Thursday, January 31, 2013

May 1935: Yehudit Yavetz From Mannheim Writes to King George V

"We lost everything in Germany, here we can hardly make a living, yet we are happy in the land of our ancestors" wrote Yehudit (Judith) Yavets, a twelve-year-old immigrant from Germany living in Haifa, to King George V and his wife in May 1935, in a letter in Hebrew congratulating him on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his accession to the throne. The letter was found in the files of the Chief Secretary of the Mandate administration held in the Israel State Archives.

Site of a neighborhood for German immigrants in Kiryat Bialik near Haifa (Yad Vashem photograph collection)
As we have mentioned in several posts in English and Hebrew, January 2013 marks the 80th anniversary of the rise of the Nazi party to power in Germany. 1933 also saw the beginning of the persecution of the Jewish community, and as a result most of the German Jews left the country. Some 60,000 of them came to Palestine in the Fifth Aliya or wave of immigration. They were known as "yekkes", and made an important contribution to the social, cultural and economic life of the Yishuv. But the yekkes did not have an easy time. Some were Zionists, but many were not. People from the great cultural centers of Europe found it difficult to learn Hebrew and to settle down in the Middle Eastern backwater where they found themselves.

King George V, coronation portrait
For the children, of course, things were easier. Yehudit writes that her family had left Mannheim only 18 months previously, yet her letter is written in good, even flowery Hebrew. She prays that God should allow the King and Queen "to reign over Britain and the other peoples sheltering under their rule in justice and honesty for many years" and thanks Britain for its help to the Jewish people and the Jewish national home in Palestine. She apologizes that her English is not good enough to write a letter and hopes that the Hebrew language will be music to the ears of His Majesty. She describes the attack of the Nazis on the Jews of Mannheim and the destruction of the synagogue, which led to the family's decision to emigrate to the "land of their fathers, the land of the past and the future."

According to the stamp on the letter, it reached Buckingham Palace but was sent back, perhaps because it was in Hebrew. George V died shortly afterwards, in 1936. What happened to Yehudit Yavetz? We don't know, and if anyone knows about the Yavetz family from Mannheim, we would be glad to hear.

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