A 1946 letter: we survived the Nazis.

A letter from Karel Javurek in Prague to his brother Joseph Javurek in New York City, dated January 4th 1946.

It’s a rough translation, but easy enough to figure out. Karel is explaining to his brother just a little of what they went through.


Dear Joey “Pepicku”

Your letter of Sept. 24th, 1945 we received.

I wrote to you instantly and enclosed some stories but your answer I still await. I don’t know if you got it or not. Therefore I write today anew with again some examples of parables [really, stories]. I hope you are getting this for according we have an announcement.

And now with things, what does it means this occupation of a foreign power and with the Germans, I must write gossip. Simple since 1939 our occupation began. Which is what is glossed over. It is very simple, they took people and they tossed us, or said that they are not the friendly empire. Already the whole family went with here or at least to concentration camp – commune or for coerced work for [picking] tomatoes. Or someone had a little bigger wealth, so they simply excused us [labeled us,] as Slavophiles [those who like Slavic things, part of the Pan-Slavic movement] or Bolsheviks or communists. Or that you had a grandmother or uncle who was Jewish. With that event you had no help, only holy water. Really, that’s the worse, it was for that gory dog Heidrich.

It was the butcher, the big notorious SS Obergruppenfurher Frank [A German officer] the worst archenemy and unfriendly for all Czechs. All the time the nation visited Pankrac [the Prague city prison] where I was myself from 5/16/39 to 5/27/39. The hospitality [sarcasm, anyone?] performed with Otto and greater buyout patriots. I was rescued, we by Otto that all took him away, so I was released, but it is uneasiness when they came for me again. Counting all the spells [times with Nazis?] in their occupation, the worst was at night. We could be falling asleep and then you heard outside some boy with an auto, maybe someone arrested in the neighborhood or you heard German hooligans breaking up things with cudgels and clubs. They had clubs ready for you.

This uneasiness was horrible and made us nervous. This you know mainly I have with all this beautiful moroseness, grayness, but that God that this German crisis is now gone away. Six years is a long 6 years. Now we will fatten up. Meantime, our kids haven’t gotten a piece of fruit and the German fuckers [yes, he uses the word] had it all. On what I thought, I could not say. They would have preferred to give me bullets, to those they murder that who are nothing, not needed.

What bothered me most was that when they came and arrested Otto in 1939 and took him to Pankrac, so they snatched at us, and the gestapo gave us scrutiny, and for 3 days bloodied us, and they pocketed precious stamps, which would today can’t be bought for 500,000 crowns [korun, Czech currency, severely debased by Nazi times] in new money, and together with gold money, film apparatus, Kodak 16 mm, which I bought just before with our brute hassles, bit it is all to the devil. Just us in 1040. Though she didn’t have to die, our little one, Zdenka. She was only 6 ½ years old. I have been given big wounds. Perhaps that’s how it must be. So I am recalling too our Franky [Otto, Joe and Karel had a brother Frank who died as a kid] He was also taken, as the youngest must that times to die.

Ow something merrier about our Otto. In 1937 I moved ? [unknown word] but for that same home the first nation [I think he means that the new house saved him somehow] 4 rooms, with extra T. J. bedrooms. [I don’t know what T.J. Really is except that T. J. Sokol – so maybe they were camp beds?] a dining room, tools, technical stuff, modest waiting room, with a hallway like it is downstairs, it is the short cut, that same been like under, only it has 2 rooms more.

We can better breathes, tough I delivered children would one or 2 rooms more unschooled, and perhaps it would take possibly.

And now personal lives, I am like the head of the family. Miluska like the mother, the family, daughter Dagmar, that was 17 years old on October 1st. By the way she has painter’s talent, and is going to school for model drawing. Milenka, the 9th of December she was 14 years old and goes to real classroom gymnasium [junior high school] She’s a good learner and likes it too.

