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Category Archives: Memoir

Welcome to the World of Trudel Adler

Welcome to the World of Trudel Adler

Trudel Adler, my mother, came to the United States 1934 when she was 21 years old. She frequently wrote long letters home to her family in Germany and asked them to save her letters and they did — over two hundred handwritten pages.

Trudel was an amazing young woman who grew into a fascinating warm wonderful woman, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was funny, serious, forthright, and considerate. She worked hard all of her life and gave to the world more than she ever got. The tale of the rest of her life was full of challenge,sadness and joy. These early years are more than that. They reveal the strength of character, the chutspa, the love, that helped her through all those years. Preparing her letters for this blog has been like entering a conversation with her and getting to know the young woman I never met.

Trudel as in Strudel

When asked how to pronounce or spell her name, Trudel, would reply, “Trudel, as in strudel.” She always said the “s” in strudel was for sugar and she was sweet enough without it. But all was not sweetness and light. In 1933, Trudel wrote in her diary, “There is no future for Jewish youth in Germany. I think I shall go to Palestine.”

Now in Chronological Order

On May 8, 1934 she sailed for the United States. What happened next is told in her letters which are now posted in chronological order. If you are on the home page just scroll down. Otherwise, start here.

(Note: Because the usual order of posts in a blog is latest first, the navigation links at the bottom of each screen are reversed – “older posts” will take you to the next set. “Newer posts” will take you to the previous set. I’ll find a way to fix that later. An alternative method would be to use the month by month archived posts.)


Here is a link to the most recent post:

  • September 7, 1937 – The Last Letter.
  • Trudel on the ship

    Trudel on the S.S. Manhattan, May 1934

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    May 9, 1934 On board SS Manhattan.

    May 9, 1934  On board SS Manhattan.

    On board SS Manhattan. Wednesday, May 9, 1934.

    My Dear Goldkinder,

    To start with I want to apologize for my handwriting. It is now 4:00 p.m. and I am sitting on deck in a lightweight sweater in bright sunshine in a beach chair. The boat is shaking slightly from one side to the other on a rather quiet and beautiful ocean.

    I found already nice company. We found each other even before the ship left Hamburg yesterday. Doddo can tell you much about it.

    It is really wonderful here. After departure we visited for a little while, had a glass of beer and sandwiches until we retired about 11:30 p.m. I slept wonderful until 5:00 a.m. when the sun shone one me so invitingly that I first looked out the porthole for a little while, went back to sleep until 7:30 a.m.

    We all met before breakfast until we were seated. The nice guy who tried to flirt with me last night and I are sitting at a table together. He is from Budapest and already fifteen years in New York. He reminds me of some other friends. Two girls sit alone because they eat kosher. The others are spread around. After a very large breakfast we went for a walk, then we rented chairs and are resting from doing nothing.

    We are always in groups of four or six or more. This morning I also played ping pong to improve my appetite! In between they served consomme and crackers. After dinner we played catch, etc. before resting in our chairs again, three hours except for taking a few snapshots. It is good that my table mate is American. He can read the menu And tell me what it is. Just now we got tea and cookies.

    I am getting lazier by the minute. Your know what corns on a certain place are? Well I think I am getting them.

    On Deck

    On the Deck of the SS Manhattan May 9, 1934

    There are several people on board who have given me regards from friends but I am not very interested in most of them.

    Tomorrow, weather permitting, a few of us want to walk a bit around LeHavre. Now I want to take a nap before dinner. Hope you can read this o.k.

    Love, Trudel



    The next letter is May 17. I will try to post more photos from the ship before then.

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    Posted by on May 9, 1934 in diary, family, Letters, Memoir

     

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    May 26-28, 1934 Weekday nights going out and Saturday night early to bed!

    May 26-28, 1934 Weekday nights going out and Saturday night early to bed!

    Written over several days

    May 26, 1934 at noon
    Picking up where I left off this morning. . .

    6 yrs. ago today I had my confirmation.

    In order that my laziness would not get too bad I dressed up nicely and went downtown with Gertl. We looked again at some of the skyscrapers.

    1930s Escalator

    One has stairs that go up and down automatically on a ribbon. You can get on the bottom step and it goes electrical up. If you are in a hurry you walk up or down the steps while they automatically go up or down slowly. Walking goes almost twice as fast. Then we went to the railroad station where they have doors that open automatically when you are 2 steps before it and close when you are 2 steps through it.

