Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

Uncle Karl Says No

Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

Uncle Karl Says No

Article excerpt


Letter from Elfriede in Düsseldorf to Johannes in Philadelphia.

Düsseldorf, 4 April 1939

Mein liebstes Peterchen,

The work load has been running very high and shows no sign of abating. That's the way it's been for three weeks now: first troubles with the carriers and then the Ultimo, and I'm nowhere near done. The sales tax return is due on the 10th and the 7th is Good Friday. And when I'm drowning in work as I am now (I allowed myself a cigarette and this letter as a momentary break) I quickly end up in the dumps.

You can gauge how unstable I've been feeling by the fact that I was out almost every night last week, mostly at my mother's and once at von Baeyers, just because I couldn't stand my own company any more. When I found myself all alone on Saturday, it got very bad and all the obstacles we face looked insurmountable. This is already the 5th Ultimo, and it can get on your nerves to be totally in the dark as to how many more of them there will be. Don't get mad at me for pouring out all my worries. I'm sure you can imagine that I can't always be on top of things. Sunday evening the Trömels rescued me from myself and that was good. A lot of cognac and soda did the rest.

Till has been staying here since yesterday. Today the last packers are at Hilde's house and she was dreadfully upset, which is not surprising. On Friday we're supposed to go to Heidelberg with her, but I don't see how I can get everything finished by then, even though it seems to me that I've earned four days of vacation. On Sunday one of the bundles of newspapers didn't get here again-something is always wrong with the shipping system. It's terrible. There weren't these kinds of problems when you were here.

And then I wouldn't want to deprive you of the contents a bulletin that came from Frankfurt yesterday:

Dear Dr. Höher, as your husband is not in a position to continue to conduct the business of our Agency any longer, we are prepared to transfer our Agency contract with your husband to you, effective i March 1939- The same conditions will be in effect for this Agency agreement as were in place for your husband, so that the rights and obligations are the same. We must merely reserve the right to cancel the contract with one month's notice. We request that you inform us that you agree to these terms. Sincerely yours and heil Hitler! F.S.D. [Frankfurter Sozietätsdruckerei, the publishing company], signed by Hecht and Schreiber.

Well, I was flabbergasted and at first didn't know how I should take this, but everybody I talked to about it, Günter, Gerhard, congratulated me. Apparently I'm a capable girl. What do you think? I called Betz today because I would like my reply to be in line with his thoughts. He wasn't there but will probably call tomorrow. This wouldn't really change anything and it's understandable that they want to pin someone down who will be responsible, but somehow it goes against my grain. I much prefer doing it the way it has been up to now, with everything being done in your name and on your behalf, but I suppose I can only answer this letter in the affirmative. Once I've discussed the answer with Betz and have it written, I'll write you too. I do recognize that the work here over the last four months could have been done a lot worse.

The last couple of weeks could have given me the comfortable feeling of work well done, just as much as the time around Christmas did, but that didn't happen. The feeling of personal emptiness seemed even greater then than it does now. Men are different that way. It's very tiresome when one has a perfectly useful intellect combined with so many superfluous, subjective, female emotions. More is demanded of one's mind than one's emotions can deliver. But what else can I do? I'll just go on playing the role of the capable woman, even though I'd much rather be taken care of occasionally.

Your truly sweet letter that the Europa brought me, containing the conversation with the Executive Director of the Committee, really did me good. …

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