Chapter 2 Letters From The Mokum

Story written by Mike L B on Monday 26, November 2018

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This chapter reveals a series of letters between Nate and Mickey's mother in Amsterdam and their uncle in London where they spend their summer holidays just before Britain declares war on Germany

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November 28, 1938 Kalnar's Bookshop c/o Isadore Kalnar High Street, Whitechapel E1 London, UK My dearest brother: Please forgive me for corresponding with you in French. My English is still rusty--not nearly up to par with even my Dutch. I guess it's true: I am getting lazy in my middle age! Thank you so much for your kind wishes and generous gift in honour of Nate's bar mitzvah. I hope you received his thank you letter. We are all relieved that you are recovering from your terrible bout with pneumonia and hope that you'll have a full and quick recovery. We all missed your presence at our simcha but G-d willing there will be many more to come! Issie: are you still suffering from those nightmares and sweats? Please write to me about it. Suffering alone doesn't help. It's been too long, twenty years almost to the day since the Armistice. Too many soldiers have suffered in silence from the hells of war without conceding that it's not a terrible weakness to acknowledge such trauma. I cannot imagine how any soldier could carry on with their lives in such solitude after experiencing those horrors. I don't wish to be a noodge Issie, but I do worry for you. As you probably know, the recent events in Germany have sickened and angered the Jewish community here in Amsterdam. I've read the terrible details of the Kristallnact in de Volkskrant, our local paper: the horrible destruction of Jewish businesses, the indiscriminate burning of shuls, and cold-blooded murders of hundreds of our people. One reporter had found evidence of thousands of Jews and others being sent to labour camps. These filthy Nazi bastards are demons! Brûlée dans l'enfer Hitler--you and your evil cronies! I'm afraid that this is the start of something terrible for us Jews all over Europe. I have spoken to our ever optimistic sister Eva in Paris and she admits that she is also very worried. She says that the Jewish community there is very fearful for their future because of the palpable increase of anti-semitism all over France. The French Popular Party run by that Jew-hating fascist Jacques Doriot, is organizing demonstrations and marches all over the city. She says that a few of the party members--young impressionable youth--they couldn't be more than 15 or 16--were sniffing around her music academy awhile ago. They started shuffling students' books, faking collisions with her precious teaching piano, and then ripped off the mezuzah from her front door. One wonders what kind of upbringing they've had! But I am frightened for Eva. I do wish she would find a nice boy to settle down with, you know, someone to protect her. But she is such a fiercely independent girl, as you well know! Jakob has been very tired and listless lately--maybe it was all the preparation for Nate's bar mitzvah. As I told you, we had a small affair presided over by Rabbi Manheim, our reform shul's rabbi. Your brother-in-law joked that his late parents, hasholem, would shake in their graves if they knew that Nate's bar mitzvah was not conducted by an orthodox rabbi! But to be honest, I think he's worrying too much about the business. The diamond industry has been suffering a downturn for the past ten years. A lot of the polishers and cutters have already moved to Antwerp--there are more job opportunities there because of their lenient tax laws and lower labour costs. But Jakob says that even they are feeling the pinch. He has had to let go of more than half of his workers and a lot of the remaining ones do not have full time work. Because there is so much uncertainty, I'm starting to increase my teaching hours to help us out financially. Some of my students can no longer afford their violin lessons, so I have had to put up postings all over the neighbourhood. And It does seem to be working! I am now booked almost until Chanukah. How are Joseph and Charles? I hope they are both doing well at school in America. We have talked about the possibility of emigrating there--maybe when things settle down with all this Hitler craziness. Cousin Moishe in New York says the diamond business in America is much better than it is here. He says Americans have a much stronger tradition for buying diamond rings to celebrate their wedding engagements. So just maybe, America will be our calling! The children are doing well, toucher du bois! Miriam is thriving at the Amsterdam University. She's now in her second year of Art History studies. At the beginning of the semester, she met a medical student who is in his final year at the Leiden University. He says he wants to specialize in paediatrics--his father's an orthopaedic surgeon practicing in Leiden. They met at a party at one of Miriam's friend's. Since then they have gone out a few times and just recently they went to a concert to hear the Concertgebouw Orchestra. As you remember, I played second violin with the orchestra before I married Jakob. The boy often takes the train to Amsterdam to see friends and experience the big city life. Leiden is only 40 kilometres away so the short train trip takes less than an hour. Miriam talks about him often, but as we know, she is a very breezy girl. She has never lacked for admirers, so I'm not reading anything into this! Anna, as you know, is in her last year at the Montessori Lyceum secondary school. Nate, being in his first year there, is getting some "smarty pants" taunting from his older sister. Nate often complains to me that Anna and her school friends constantly poke fun at the junior students. Anna loves the arts and is doing especially well in all her subjects. Nate loves math and the sciences, and like his papa, is mechanically gifted. He loves to figure out how things work and I can't remember how many times he has helped fix and calibrate our much loved (and used) Phillips wireless set. He just seems to have that knack. But for me, he is much too serious. Little Michiel is attending the Wilhelmina Catharina School across the street from us. He says his teachers are "very nice" and has a lot of fun there. He tells us that reading is his favourite part of school and he spends much of his spare time alone with his books. Brother, as a book seller and avid reader yourself, you must be very proud, no? Nate often takes his brother to the public library on the Keizersgracht. Michiel was so excited to get his first library card--he proudly brought home five books last week. Needless to say, he's already finished most of them. His teachers say he is reading at one or two levels higher than most of the other students! His favourite books are the Tom Swift series and Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn". Besides fixing things, Nate's greatest passion as you know is playing futbol, but when he is in the mood for reading, he reads books on science and mechanics--not so surprising! It will soon be your dear wife Esther's yahrzeit. I cannot believe she has been gone now for almost two years! Oh Issie--how we all so much miss her! Taken away so young! Please stay well, my dearest brother. Zei Gezunt! With love, Sarah, Jakob, and the children December 17 The Okkers Den Transdaat Amsterdam, Netherlands Dear Sarah, Jakob, and children: Happy Chanukah, everyone! I trust you all enjoyed the gifts I've sent you. Miriam and Anna, I hope you enjoy the journals and pen sets. May you have the pleasure of many happy entries. Jakob--the books and pipe tobacco are sent with my greatest pleasure. The "Craven Mixture" tobacco was recommended by a friend. I hope you find it pleasing. Nate--I heard how passionate you are for wireless sets, so I hope