    Anyhow I noticed that the women here worry much too much about clothes. In Germany we would say they have no other worries.

    On the way home we stopped again for a soda. Supper I had with a friend who lives with a very nice lady since he is here. He then went with me to one of the worst neighborhoods here to do an errand for Aunt Henny and then we visited some relatives of his who could talk German but made me talk English. Very nice folks.

    I hope my letters are detailed enough. Now comes a special part for Pappa. Yesterday morning Ludwig met me at the subway station near his business and took me to Wall Street. Unfortunately it was raining. That neighborhood is very interesting. One big bank next to the other. We could not get inside the stock exchange since we would have had to have a member to take us inside and it would have taken too long to find somebody Ludwig knows. Instead we visited 2 stockbrokers.

    Broker's office

    The stocks and their prices are sent directly from the exchange sent there by wire and immediately displayed on a film strip on a wall. One can see and watch what is going on at the exchange continuously. In one of those places they had on a big wall a special part for the most common stocks in alphabetical order and changed them all the time. It was fascinating. Hope you can understand my description. After stopping at a beautiful aquarium we ate lunch at an automatic restaurant again.

    Then I went with him to his business to pack my trunk ready. He had already all my belongings from their apartment downtown. As he emptied an old trunk to put my things in some old photos fell out and the one on top was of Pappa, Mother, and Lotte in Niederhausen in 1909. Funny.

    When I came home I was really exhausted and slept for 2 hrs then Rudy picked me up. We went on the roof garden of a beautiful big hotel. The first thing I noticed was the fact that in such a fancy, elegant place people come in any kind of dress. Beautiful evening dresses and black tie, also tailored suits, casual clothes even slacks. Since it was raining we could not sit outside. It was too cold. But just as in old times we did a lot of dancing. He has gotten even heavier than he used to be but we still can dance very well together. I laughed very much at the other couples the way they danced. The females holding on tight to their partners as if they were afraid they might run away. Besides the dancing was really more hopping and jumping.

    The day before yesterday we got home at 2:00 a.m. Yesterday I was really lazy. No appointments or dates. At noon I went with Marion to lunch at an automat and then to see “Catherine the Great” with Elizabeth Bergner at the movie. I know this movie is forbidden in Germany. I liked it very much.

    Catherine The Great

    Click for YouTube

    In the evening I talked to several people from the boat on the phone and some family members came by and we looked at old snapshots. Last night we 3 girls slept for the first time in 2 beds. It worked fine.

    Isn’t that the right way — weekday nights going out and Saturday night early to bed!

    This morning we took it easy and I packed my trunk and the girls went with me to say goodbye to some people. We met a few walking down Broadway. Just like Goethe Strasse in Frankfort. At 3:00 p.m. I have a date with Kurt D. I hope you received 3 postal cards in the meantime.

    Monday early a.m.

    I will leave here in 5 min. so goodbye for now.

    Love & Kisses Trudel.


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    May 31 1934 Goodbye NewYork, Hello Chicago

    May 31 1934  Goodbye NewYork, Hello Chicago

    May 31st 9:30 a.m.

    First letter from 1460 E. 57th Street Chicago.

    I am still in bed listening to Strauss Waltzes over the radio. How lazy can one be?

    Now to continue my report [about the last day in New York] Sunday afternoon Kurt D. picked me up and we tried unsuccessfully to visit some friends. The picture I was supposed to deliver from our landlord I left with the janitor since the lady was very impolite.

    Then we visited the German District. One beer stube next to the other. Typical German. The weather was so beautiful that we sat near the river in the park as long as the sun was out. Then we got seats the top of a double-decker bus in the front seats and rode along the river as far as the new George Washington bridge. This bridge is only a few years old and you have probably seen pictures of it already.

    George Washington Bridge (1934)

    We crossed over to the New Jersey side. It is all different there. Small single homes with large yards. Lots of rich people have their weekend homes there. When we returned home pretty late there were still a few people there to say goodbye to me. Everybody was so wonderful.

    At 8:30 Monday morning, Rudy H. picked me up with his car and a big basket of fruit to take me to the bus depot.

    At 10:00 a.m. we left. The trip was very nice. I am sure I could not have seen so much from a train. Since I picked my seat right behind the driver I could see straight ahead, right and left.

    Trudel behind the driver.

