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Maria & Lucille
Vienna – November ‘37
Thank you very much for
your nice letter. I am very happy to correspond with you.
I live in Austria, in the
capital-town, in Vienna. I am 14 years old and go to the “Gymnasium”. I
think that is the same as your high-school. We have also many subjekts:
German, Latin, French, Geographie, History, Religion and so on. We learn
also English at school but not very long. I learn also privat. I think
I can speake quite well but the writing is very difficult, because we
write in German as we pronounce. So please you must excuse if I make
I love music also very
much. I play the piano and I like to go to the opera very much. Did you
hear something of Richard Wagner? That is my favourite componist. I go
very often to the opera, because we have in Vienna a very good opera.
You have in America very often casts of our opera. I like to go to the
theatre and to movies also, my favourite Film stars of Holywood are:
Myrna Loy, Nelson Eddy and Tyrone Power. I think there we have the same
I have my grandfather in
Chicago. He is a Doctor there. My father is also a Doctor. I have no
sister and no brother, I am the only child. I look forward to Christmas
with great pleasure. We have in Austria and in whole Europe Christmas
very nice. We get many many presents and we have a big Christmas-tree
with a lot of sweets. Then we have also two weeks holy days. I have this
year many wishes. I shall get an evening dress, pink silk, I hope it
will be pritty. Now I will tell you how I am looking. I have black hair
(curls) and dark eyes. My lashes are very long. I shall send in my next
letter a picture, now I can’t, because they are not ready.
I hope that we shall see
us once. Don’t you come to the Salzburger Festspieler, you surely heard
about it. So many Americans and English are always in Salzburg. The
Americans are all very fond of it.
Please be so kind and send
me pictures (if you have some at house) of movie-stars or something of
Holywood. Now I will finish because it is very late and I must get up
very early in the morning, because school begins at eight o’clock.
My name is pronounced as it is written, Maria. My
adresse means: Vienna is the town, it has 2 million inhabitants. III =
the district, and Salmgasse is the street. Now you know everything.
Please write me also and
say if you want something, I shall send you from Austria.
Many, many greets
Thank you very, very much
for your letter, the sweet hankerchief and the movie pictures. I send
you this little brooch; it is a paseant girl, now it is the great
fashion in Salzburg. I hope you will like it.
Now I will tell you about
my Christmas. I got a lot of things, dresses, a sweet maive, a brasslet
, jumpers, tickets for opera and theatre and so on. We had five weeks
holidays. I spend them very nicely. I was invited went to movie, I saw
Alibaba come to town, and a Film with Sonja Jennie in German “Eisprinzessin”.
I think you call it “Thin Ice.” Once I saw “Meistersinger,” my favourite
opera. I saw it for the 11th time I was most beautiful again.
Now we have school again.
It is very cold here we have –F degrees. Next year I shall go skying.
I will try to answer your
We see here in Austria
many American movies. You must know, that the educated classes (most of
them) in Europe know English. So we understand the movies. Of course the
ladies use rouge, lipstick, powder and finger nail-polish. Girls in our
age use powder and nail polish.
In the town all people
leave in flats. I will describe you only my room. It is quite big.
Yellow paper, a couch, a toilet-table, a wardrobe, a big fauteur, my
piano and my writing-table and other things.
Only at the country, where
we stay in summer, we have houses.
We drive also cars. I
think I answered all your questions.
What do you do the whole
day? I must get up at half past six then I have school till 1. In the
afternoon I have twice a week piano lesson once a week English. Then I
sometimes are invited perhaps dancing or anything other, or my friends
come to visit me. Please would you send me the name and the adresse of a
good friend of yours, in the same age? My friend would like two
corresponde also. Please tell your friend, if she won’t write first.
I must end my letter. Dear Lucille please write me again!
Please don’t be angry,
that I didn’t write you for such a long time. But there was really
nothing so interesting to tell you about and I had quite a lot to do for
I got also a letter from a little boy in Hudson
Ohio and from a girl from Pittsburgh, but I think I will not answer
At the 9th of
March I had my birthday. I got a sweet yellow Organdi evening dress and
long. I showed my dressmaker the picture, you sent me of Myrna Loy,
where she wears this white dress. She copied it and I think it stands me
very well. In my next letter I shall send you a Foto, where I am wearing
the dress. I got also a record: Sweetheart, Eddy and Maidowold is
singing it beautiful and it is also a very good English Waltz.
my grandmother I got a spring-suit, also very nice. In the
afternoon friends came to me it was very nice. Today we have
a holyday to celebrate the friendship with Germany. It is
very sad that Toscanini doesn’t want to come to Salzburg.
