Red Cross Letters: Proof of Life in 25 Words or Less
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"Don't ever give up hope, stay healthy," Marianne Simion wrote to her mother Emma Warschauer in April 1942. Marianne had fled from Berlin to England in 1939, where she now worked as a kindergarten teacher. Through a Red Cross letter, she was able to reestablish contact with her mother, who was living at a Jewish nursing home in Berlin, and let her know she was alive.
The Red Cross Message Service
The International Red Cross began setting up a message service in 1936. Red Cross letters enabled emigrants to stay in touch with relatives who had remained in Germany or had already been deported, even if they could not use the regular postal service. From 1940 onwards, corresponding by regular mail with countries at war with Germany was prohibited.
Family members were allowed to write messages of up to twenty-five words on a standard form, but it often took several months for the messages to reach their recipients. Fearing censorship, the letter-writers used harmless-sounding phrases to relate bad news. For example, relatives' deportation was often described as a "trip" or "emigration."
Deported to Theresienstadt
When Marianne received no word from her mother for several months, she sent another message to her mother's address in August 1942. This was answered anonymously: "Unfortunately, your beloved mother emigrated to Theresienstadt in late June." Mother and daughter stayed in contact through Red Cross letters until April 1943. In January 1944, Emma Warschauer died in Theresienstadt at age 82.