Thursday, September 27

Handwritten Letters and a Hidden Hero

by Harvey Gould

In 1938 Deborah was twenty eight years old, married and struggling financially, but she and her husband decided that a trip abroad might help her recover from her year-and-a-half bout with tuberculosis. 

Because she was an ardent Zionist, instead of taking a fun-filled vacation, Deborah chose to go to Palestine, a dangerous place at the time. 

The Great Arab Revolt, an uprising against British rule and Jewish immigration, was then in full throttle. Upon arrival she lived and worked on kibbutzim, but sometimes was prevented from traveling to Haifa and Tel Aviv because of ongoing bombings and murders. 

Eventually, she traveled throughout Syria, Lebanon and Transjordan. Then she returned to Palestine where she conferred with Golda Meyerson (later known to the world as Golda Meir). She met numerous Jews who had relatives living in Vienna from whom they’d heard nothing since the Nazis had occupied Austria as of March. Because of that lack of communication Deborah decided to engage in a dangerous mission.
In September of 1938, she traveled to Vienna, and at grave danger to herself, hand-delivered letters to those relatives. At times she was followed for hours by Nazi operatives because she was in the company of local Jews.

She attended Der ewig Jude (The Eternal Jew), an exhibition “demonstrating” how Jews evolved from rats. She brought a German interpreter with her to be sure she understood everything said. Though attending the “exhibition” made her sick, she felt that she had to see it for herself to better explain to others the German government’s role in promoting the rise in anti-Semitic hatred and violence.

When Deborah returned home she gave a series of lectures, admonishing that European Jewry was doomed unless the major powers would act to protect them.

After our mother died, my sister and I found the brochure she’d purchased at the Der ewig Jude exhibition and letters she’d written to my father during her 1938 trip. We always knew we’d been raised by a loving mom, but only after her death did we realize that we’d also been raised by a hero.

Guest blogger Harvey Gould is the author of A Fierce Local: Memoirs of My Love Affair with Ireland, a finalist in the San Francisco Writers Conference Indie Publishing Contest. For more information, visit or check out Harvey’s blog.

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