A Mother's Farewell Letter

A new glimpse at a mother's final letter to her son, written immediately before her deportation to Theriesenstadt.

Two days before her deportation to the Thereisenstadt concentration camp, German Jew Valli Ollendorff wrote a letter to her son Ulrich, anticipating the coming end of her life. Ulrich had fled Germany to the U.S. after Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," in 1938, when the Nazis destroyed 191 synagogues throughout Germany. Valli's other sons, Wolfgang and Gerhard, remained in Germany and were killed by the Nazis in the early 1940s. Valli died in Thereisenstadt at age 68, less than two months after she wrote the letter. Lost for 40 years, Valli's letter did not reach Ulrich until 1985, and it remained a family secret until 1998, when it was read publicly for the first time at Ulrich's funeral.

Now, hoping that Valli's words of hope and comfort will resonate with contemporary readers, the Ollendorff family has released the letter and the news of its remarkable discovery. The story of the letter and the Ollendorff family has been made into a book and a documentary film, narrated by Martin Sheen and Liv Ullman, airing on local PBS stations.

Excerpts from the letter:


Tormensdorf - 24th day of August, 1942

My beloved, my good boy, within two days we are going away from here, and the future lies so dark in front of us that the thought comes up that the new place will be the last one which we reach on our migration. And if you my boy will hold this letter in your hands, then we are not chased from place to place, then all the suffering will have an end. Also, the restlessness and peace will be around us and in us. Be happy that I have this rest and this peace, my good boy, and don't be too sad.

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