Letters from War-Torn Europe

From the Pages of the Yiddish Forward

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor War: Jews in America line up to send money to their relatives in war-torn Europe.
Joint Distribution Committee
Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor War: Jews in America line up to send money to their relatives in war-torn Europe.

Published June 25, 2014.

April 7, 1915

From Vilna a letter was posted to Mr. Arbeiter of 932 North 2nd

What can I tell you about Vilna, whatever it is will only be one trop in a sea of great troubles and misfortunes that this war has brought upon us. The most awful thing occurred in Vilna—with a young couple.

The husband, Leyb Shpayz, a father of 2 young children was drafted into the war. He was in a battle with the German around their border at Grodno and was killed. When he was found on the battlefield he was still alive and was brought to Vilna. Until they got him there, he died. When his wife saw her husband’s corpse she immediately passed out and never regained consciousness. Doctors said she died of a blood hemorrhage.

Two little orphans are left and they have nowhere to go. Meanwhile they are at their poor grandfather’s, Gershon Sievits.

I’m sending you the photographs of the unfortunate couple in case there may be relatives in America who recognize them and are able to help these orphans.

The deceased have relatives in America but no one knows their address. In case the relatives are reached, can you ask if they can support these orphans or can bring them there and raise them. What can become of these tiny ones here in Vilna at this time? The entire city is mourning this misfortune of the Shpayz family but can’t help much because everyone here has a similar misfortune and troubles of their own.

There is nothing good to report, be well, we send heartfelt greetings to all.

April 11, 1915

From the battlefield an Austrian- Jewish soldier writes to Mr. Rosenblat of 323 Reed Avenue, Brooklyn ‘Dear Father-in-Law, it’s repetitive to tell you that the Russians are wild and depraved. You’ve surely heard already about their dreadful acts of murder and rape against civilians and helpless women—this news has surely accosted the world already.

Russian Cossacks do every horrid thing supposedly with the knowledge and command of their degenerate commanders. In time however we will drive them out of our peaceful country, and our citizens will breathe freely.

I’m sending you a photograph showing a soldier being hanged for a crime. The Russians would have given him a medal for his act but our leaders consider what he did a crime and he’ll receive his punishment. A soldier raped a young innocent girl and the military trial sentenced him to be hanged in this field. When the sentence was carried out, it was photographed. I’m sending you the image which says it all.

This is what civilized people do and how wild animals must be sentenced in order to learn how to behave.

Would that the Russian Army achieves this level of civilized behavior already, it wouldn’t be so miserable and perhaps this whole war might never have occurred. If the Russians weren’t such barbarians.

I send greetings to everyone, be well and support our victory, your loyal son-in-law.

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