you can make use of this recently published book "the Radio Handbook" by the editors of "Radio." It has, thank goodness, been translated into Dutch. And Michiel, you have told me you love books of adventure, so I hope that "Ivanhoe" meets your fancy. And my dearest sister, I was able to find the latest edition in French of "Famous Musical Composers Being Biographies of Eminent Musicians"--a strange title, indeed! I know that you were telling me how frustrated you were in trying to get a hold of a copy. I am still recovering from my recent illness. The doctor thinks there is a definite connection to my exposure to chlorine and mustard gas during the war. I have had to endure many respiratory infections but this was my first issue with pneumonia so I have to be careful to get as much fresh air as possible and stay away from smoking tobacco. And yes Sarah, your concern for my silent suffering has not been helpful to ........Issie put down his pen and began to reflect on the years prior to Esther's passing from the horrible ravages of cancer. After the war he had suffered through many sleepless nights spurned by the nightmares that racked him mercilessly. Sudden noises: the backfiring of a lorry, the sound of thunder, a demolition hammer at a construction site, an unexpected shout, all made him shake uncontrollably. Mercifully, Esther was his "miracle", providing him with a desperately needed buffer from the demons that threatened to seize his fragile soul. He remembered the comforting middle-of-the-night embraces: Esther cradling his feverish body, his nightclothes soaked, rocking him back and forth like a baby, until a sense of calm returned. His strong attachment to his young family and new business, had given him purpose and kept his often derelict ship mostly on course while he navigated the rough waters. He recalled the fellow French soldiers in his battalion who had suffered shell shock--most were sent back to battle after hospital treatment--some were institutionalized well beyond the war's end. Hardly any of them had fully returned to their prewar selves. Back then there was shame attached to a soldier's "breakdown". The common philosophy amongst the armed forces stressed that an unfaltering inner strength was expected of a soldier in battle, no matter the savagery seen or perpetrated. The soldier who could no longer function in battle was considered "weak" and lacking a "masculine constitution", or worse--an outright coward. Some were disciplined with military imprisonment. Many of the traumatized soldiers who attempted desertion were court-martialled--in extreme cases they were executed. So it was no mystery that most soldiers, including himself, had tried to keep, as the English say, "a stiff upper lip." If they showed any a need for help, it would immediately signal a weakness of character. Shortly after the war he and Esther immigrated from Paris to London , where he enrolled in the journalism program at the City University. Ever since he was a young lad, reading Charles Perrault's fairy tales in the back of his father's bookshop in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, the predominantly Jewish district known as the "Pletzl", he wanted to be a writer. His paternal uncle had a bookshop at Whitechapel in East London. He and Esther accepted a generous offer to live rent free in a third floor flat above the bookshop in exchange for assisting him with the business and a few simple domestic tasks. His uncle who had never married had relished their companionship. At university he met a student who had served with the British army during the war. Both had gained acceptance for financial assistance through a special fund for domestic and foreign students who had served in the Allied forces. His name was Alex Barron. A few months before he left for the front he married his childhood sweetheart in Leeds, the city of his birth . His father was a popular political writer for the "Yorkshire Post" newspaper. They quickly became close mates, the friendship framed by their Jewish roots and shared military engagement. Yet they spoke very little of their days in combat. What Alex did share, often over a few beers at the local pub, was that he and some friends had volunteered for the 31st Division--the 93rd Brigade--a year before the government enacted conscription. He left a tearful wife and family in the spring of 1915. The first combat action he experienced was at the Somme Offensive in the summer of 1916. He described the conflict as "a hell on earth!", highlighted by the fact that there were no clear victors and over a million Allied troops were either killed or seriously injured, all in exchange for a few miles of secured land and the Allies inability to break the Germans' defence. After the battle ended later that fall, he was granted a short leave to return back home to Leeds. At Somme most of his brigade was lost--he described how he helplessly watched his best friend bleed to death on the battlefield, a German bayonet having cleanly penetrated his neck. Near the end of his leave, feeling the pangs of survival guilt, he had an "episode" and was hospitalized for a month. Not even close to recovery, his commanding officer ordered him back to the front. Soldiers were falling like flies on the front, so he was well aware that more sacrifices were needed in a grotesque slaughterhouse that operated on the simple mathematical principal of attrition: if they were able to shoulder more lads onto the killing fields than their enemy, they would be victorious. Alex never discussed where he was deployed after his hospitalization, only that he wound up hospitalized back in England at Netley, the huge military infirmary in Southhampton. He spent six months in D Block, a special ward treating soldiers with severe battle stress, later to be known as "shell shock." He returned home to Leeds a month after the war ended. Alex started showing signs of odd behaviour near the end of the first semester at the university. He developed severe facial tics and would get visibly distraught at sudden loud noises. His wife Ruth became frantic with worry. Sleep was becoming increasingly more difficult for her husband, the nightmares making almost daily visits to their bedroom. He had little appetite and he was rapidly losing weight. Finally, on the advice of their family doctor, Alex was readmitted to Netley. During the late spring and summer months, he and Esther would often accompany Ruth on her weekend visits to see Alex. Sometimes they would meet with Alex's parents in the hospital's commissary, stirring their tea slowly with a strained uneasiness, careful to chose their words unobtrusively so as to bypass any possibility of facing the reality of Alex's confinement. The three of them would catch a morning train from Waterloo Station for the two and a half hour trip to Southampton. In the warmer weather their carriage would be filled with Londoners accompanying their excited children, picnic baskets tucked beneath their feet, eagerly prepared for a leisurely day at the Channel beach. In the first class coaches, the elegantly dressed passengers were chatting gayly, anticipating the luxury ocean liners awaiting them at the city's port. Occasionally they would glance at the other quiet, forlorn looking passengers, like them without baskets or luggage. They knew that they were on their way to visit friends and loved ones at Netley. By then, Esther was pregnant with Joseph. Alex was not doing well. He had no appetite. The facial tics were replaced by head shaking and eye blinking. He could no longer walk. His sporadic weeping and laughing frightened Ruth. Alex at times couldn't even recognize her. Occasionally they witnessed him vigorously picking at the skin on his arms and chest, often drawing blood. The doctors treated him with hypnosis, massage, and diet. Having little positive effect, they experimented with electric shock. But the treatment only made