Did you ever hear a concert or an opera when he conducted?
He is wonderful. Are you singing now? We had a celebration
at school and I had to play the piano, during my friend sang
Viennese-songs. We had great applause. Then I had also to
play Theature. I was a girl of a Boardingschool. It was very
Today in the afternoon
perhaps I will go the “Rosalie”. That film with Eddy, Eleanor Pavell,
Iona Massey. Her really name is Iona Hoiniary. She is an Hungarian, was
at Viennese Opera and then she was engaged by a Holywooder firm. I saw
her very often in Vienna and now I am very curious how she is doing in
Holywood. Please send me again movie-pictures, you know whom I like.
Myrna Loy, Gable, Eddy Taylor and so on. What shall I send you? Are you
interesting in movie-picture or stamps collecting? Please answer me
soon, Dear Lucille, don’t wait so long then I will answer also very
Just now I got your letter
and answer it in the same hour. Thank you very much for your kind letter
and for the nice movie-pictures. I will send you also some. In this
letter I send you a picture of the “Fuhrer” I don’t know how you would
say in English. Today he came again to Vienna. I saw him myself.
Standing in his car he arrived under the indescribable jubilation of the
people. For the Easter holidays I will probably go away. But I don’t
want it, because it is always so nice in Vienna (to Easter). On Easter
Thirstday , we call it green-Thirstday , I would go to the opera. There
is every year “Parsifal” by Richard Wagner. On Saturday I would go with
my friends to the
church “Auferstehung”. I can’t translate that.
That is a clerical service on the street. On then we are allways going
together to a Restaurant to take the dinner. That’s every year very nice
and funny. And then on Easter-Sunday and Monday, there are parties,
theatre, movie and so on. On the 20th Adolf Hitler has
birthday. There we have no school an in the evening is my favorite opera
“Meistersinger”. There I would wear my new dress. In this letter I
can’t send you my picture because it is to heavy then, but in my next letter
quiet sure. Now I must close.
PS. Please answer me also so soon as I.
Please take care on the stampe. Perhaps it is from the vote and then it
is very precious!
July 21st 1938
Oh please don’t be angry
that I didn’t write you for so long time. But I was so lazy and it was
so hot in Vienna last month. Now I hope you will take it easy and answer
Now I am the first week at
the country. On the 14th our holidays began. In the forenoon
I go swimming or I play tennis and in the afternoon I make excursions or
some else. In our Hotel I made the acquaintance of a very nice girl in
my age and to boys of Mondle – Germany. That’s very amusing and
sometimes we go also together dancing. Here I stay till the 4th
of August and then I go on a big lake. Here there is also a
picture-house. But the worries are very bad. I would enjoy it very much
if you would write some wishes. You sent me ever a sweet charm. Many,
many thanks. It is really so nice of you to send me my favorites. I wear
it very much.
What do you do the whol
day? Have you now your big holidays?
Please answer me again!
My next addresse ist
Pritschitz am Woerthersee
Villa “ Zuflucht”
what means in the American movie O.K.?
Lucille! 15th September 38
Why didn’t you answer me?
I wrote you a letter from Kuidberg where I stood for my summer holidays.
I returned at the end of August and then I went for a week to my friend
on the [illegible] (that’s very high), where I was invited. We had very
fine weather and made nice excursions. Often we listened into the
whireless , because there were sometimes transmissions of the
Nuernberger Parteitag. Now, Nuernberg is a beautiful old town in the
middle of Germany. You will know the name from “The Mastersingers of
Nuernberg”. Now in this town every year the German faction days take
place. I don’t know if I explain that quite write. There are hold
speeches and so on. We heard also speaking the Fuhrer(Adolf Hitler). He
said, that if the German in the Tschechoslovakia don’t get their liberty
we shall make war. Today the English Premier-minister Chamberlain went
by airship to Hitler.
Three days ago I cam back
from the [illegible]. During this time I saw three movies. Dubble-wedding
with my favorite Myrna Loy and William Powell. Perhaps you have another
title. Now a movie is coming again with M. Loy, Clark Gable and Spencer
Tracy. It’s called “Test Pilot”. The day before yesterday I saw a very
exciting Italian movie in German language and yesterday I was in the
“non stop Vino”. There the pictures run the whole day and you can stay
as long as you want. But you see only pictures, which are just actually.
