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Dear Heini

2 Books Reviewed by Shlomo Liberman

Letters from a Friend and the Mother during the Holocaust

Dear Heini

Paperback, 61 pages, Cost: 25.90 euros

My Heartchild

Monica Gorlén Fallon

Paperback, 263 pages, Cost: 66.90 euros

Hakodesh Press, 2023

Available on www.morebooks.de and Amazon

Most people are familiar with the so-called Kindertransport, the effort started by a British stockbroker, (later Sir) Nicholas Winton. He visited a friend in Prague and saw the need to save Jewish children from the looming war. He convinced the British government to accept up to 10,000 children. What is less known is that other countries also took in refugee children, albeit in smaller numbers. Thus, Sweden accepted to take in 500 children. France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark also took in a small number of refugee children. All this happened in the summer of 1939, after the events of the Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938 and in some cases continued until 1940 (children from the Netherlands until it was occupied).

Both these two books deal with a personal Holocaust story but from angles different than most books about Holocaust issues.

Heinrich Gorzelanczyk was 14 years old when his mother Gertrud, by then divorced from his father Siegbert, and living in Breslau, Germany, decided to send Heini, as she called him, to Sweden on a program organized by the Youth Aliyah department of the Jewish Agency. A kibbutz was being set up in Sweden to prepare youngsters for farmwork when they would eventually make Aliyah to British Palestine.

The author, Monica Gorlén Fallon, inherited a collection of letters when her father died in 2015 in Norway. She kept them sealed until the Corona lockdown when she had time to read them. Some letters had a different handwriting, so she discovered they were from Heini's good friend, Walter Mayer, who worked with him at the kibbutz at Hälsingegården near Falun in northern Sweden. These letters explain the daily life and concerns of a youngster living apart from his parents like Heini. They are compiled in a short book called Dear Heini with facsimilia of some of the letters included. We are only exposed to one side, Walter's letters, since Heini's letters were not preserved. Only the last letter Heini wrote to Walter, dated August 9, 1942 and returned on August 14 with a handwritten note on the envelope that Walter had drowned on July 28. Heini was convinced Walter had committed suicide. This is the only letter we have from Heini to Walter.

The other book, My Heartchild, brings together many of the letters from Heini's mother, Gertrud, to Heini in Sweden. She wrote almost every day, numbering the letters sequentially in order to keep track of responses due to the slow mail transport, especially during the war years when all letters were censured. We can follow a mother's joy at receiving small photos of Heini and reports of his progress at work and later tried in vain to encourage him to study towards a profession, even after a full days work at the farm. Many letters reflect Heini's efforts to obtain a visa for his mother to join him in Sweden and are heart-breaking to read. His efforts were fruitless and. in December 1942, Gertrud's letters stopped coming.

Heini had asked the Swedish authorities to change his difficult spelled name to Gorlin, which was short for the first letters of his family name and the last letters of his mother's maiden name, Lublin. However, the Swedish authorities claimed this was not "Swedish-sounding" enough, so he had to settle for Gorlén.

Heini married a refugee from Norway, Celia Century. After the war they moved to her home-town, Oslo, where he lived until his death.

Highly recommended!

Interview with the book's author, Monica Gorlén Fallon

Upon her father's death in 2015, Norwegian-Israeli, Monica Gorlén Fallon, discovered a large collection of letters he had saved. Most of the letters were from her grandmother, Gertrud, to her father who had found refuge in Sweden during WWII. Gertrud perished in Auschwitz in 1943.

An additional 14 letters were from her father's friend Walter Mayer, also a young refugee in Sweden from Germany.

While confined during the COVID 19 pandemic, Monica translated these letters and compiled them into two books, My Heartchild and Dear Heini.

Monica is a pianist, musicologist, and athlete. She has performed in chamber ensembles, and as an accompanist for singers on stage, in recordings (some available on YouTube), and in radio broadcasts. Monica served as the piano accompanist for the Cantorial students at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem for 26 years. She also lectured about Israel's Art Music. Between 2000 and 2010 she was an artistic manager for Israeli performing musicians.

In 2009 Monica embarked on a new career as a teacher of Outdoor Fitness and Pilates.

 

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Thursday, 23 May 2024

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