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[Yiddish page 251]

Love Letters from the Ghetto

by Shmuen Elendman

Translation from the Yiddish by Susannah R. Juni

These letters were published in several printed editions by H. M. Elendman. The author perished as a martyr (Kidesh Hashem) in the year 1942 in Bolekhov.

First Letter

From the author to the Khosn-Kale (bride and groom)

Dear Khosn-Kale (Bride and Groom),

I know how very much you're worrying , when you come home from the engagement and you need to write a mazel-tov letter. Particularly, the first letter from the groom to the bride and the bride to the groom – who burns so strong and the hearts flutter one to the other – are difficult for you.

The teacher who taught you tashrak tsfe's [code system] and "grizlikh" writing forgot to teach you about writing such letters. Usually you get the best town writers and for a sheyne matbeye (a nice sum of money) he writes the letters for you. In order that you should not need this anymore, I – who for many years have been the town maskil [representative of the Enlightenment Movement], and I already wrote a lot a lot of such letters, and the couples live barukh hashem (thank G-d) besholem ubeshalve (in peace and tranquility) (they even have fine children already) – we enjoy such various types of little letters, each person to express according to his walk of life and his fantasy.

There even exists already little books, which are called "Letter-Writer." But these are old fashioned; secondly not to the topic, but my letters are up to date and very much to the point.

I hope that the kindly bride and groom will buy this book for themselves, and then have great enjoyment and will only be thankful of me.

I wish luck to you and greet you, although we don't know each other.

From me your friend,

Sh. E.

Second Letter

(from an artisan to his fiancée - bride)

Oy vey my heart knocks in me like a hammer on the anvil when I take the pen in my hand, to write my first letter to you. Like the sparks which fly out from the piece of iron, my warm feelings fly to you.

[Yiddish page 252]

I beg you that you should write me a lot of letters, because I love you very much and I long for you. You're set into my heart with a lock, for which all the locksmiths from the entire world won't be able to make a key.

From me, your fiancé - groom, whose heart is welded and hammered together with your heart.

Zigmund

Third Letter

(Answer from the bride-to-be to the groom-to-be)

Dear Zigmund!

As soon as the mail carrier brought the letter (I recognized immediately that it's from you) so light and happy had my heart become. It seemed to me that the whole room danced. The mirror which hangs on the wall somehow began to shine differently, and the hanging lamp to sparkle like gold. Everything sparkled in my eyes. My heart became warm like a hot pressing iron, my head was spinning so happily like the wheel of the machine… A whole day was like a holiday to me and I wasn't able to work. The needle fell out of my hand and I couldn't anymore thread the needle…

At night I dreamed that the thread had stretched itself out somehow so long, to you, and it didn't even once get tangled… and you, so smilingly, rewound it from you to me… like a seam, which when one sews it through several times it can't rip out and when you press it well, it seems like one piece, thus am I pressed to you…

I send your sister Khane-Beyle very friendly greetings, and an extra greeting for Yenta Royze. I greet your brother Menashe-Chaskiel specially, a greeting for your friend Melekh Godil, who I don't know. When you see Shloyme-Mendl you should leave a greeting for my sake. My mother greets your mother a thousand times, my father greets your father heartily. You shouldn't forget to greet your little sister Pessele, my sister greets your whole family. My brother Shoyl [Saul] for his sake sends over an extra greeting!

From me, your bride-to-be, who greets you with her entire heart,

Roza

Fourth and Fifth Letters

[These letters are both written in German, but in Yiddish letters. They have not yet been translated.]

Sixth Letter

(An old maid to her groom to be)

Dear dear Leon, my life!