him more confused and apathetic. A cure seemed remote. Alex hung himself from the hospital's basement water pipe on Christmas Eve. As for Issie, being on his own the last two years was particularly rough. The loneliness had eaten away at him. He tried to consume himself in his work at his beloved shop: attending rare book auctions, developing ideas for unique merchandise, enjoying the company of his "regulars," as well as new customers and tourists, organizing his fortnight "soapbox" evenings open to the public for passionate political discourse of all variants (which at times became quite raucous depending on the availability of strong English beer and schnapps), and of course reading, reading, reading. But most frightening were the flashbacks, not so much for their frequency but more so for their unpredictability. They could be triggered merely by a face in a crowd, a smell, a casual comment, a song on the wireless, the sight of a building, a noise, even a certain touch. And there were an unsettling variety of them: a decapitated soldier, his face writhed in a horrific frozen gaze, dead fallen troops lying in muddy fields, their bodies stiffened in exaggerated contortions, a fellow infantryman gone mad from the ugliness of trench warfare, stark naked, running into no man's land screaming "Une boisson à l'empereur"!, his body shredded into a bloody pulp by enemy machine guns, and the moans of dying soldiers, limbless, intestines and brains exposed, begging to be shot. One night he experienced the recurrent dream that had consistently corrupted his night's sleep since the war ended. The scene was always the same: his platoon is preparing for an imminent German attack. They are edged nervously against the crest of their mud soaked trench, their guns at the ready. Although it is daytime, there is always a thick fog veiling their field of vision. Suddenly, out of the murk, a young German soldier, a mere boy no older than himself, charges towards him. Both slip into the trench's bowels, engaged in hand to hand combat. He lunges at the German, plunging his bayonet into the boy's chest. There is a pleading look on the German's face, slowly morphing into a mask of sheer terror. He attempts to speak but his head falls from his body along with the steel helmet at the trembling dreamer's feet. And then the banshee-like scream from which he always awakens. He knew after his first kill, the survival instinct tightened its grip--it was kill or be killed. With each bullet fired, each grenade thrown, an increasingly imperturbable numbness took hold. He had become a soldier! He took a deep breath and returned to his letter writing........ Your mention of Doriot's nationalistic party reminds me of what we East Londoners witnessed a few years ago. We called it the "Battle of Cable Street." There is a similar anti-Semitic group here: the "British Union of Fascists." They're constantly trying to stir up trouble. Their leader Sir Oswald Mosley, is a fervent anti communist and anti-Semitic politician who has that similar dangerous oratorical gift as does Hitler. We all knew that his title was inherited, not earned. Mosley, brazenly dressed in full Nazi regalia along with several thousand of his black shirted lackeys--blackshirts they're called--attempted to march down Cable Street, not far from my shop. The "Daily Worker", one of the local newspapers I sell in my bookshop reported afterwards that an anti-fascist swell of more than 100,000 Jews, Communists, Anarchists, Irish dock workers, and assorted others, put up barriers throughout the proposed route to protest the fascists. They were met by more than 5,000 bobbies, some on horseback, carrying clubs and trying to clear the path for the marchers. Women and children in the flats above the street were throwing garbage and rotten food at the marchers. Trams were left empty on the streets as well as overturned lorries and scattered discarded furniture. Fights broke out everywhere. The anti-fascist crowd was being pushed back and clubbed by the police. A full scale riot broke out with hundreds arrested and tossed into paddy wagons. Finally, the crowd watched in triumph as the fascists retreated and dispersed to Tower Hill. I remember that it was an unusually warm October Sunday afternoon. I had been busy tending to the shop and heard the echoes of galloping horses and the screams of protestors and sirens. Afterwards some of the protestors came into the store proudly regaling their own stories of the protest. Anyway, enough with protests and violence and politics! The children are doing well! Joseph is finishing his degree in political science at New York University. He is hoping to get into graduate school at one of the city schools, preferably NYU or Columbia. He says most of the prestigious Ivy League schools like Harvard and Princeton still have quotas on Jewish staff and students. Charles is completing his Bachelors degree at Columbia. He has applied to law school--he eventually wants to specialize in labour or civil rights law. He's a passionate socialist and wants to help the disenfranchised and working classes--a real chip off the old block--bless him! Both lads have been going out with girls but nothing serious as yet. They're busy with their studies so I reckon there is not much time to get serious about marriage and families, although their papa is eager to put some grandchildren on his lap! By the way, how is it going with Miriam and her doctor admirer? After much deliberation, the government has decided to help shelter some of the threatened Jewish children living in Germany and the other annexed countries. They've said that each eligible child must be between the ages of 8-17 and be unaccompanied by adults. Last week a BBC program I was listening to was interrupted by a plea for child sponsors: either private citizens or organizations who would guarantee financial support for them. The sponsored children will be issued temporary travel visas and are expected to return to their homelands when it becomes safe to do so. Orphans and homeless children are said to be given priority. I've heard that the Quakers and other organizations, bless them, have volunteered to coordinate the rescue operation. My dearest Sarah, I have thought deeply about these poor children and the grim nature of their plight. I have decided to send out an application to sponsor a child. As you know, the loss of Esther has left me in a deep void. Needless to say, it's been very lonely, with the boys away in America, and you and Eva so far away. It would give me great nachas to provide refuge for a child in such terrible ways. I recall a prophetic passage in the Talmud: "Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world and whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." Sarah, this is a mitzvah I will be humbly proud to undertake--it's the least I can do. I will keep you posted. Wish me luck! I hope Jakob is feeling better and the business is recovering. It has been a very trying time for business owners since the recession. I believe we will be entering a time of prosperity as soon as this dybbuk Hitler is disposed of. I am so proud of your children--how well they are doing and how bright their futures look! My tenants on the flat above me are leaving next year at the end of April. They're foreign students from Canada and will be graduating from the University of London this coming spring. They are planning to tour Europe before returning home so I will have a lot of empty space: two bedrooms, a full kitchen and a bathroom. I would very much delight in having your children visit me during their summer holidays. I remember how much they enjoyed their visits to London in the past. I just can't believe that it's been over two years since we've seen one another. If you and Jakob can get away, I would fancy for you to pay me a visit as well. Please think about it and ask the children. Let me know. Zei Gezunt, with