berschtel family Letters: 1938-1946

The Letters of Mae Berschtel Mendelsohn Mandl

photo of parents
Bronia and Zalman Berschtel, Mae's parents

Mae's sister Anni
The Berschtel family were among the over 17,000 Polish-born Jews who were forced from their homes and business in Germany in late October 1938 and relocated in Poland. Marie (Mae) Berschtel left shortly after for the United States where she married Felix Mendelsohn. Mae’s brother and his wife escaped to Palestine. Mae’s parents and two sisters – Hilde and Anni – remained behind in Poland.

Hilde Berschtel

The letters to Mae from her parents and sisters were full of love and concern for her, and downplayed their hardships. The last postcard Mae received, dated October 12 1941, however, provides a glimpse into their privations - they tell her that they "have nothing left to sell." . Mae Mandl’s parents and sisters perished during the Holocaust.

Mae Mandl’s parents wrote to her regularly. Her father wrote in German and her mother in Yiddish. But even their intimate correspondence was limited by the Nazis. In a letter dated May 22, 1941, Hilda’s father tells Mae that writing in Yiddish is no longer permitted: “Mother didn't get to write-one is only allowed to write in German. “

parents' letter
red cross letter
Click on image for a larger view

When no news came from her parents, Mae wrote to them through the Red Cross. Her message was returned to her a year letter, with a note “Message was not delivered because the addressee is not at the address anymore. Unable to locate.”

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