Boxes of Letters


In 1993, Giulia Hine found two boxes of letters, photographs and documents in her attic. The boxes were apparently sent to Giulia following the death of her mother (Maria Heller nee Hasterlik) in 1973 and stowed away and forgotten. In 1997, a small trunk which had belonged Giulia's aunt (Auguste Leopoldine (Doderer) Kalmus nee Hasterlik) was also found and more letters and memorabilia emerged.

The collection of papers are dated from 1700's to recent. It is estimated that there are about 5,000 items and most are written in German. Beginning with the documents dating back to the 18th century the letters start near the end of the 19th century describing everyday life of an assimilated Jewish middle class family in Vienna, Austria.

The letters although often humdrum are at the same time touching, hilarious or sad. They give a glimpse of Viennese coffeehouse culture and society between the two World Wars. Later they detail the impact of the Nazi's persecution of Jews which disperses the small family over several continents. Further on, there are accounts by survivors and by non-Jewish friends of the family who describe their difficult lives during and directly after WWII. The letters then transition into the recovery and newly established lives of the family members and their friends.

The family originated in Bohemia, and the earliest letters are in Czech. The family background was Jewish, but they became practising Catholics. The collection story centers around Paul Hasterlik (1866 - 1944), his wife Irma (nee Maria Felicitas Regenstreif), and their life in Vienna, Austria. It continues with their two daughters (Auguste and Maria), their husbands and Maria's two daughters Suzanne Wolff (nee Weiss) and Giulia Hine (nee Koritschoner).

Giulia Hine originally set out to translate the letters from German into English so that her descendants would be able to read about their own family history. Specifically about her grandfather, the kindest and most lovable man who would not leave his country and had to die in Theresienstadt (Terezin) concentration camp.

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