Elaine Preis, Bill Cook, Linda Preis, and Barry Zeitlin honor Fritz and Erna Kahn Preis. Fritz was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1912. He worked as a mechanic in a garage in Vienna, and was later sent to a work camp. After leaving the camp, he managed to ski to Switzerland, where he was eventually able to obtain enough money to come to the United States. When he was 26 years old, he departed from the Netherlands on the Pennland, arriving at Ellis Island in 1939. Fritz worked as a merchant in New York, but decided that he would like to move to Texas in order to be a cowboy. He ran out of money when his train arrived in Nashville, so he was unable to reach Texas. Once in Nashville, he was helped by the May family, who had worked to get many of their fellow German Jews safely to America. While boarding with the Mays, Fritz met Erna Kahn Preis, a relative of the Mays who had previously left Germany. Fritz Preis married Erna in January 1940 in Nashville.
English Translation of a Letter Written in German from Relatives in Budapest, Hungary, May 24, 1946:
From: Jorsefine & Gabor Totterer
Address: Budapest VI, Sziv u.14..
Written on May 25, 1946
Dear Erna and Fritzi!
1: Starts with “Mit besten” – With many thanks did we receive your last letter from April 15, including all 5 photos. We are sorry for writing to you just now. The reason for that is right now uncle Gabor is in the hospital, and I have to run and bring him his daily food. With all of that and the housework, I was very tired, especially since I am having heart trouble.
2: Starts with “Audersseits” – Other than that I am constantly waiting for mail. I have written a letter to a (friend?) relative in Sopron to see if I could get some information on “Latzer’s Evi”. So far there’s no sign of life from anyone else. Evi is supposed to be married to a “Laszlo Kiss”, but nobody knows anything about her for sure. Fredi told me in a letter that Evi wrote to him in 1945 through a committee, but without an address.
3: Starts with word “Viele und besten” – Thank you very much for the 2 packages we already received and the other 2 that are on their way. On April 20th we sent you a letter, including a few words for dear Mrs. Lewy, in which we are very grateful for the help she has sent us.
4: Starts with word “Es freut” – We are very glad to hear that you are having a happy and satisfying life and the two “little ones” bring lots of joy to you. We are counting on receiving a photo of all of you real soon. We will send you a photo of us, but we have to make a copy first. At the moment we don’t look very good, therefore we will send you one from the earlier days.
5: Starts with phrase “Uber die” – We will tell you about the Help organization here. It is an American-Jewish help organization, also known as “Joint.” They only help the people that still believe in the Jewish faith. Because of Uncle Gabor’s employment in city hall in 1938, I had to stop my Jewish beliefs and therefore can’t expect any help from them.
6: Starts with “Bei der” – the pursuit of the Jewish people left no exceptions – everyone who let go of the Jewish faith (converted?) was even worse off. In the beginning I was an exception because Uncle Gabor had received two big silver metals in WWI. It didn’t do much good and was of no use – his poor health (or illness) is proof of that.
7: Starts with “Die genaue” – The accurate examination by a doctor proved that his nerves in his back had changed – which was caused by those Nazi “dogs.” Uncle Gabor was commanding officer in our house which later was declared a Jewish house. On October 17, 1944 he foiled the Nazis – took the entire occupants away by force. He then was arrested and beaten with gun barrels and rubber sticks in the Nazi quarters.
8: Starts with “Spater wurden die” – Later on they (the Nazi?) took all the Jews from their houses, among them were 2 mothers, who had children under 2 years old, and several women and men under 60 yrs old. In several houses they even took older people away by force. A third mother who had a 9 month old child fled to a Red Cross military hospital where she and her child were shot to death. There are more than 30 people still missing from our house.
9: Starts with “Wie wir schon” – As we reported earlier, Uncle Gabor, thanks to his diligence and energy, worked his way to director and 30% partner in a Wine Export company. He also had a wine wholesale trade in his name.
10: 1st part is cut off – says something about inflation
11: Starts with “Uber Eure” – We have the following to report about your dear momma Preis. She initially fled to Fredi’s mother in law when the Nazis were after her. Back then we sent her the allowed food provisions on a daily basis and a large amount of money in the hopes of rescuing her. She wrote us back to tell us that this money did save her life because she used it to bribe an SS man and therefore got out of several transports to the camps.
12: Starts with “Wir haben” – Immediately after that we wrote a letter to Uncle Jakob and Aunt Tinesi. We asked them if they knew of somebody who could help to bring her to hungary – we would cover the costs. Unfortunately, it was too late because Goebbels (that dog) had held his famous speech in which he said: “Anyone who provides refuge to a Jew or helps him in any way will be put to death.” Momma Preis had to go to a ghetto district. From there she sent us a card informing us that she had been interned for 9 days and she would be transported the following day. In her last letter to us, she asked if we would send a fish to Fredi’s mother in law – her way of saying thank you. We took care of it by picking out a good piece of fish. We haven’t heard anything else from her since Nov. 1941. we kept all of her letters and we will send you copies periodically. We don’t know exactly where she was interned back then as the letters were smuggled.
13: “Uber die” –
14: Starts with “Leider hat” –
We kiss you all often,
Your Aunt Jorsa and Uncle Gabor