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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.

Hidden Information

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."

Stamped and signed Red Cross letter

Red Cross letter from Marianne Simion to her mother, Emma Warschauer; Jewish Museum Berlin, Gift of Renate Simion, photo: Jens Ziehe

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.

Theresienstadt concentration camp

More on Wikipedia

Title Red Cross letter from Marianne Simion to her mother, Emma Warschauer
Collection Archive
Location and year of origin London, 22 April 1942
Medium Paper, pencil, ink, stamp-pad ink
Dimensions 22,7 x 14,6 cm
Acquisition Gift of Renate Simion
Online Exhibition "Does anybody have information…?" – The Long Search for the Marcuse Family

We have created an online exhibit in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture about Georg Marcuse’s search for his family, who had been deported to Theresienstadt.

To the exhibition at Google Arts & Culture

Reverse side of the Red Cross letter with a handwritten note

Red Cross letter from Marianne Simion to her mother, Emma Warschauer (back); Jewish Museum Berlin, Gift of Renate Simion, photo: Jens Ziehe

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