|Last letters from home
The Kant family in Europe maintained contact by correspondence with the family members that immigrated abroad. This contact deteriorated immediately after the break of World War Two. After Britain joined the forces opposing Germany there was no more mail service from Poland to Palestine (under British control). The letters had to be mailed through Switzerland (neutral country) and even that stopped after awhile. The communication with Gusta in USA was much more reliable and persisted until the end of 1942. The German occupying forces had gradually limited the communication of the Jewish population under its jurisdiction with the free world. The worse the condition had become the more censorship was applied in order to prevent any information leak to the outside. The long letters from home became short post cards. The contents of these postcards was very uniform and it did not include any detail about the historical events that took place at that time in Poland. It is possible that by writing letters that lacked any informative content the senders wanted to ensure that it would reach its destination or may be even to avoid being punished by the authorities. We are all right, was written in those letters and please write home more and make your mother happy. In the beginning of 1943 there were still some letters from the family in Poland arriving in New York city. The German censor used to erase certain words with black markers and later started to cut whole paragraphs from the letters. The last letter looked like shredded paper and was impossible to analyze. Since the tightening of censorship correlated with the Ghetto formation and the Aktions that followed, it is conceivable that Frida Riva could not avoid mentioning these events and the German authorities had more to hide. When the last letter was received by Gusta in New York she could not connect between the pieces of information that were left on the paper. The only information that could have been retrieved was that the family (or part of it) was still within the living. Following a lengthy period in which there was no reply from the Kant family in Bochnia, Gusta sent a letter to the Post Master in Bochnia inquiring about the whereabouts of her family. In the reply letter received shortly after, it said that the family had moved and their new location is unknown.
In the following pages I will bring some of the last letters and their translation. As I mentioned before the amount of information in the letters is limited but still I found it appropriate to include these items in the document. Relying on the rest of the material and with some interpretation, I hope that we will be able to understand the direct and indirect messages conveyed in these short letters.
This letter addressed to New York, USA but pertaining to all the Kant family members outside Poland. The congratulations are for the wedding of Mania with Joseph Zelinkovsky in Palestine on April 1940. Frida is hinting Gusta to transfer Manyas letters from Palestine to her. Mail services from Poland (under British mandate) to Palestine were discontinued after Britain joined the war against Germany. The only way to correspond with Manya was through a neutral country like the United States. Pay attention to the indirect way in which Frida conveyed her request in order not to jeopardize her communication root through the USA. In her letter Frida avoided any reference to the war events in Poland. Only this kind of letter could have passed through the German censorship. This benign non descriptive method of writing is typical of all her letters.
Bochnia, 29 August 1940
I wish you all a good year, a year of health and happiness. With Gods help may we all live to see each other in the coming year. Regards, a lot of health and all the best. A lot of well wishing from all the family and from all of us here at home. From your sister and sister-in-law Esta. Gemar Chatima Tova.
My dear Gitl. Ester wrote this letter for me. Although it is difficult for me to write, I do add few words by myself so you will not worry. My dear children, there is a God and he will help us for the coming new year. We have to live in hope. Will you please send me your pictures. May you all be strong and healthy.
Regards and kisses from your mother Frida Kant, who loves you faithfully . Awaiting your fast response.
Kisses to all of you my dear children from your loving mother.
My dearest, dont be surprised that I am not writing to you. I am still extremely busy. With love Nathan. (in Polish)
Bochnia, October 8, 1940
In this letter, like the others, no details were given about the events in Bochnia. All what we can learn from it is that all the family members were still alive. The sender could not verify if previous letters reached their destination and that is why parts of this letter are a repetition of other letters. Nathan, the youngest son, added a few words at the end of this letter. From the break of the second World War he was the only breadwinner for the family. Nathan too, like his mother is not writing anything substantial.
Bochnia, September 24, 1941
Dear Mania and Joseph:
All of us, thank God, are well and mother is feeling good. I wish that this situation will continue. May God send only good our way. Our life continues as usual. Shaye is O.K. and thank God at home1 we are very pleased. Your letter brought us a lot of happiness. Please write us about Toshka, Ester Konigsberg and Regina Flisher. They are not writing home and their parents are worried.
hugging and kissing you
This is the last letter from the family in Poland. Contact by mail (even
through the USA) was inconsistent. Many letters to or from Poland did not
arrive at their destination. In this period (the end of 1941) the Nazi murder
machine was working at its full capacity. For unknown reasons the Jewish
community of Bochnia continued with its life routine while all the other
Jewish congregations around Bochnia had vanished. In spite of the lack of
details of the current events in Poland, you can sense the fear for the future
expressed in a general and non committal way. Pay attention to the new address
on the front of the card Kozeczowska 40 instead of Wisnicka 40. The family
was moved to the designated area of Ghetto Bochnia.