Part 5—Letter Number Two, Friday May 26, 1939
Translated from the German original
First of all I want to thank you for your telegraphic Yom Tov greetings. I hope, my dears, you spent the Yom Tov just as good as I. Very often I had to think of you. And now we are getting quickly nearer to our goal. Regretfully, again the Shabbos has been selected for that, because tomorrow morning approximately, we should be arriving in Havana. So it always goes and nobody knows exactly. It is said that we will be put into quarantine for half a day. If it has to be, we will also overcome that. Our luggage is already packed accordingly. This morning I sweated, so that my shirt could have been wrung out, to that we will have to get used. Here exists already tropical temperatures and one sweats even when one is not working. But that should make no difference to me, when I, respectively we, are coming nearer to the final step that we have undertaken. Later more about that. Quickly a few short remarks about the happenings of the last two days. By beaming sunshine the trip program went forward as scheduled. Every day naturally higher temperatures. Always water, water and again water. We could not see the Bermuda Island, since we passed that at night.
Food is still good although the fish are slowly getting a bit too much, but you can’t do anything about that. The service, as well as the entire personnel of the ship are our “best friends.” For example, the time for the religious services is always announced on all the bulletin boards of the ship. The big dining room is set up as a prayer hall and declared off limits. In the tourist class and in the first class they make minyan. A steward, who here serves us in the room where we pray, has received from his colleagues the nickname “synagogue servant.” On Erev Yom Tov we learned at 12, with liquor, sweets, etc. I also donated the rest of the macaroons, and it was in any case very relaxing. My Dears, don’t have any concerns about me, with the help of God, I will also find my way around quickly in the foreign country. You should only stay well. How did you spend the days? Did you my dear children go regularly to shul and did you do and accomplish everything as I like it? And, which is the main concern, do you also obey? Now I hope that you will report to me all the details.
Dear Mama, how do you feel without your Schatz? I hope really, that you will write to me often and much.
What else in general have you heard? What does Rahel write? Have they received their permit? I am very anxious about that and I would be very, very happy if I could receive them here soon. To Palestine, Holland, New York, Prague I have written cards, also to Hamburg. Since I still have money I will still send two telegrams with paid reply, otherwise everything is all right.
Mr. Manasse is waiting for me, I will look for him. We are often together and discuss what we can undertake. When I see that it will be well, I will investigate an occupation together with him. On the other hand, I know this man still too little, in order to be able to judge that today. The one thing I know today already, much I cannot learn from him. Later more.
It is already 2, you already have made Shabbos. Before Havana, then more. In the meantime I am in my thoughts at the Friday evening table in your midst and remain with love
Monday May 29, 1939
I had the intention to write from the land. Regretfully, nothing came of it. We are lying already since Saturday morning early about 5 in the harbor of Havana on anchor that means not on a pier but in the middle of the harbor. The Cuban authorities go in and out of the ship and we are being guarded day and night, but we are not allowed to land, although all passengers have their papers in order. For what reason we really are not allowed to land, we have not been told. There is so much talk around, but nobody knows anything really. Friends and acquaintances are coming in small boats up to 20 meters and converse, respectively greet us, and give us courage. Also Benno did not fail to come a few times already on Shabbos. He is healthy and looks unbelievably well. I have requested him for the time being to send you greetings, so that you know, that we have arrived here well, and are well taken care of here on the ship. We are not in a depressed mood, although some depression exists. Difficulties have arisen which will have to be resolved. Seemingly, the Immigration Commissar acted single handedly. But what can we do. We are Jews and we have to adjust ourselves to our fate. It is only crushing, that they also say, that Cuba altogether is closed. Dear, dear Bertha and my dear Children, we are now separated. But don’t despair, my Dears, I will not leave any methods untried if once it is necessary. It only has to be successful for me to also bring you my Dears here. But even I am not yet here, but I am not afraid, that we will not be taken off the ship. The ship’s management, the Ambassadors, the Jewish committee, all are working on it. It all seems to be finally only a question of money, which the committee also will resolve. It will then also be possible, that one can bring one’s family as it is customary in many other countries. Dear God will not leave us. Today Benno gave me two letters. One is from you, dear good Wife (from May 15th with two paid reply sheets) the other one is from dear Paul from New York. I thank you dear good Mama for your so dear lines, which gives me strength to endure and to hope. There are many more difficult cases. There is a woman on the ship whose husband already is in Argentina for three years. Women whose husbands are in America but the children live in Germany, Belgium, Holland, etc. This misfortune, like this one, many, many have. Therefore, all concerns will be carried communally. I am writing to you about it, since no doubt you have already been informed that difficulties have arisen at the disembarking. Hopefully, Benno will inform you correctly, since I do not know whether and how I can send this letter. Maybe I can send it with an international reply coupon. Paul writes consoling, but he does not know yet, that we have not yet landed. Uncle Martin has now finally also given a new address and can probably help us. That means so much for us. Well, dear “Mamachen,” head high. Don’t let it conquer you. I want to close this letter now and will see how to get it out. As soon as we hear something, I will write further. Receive many greetings for you Dear Mama and Children including many kisses
- These lines are meant for everybody also in general.
PPS. A gentleman from Havana is just on board and he will take this letter along. Be in good mood, within a few days certainly, the USA will make everything in order.
By Norbert Strauss
Norbert Strauss is a Teaneck resident and has been a volunteer at Englewood Hospital for the past 30 years. He was General Traffic Manager and Group VP at Philipp Brothers Inc., retiring in 1985. Prior to Englewood Hospital he was also a volunteer at the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Hospital for over 30 years, serving as treasurer and director. He frequently speaks to groups to relay his family’s escape from Nazi Germany in 1941. He has eight grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.