A Somber Trove of Family Letters

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by Kevin Schlottmann, Archival Services Manager, Center for Jewish History

The Leo Baeck Institute’s Milli Frank correspondence (AR 6686) contains dozens of letters and postcards sent to Milli Frank in Brooklyn, New York, between 1937 and 1944, by her parents, aunts and uncles in Germany. Later, some of these relatives wrote to her from the concentration camps of France. None of them appears to have survived the Holocaust.

The LBI archives holds many such collections. Sadly, many older German Jews were unwilling or unable to leave Germany until it was too late, while most younger German Jews were generally able to escape. But rarely do these collections contain the associated outgoing correspondence. While this particular set of letters does not have Milli’s replies to her family’s letters, it does have her sketched notes–she appears to have been in the habit of writing outlines of her replies on the back of the envelope in which the original letter arrived. 

For example, on the envelope above, she notes the items to mention in her response: thanks for letters and postcards, a birthday, business, a person named Mehlinger. She also mentions “the speed of English,” and it’s unclear whether she means how quickly English can be learned, how quickly she learned it, or whether English is spoken quickly by the residents of Brooklyn. 

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