    Just imagine first we went underneath the Hudson across to New Jersey, then Ohio, beautiful view. Reminded me of the shore of the Achensee but the company was not that nice–it was o.k. So next to me sat an American and I had to talk English as well as I could, not too much since we both slept a great part of the ride.

    Photoshop 1934 -"Trudel on the bus."

    At 12:30 a.m. in Pittsburgh I had to change buses. I asked a German lady for a translation when we were having dinner and she then sent the only other German speaking person on board to me. It made it much, much easier for me. Since it was very hot in the bus I slept a lot again. I’ll have to get used to a lot of things.

    In Ohio I expected to meet Uncle Julius Seckbach’s older son thru whom I got the free travel pass. He works for Greyhound but he did not show up.

    on the bus

    "32 Hours in the bus to Chicago"


    At 5:00 p.m. I arrived in my new hometown. Both Aunt Henny and uncle Julius picked me up and we went straight to their apt. They both were very nice. Aunt H. has not changed at all since she has in FFM [Frankfort] 10 yrs. ago. Only maybe a little heavier. Uncle Julius I would have recognized immediately from his photo.

    Here in the apt. were 2 welcome signs with green decorations and a very big bunch of lilacs. Really very nice. First of all I took a much needed bath after traveling 32 hrs.

    I only saw 1 train on the trip. There are no gates on the crossings and the driver has to stop and check if a train is coming. Also I noticed that there are no crosses in the cemeteries, just plain slabs of stone. Has one of you been back at our cemetery? How does Mother’s grave look? Did you plant anything? How about getting a stone? I want to know everything.

    After walking along the lake a while we sat and talked for a long time. I am very much looking forward to swimming in that beautiful Lake Michigan. We live only a few blocks away.

    Yesterday after sleeping late we packed our food in shopping bags and went to the World’s Fair. We tried to meet people there but missed each other. We just walked around to get a quick look at things. Lots of it looks very interesting. For instance the very large Chrysler Exhibit would be interesting for Lu.

    Thank G’d it was not terribly hot and we stayed until 11:00 p.m. I only saw 1 acquaintance from the boat and we will try to get together some time. You have to go really several times to get to see most of it., but if it is as hot as today nobody can make me go there. Also the fair is all along the lake I rather go in the water than about the shore.

    After sleeping late I am sitting here in a very thin dress from Aunt Henny, listening to the radio and sweating. She also gave me a large brimmed straw hat, which I want to alter for myself to use instead of a sun umbrella.

    That’s it for today. Hope to hear from you soon again.

    Love & Kisses,

    Trudel


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    June 5, 1934 “Feeding Ice Cubes to the Chickens”

    June 5, 1934 “Feeding Ice Cubes to the Chickens”

    June 5th, 1934

    Dear ones,

    You can get here so many things that we did not have at home or they were much, much too expensive. But I also miss some things. For instance malt bonbons, peppermint tea, good chocolate candies, and bakery goods.

    It is now Tuesday–11:15 p.m. On Sunday we took a 4 hr. bus ride. Our apartment is on the south east side of Chicago and the cemetery is N.W. so I could see a big part of this big city.

    Hyde Park Boulevard


    We sat on the top of the 2 decker bus so I could see more on that 2 hr. trip each way. We went along the lake on Michigan Ave, the best and the most expensive shopping area, along the Gold Coast where all the millionaires live and then across the city to the cemetery, then we walked for about ½ hr. west almost to the end of the city. It is hard to imagine the tremendous size of Chicago.

    We ate in a German restaurant. There are many Germans here. Yesterday morning I finally made acquaintance with Lake Michigan, at 10:00 a.m. I jumped into the nice cool wonderful water. The only trouble is the cover of soot on top and you feel dirtier when you come out and feels dirtier than when you go in. Also the sand on the beach is very dirty.

    Trudel in the Park

    Anyway the whole city is rather dirty and the people are very sloppy — not neat at all. There are beautiful parks all around and people sitting and laying on them throw papers and bottles all around. No matter where.

    Actually I like Chicago as a City much better than N.Y. It is not so much stores and has those beautiful parks but is much, much more stretched out. Also life seems to be much slower and more at ease.

    Pigeons in the Park

    Just think of it. I am wearing slacks all day. Even on the street and shopping. Except when I am going downtown. When we went swimming I wore on the way my bathing suit, swim shoes and a short rubber cape. No cap. My comb I took in my hand, and walked home the same way but wet.