I received your heartfelt letter and it simply delighted me. Dear Leon, my life! I beg you that you should write to me every day. Ay, you should see my trouseau that I decorated from scratch, you would have great pleasure. The small cushions look like two beautiful little ottomans…

You write me, my Leon-dear, that I should pamper myself, in order that I should look good; I obey you and I will always obey you, only you must also obey me; namely you shouldn't go in your overcoat unbuttoned like your nature is, and you should put on a warm-wool scarf in order that you should khalile (G-d forbid) not catch a cold and you should drink every morning skim milk…

Dear Leon-dear! You write me that you will buy a piece of bed linen at the fair; I write you that you should get a wide one. The covers for the pillows should be 1 meter 10 in length, the bed covrs 2 meters 10 in length, the feather bed 1 meter 20 wide and 2 meters long, the sleep sheets 2 meters 25 in length, the fabric should be flowered and striped. You should indeed buy 2 good blankets, double width. But you should really see to it they shouldn't fool you, you should haggle… you should watch out they shouldn't pull the suds over your eyes… I ask you Leon-dear, you should see to it to quickly finish this up. I've already finished my things a long time ago.

From me your bride-to-be, who hopes to quickly and soon to see you forever.

Rozalia Altfoter

Seventh Letter

A small-town maskl [member of the Haskale, Jewish enlightenment movement] writes a "love letter" to the mekhutin [the future daughter-in-law's father]

Loshn-koydesh [Hebrew], translated af ivri-taytsh [a word-for-word translation, in a second column, of the Hebrew into Yiddish, from a traditional method of studying Torah by translating the words into Yiddish without trying to necessarily create Yiddish sentences. This letter has not yet been translated because the Yiddish translator feels it should be translated from the Hebrew first. The text is layed out in two columns – Hebrew first, on the right, and the Yiddish taytsh (literally meaning) on the left.]

Eighth Letter *)

(From a small-town maskl [adherent of the Haskale , Jewish Enlightenment movement], a philosophical love letter to his bride-to-be in Linsk [Lesko].)

My pre-established Serafina!

You to the substance-concept evolved in the through attributes to the categorical imperative substrata transendental love cosmologically through complex ideas to the practical postulate in my "I"-ness constellated through relation. Heraclitus and all the other Greek and Roman philosophers and the Talmud with Maimonedes and Mendelsohn agree, that love flows…

Love is a Physic Spirit
That Feeds the Gods

In Goethe's Faust love is an idealistic deduction of the material out of the being of the ego. My love for you is a priori and brings all the ganglias to [the point of] exponential vibration.

As the clasping through often repeats division trunk cells united, my spirit melds with your spirit, my gastrula with your gastrula, my geyselitseln [type of cell?] with your geyselitseln in infinity.

Es zent zikh nokh dem "ding an zikh"… It is itself after that "the thing in itself" [Kant]

Yours,

Emanuel

*) Over the deep meaning philosophy from the small-town maskl should the dear reader not vesholem khas [G-d forbid] not strain the head.

Ninth Letter *)

Dear Bride-to-be!

I write you this letter from Tomsk, deep in Russia. The further I roam away from you, the more I long for you, all the more my love burns for you like a glowing fire. Even the big giant cold spells don't have enough strength khas-vekhalile.

[G-d forbid] to cool off. The whole day I sit in prison camp, I've forgotten everyone – Pan Feldfebl, the Pan Corporal, even the Major who used to connect with me. I've forgotten about the entire war and Efraim Yosel's little factory and everyone; only one thing lies deeply in my heart, in my mind. That is you, my dear bride.

And as for that report which was spread at home, that I eat and sleep here with a goye [non-Jewish woman] and live with her a gitn tog [all day] is a shaker-gomer [an absolute lie], a base lie told by a prisoner of war.

It's true that Yosel Zeigermacher [literally – watchmaker] does have some kind of a shiksl who brings him something and gives him a kiss in addition, but only Yosel can do this; he's not better at home; but as for me, what can't witch's tongues invent. In short, it's a sheker-vkesev [an utter falsehood], I have only love for you.

Hashem-yisborekh [G-d] should help the war to end and we should get married in peace and it should be good by us in spite of the evil tongues which invent hollow dream-fantasies about me.

