Brooklyn in Love and at War

History of World War Two Told Through Letters

Posts Tagged ‘Nazism

As Low As A Snakes Belly

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This letter was written on August 5, 1945, one day before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. What I find fascinating is that the length of the war has clearly taken its emotional toll and Alex writes to Sylvia only of his depression and the fact that he has not heard from her.

Cover of

Poster of Tomorrow – The World

Alex  mentions the movie “Tomorrow The World”starring Frederick March and Agnes Moorehead, which was first released in December 1944. Notably, in the midst of war,  Hollywood productions are being shown by the Navy as part of the Navy’s efforts to teach sailors the meaning of their sacrific: the movie portrays Americans teaching  a former Hitler Youth member to reject Nazism. Clearly, Hollywood was not only  exploring the heroism of the individual soldier but was also teaching larger and  subtler moral and political lessons about the meaning of their sacrifice. Alex’s son, David (my father), remembers interviewing Alex. He told me ,”I remember Dad telling me about New Orleans and his reaction when he of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. He literally said he jumped for joy for he – and all the guys who had just survived the European War – was sure that they were on their way to the Pacific war.  I remember interviewing him about this and being shocked that my left-wing, peace loving Dad reacted this way. He set me straight, pointing out that all the soldiers were ‘scared shitless’ (his words) about the Pacific and didn’t have a great historical perspective over why Truman ‘used the bomb.'”Here,  Alex is in New Orleans waiting for his next  assignment. He is busy making plans for Sylvia to visit. Ultimately, she chooses not to go to New Orleans – perhaps because of her health, perhaps because of the difficulty of the journey, perhaps because of her anxiety over leaving  Cookie. This was deeply disappointing to Alex. I encourage you to reread his harsh response to Sylvia’s decision previously posted here.

Sylvia, though, is not a meek wife who does not also get angry at Alex. That will be the subject of the next post.

Sunday August 5, 1945


Long time no hear from you, in fact since I left. Yesterday I stood in the mail line for 20 minutes at a time twice but there was nothing from you. The hot sun and the futile waiting depressed me enough to feel as low as a snakes belly. Of course today there is no mail and I am very expectantly waiting for tomorrow. I hope I won’t be disappointed.

Darling returning to the subject of your visit to New Orleans I am informed that there is a train from Penn. Station which makes it in 35 hours. I tried to call the Agency but was unsuccessful and the nearest phone is at least a mile from here. So you inform yourself and be prepared to know.

Dearest, I decided on a few steps I’ll have to take tomorrow. One is to ascertain the period which I expect to stay here. Two apply for a 5”38 school which will insure my staying here for four weeks more. Tuesday I am going to town to make inquiries about a room and perhaps rent one for a week and get you down so that when the vacancy occurs in the Navy homes you will be here already and won’t have to rush about.

In this last week I have discussed this a lot in my letters. I imagine its quite a one sided discussion. I really don’t know what you think about all this.

I am R. Adamic “My Native land” and is quite good and written very objectively about Yugoslavia. Also seen a movie “Tomorrow the World” which was quite good. The Nazi Youth was very well portrayed.

Today I slept until nine read a little in my bunk than [sic] had lunch and now I am writing. After this letter is finished I’ll play a little chess with Ted, read a while, eat go to the movies, have a couple beers and than[sic] to sleep. The canteen here serves beer, and so far I have not gone to town. Mainly because I am trying to hold on to my funds, which in spite of everything I do or rather I don’t is dwindling away.

How is Cookie? Does she ask for me? Is she missing me? I’d love to see her and wouldn’t be for the fact that the trip is so tiresome, and that you would be tied down to your rooms for a whole month, I’d wouldn’t have minded if you had taken her. As it is, that is out of the question for all the reasons I have told you.

Darling, it is very hard for me to keep up this one sided corrispondense [sic], in spite of all my love for you. I do hope so I hear from you tomorrow so that I may know your opinions on ed and that perhaps you may not be so enthusiastic about the whole idea of this trip.

This place is very hot and there was a lot of rain. Perhaps you ought to call the doctor and ask him if it is advisable for you to come, considering the long distance and this climate.

My dearest sweetheart I don’t want you to misunderstand me, its just aht I want to best for you.

Well, I think I am getting sappy. I will write tomorrow lengthily again. (I hope an answer to your letters).

In the mean time all my love to you and millions of kisses to the baby.

Your very faithful and adoring,


Written by Molly

November 5, 2012 at 8:00 am

Confronting the Past in Berlin

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The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

The Brandenburg Gate on Unter Den Linden

I’ve just returned from a trip to Berlin — a city saturated in World War II history. When you walk around Berlin, you come across the Holocaust Memorial whether you mean to or not. The rows of cement rectangles grow and form waves just to side of Tiergarten (Berlin’s Central Park) and south of the Brandenburg Gate and Unter den Linden – the famously wide avenue where the Nazis once paraded in strict formation. This memorial, along with the Topographie of Terrors — a site that chronicles Hitler’s rise to power and the horrifyingly organized, yet disturbingly arbitrary, takeover of Germany — led me to realize just how absent the discussion of Nazis, systematic mass murders, and the persecution of Jews is from the letters between my grandparents. My grandfather was deeply committed to radical left wing causes and he was Jewish (even if not practicing), yet there has been complete silence on this subject in their correspondence. Is this because it might be censored? Is it because the atrocities being committed were already common knowledge by 1943, when these letters begin? Are they too horrible to write about? Or, alternatively, were the atrocities still not well understood? Could it be that when it comes to the daily struggles of war, the more distant or “ideological” reasons for the war recede from your mind, no matter how real or tragic they are?

Berlin confronts its past everywhere you look. Even in a spot such as a bus stop, you might find an unforgiving portrait of a German Nazi who was responsible for the murder of a group of people, accompanied by a photo.

The city appears to my naive eyes to be thriving. It is not only an accessible city for tourists but it has become a desirable locale for young artists, musicians, and other trendsetters. Berlin is a place where you can learn about the unfathomable atrocities that happened a mere 60 years ago, while also seeing – and enjoying — what the city has to offer in present day. Sometimes the contrast can be unsettling.  So while Berlin confronts its past head on, the letters that I continue to read about World War II seem not to confront the political and social environment that is shaping their lives. How can there be such a silence from a Jewish man who has been sent back to the continent on which he was raised to battle a Fascist regime on behalf of America – a country to which he has not fully assimilated? What were the discussions like in 1943 when Fascism was taking over Europe? Why is there such a glaring silence on this subject?

The metro in Berlin.

As I headed towards the airport a German man asked me how I liked my stay, and seemed to have a genuine interest in how foreign visitors perceived the city and how they might speak about it after returning home. Before we parted ways he said that now the world is watching the American election and hoping that Mitt Romney would not defeat President Obama in the fall. In a city so aware its political past, this seemed all the more poignant that the world is now looking to what America does next.

Written by Molly

June 11, 2012 at 9:30 am


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