MS-228: Veis Family Letters

MS-228: Veis Family Letters

Lauren Ashley Bradford, Gettysburg College


The Veis family letter’s collection contains 165 letters and 14 additional items chiefly addressed to Bruno Veis. The majority of the correspondence, approximately two thirds, is in the German language. They are mainly letters from his parent’s and other extended family members and friends who remain in Germany while Bruno is at a boy’s home in England. The content includes information about immigration plans, deportations, daily activities, and thoughts of the future. The rest of the collection is in English and is correspondence letters from Bruno, Julius, and Karl Veis to several refugee organizations and government officials in an attempt to provide transportation and visas for Bruno’s parents, Bertha and Jakob, who are interned in a French concentration camp.

Half of the German letters are (legibly and illegibly) hand written with ink, pencil, and carbon copy ink. The other half is typed with a typewriter and often contain additional hand written notes in the margins. The bulk years of the German letters range from December of 1938 to November of 1939. There are gaps in correspondence after Bertha and Jakob are transported to an unknown location in late 1942. The English correspondence letters begin in July of 1941 and steadily continue until December of 1942. There are four German letters and two English letters sent in the post-war period.

The family’s German letters provide an insightful look at life in Germany for Jewish families in 1938 as they attempt to flee from the Nazis. The collection’s greatest strength is the direct and open way in which the family writes about their everyday lives in Nazi Germany and their dealings with persecution of their Jewish family. The references to the deportations and removal of fellow family members or other Jews by the Nazis, that are included in several of Bertha’s letters to Bruno, shows the way in which they spoke about and reacted to such events. The intense desire to flee Germany, which can be seen throughout a number of the German letters, progressively builds with each passing date and is directly linked to the virtually universal social tensions and constant animosity shown towards the Jewish people by 1939. Most of all, Julius’s statements about “the horrors” that his aunt and uncle were facing while interned at a French concentration camp when writing to A.M. Warren the chief of visas, sheds light on just how much certain branches of the government knew about the inner-workings of concentration camps.

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