love, Issie January 15, 1939 Kalnar's Bookshop c/o Isadore Kalnar High Street Whitechapel E1 London, UK Dear Issie: Happy New Year from all of us here in Amsterdam! Can you believe we are on the verge of another decade! Pray be that the coming years will be a time of peace and prosperity and most important, good health--kaynahorah!! I am starting to get concerned about Hitler's aggressive occupation of Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia. What's next and why is Chamberlain looking away so passively? The madman must be stopped now! How was your New Year's in London? Jakob organized a party for his staff and their family here on New Year's Eve. Emma and Jan van den Haag, our oldest friends, own a modest hotel near the Museum Het Rembrandthuis. They were kind enough to rent their meeting hall and catered all the food and drinks for the party. Like us, their business has also been suffering since the depression, so we were happy to present them with a large event. Jan used to work as a cutter in Jakob's father's diamond factory and after Jakob took over after his father's passing, Jan continued to work as the head cutter until he and Emma bought the hotel. They are like family to Jakob and I. Jakob was Jan's best man at their church wedding and Jan the best man at our wedding in our little shul. Their eldest son Daniel is engaged to a lovely Jewish girl he met while attending the Netherlands School of Commerce. The girl--her name is Rena, works as a secretary at the school for a professor who teaches classes in business management. She is from an orthodox family who emigrated from Germany after the last war. Her father is a butcher--he owns the largest kosher butcher shop in Rotterdam. Emma tells me that Rena's father was devastated that his daughter was marrying a sheygetz but her mother rather likes the young man and is trying to soften up her husband. Rena has discussed conversion with the boy and he is quite willing to become a Jew without any outside pressure. Certainly his parents have no qualms, in fact they told us it would be an honour to have a Jewish son. Like us, they have always been secular in their outlook so religion has never been of high priority. I know that many of our Jewish friends and neighbours are dead set against their children marrying outside the faith. Sadly, as you well know, in the orthodox tradition, families see the unfaithful child's marriage as an act of deceit and declare them "dead." Tragically, the family performs a mock funeral for their child and actually sit shiva. Issie, I find this so barbaric! I do admit that I prefer my child to marry in the faith--it is still a part of my beliefs, especially in the historical context of our persecution over thousands of years. It's a kind of "our tribe needs to stick together through good and bad times" mentality. Nothing wrong with that I guess! However, in my heart, if Miriam or Anna decided to marry a gentile, my only concern would be that he treat her well--that he be a good husband, father, and mensch, and both be happy! Then I'd be a happy mother! Shoyn fartik!! On purpose I'm leaving the happiest news to the last, just like one of your bookshop novels with the perfect ending! Guess who honoured our party with their presence? Miriam and the boy from Leiden! He is here visiting his uncle and aunt. His name is David Bueno. He told Miriam that his Sephardic ancestors were originally rooted in Portugal centuries ago and that his family in Leiden are fourth or fifth generation Dutch. Also, what is fascinating, is that his family genealogy shows that Rembrandt's own personal physician was an ancestor of theirs! Can you imagine! Anyway, the two danced together the entire night! Their eyes were locked on each other the whole time! What a handsome couple they made, kaynahorah!! I have never seen our daughter so totally smitten by a boy like this before! We had hired a jazz and klezmer band for the party's entertainment. They are friends from my musician days and you'd be proud to know that your sister played violin on a few of their more whimsical tunes. Oh Issie, how absolutely wonderful it was to perform again! Music will forever be in my soul! On New Year's Day, the family, including the two lovebirds, decided to go ice skating. There has been an uncommon freeze for the past week or so and the canals in Amsterdam have frozen over and declared by the city to be safe for skating. Sometimes we have to wait years for a freeze-up, so when it does happen, we become what we say in Dutch, schaatsgek which roughly translates as "mad for skating." People from all over skate and walk the canals for kilometres, stopping here and there to talk with friends and neighbours. And if the freeze is long enough, the famous Elfstedentocht race is quickly organized. It's a 200 kilometre long race for both professional and casual skaters who love the physical challenge. The route runs through the countryside's canals in the northern province. Thousands of skaters come from all over Europe and even America to participate. It's quite a spectacle! The Dutch are noted for their practical and conservative nature, but during Elfstedentocht thankfully, that is all thrown to the wind! It's totally crazy, Issie! We all skated along the Prinsengracht canal. Miriam and David rented skates and were really funny, falling and clutching each other like two drunken sailors! Nate, Michiel, and Anna are good skaters so they wound up going all the way to the Noordermarkt in Jordaan and then back again. Then all of us stopped at one of the koek en zopie stands and had hot chocolate and erwtensoep: a thick pea soup with sausage and bread. I think you tried it years ago. The adults washed it all down with glasses of Berenburg, a really spicy liqueur. Needless to say, we were a bit off kilter coming home! David joined us for a late evening dinner. Miriam and I put together a light spread of pickled herring, cheese, and some rye bread we picked up at de Vries bakery across the street. David hardly ate--he's skinny like a broom stick. I would love to fatten him up but Miriam says he can eat for two people and still never gain weight. We finished off dinner with strong coffee and Jodenkoeken cookies. I don't know if you've heard of them or if they sell them in London. They were made famous by a baker named Davelaar, in Alkmaar. They come in a yellow cylinder can and are rather large round sugar cookies with a lovely vanilla flavour. I'll send you a can by post. After dinner, I played my favourite composer Vivaldi's Four Seasons Winter on violin. Jakob and Nate were doing their usual debate over Ajax's best futbol player. Jakob claims it's Wim Aneriesen, Nate argues it's Piet van Reenan. Either way they are both assured their beloved Ajax will win the National Championship. I know that your passion for the West Ham club borders on the fanatic! I will never understand how you men go all meshugah over a stupid game of kicking a round ball around like a bunch of lunatics! Meanwhile, Anna and Michiel were deeply involved in a game of Frisian draughts, ever so often a squeal of triumph when a piece was captured. Miriam joined me on the piano and then to my surprise, when we were finished playing, David took over. Surprisingly, his playing is quite good! He told me that he took lessons up until his 16th birthday and did a little dabbling since but never took it very seriously. The next day Miriam and I walked with David to Central Staation to see him off home to Leiden. I kissed him adieu and feigned an interest in a nearby gift shop so they could have their privacy. I'm thinking that this boy may be the one, Issie! As for the children visiting you for the summer: Anna is going to be going to a girl's camp and Miriam is going back to her job as a tour guide at the Stedelijk Museum. The museum exhibits contemporary artists including her favourites, Van Gogh and Chagall. If I'm not mistaken I believe you were there on your last visit. My dear brother, you are too kind for your generous offer! I spoke to the boys and they are excited to spend their school holidays with you. Nate says he loves the prospect of seeing some good English futbol and of course Michiel the reader, is fascinated with living upstairs from a bookshop! Both of them relish the idea of improving their English. They say it's good practice, perhaps in anticipation of all of us starting a new life in America! Jakob promised to let them go, so long as their grades were kept up. So we will keep in touch and if things are good, we can arrange the details. As for Jakob and I: we have made arrangements with the van den Haag's to vacation with them at Scheveningen in August. It's a popular seaside resort just outside den Haag--it carries a sentimental value for us. Jakob proposed to me in front of the Kurhaus Hotel--remember that photograph I sent you and Esther, the one of Jakob and I embracing on the Queen Wilhelmina Pier on a beautiful sunset in June. Do you still have the photograph? I know how awful a time it was for you back then, still recuperating from your horrific experiences on the front. Thank G-d you met Esther--she helped nurse you to health through all those terrible times. Oh why were so many of you beautiful French boys sent to the front only to be slaughtered like animals in the trenches! To what purpose? Who won? Who lost? War is so needless! Issie, please give Charlie and Joe all our love and best wishes in their career pursuits. I know they will make us proud! All of us are so pleased that you will soon be sponsoring a child who is suffering in hate's darkness. Hopefully when the boys come to visit, they will have a playmate and a friend. Of course we will let you know how things go with Miriam and David. Let's cross our fingers!! Be well my darling brother. Love, Sarah and family January 30, 1939 The Okkers Den Transtaat Amsterdam, Netherlands Dear sister Sarah and family: I received your letter with much happiness. My hopes run high for Miriam. It seems to be the real megillah, Sarah! Also, I am very pleased that the boys can be with me for the holidays. I know that they have studied English at school, so I will be inquiring into some informal advanced English courses for them, perhaps at our local library. I'm glad the family had a wonderful New Year's and that you and Jakob will be able to get away to the seaside for a much deserved holiday. I had a quiet New Year's. I celebrated with some friends and their wives at the Workers Circle's House over on Allie Street. We had a nice dinner, drank too much Guinness and schnapps and argued politics and economics, as all of us socialists love to do. It's in our blood Sarah! We also discussed the Cable Street incident and the importance of stemming fascism, especially in the East End. Some of the lads were encouraging me to meet "a nice balabusta " and a few even had some potential mates for me to meet, but I declined them all. I know that Essie would want me to carry on with my life and enjoy new companionship. You've encouraged me as well, but I am just not ready, and honestly, I don't know if I ever will be. I have some good news! Some representatives from the Refugee Children's Movement interviewed me last week. They were impressed with my living arrangements and family history. They asked me to post a £50 guarantee to show I could support the child and promised me that they would provide for me a list of available children within a few weeks. Lately, I have been busy signing up readers to the Left Book Club which was started up a few years ago by a socialist publisher. His goal was to provide political education to the masses in order to build a wave of resistance to the growing threat of fascism in England and the rest of Europe. For a very affordable price, the members get one book each month, which whether fiction or non-fiction, has a political theme. Bookshops all over London are participating. I heard that there were close to 50,000 members already! Sarah, let my dear nephew Nate know that "The Hammers"--my beloved football club, lost to Tottenham, his favourite English team back in October and we play them again here at Boleyn Grounds in March. I have tickets for the game. They were given to me by one of my customers whom I was able to acquire a rare book. I do hope my team will get their revenge. Tell Nate that I'll get tickets for some games when the new season starts in August. While at the game, I can get my friend Max's wife or daughter to take Michiel to the Whitechapel Public Library where he can read to his heart's delight. We East Enders lovingly call the library the "University of The Ghetto!" Keep well. Wish you all the best, With love, Your brother, Issie PS: I still have the photograph of you and Jakob in Schevenigen beach. It sits on the mantle above the fireplace. March 11, 1939 The Okkers Den Transtaat Amsterdam, Netherlands Dear Sarah and family: How are all of you. It has been a very bitter winter here in London. Not much snow but rain and little sun--not very good for my health or disposition! How has it been in Amsterdam? I have some exciting news for you! A representative from the Refugee Children's Movement has visited me with a list of five children who are waiting for sponsorship to England. After much thought and quiet deliberation, I have chosen a ten year old orphan girl from Danzig. I am not all that familiar with the region, but from I've read that the city of Danzig historically has been governed under Poland, Prussia, and then the German Empire. However after the war, the Treaty of Versailles stipulated that there would be the creation of the Free City of Danzig under a commissioner appointed by The League of Nations. This took away the city from German control and created a passageway for Poland to the Baltic Sea. Sorry, I digress (part of my penchant for storytelling!) The girl's name is Hannah Weschler. They told me that she was born in Vienna. Her father was a noted architect and a veteran member of the elite Austrian Landwehr fighting alongside Germany. I'm told that Hannah and her father moved to Danzig in 1934 to set up a practice with a friend. I was told a very sad and troubling story. I was so moved that I wrote down the details in my journal. Her mother died in childbirth and she was brought up by her grandparents. When they moved to Danzig, her father hired a live-in housekeeper who cared for Hannah. Last year during the pogroms in Germany and Austria, Nazi sympathizers attempted to burn down the Great Synagogue, Danzig's reform shul and largest synagogue. A group of resistors along with some Jewish War veterans attempted to defend the temple. There were skirmishes between the two groups. Her father was shot dead by one of the Nazi pigs. My dear G-d--this was a decorated soldier who had volunteered to risk his life to defend his country and Germany who was brutally murdered trying to defend a sacred religious site! Where is the justice in life? Afterwards, Hannah has been looked after by her housekeeper. Her father had willed the building and flat where they lived to Hannah in trust with her housekeeper until she becomes of age. I've been told she loves to read, just like your Michiel and her favourite books are by Erich Kastner, the German author--especially Emil and The Detectives and The Flying Classroom. She also likes Winnie the Pooh which of course was written by one of ours: A.A. Milne. It's one of the reasons I chose her--what better a place to live for a young passionate reader than above a bookshop! As you know, I have the three bedrooms above the shop. Joe and Charlie's beds are still in the two bedrooms, so with Nate and Michiel coming, I will put both beds in one room so Hannah can have her privacy. I'm thinking of painting the room with a nice feminine touch--maybe I can get hold of some Winnie the Pooh wallpaper. Also, I'm scouting out a part time housekeeper who can help with meals and laundry and such. I have been told that the final paperwork should be completed in several weeks, and then she will be provided with a temporary travel visa. She is expected here early in April. Meanwhile, I am going to Sam Sherman's children's clothing store to get a warm coat and some hats and then after Hannah arrives, we can go together and she can chose some outfits for herself. You know what a terrible cook I am and since Essie has been gone, my diet has gone to hell. It will be nice to take on some responsibility for someone other than myself for my older years, and maybe get back to a healthier diet. Rosen's Deli and the chippy across the street are going to miss my ugly punim! Anyway, enough! I've got a lot to do and a shop to run, so much love to you and Jakob and your beautiful kinder. Be well! Your brother, Issie April 10, 1939 The Okkers Den Transtaat Amsterdam, Netherlands Dear Sarah and family: Hallelujah! Hannah arrived on April 4, the first Seder--how appropriate! Like the ancient Jews who were freed from slavery, Hannah has been liberated from the clutches of those Nazi thugs. I went to the Liverpool Street Station to meet her, accompanied by Max Klein's daughter Leah who is fluent in German. I think you met Max and his wife Rose at Essie's funeral. He has the wireless repair shop near the Brick Lane Market. Max emigrated from Berlin just after the war--he was an officer in the German army and was on active duty on the front while I was fighting for France. Isn't life ironic: battle combatants--and here we are now, best of friends! One can only wonder if our nations' leaders will ever learn from all the blood shed for what? We arrived at the station in the late afternoon. I was told that Hannah would be identified by her assigned number 4711. There would be thirty-five children from Danzig arriving by train from Harwich. Sure enough, Hannah was the last arrival to walk through the corridor. She was accompanied by her chaperone, a lovely Quaker women who had arranged for her journey and accompanied her from Danzig. Thank goodness for these wonderful Quakers who have done so much for our Jewish children. Hannah looked exhausted and confused, not to mention frightened. She looked tall for her age but so thin and pale. She had dark coloured curls and big brown melancholy eyes. The poor child was carrying a small suitcase and clutching a raggedy teddy bear. The chaperone introduced herself as Madeline Button and she provided me with a brief itinerary of the trip from Danzig. She said the initial stage took them by train to Berlin from Danzig. A Gestapo officer accompanied them there. They stayed at a makeshift shelter for the night and then travelled to the Dutch border where the officer got off the train. They then travelled to the Hook of Holland where they fetched the ferry to Harwich and then by train to London--a total journey of almost three days . Leah welcomed the young girl--speaking in German they exchanged what sounded like small talk. Following a short taxi ride home, we took Hannah up to her bedroom and Leah helped the child unpack and put her meagre clothes and articles away. Leah told me that Hannah showed her a framed photograph of a handsome young man in soldier's garb. She said it was a photograph of her father before he went off to war, long before she was born. She tearfully placed the photograph on the dresser beside her bed. How very sad! Leah said that Hannah noticed the bright Winnie the Poo wallpaper and a shy smile lightened her sweet face! Later, we all met in the dining room, awaiting Max and Rose for our Seder meal. I must confess that I was excited to have a traditional holiday meal at home--usually I attend the communal Seders at the Worker's Circle. Leah was kind enough to set up the Seder plate and I put aside an extra glass of wine for Elijah. Rose brought her wonderful German style pesach fare: cholent, chopped goose livers, sweet kugel with raisins and nuts, flanken, a thick cabbage soup, and homemade macaroons. Max once told me that in his youth, he studied to be a rabbi. He brought the prayer books and the Haggadah and proceeded over the ceremonial duties in Hebrew and we all broke matzoh. The food was delicious but we noticed that Hannah only picked at it like a bird. Beforehand, all of us promised to keep the conversation free of any references or questions about Hannah's life in Danzig. Max joked in German that the English had the worst food in the world and Sarah, as you know, our country of birth call the British les robifs. Well, let's ask Hannah later about Max's remarks after a journey to one of London's magnificent fish and chip shops! By the way Sarah, did you know that the first chippy started up in London was run by a Jewish immigrant no less! Chag Sameach! I hope you are enjoying Passover and hope your seders went well. Was all of your family together? It was wonderful talking to you by telephone a few weeks ago. Isn't it amazing how science allows us to talk with each other hundreds of miles away! My friend Max's daughter Leah has just finished her teacher's training at Whitelands College, the women's school in Southfields. She wants to take some time off before looking for a job in the new school year. Anyway, she knows I was looking for a part time housekeeper and wants to take on the job. Also she is qualified to teach English language training and says she would love to help with Hannah. She says it will be excellent experience for future teaching jobs. What a perfect situation! Max read from the Haggadah. His Hebrew is still pretty impressive! Later, he pointed to the empty glass of wine and asked in German if anyone would open the door so that Elijah could sample the vintage. We were thrilled that Hannah volunteered. Max responded with an enthusiastic nod and we watched the excited girl scamper off downstairs. When she returned to her chair, we all winked and turned towards the wine to see if we could detect any motion in the glass. Max, the consummate joker, knocked his knee underneath the table, making the wine ripple. We all looked at each other, pretending to be in awe, and then Hannah, wide eyed, started to giggle, revealing such a delightful smile! After coffee and macaroons, Leah asked Hannah if she wanted take a walk and see the neighbourhood. It was a mild and dry evening, at least by English standards. A bit of light still remained in the early evening sky. Of course most of the shops would be closed because of the holidays. After the two left the flat, I peeked out the window and saw them both hand-in-hand walking along High Street. I hope this will be the start of a wonderful relationship! Meanwhile, I went downstairs to gather up the books I got for Hannah. I chose Erich Kastner and A.A Milne, the German and English authors. I'm hoping the books will help with her English. To surprise her, I took the books and a big Winnie the Poo stuffed bear up to her room and placed them on her bed. Max and Rose left shortly after to attend services. The girls returned about an hour later. Hannah looked much more robust. The fresh air left her cheeks flushed. I had left out some food for both of them, reckoning that after a long walk, they might be hungry. They settled at the dinner table, giggling, grabbing mouthfuls of food, and glancing with awe at the Elijah's designated glass of wine which had been emptied by my devious hand. Shortly after we escorted Hannah to her bedroom. When I flipped on the light switch I looked at Hannah, her eyes the size of Rose's macaroons and a look of awe that only a ten year old could reveal! She uttered: "Dies ist der Himmel" and we all laughed. It was getting late so Leah settled Hannah into her bedroom. I heard a squeal and shortly after, the dear girl came out in her new pyjamas and I am sure with Leah's prodding, shyly approached me and blurted: "danke schoen!" When Max and Rose returned, I opened a new bottle of brandy given to me by a dear customer for Christmas. We all enjoyed some animated conversation: Hitler, socialism, the Communist and Fascist parties, the possibilities of war. Leah gave a brief dissertation on the state of elementary school education in Britain. Before they left, I asked Leah to check in on Hannah. She quietly placed the door slightly ajar, looked back at us with a wink and a wiggle of her finger, beckoned us to take a look. Sarah, I wish you were here to see! It would have melted your dear heart! She was fast asleep, one arm straddling the teddy and the other hand holding on to one of her books. I'm sure it brings up fond memories of your own children as it does for me! Happy pesach to you and your family and may peace, good health and happiness be with us all! Your brother, Izzie May 11, 1939 The Okkers Den Transtaat Amsterdam, Netherlands Dear Sarah and family: Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I hope you and Jakob and the children are doing well. Hannah has been taking English studies with Leah on a daily basis and is learning very quickly. She can keep up a simple conversation, not full sentences yet, but getting there. Leah is absolutely a godsend--such patience! She often takes Hannah on little outings to parks and museums. Hannah is fascinated by our underground--she told me that Vienna had no such transportation system. Last week they went to the Rivoli Cinema on Whitechapel Rd. They saw "The Adventures of Robin Hood", an American film starring Errol Flynn. I remember Esther and I to going there to see Yiddish films, mostly comedies. I still recall fondly my dear wife's contagious laughter! Leah told me that Hannah didn't understand the dialogue--they were talking too fast--but she still enjoyed the action and told Leah she would like to go back again. As well, most afternoons they go to the Whitechapel Library where they have activities like arts and crafts and reading groups for neighbourhood children, some of them refugees like Hannah. She has already made a few friends and says she looks forward to these trips. Meanwhile, I have decided that it would be best for Hannah to continue her informal English lessons and hold off placing her into formal schooling until the start of the new school year in September. I have been to the Ministry of Education for permission to provide her with home lessons. Hannah has written to her grandparents in Vienna and Palestine. I explained to her that the letter to Vienna may have difficulty getting to its destination because of the German occupation. Even if they do receive the letter, we don't know the chances of any return correspondence. I am looking forward to hosting the boys in the next few weeks. Remember, I will pick them up from the coast. It will be a nice little trip for me and Hannah and hopefully Leah can come as well. The boys will make wonderful playmates for Hannah: a big and little "brother" for her. Write to me soon to let me know the exact trip itinerary. Avec beaucoup d'amour, Issie May 17, 1939 Kalnar's Bookshop c/o Isadore Kalnar High Street Whitechapel, E1 London, UK Dear brother: It was lovely to hear how well Hannah is doing and G-d bless that wonderful young lady Leah for her hard work and support. I hope you are giving her a healthy salary, although knowing your generous heart and wallet, I'm sure she is well taken care of! Everyone here is well and Jakob is getting busier by the day. The warm weather has finally greeted us: a wonderful reprieve considering the miserable winter we endured. I am quite busy with my students. The children are doing well in school. Miriam is spending a lot of time with David, especially on weekends. He often takes the train from Leiden and has dinner with us, regaling us with stories of medical school, some of them quite gory! He's staying with his aunt and uncle here in Amsterdam. So this is the boys' travel schedule: they will be arriving at Harwich on the ferry from Hoek van Holland on Saturday, June 3rd at 6pm. Miriam and I will be accompanying the boys by train to the Ferry but then she will depart at Leiden to visit David. Hopefully all goes on schedule--you know how unpredictable the trains can be. The boys will be coming with spending money so don't spoil them, uncle! I will be converting the guilders to pounds before they leave. In addition, Jakob will be wiring you funds for putting up the boys for the summer. I know you brother! Please don't fuss! You are such a kvetch when it comes to accepting much appreciated help. The boys are so excited! They are bragging to their friends and talking about all the adventures to be had. They are even speaking to each other in English and listening to the BBC on the wireless. Oh Izzie, I terribly miss the innocence of youth! You too? Love to all, Sarah May 23, 1939 The Okkers Den Transtaat Amsterdam, Netherlands Dear Sarah and family: I am sending you a letter from sweet Hannah, who with her wonderful mentor Leah, wanted to write you to show how well she is progressing with her English studies. I hope you enjoy her efforts. We made sure not to edit any of it. Dear Okker family: My name is Hannah Weschler and I am from Danzig. My speak is German but I am lerning English very good. I am to thank Miss Leah who is my teacher and best frend. I am much enjoy the city and thank Uncle Izzie who help me excape from the bad. I like the book shop for to read many books. I go to library and play games and paint with other kinder. Cinema time is fun to and see acters in english. Some time I cook for meels for ever one. I am looking much a lot to meet with Nathan and Michiel to play and read. Danke, Hannah W. June 18, 1939 The Okkers Den Transtaat Amsterdam, Netherlands Dear Sarah, Jakob, and children: I hope you received my telegram last week advising you that the boys arrived safe and happy, not to mention exhausted and excited! Hannah was very shy, as could be expected, but she started to warm up to the boys after awhile. The train ride back to London was a bit exasperating--we had to wait two hours to get going--the conductor said that a signal problem was the culprit. Anyway, Leah brought some "Beano" and "Dandy" comic magazines which are really popular here. We have a modest collection at the shop and they sell really well. By the time we got back home, all of us were spent. I decided that take away would hit the spot so we got fish and chips from the local chippy with the humorous name: "Something's Fishy Here!" The children loved it! Hannah said she could eat it at every meal! Nate mentioned that back home they have a dish called kippeling (I hope I spelled it right). He says it is deep fried fish, usually cod or whitefish in bite sized pieces served with mayonnaise. I can't remember eating it when I visited but it sounds delicious! Michiel claimed that English fish and chips is much tastier, especially with the malt vinegar and ketchup. Not surprisingly, all of us slept well that night. On Sunday, Rose and Max invited us for dinner. I closed the shop so I could spend time with the children. Having slept late, we all walked to Old Montague Street and had salt beef sandwiches at Bloom's. Feeling energized, we walked to the Petticoat Market near the Royal London Hospital. Although it was still the early afternoon, we had just a short time to look around because the market closes early at 2 pm. The costermongers were minding their carts, selling all kinds of goods: crockery, pots and pans, boots and shoes, and of course clothing, most of it chazerai and schmatas. The crowds were so thick, we could hardly move. We saw the "Wide Boys", the schemers and fraudsters who were selling watches and fake jewelry and other illegal goods out of small attaché cases, all while keeping an eye out for the coppers. Nate bought a Meccano set, Michiel, a children's book of Greek Mythology and Hannah, who felt she was being a burden, finally relented and let me buy her a colourful sun hat with a purple bow. She told me purple was her favourite colour. On our way back to Max and Rose's, we stopped at a Wall's Ice Cream bicycle cart. We each bought triangle-shaped "snow fruits" which we all appreciated on such a warm day. When we got to the Klein's, Max was just closing his shop--the last customer dropping off a wireless set for repair. Nate looked around the shop with intense interest. Oh, the look on his punim!: like a child just entering a sweet shop with endless delectable shelves! Shortly after, we were led upstairs towards the tantalizing smells. Rose and Leah were busy preparing dinner. Leah turned on their portable Philco 44 wireless and placed it on the coffee table. Max told us the set was commonly called the "The People's Set" because of its reasonable cost and popularity. Leah told the children that the BBC, a strictly non commercial station, was very boring, especially on Sunday's when religious and serious programming dominated. So a lot of people in Britain tuned into the Radio Luxenberg's English language service providing musical and adventure programs which were illegally broadcast to UK listeners. After some knob turning by Nate, they were able to tune into a very popular children's' show: "The League of Ovalteneys" which was broadcast at 5:30 pm every Sunday. The show is sponsored by Ovaltine, the powdered milk flavouring drink--I think they sell it in Holland, no? Although the children, especially Hannah, had problems understanding the dialogue, I could tell that they really enjoyed the theme song. After a wonderful haymishe meal prepared by Rose and Leah, Max and I enjoyed a glass of brandy and watched the the children play "snap." Remember how we played that card game as children? Eva used to always win, crying out bataille with all her might! We both thought she was somehow cheating but couldn't figure out how she did it. Later, Max, Nate, and myself went downstairs for a tour of the shop. Max showed us the front area where he sells new and used wireless sets made mostly by Ekco, Phillips, and Philco. Most of the sets were the portable table top rectangular shaped ones but some had a rounded arch top shape. Max told us the rounded ones were called "cathedrals." He showed us the much larger "tombstone" sets (what a horrible name!) which are also bought for their function as fashionable furniture. He told us his favourite set is the round, contemporary shaped Ekco AD65 model which is a radical change from the squarish models and were now his best sellers. They also came in unusual colours like green and ivory. You should have seen Nate, Sarah. He was in a total state of ecstasy! He told us how he once built an inexpensive crystal set for his science class project using only a coil of copper wire, a capacitor, ear phones, and most important, a crystalline mineral which was probed with what is called a "cat's whisker". It produced a very simple receiver, not needing any electrical power source. To me it all sounded so scientific! Max then took us to the workshop in the back of the shop. It was cordoned off by thick wine coloured drapes. There were tools scattered everywhere: valve tubes in all sizes and shapes, testing equipment, slightly injured and severely mutilated sets with assorted parts lying all around, a regular wireless graveyard! And such smells: the musty odour from overheated parts, old flux and solder, a hot engine smell from the hot valve tubes, and a pungent metallic odour of burning ozone which so much reminded me of those pungent smells from bumper cars at the local amusement park. Anyway, I let the two gelertners talk. Their dialogue sounded all oyslendish to me so I excused myself and joined everyone upstairs for another card game. Our game was disrupted by the sounds of banging and parts being manipulated down in the workshop. There was a lot of laughter as well. It sounded to me like Nate and Max were having a jolly good time! In case you're wondering, little Hannah won most of the snap games. She told us she often played the game back home in Danzig. There they call it "Snip Snap Snorem" As I write this, my eyes are starting to flicker. It's past 2 am. The children and much of East London is fast asleep. Remember the saying mama used to tell us: "Little children don't let you sleep; grown children don't let you live!" Nate and Michiel promised that tomorrow they will write you a letter in English to show how well their lessons are going. With love, Your exhausted brother, Izzie June 21,1939 The Okkers and Family Den Transtaat Amsterdam, Netherlands Dear Mama and Papa: How goot are you. Me and Michy miss you much now. We have nice time in London and unkle Izzie make us happy. Hannah is very best friend for us and ever day Leeha take us to librery to lern better English. We play games and read books. I like books of sciints and elektrik and Michy like Just William and Dik Trom books. Hannah read girl books. Bah. I go to shop of Max and watch him fix and something he let me help to. Uncle Izzie soon say he take me to futbol at West Ham United teem. Next day Leeha to take us to see cinema show we think Tom Soyer. I read the book much time past. Give hello to Miriam and Anna to me. From love Nate and Michy PS: Michy help me write letter July 1, 1939 Kalnar's Bookshop c/o Isadore Kalnar High Street Whitechapel E1 London, UK Dear Children: Thank you Nate, Mickey, and Hannah for your wonderful letters which I very much enjoyed. Your English is very good. How proud your father and I are. I am writing to you in my best English, which as you know is not as good as my Dutch or French. I am glad to hear that you are having fun at Uncle Izzie's. Everyone here is well and your sisters say hello. Miriam is busy with her job as a tour guide at the museum. She is seeing David almost every weekend. Anna is starting summer camp in Amstelveen, near the airport. As you know, she has been a member of the Dutch Girl-pathfinders Guild for many years. She will be training to be a pack leader. A few years ago they started planting trees in the huge park area. There is a rowing lake and paths for horseback riding. It's a wonderful place for girls to get out from the city and get a taste of the country and learn camping skills. With Love, Mamma, Poppa, Miriam, and Anna August 14, 1939 Kalnar's Bookshop c/o Isadore Kalnar High Street Whitechapel E1 London, UK Dear Issie and children: We all returned from Scheveningen yesterday night. It was a wonderful retreat--a change from our regular routines and much needed. The sea air has done wonders to our health. Jakob seems to have gotten his second wind. His pale pallor has been replaced with some colour, thanks to a week of almost endless sun. We stayed at the glorious Grand Kurhaus Hotel on the pier. It was so nice to be pampered. The time passed so quickly but I think that Emma, Jan, Jakob, and I were glad to return to our own beds! Jakob and I have discussed the boys request to stay a week later and return home the first week of September. They don't return to school until the 11th so tell the boys it is okay. I'm glad to hear that last week's visit to the zoo in Regent's Park went over so well with the children. I'm glad that it was your country's summer bank holiday so you were able to close the shop. Please let us know when the itinerary for the boys trip back home is in order so we can plan to pick them up at Hoek van Holland. Give the boys our love. All of us miss them so! Love, Sarah ______________________________________________________

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    This is unusual and quite good. You are presenting the history through letters, and it is quite well done. There is just enough apprehension, but it is dulled by the joy of the adoption. These people have no idea the storm is about to break in September.

    One caveat: These chapters are long. I would break them apart.