Perpignan, April 8, 1943 – Your grandfather’s birthday (bar mitzvah)
My dear Manfred,
I heartily congratulate you on your birthday. This one has a special meaning for you this year. On your 13th year, you are entering the Jewish community as a full fledged member. This has always been a special event in the Jewishly minded family and the celebration of the Barmitzvah was a lovely celebration. You will best remember the Bar Mitzvah of your brother. We rejoiced then and how much would we have liked to celebrate your Bar Mitzvah in the same manner. Fate has decided otherwise. As it has for thousands of years, the wave of Jew hating has reached us, has thrown us out of our everyday life, has cast us out of our so-called homeland, has cast us out of our wonderful family life and has splintered our family. While progress in technology enables news to be broadcast within hours and minutes all around the world, it is not possible for our dear ones to transmit a sign of life to us.
Since it is not possible for me to be with you, I would like to transmit to you a few important sayings. From the Torah: This is the way you should be, the loins girdled, feet shod, staff in hand, i.e. we need to be ready for the path of life, for wandering; physically strong, courageous and trusting in G’d. From the 2nd Pirke Avoth, Verse 13: Which is the best path for a man to keep “A good heart” this includes everything. From the 4th Pirke Avoth, Verse 17: There are three crowns, the crown of the Torah, the crown of the priesthood, the crown of royalty, but the crown of a good name stands above them all.
These are the sayings which were written many hundreds of years ago and have kept their meaning and truth for all times. Think about these words and strive to make them the basis of your life. You have had to taste the suffering of the last few years so that you will understand these sayings. Your mother and your brother, both in an unknown place, will think of you with much anguish on this day. Since neither your parents nor siblings nor other relatives are able to surround you to help you celebrate this day, your sister, our dear Hannelore, the sole family representative and your caretaker, will endeavor to provide you with some joy.
First the serious part of the Barmitzvah was celebrated in the synagogue while the celebration in the family circle was a joyous one. So I ask you to write down the events of this day, even if they are few, as well as your thoughts as a reminder for later. I hope that you do not spend your Bar Mitzvah day in a somber mood but that you also enjoy that day and I wish you all the best, good health, luck and satisfaction and a prompt reunion with all your dear ones. From far away, I bless you: “May G’d make you as Ephraim and Menasseh“. With my loving thoughts, I send you regards and kisses
Together with your birthday-Bar Mitzvah letter you are also receiving a letter from Opa. It used to be the custom in Phbg. that the Bar Mitzvah boy would make a speech which was put together by Opa and which had to be learned by heart and delivered during the Service. In the last years this was so, also in other congregations, that a speech was delivered at the Bar Mitzvah. This is why I wanted a speech from Opa for you. He wrote a speech according to the older style. The difference is not very great because the same thoughts can be expressed. I am also sending you a letter from Rabbi Silberstrom from St. Sauvres (P.d.D.). You also received the Tefillah (prayer book) from that gentleman. Write to him and thank him for the letter and the Tefillah. Lorle needs to help you with it so that there are not so many mistakes. With the wish that, despite the dismal times, you will have a joyful day, I send you kind regards and kisses
Write also to the Rabbi that you have no Tefillin.