Now to the main thing – We have a SON [yes, he underlines the capital letters], that I must write with big “s” – [i.e. capital letters.] Karel, after his father, that was newly on December 15th, 8 months. The boy is healthy and has the word with that yet grandmother, Milushenku’s mother, which is widowed ? [unknown word] a major time with us. So that she has Milka’s relief, and she now also has a maid, a Slovak girl, many a girl, yourself I am still a dentist technician, so that I couldn’t all slog myself, that you know already also I am not young, again, the aspect of anyway, we were years, just 43. We are old Kossacks.

It is one thing, I am although what to migrate, isn’t that a blow? And with zest to do it, half is really old Czech rights proverb, and now Otto is a big question mark. He returned practically at six years from German criminalization beginning in November 1938. That news on my saint’s day, just now, he said goodbye, that he would to a foreign soldier, but the boy he had a misfortune ? [unknown word.] Only in Brno he climbed up on a train and already had went to the getsapo in their finery, this you know next door had in evidence and the rogue had guarded every footstep and then it began. First he was at Spilberk [notorious ancient castle prison in Brno,] in Brno, then to Pankrac, then Dresden, Bayreuth [home of Richard Wagner operas,] Amberg, Novimberk [Nuremburg] and then there’s now a German trial, criminal, and eventually he got in front of the Volksgericht [a German “people’s court] in Berline where he was sentenced for high treason, and treason, and for attempting … ? [unknown word] to foreign soldiers, for 11 years discipline. Also we ascribed together upon issuing the illegal magazine “To Action” where indeed he was a member. Of course he couldn’t do anything managed, or contrived, his luck however was that he was convicted before Heidrich attested, though three times he eluded the ax. After the attesting it would was sure …? [unknown word] he came.

That his comrades they attested to it, that him set forth 8 teeth in Brandenburg Prison [I guess his skill saved him] He was business like as a tooth technician, then the head. As the prisoner ambulance where he caught the end of the war and was from there delivered [saved, rescued,] unshackled by the Red Army.

He returned home at the end of July because he acted as the repatriation …? [unknown word] officer and helped a lot of our country men and many from Jugoslavia, and mostly Slovenians, who were returning to their nation. Afterward he stepped in as a casual courrier for services to the foreign misistry and carried out his functions, sometimes he made a trip to foreign places, mainly Jugoslavia and Italy. Where he caused also a repatriation. Our government’s national soldiers which were at war towing to Italy so that home in our homeland he couldn’t help at this event, rebellion or revolution.

We are to him very grateful as he always brought from foreign lands for the kids which stuff we didn’t have – mainly lemons, pomegranates, peaches, apples, and olive oil. And we have our rations, for meat 75 dkg [not kilograms, probably 1/10th, or 1/100th of that amount, tiny,] per person monthly, and with bones in it, so how does it figure how that person lives? Of course, on blackmarket … ? [unknown word] all is available, but then you can’t pay what it costs.

I hope that the worse spells we are out of, at last happy. Now Otto is 2 ½ months in Italy, our wants already his exposition new papers & traveling passport and triptyk [Triptyk, in Czech, so modern looking] on coach, or with his it all somebody pocketed the last news I have from Otto obtained a letter on 12/22/1945 from Rome. Sent with the same deliveries with some miscellaneous fruit for the kids.

He also sent plenty of used Italian stamps. Which gets on Czech delegation in Rome and Trieste for my new Swiss catalog. It all bears fruit if the driver doesn’t pocket what he’s to deliver.

Well, it doesn’t give anything to do, away is away, stealing what they will steal.

So I think that I am that meanwhile our writing is enough and now you want indeed to know, how it actually is in our new republic. It seems, the knife hears, the voices sobers, it’s about revolution fever . God, who wants that? Away. We are becoming a new future, what the Germans destroyed or stole, we’ll fix. Too bad it’s after they stayed so long unsupervised.

Indeed, maybe they say that there’s lots too bad. They didn’t do us people with ignorance after the revolution rusted. I behaved inexpertly, I knew some state things, etc, full, brilliant politicians and experts our Nazis in their clubs. And that meanwhile, is our fault, but certainly raises …? [unreadable word] our new president Dr. Edvard Benes.

