they were enamored of neither; this is somewhat substantiated by my possession of an Ahnenpass, a booklet handed out to Germanic families in which they were supposed to fill out their ancestry to prove there weren’t any Jews in it. The one I have is . . . blank. But there were family friends who fell into the first category, and this is an excerpt from a letter from one of those, who was apparently in Vienna. (Warning: it’s a shocker.)
Trenyi [J’s mother’s nickname], imagine, I have seen the Führer quite close up and four times. To be sure, we stood for four hours but as a result I got a fine view of Him [sic]. The police couldn’t hold us back anymore, we ran quite close to the car. Then He went into the [Hotel] “Imperial” and we planted ourselves in front of the hotel and shouted that it was a joy, “We want to see our Führer,” and “Dear Führer, Ostmark’s son [the Nazi name for Austria after Anschluss], show yourself on the balcony” [“Balkon,” this rhymes in German, as does the following] and “Dear Führer, be so nice, seat yourself on the windowsill,” and lots more quickly invented things. He did let himself be seen twice on the balcony, but we didn’t go home until He came out again and drove to the theater. I can’t describe to you the feeling that I had when I saw Him. I cried and screamed as never before in my life. I believe really He is for us Germans the second Christ. And because I believe in this his purpose, I know that only He will bring the world peace, and until then we have quite a lot to experience. And the Jews can balk all they want, they must come together and unite themselves into one people in Palestine and then there will be peace in Europe. I can’t feel too sorry for them. Their fate must fulfill itself. And they have enough infamous actions on their conscience. All these laws that the Führer gives out against the Jews today because of the racial defilement and the blood libel they already have [deserved?] for thousands of years, and it doesn’t occur to anyone to get further excited about them.
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The second letter is one of two, written in haste in pencil on brown paper, that got through from J in the Donbas slave labor camp to his parents.
21 July 1946
Dear Tata and Dear Mama!
With an opportunity I send you a couple of lines, I’m doing fine am healthy and cheerful and waiting only to come home. I don’t understand why I haven’t gotten a letter from you like many others here? Well, doesn’t matter, hopefully it won’t be much longer. Of my work here and my daily life you will learn when I am with you. I’ll just say so much: that I have a gigantic appetite. Dear Mama, see that in the cabinet the rows of jam jars are standing just so, for I have forgotten what jam tastes like. Enough of that. Hopefully Edith* is at home and healthy. My things are taken care of, right? I’ll conclude. Hermann [his birth name] kisses you.
Greet all of the family, I mean all, all. Tata, forgive my handwriting, for the letter was and had to be written in one minute.
*[J’s sister, who he did not know had been arrested a few days after him, incarcerated 50 kilometers away from him, and had by the time of this letter been dead for more than a year.]
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As I look at these two letters juxtaposed, it strikes me that the second is a direct consequence of the first.