Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Letters to My Mother by Natasha J. Stillman

Munich, Germany
April 18th, 1933

Meine liebe Mutti,

It breaks my heart to write this letter to you, but as you know, it may be some time before you hear from us next. Your entreaties to flee for our own safety have not gone unheard, Mother. You were always a great observer and I have never failed to trust your instincts. I am loathe to leave you on this side of the ocean, but it greatly relieves me that you will move in with Anna and her family. Anna was ever the homebody and always took after you, while I took after Papa. Thank you for your understanding all these years. You have had enough patience and in your heart to bear both his and my Wanderlust. I do not think he would have been able to take this maelstrom laying down. Oh, but how you must miss him. I am glad he is not here to see what we have been enduring.

This last blow only confirmed that we are doing the right thing. Since the F├╝hrer declared the boycott of all Jewish businesses at the beginning of the month, things have incrementally gotten worse for us. Many of Arthur’s patients, whom he had treated since the girls were babies, simply stopped coming. I do not know whether they truly agree with the boycott or are simply far too afraid not to obey. Arthur is hurt by this betrayal by families we thought were our friends. It hurts me to see him so. I pretend that I am equally shocked, but in truth, I am not. Even so, although this horrible mood is all around us, part of me still thinks we will wake up tomorrow morning and everything will have gone back to normal. Neither of us wants to admit it openly, but the very circumstances surrounding Arthur and my courtship – i.e. our years treating prisoners of war in Siberia – allows us to see just that much more of human nature - enough to realize that this situation will not simply resolve itself. We are in grave danger, and we know it.

Ruth and Naomi have withdrawn back into their own little world again – just like they did when they were very little. Twins are like that, as you know. Children sense things. Leaving is as much for their mental health as it is for our physical safety. We are lucky that Arthur’s brother’s family has place for us in Montreal. And, dear mother, we can never thank you enough for your contribution. We will not start out destitute and it is partially due to your foresight. I fear that our last visit to Paris when the girls were 12 was really the last we will ever see of you and Anna, (I will never forget the Lido and the cabaret show. What a night!) for although most of our Jewish friends who are also leaving see this as temporary, Arthur and I are treating this as a permanent move. We want the girls to treat Canada as a completely new start so they can begin to live as if they are already home, and will not waste their years looking back to a home lost. Besides, as their French is far better than mine, I have a feeling they will come out fine. At least, I hope so.

Ah. There is Arthur now. He only went to the office today for appearances. The SS have been “guarding” the gates in front of his building. They have been nothing but polite, but there is something menacing behind even that. We will be up all night packing. We decided to pack as if we were only going for a few weeks. We are not taking much and are leaving even most of our valuables behind, except for small things we can fit underneath our clothing. Things can be replaced. People cannot. Isn’t that is what you always told me?

Well, Mama, you are irreplaceable and I love you more than words can say.

May God be with you and with all of us - whatever may come.
Forever your loving daughter,


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