Now I have nothing to do
but playing the piano. You must make great progresses, if you play so
difficult and well known things. Now I am changing school because I was
in a monastery all the private schools got closed. Now I will go to a
public-school. It begins of the 3rd October. Now my friends
are all coming back and its very nice in Vienna. We are going to the
city, buying things and so on. Monday I will going to the opera.
I send you some Five
pictures and one of myself I hope you will like them. There is also a
picture of the Fuhrer.
Please dear Lucille write
me very, very soon an send me please movie picture (you know which I
like) an if you have some pictures of fashions our nice dresses!
Your affectionate friend
I received your letter and
the pictures, many thanks for it. Now I have to work a little more. We
have all our tests in November. Yesterday we had Latin Arithmetic and
most tomorrow English. A Dictation. That will be very funny, because our
English teacher a lady of 50 has a dreadful pronunciation. She isn’t an
English, realy she only stood for a year in London. We all together
don’t like her. She is old, ugly, and angry. We shall have a dictation
about the colonies. The last time was beautiful. Our Fuhrer stood in
Vienna for three days. There were so many people at the Hotel, though he
was not officially here, that you can’t imagine. I myself waited 4
hours. But that doesn’t matter. I think never a man was loved by the
whole nation like this – Just I read in the paper that you hear in the
newspapers in Germany are dreadful conditions and I don’t know what
else. That is not true. That’s only wrote by the Jews to prevent peace.
Everything is in best order. It is so funny if you sit in Germany and
you reads things that never happened. That I only tell you, that you
know how the things stay realy.
Yesterday I saw the American movie Chicago.
Technical splendid only a little bit noisy. Have German movie saw too.
On Saturday I am going with my friend in the Burg theatre to Thomas
Paine. I think that was an American hero.
The clothes you sent me
were very nice. Except the evening dresses they were all imitated
“Dirndl”. Dirndl wear the German peasants. How do you like the new
styles? I find them very funny. They don’t dress very well. I think they
are only to be worn by young and very fine faves, but unfortunately the
older ladies were them too. I like my long curls better and will wear
them nevertheless. I have got some new things. A scotch taffeta
afternoon dress black hat, pumps and a blue winter coat. Also some
jumpers. Pullovers and note books are my hobby. How sweet a gray one
with wine-read collar from Angora-wool. I send you two sweet blouses.
That one with Plisse I got in white.
The broches are German
costumes, now the peasants in the mountains are wearing them. One is
Tyrolia and the other the “Salzkammergut”.
Now dear Lucille I hope that you will answer me
Many kisses and greets
March, 20th 1939
I am so sorry, that I
didn’t get any message of you since November, though I wrote you again.
Perhaps you didn’t get it, for there were some pictures and Fotos in the
letter. So you can imagine that I had a great pleasure, when I got your
letter. You know that since autumn many things have changed and that our
Fuhrer adds Checkoslovakia to the Reich. We were standing hours and
hours yesterday to cheer him.
On the 9th of March I had my 15th birthday.
I got a very fine surprise. When I entered my room, I saw
such a cosy corner. I wanted always. It consists of two big
and comfortable armchairs with big flowers, a carpet and a
sweet little tea-table. Here I can welcome now my friends.
I was very happy about it. Then I got a light-grey dress.
The skirt is quite (I don’t know how to say do you know the
French word “Plisse”) with wine-read belt. It’s very smart.
Then I got 4 jumpers in all colors (you know that’s my hobby),
records and so on. Two week ago I visited all “Ring-Performances”.
Did you hear about Wagner’s “Ring des [illegible]”. That’s
a Music-Drama divided in four evenings. Best I like Siegfried
and Gotterdaemmerung. It is about the old northern-gods. We
call that “Mythos”. I think you would like it also very much,
for you are Germanic too.
I saw a lot of movies. But
I think you don’t know these. We don’t have so many English and American
movies now, because we can’t pay them with gold, and ours are as good as
Last week we had an
accident. My grandmother, I liked very much died. She had an operation
and died. It was a dreadful time. My mother is very unhappy and sad.
A beautiful movie I saw
for the third time. Scarlett Pimpernel with Leslie Howard and Merle
Oberon. It is about the French Revolution. Now I remember that I wrote
you after Christmas from Munich, where I made a journey and sent you
very nice pictures from there. It’s really a pity. I will write you
never more about politic (I think that’s the reason), though I am very
interested in it. Perhaps they don’t allow in America that one is
writing good things (the truth) about our
Fuhrer Leader and our
Empire. Tell me Lucille, do you beliefe too in these lies, the Jews are
writing about us? It would realy be a pitty.