If indeed international politics forms, that isn’t at all in doubt. We have had all enough to like, he has albeit [Benes] big difficulties, and positions, that he channeled all that …? [2 unknown words] various political sexualities [I think he means, parties, or in modern terms, “flavors,] and us mainly communist all but this time …? [unknown word] and I hope that already it would after the votes all will form hard another way than now. I know that you look on us, those in England and in America, anyhow, they think themselves, that we are ourselves a bunch of communists, but it isn’t true. Our nation is very sober, and anyhow our communist state we must be be anything else. It would be a stride backwards into the dark. Indeed it is not our wishes to be with the Soviet Union, for our communism unaided, learned to haul our own goat, or for what we barely wanted.

The truth, if it’s in that first light, wish more people distinguished reporters to the communist party but how it occurred, who our most soberly people with their hurts, and the vote will entirely differ. The Russians, we are grateful that from Germany they saved us, that they saw the Germans off, equally we are thankful for the glorious individual Americans and their commanders, for which we have our admiration.

The organization, armaments, and all that with military service, relates to is simply without decay. How themselves in America say, “OK” –and which only that standard in food. Meat, what throat vouchsafed [I can’t figure out what he means,] rice, macaroni, fruits, pineapples, cocoa, chocolate, ice cream, cigarettes – already to ourselves power converges, and for us we obtained 60 cigarettes each month. A lot that does. On the other hand but our tobacco expense we can’t afford. Or, our Germans took the entire stocks of tobacco, pocketed it all, so that …? [unknown word “bošove“ – but looks close to the French “boche” – or a slur for Germans,] they had in front of us what they wanted to smoke. Well all is flawless, already we are begrudging them, and to ourselves we are after our struggles.

I hope that already you will have written to this letter, convey us to us, weren’t you are also in military service. And what did you do during the war? I got close before, an admission to the USA, but then to war again, and then questions from the International Red Cross, we got from you with us, but I couldn’t that time follow up. [sure, it was the middle of the war] Now I am not wanted, redundant, for myself I point out that Germany that I have someone in a foreign place, and that we ourselves write this 2nd letter for Otto, I am in that time passed on one truth: Otto is married. It’s with manifold that he said to me, that you wrote back, please you if he’s writing you get it and will you ask for us for him to write back. Don’t forget we impart it if you are something get from him. That is, lies like when he was in the papers.

He asked you that you telephone him at us, or at Mr. Engineer… [no name given] which he has with his woman in America [turns out, from another letter, we know that Otto’s wife had relatives in Chicago,] [to explain] what happened to us, that you don’t get from us nothing. I hope however that you now get our correspondence. It will be brisker than in the preceding years. And already you are for that letter answering that this will a lot mean, and mainly, soon, note at Christmas you perhaps got it. And thereupon you will all still give you one wish in the New Year: health, luck, and togetherness, from us all of us, Karel, with my family.

PS, further, if the main thing I must do, it’s congratulate with all my heart, the so big increase in your family. I have movingly said that you perhaps farm for children. When you are so blessed accruing them. I hope that they are all healthy and with mom and you and please you write to us how things go for you, and how you old they are. When you will have some extra photos please don’t forget to send them to us.

I am still collecting stamps. Would you have some extras which you can miss? So to us you can send? Would you want our new stamps?. Write how many, the series, the collection, and if you want them clean or canceled

Further, could you please, if you could possible, quickly [he uses the word “scorched” but I think, ah, “quickly” is better,] send me the catalog for 1946 for the whole world. I’d like “Gipson” [He means, Gibson, a famous stamp catalog company,] – for the German catalog is barely good after the German defeat. They will go out and we will have none they have [I guess all the German stamps became garbage, and unbuyable]

Don’t forget me, to write me, if you still collect stamps, and how.

I send you an example of some photos of the kids in Kroje [Czech national traditional clothing] and a little photo of our Charlie [I think we have these photos, as I recall.]

Our heartfelt greetings to you all, and we wish you all the health and we sweetly kiss you,

Karel, and my family.


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