A Thousand Kisses: A Grandmother's Holocaust Letters

A Thousand Kisses: A Grandmother's Holocaust Letters

A Thousand Kisses: A Grandmother's Holocaust Letters

A Thousand Kisses: A Grandmother's Holocaust Letters


Letters to a beloved son & his family tell the poignant story of one woman's life & provide a detailed picture of the lives of Jews in Prague during the war years.


"MAMINA" was my family's name for my grandmother, Henriette Pollatschek, whose letters tell the story of this book. The accent is on the first syllable, and the vowels are all short; the name is a Czech nickname for "Mamma." It was a name she herself probably chose, as she was the only one of us who spoke Czech fluently.

Photographs reveal her to be a small, rather frail woman with high cheekbones and pronounced features. Since I was only six when I last saw her, my memories of her are childish ones: I remember her writing poems that she read or recited to me and her showing me the resemblance of fuchsia blossoms to twirling dancers. I have been told that Mamina was artistic, poetic, and good with her hands. She had, they said, "temperament." To me she seemed imaginative, playful, and yet somehow mysterious and slightly reserved.

Whereas Mamina was small, her daughter, my Tante (Aunt) Lene Fürth, was large-boned and tall. Though not conventionally pretty, she was renowned as a fashionable dresser and a captivating personality: When she entered a room, my mother said, people stopped talking and took notice. She, too, was known to be artistic; but since we did not often get to the Fürth home in nearby Nestersitz, Lene remains for me more a name than a person.

Both of my parents were born in Aussig, an industrial city in northern Bohemia whose population in 1930 was around forty-four thousand. My father was an attorney. We lived in comfort, if not luxury: skiing vacations in the winter, trips to the mountains in the summer, the usual number of domestic servants for people of the upper middle class at that time and place. Mamina, as mentioned, spoke Czech, as, to a lesser extent, did my father; my mother spoke a few words only, and at home, my parents, my brother and I spoke German.

From about the twelfth century, Germans as well as Czechs had lived in the border provinces of Bohemia. Aussig (in Czech, Ústí nad Labem . . .

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