I am quite astonished that
you are playing the piano as well. Those are rather difficult peaces. I
am playing too, but I think not so well.
Here we had also the flu.
I had it too, but not very bad. Now please write me very quickly, that I
know if you go any letter or not.
Commentary by Michael Luick-Thrams
Lou Celle Nelson Fertik--as a girl known by her given name, "Lucille"--approached
me one bright Indian Summer afternoon in late 2002, following a TRACES
program at the Fort Dodge/Iowa Public Library. As usual following a
program, a small crowd swarmed the podium, wanting to pose post-presentation
questions, cite "my grandmother was from Germany" to my lightly-veiled
irritated stare* or purchase a book published
by our non-profit, loss-making educational organization. Among those
hovering around me, Lou Celle--toddering behind a walker--pushed to
the front until she was able to shout above the din "I had a pen
pal in Vienna during the Hitler years..." Of course interested
in this lead but preoccupied, I shook her hand and asked her to kindly
send me a note about the story, then counted out change for a pushy
woman next to her...
A couple weeks later a Priority Mail packet arrived at TRACES'
office. Opening it, I delighted in the rare value of Lou Celle's donation
to our growing documentation of Midwesterners' encounters with individuals
in or from Nazi-occupied Europe. What a treasure, these dog-eared letters
and assorted clippings of so long ago! Tellingly, the two teens wrote
of evening gowns and Hollywood idols (infatuations much tamer than those
with today's often risqué teeny stars!), concerts and countryside strolls.
As the 18-month-long exchange of experiences and ideas progressed, however,
Maria's letters turned increasingly political--and increasingly valuable
as raw documentation of how even relatively apolitical youth can fall
victim to subtle-yet-pervasive propaganda. Maria's thorough brainwashing
was clearly mapped out in her own hand--or was it?
Both Lou Celle and I questioned the apparent contradictions and pregnant
possibilities which were perhaps "hidden" between Maria's
lines. Her grandfather, she wrote, was a doctor in Chicago--but why
that? Had he fled the on-coming Nazi occupation of Austria? If so,
was he a Jew? (As in Germany, a disproportionate number of doctors
and lawyers, professors and journalists were "non-Aryans"
and thus in danger.) Maria herself kept ever on the move--why?
Was she really going on "trips" or was she, too,
sidestepping the authorities? One address she sent Lucille/Lou Celle
was "Villa Zuflucht"--and while "Villa Refuge"
could, indeed, well have been a getaway's legitimate name, was it
a code for her own exile? She sent to Iowa various clippings of "the
Leader"--because she, at her young age, already was such an ideologue,
or because she wanted to throw would-be censors off her trail by offering
"proof" to anyone tampering with her mail that she, too,
was a "good" Nazi?
All "history" is fiction, in as far as none of us "were
there"--save for good souls like Lou Celle, of course. Rather,
we moderns dig around in journals and letters, tattered photo collections
and faded newspaper piles to ferret out what we "think" we
"know" happened years, decades or centuries ago. Of course,
any given rendering of "the historical Truth" is subjective
and partial. To me, though, the most important ingredient in "good"
history--as opposed to superficial "hobbyist" history--is
distilling what seems to have occurred to its essence, then outlining
its lasting significance to the human experience; the "right questions"
are more important than the "right answers" in such an exercise.
Believing that "history" is relevant only in as much
as it offers meaning for those of us alive today and beyond, my goal
in working with TRACES is to document how cultures and individuals
change--or don't--over time. And, I believe, understanding the possible
outcomes of a given collective or individual act can free us to live
better, fuller lives by offering roadmaps for living in a world full
of richness as well as rogues.
to be rude or arrogant, but 53% of all Iowans--and similar numbers
of other Upper Midwesterners--have German ancestry! Had I a dime for
every audience member who after a program pushed her or his way through
the crowd, planted themselves unavoidably in front of me and announced,
beaming, "My mother/father/grandmother/grandfather/milk man came
from Germany," TRACES already
would have the million or so dollars needed to open the permanent
museum we plan to eventually build, in which to preserve and present
the precious stories on this web site. Want to donate to that crucial
fund? You don't have to be "German" to do so--just interested
LouCelle's latest letter,
written in response to the above "commentary", follows: