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Grandmother's letter from the Holocaust

Adler family
The Adler children in the 1940's. The eldest, Steve, and their parents were Holocaust survivors who fled Vienna and landed in Traverse City in 1939. From left: Steve Adler, Bob Adler and Lil (Adler) Ostendorf.

Seventy five years ago this month, the United States declared war on Germany during World War II. That declaration had a dramatic impact on a Jewish family living in Austria and their family members who escaped the Holocaust and settled in Traverse City.


In 1939, Ilse and Henry Adler fled Vienna, Austria with their infant son, Steve Adler. They arrived in Traverse City a few months later after they were sponsored by Congregation Beth El, now Congregation Beth Shalom. 

Credit Adler Family
The Adler family outside their home on Garfield Avenue in Traverse City in the 1940's. Top left: Henry Adler and Ilse Adler. Bottom left: Lil (Adler) Ostendorf, Bob Adler and Steve Adler.

Soon after Ilse and Henry came to Traverse City, Ilse's younger sister, Susi, joined them. 

Ilse and Susi had left their parents behind in Nazi-controlled Vienna. Now, from Traverse City, they rushed to get all the immigration documents they needed to get their parents out.

Credit Alder family
Susi Goetz (middle) with Henry Adler's brother's Maximillian Adler (left) and Leopold Adler (right). Both brothers died during the Holocaust.

They succeeded in getting all the necessary immigration documents, but then they needed to raise the money to pay for their parents' passage to the U.S. They asked Jewish people in Traverse City for help, but they didn't get the money from them. Then they turned to Jewish organizations in the U.S, but they couldn't help either.


Credit Adler Family
Ilse Adler's parents, Julius and Bella Goetz. Bella Goetz wrote a diary-like letter to her daughters describing how she and Julius fled Nazi-controlled Vienna for Budapest Hungary.

Then the United States and Germany declared war, and the window closed. It was no longer legal for Jewish people to immigrate to the U.S. 

The letter below was written by Ilse and Susi's mother, Bella Goetz, in 1943. It is written in diary form and recounts how Bella and her husband, Julius, fled Vienna for Hungary. The letter was later translated from German to English by Ilse and Susi. They wrote the introduction and epilogue.


Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.