I kiss you from the distance a hundred times, a hundred thousand kisses.

Yours,

Rachmiel Vermkroyt

Tenth Letter

(A widower to his bride-to-be, a young woman.)

My greatly loved, khosheve [respected] bride-to-be, Sosha life!

Firstly, I write to you that I am barukh hashem [thank G-d] healthy, and wish for myself the same to you, omeyn sela [so be it].

Secondly, I write to you that my heart is full of love and loyalty to you. I hope that it will be very good for you with me, you yourself won't wish for anything better. I will hold you like gold in paper; your children will hold you like a sister. Yet what will the children matter to you? The older girl will bekorev [soon] be married, they're proposing matches for my boy and the remaining children are very obedient and will go into fire for you.

Dear Sosha my life! I ask that you should not – should not listen to any gossip about me about previous stories… You are by me very loved and appreciated and important. It will be a great honor for you to be Rebbe Shmerl Gingold's wife, with great nakhes . We should grow old until 120 years.

I've had the rooms freshly painted, I've also bought new things for the household. I will also add a servant for you; you will come into all good things, already prepared…

From the 5,000 kronen that I'm sending you today you should buy what your heart desires. After the wedding, I will yirtse-hashem [G-d willing] set up half a house, because the whole house is in my name, not like you're heard. I'm writing a letter to your father that he should hurry up because the business [or economy] goes to the dogs, and I myself am becoming strongly plagued.

My dear crown! You should be happy and cheerful, you should pamper yourself, you come with G-d's help into good hands, you'll be satisfied with me.

Your khosn [husband to be] who waits already for the gliklikhe sho [the happy/lucky hour],

Smerl Gingold

Eleventh Letter

(A young divorcee to her husband-to-be, Reb Mendel Foyglmilkh, a widower from Podhajce [Podgaytsy])

[This letter appears to be written in German, using Yiddish letters and spelling. It has not yet been translated.]

Twelfth Letter

(A balebotisher [a middle class man] war merchant bokher [young bachelor] to his kale [bride-to-be].)

Kale love!

I wish you and your father and the whole family a mazl-tov . The eternal should help that it should be in a guter gliklikher sho [good happy hour]. Our parents should have great nakhes [pride] from us and achieve gdule [glory/exultation] [i.e., should live to see the wedding]. They should accomplish these things.

The nadn [dowry] (in the Polish marks) my father wanted to form a Prague credit-institution but I stopped him from doing it; firstly that bank pays too small a percent and secondly, one can meanwhile until the wedding do a little business with the dowry with various "skhoyres" [commodities].

For example, I'm hearing from Lemberg [Lviv] that "turners" are blazing, "colts" are jumping, "tin/ sheet metal" is banging, and "mortor " is shooting upwards… or even German green and red marks, or true German-Austrian, stamped and unstamped, or even Czechoslovakian, Yugoslavian, Bohemian, Hungarian and Rumanian, all of the stamped and unstamped and everyone can earn a pretty penny…

Reb Moyshele Goldreich advises me of all things to buy a little "tsarski", "dumski", kerenski", seminski" , really, even a little grivnes, karbavontses, or denikintsis ; that fool thinks that I will do what he says. My own preference would be to buy a little American or Canadian dollars or actually shillings or Lea' [?] and with that I hope im yirtse hashem [G-d willing] to earn a lot.

I already know how we will yirtse-hashem [G-d willing] have the business… After the Russian retreat, Schmerl Kutsermacher had a stone building [house] built for himself with 2 storefronts. I shmuest [schmoozed] with him and he answered me that he won't rent it out to anyone else. The house will be finished between the yomim-neroyim [Days of Awe, days between Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur] and our wedding won't be until shabos-brevshish [Sabbath after Simchas Torah]. So, the business won't need to stand empty for long.

I greet you and your dear father lovingly.

Your khosn (husband-to-be),

Yisocher Honikvax

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