    Of course I took a shower to get rid of the dirt. Aunt Henny only wore a bathing suit, white shoes and a cape she had made from the brown silk raincoat from 10 yrs. ago.

    The rest of the day we sewed, washed, and ironed. I received some clothes in N.Y. including a nice multicolor evening dress which I have to alter a little, Earnale? [Erna is Trudel’s other sister.] Do you need your black one that you loaned me for my trip? I certainly will not use it this summer. But it was perfect for the voyage.

    Last night I went with Aunty to her German Singing club. I had to bite my lips not to laugh out loud. It seemed very funny and strange to me. About 4 old women as old and ugly as can be. All German of course. Aunty H. is only Jewish member. I was very nicely received with applause. Afterwards we picked up Uncle at his Gesang Verein and the very friendly and intelligent conductor [of the singers] drove us home in his car.

    It is really funny that everybody asks me just about the same questions. First, how do you like it here? Next: How is your father Adolf? It seems all the people I meet know him and want to hear about him and his family and friends.

    There are several relatives here but some of them seem to be proches. I do not know why. This afternoon I was downtown with Aunty. We went by streetcar as far as the building made of chewing gum, the Wrigley Bldg. It is all white, very tall, clean and illuminated at night, and really stands out very much against all those other dark skyscrapers.

    Wrigley Building

    Wrigley Building


    We went first to a wholesale hat manufacturer.* One of the two owners is a nephew of Uncle. Unfortunately he was not in, but his partner talked to me and promised to see if they can use me. Aunty does not want me to start working before July 1st. Also I am pretty tired. But I would very much like to start tomorrow.

    I hope to get used to Chicago air.

    Maxwell Street - One source of Fresh Fruit

    [Comment (apparently inserted during translation): It turned out that Mr. & Mrs. Seckbach expected me to be their housekeeper: cooking, washing, ironing etc. But that was absolutely out. — O.K. Back to letter.”]

    Next we visited Alice Weil in the Post Office. She was like everybody — very nice — and we made a date for tomorrow evening. Then we visited a sister-in-law of Uncle. He is not on friendly terms with her as apparently with a lot of people. He has a son Martin I have not met yet.

    Next the Boston Store, a very large dept. store. The buyer in the fur department was the first lady with whom Auntie made friends when she came here 19 yrs. ago. A very nice lady who she made a date with me for lunch one day next week and introduced me also to the buyer of the ladies hat department, who will do his best in my behalf. Sure hope something will work out soon.

    Department Stores and "car elevator"


    After that we did a little shopping and then thru Marshall Fields the biggest, dept. store in the world. After picking up Uncle in his office we stopped to buy groceries for the next couple of days before going home.

    Uncle is one of the strangest persons I ever met. He seems to earn good money but is as stingy as can be as I have never met anybody before. Auntie seems to know just how to get along with him, also no matter what she says he insists on the opposite. And G’d forbid if one contradicts him. Then he will start talking about it 50 times again. Otherwise he is o.k. when he is left alone.

    I get along with him very well so far — also he is not on speaking terms with all his relatives but he seems to like me. It is a good thing he can’t see how I laugh about him behind his back. Last week the 2 had an argument and the next day he brought her a pretty dress from downtown. Apparently he is very fond of her.

    Downtown Chicago


    He is quite egotistical and can’t stand it if she talks friendly to someone else, and she cannot visit anybody. She wishes I would not got to work at all but keep her company all the time. She is really very good to me. There is not a lot of work here in the apt. except for the dirty soot that comes thru the windows. 5 min. after cleaning the window sills are black again.

    Today I had a letter from Gustl. Willy Bloeser called just as I was leaving. She gave him my Chicago phone number and address. When I look around the room here I see all my dear ones several times around the walls. There are even 4 photos of myself. It is now already 12:30 and we have a lot planned for tomorrow. Is it very warm in Frankfurt? It was 90 degrees here today. I do sweat a lot and hopefully will lose some weight.

    Aunt Henny

    Trudel's Aunt Henny

    Loads of love & kisses from your very happy Runaway.

    Trudel

    P.S. It is so hot here that they are feeding the chickens ice cubes so they won’t lay boiled eggs!!


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    *Trudel was trained in millinery [hat making] in Germany.

     

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