How we learn the story… Dankward Sidow about his work

Between December 1938 and May 1942, Clara and Max Müller wrote regularly to their two sons who had already emigrated, to Meinhold in Sweden and Willi in Palestine. Only the oldest of the three sons, Herbert, was initially still with his parents in Themar, before he was able to escape persecution with his Flora in July 1941. They succeeded in emigrating to the USA. The parents, however, were not so lucky; despite all their efforts, no country was willing to accept them as refugees.

The letters and postcards provide a glimpse into the world of the Jewish community in Themar during these terrible years. We experience the unrest, even desperation, brought to the community by the Nazi measures, as the Jews search for ways out. On May 8, 1942, Clara and Max wrote the last card – “we are leaving tomorrow morning.” On May 9, they left Themar – forever. They were deported “to the East,” to Bełżyce near Lublin.

We thank the members of the Müller family for allowing us to publish this correspondence. Dankward Sidow, Hamburg, a friend of the Müller family, has arranged for the transcription of the correspondence, which was written in Old German, into the Latin script. Dankward wrote the following about his work:

“Strange – a Hamburg man transcribes letters and postcards written in German script during the 1930s by the Jewish Müller couple, written from the small Thuringian town of Themar to Palestine and Sweden. How this came about is a lengthy story, partly the result of coincidence. It is too convoluted for the reader.

In Sweden and in Israel letters and postcards from this time of the Nazi persecution of the Jews were still found, only they were written in a meanwhile uncommon script – in the German, once used by the great minds, also by Heine, and in all offices as chancery script, which today is often called the so-called Sütterlin script.

In order to evaluate them for the research of the Jewish fates, they had to be transferred into the Latin script – but who can do that today?

Rebecka Müller, the daughter-in-law of the Müller couple, with whom I had become acquainted through one of the above-mentioned coincidences 15 years ago and with whom a warm friendship has since developed, raised this question in an e-mail at the beginning of last year.

Yes, I can still do it – I answered Rebecka and agreed to transcribe, especially since the fateful German-Jewish relationship has always interested me.

Already a few days after this promise, the first original copies of postcards arrived from Vancouver as attachments for me to process. They were initially those with greetings from here and there in Germany from the years 1931 to 1934, but also those showing effects of the Great Depression in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Letters from Max Müller II and his wife Clara from the period beginning in 1938 to Meinhold followed, the middle-aged of the three Müller sons who had emigrated to Sweden. They show how worried the (much more endangered) parents were about their son in the (safe) foreign land. And then soon followed the many letters to Palestine, where the youngest of the miller’s sons had emigrated after a preparatory period, a so-called youth aliyah, in Hamburg-Rissen.

For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that Herbert, the oldest of the three, emigrated to America.

How did the lives of the Müller II family from Themar end?
The parents, Max and Clara, murdered in 1942 in Bełżyce/Poland.
Herbert deceased 1994 in Nassau NY/USA, Meinhold deceased 1993 in Gothenburg/Sweden.
The only one still living in Israel is Willi, the youngest.
[Note: Willi Müller passed away in 2013]

The collection of letters and postcards from Clara and Max Müller to their sons can be found here.

Translated with (free version)