WWII-era letters in German - help needed!! (long)

I was wondering if it might not be simpler for our friend GZY to “assign” us certain ones to keep from dulpicating our efforts?

I, for example, would be able to handle the modern and type-written documents, whereas someone else may be be able to decipher any truly “old-German” written ones?

I have not looked through all of them as yet, but I know from having read some of my German grandmother’s written words, they can make you go huh?

So how many of us are there, and can this be done so that we don’t inundate our friend with duplicate translations?

And if we need help, we just say. "This is Q, and I am having trouble with this phrase on THIS numbered document?

Would that work?



FWIW, the destination of this letter, 824 North Hayward, Los Angeles 90046, is shown in Street View. It looks like it has to be the same building in which the Barskys lived.

To the OP: I don’t know how familiar you are with L.A., but this is in the heart of West Hollywood. Although “Hollywood” as an actual geographical center of the local film industry is considered something of a myth, West Hollywood has always been home to many people working in the industry. This was probably more true in 1946. The address is fairly close to the studios in Culver City, the Paramount lot in Hollywood proper, and the Hughes studio at the time. Were the Barskys involved in the film industry?

… is there a “story” to be told here and would you want to share it that way?

I am mesmerized by the pictures as well as the words.

This is amazing.


I was thinking the same. I covered a number of the translations that are already up there. I’ll have a go at some others tonight but we shouldn’t be duplicating our work, so I’ll leave it up to GZY to tell us what to do given what he knows about what we can do.

you can always PM me - I’d be happy to help

a cursory glance tells me that documents 40 and 34 don’t tell us very much about how April relates to the people he’s writing to. He has a child in Havana that he’s using as a middleman (I guess) to send on $30.

I think that there’s definitely a story (or many) waiting to come out. I’m pondering presenting them chronologically in a blog-type thing once what’s going on in them becomes clearer.

This is fascinating. I took a quick look at the images…I’d love to help, but I don’t have enough free time to spend on that right now. I used to be much better at decoding handwriting but I’m way out of practice. If anyone can transcribe any of the documents, I might be able to help.

I’m very much looking forward to reading the translations.

Yeah, sorry about the redundancy: how do you guys feel about keeping track of who is working on what by laying claim to documents in the “comments” section of the Flickr pages? Seems like the simplest way. As translations come in I’ll post them there so that everyone can keep up.

that sounds like it could work. I’ll post the transliterations there as well so maybe people can have a look at them and see if they agree. I have an issue with a word (marked ‘illegible’ in the comments) in letter 8b, for instance, that someone else should have a look at. I’ve been thinking that it might actually spell ‘Tod’ - Death :frowning:

Also, April, in one of his letters, refers to a Frau Kestenbaum, and that’s who wrote 8b, not Katzenbaum. But as to Frau Kestenbaum’s first name I’m still unclear.

That’s fine with me, GZY.

Whatever works best.

I just copied everything to my pictures file, but I am sure the post-cards and envelopes are going to be a piece of cake for any of our German-Oriented Dopers.

As for the “old” German?


Of all of my family still alive, my Onkel Bernd (who lives in Zeitz) would probably be the only one in the “Quasi-Family” who could read that style.

I would LOVE to get him involved if possible, and if y’all (!) run into anything “old-style” (sorry, don’t know another word for it). I am sure he’d be happy to help!




"Es Rock’t!":slight_smile:


For some reason google maps isn’t turning up this address. Intersection? Regarding Hollywood: I know next to nothing about Regina Barsky (great aunt, I think), but a search turns up a copyright for some sort of work of fiction by a Regina Barsky (pseudonym Barclay) in LA around the same time. The plot thickens.

Ah, excellent; I’ll amend the translation.

that is such a coincidence - I spent a lot of time in just that area of Germany, not more than 5 km away from Zeitz! Small world, eh!

I posted a translation of #40 on the Flickr page. I’m assuming this is fine since the OP has put the letters up there for us to look at.

With regard to 8b I agree the word may be “death”.

See, I thought it could be that, I just find it a harsh thing to write in a letter, even in the circumstances (which probably makes me sound stupid). Anyway, I finished transliteration of document 6 - I’ll post that for people to look at, there’s still a number of things I’m unsure about - and post a translation tomorrow. Joining Flickr has required that I sell my soul to Yahoo! but it’s worth it.

My mistake, it’s 824 Hayworth, not Hayward.

Yes, please post whatever you think pertinent; sorry about not making that clear. I’ll wait to put “Tod” in of the translation for the time being until a native speaker looks at it, even though it’s probably correct…with something like that I’d want to be sure about it. Thanks for everything as always, guys.

OK, now that my sister’s weighing in, some developments regarding Regina Barsky:

She was not in fact my great-aunt, but my great-grandmother.

She was indeed involved in the film industry in some capacity, but exactly what she did is unclear.

David April apparently was acting as an intermediary between people inside the ghetto and their friends and relatives who had managed to emigrate, or at any rate he was doing so for the Barskys and the Elfenbeins. It’s evident that the mail to and from Opole is not reliable or consistent.

Next he mentions two payments received from or on behalf of Frau Elfenbein, for one he has sent her a parcel and the other he is holding for her eventual use.

He winds up asking for clarification on who Elfenbein is, and asking for more information so he can offer further assistance.

Whoever April was, I suspect he was not a native speaker of German, noting one or two possible grammatical errors which I think only a second-language speaker of German would make.

I don’t post much here but this is fascinating. I’m working on 11 a-c and will add my transcription and translation once I sign up for Flickr.

Having some diffculty with zooming in after copying the letters to my pictures folder. It blurs the handwriting. Should I just work from Flick’r?