10th April, 1916

My only love! Today I woke up in quite a normal everyday mood. The official part of this important day - in the form of a fine gateau - was dealt with already yesterday due to an error of the kitchen staff, and what remained for me was just to accept congratulations from my companions. It was my intention to write a few lines in the evening or perhaps only a few words such as: Dear little mouse. Today is my 35th birthday! I am in a gloomy, oppressed mood, I think with ardent love of you and our dear children. However, I am in absolutely no state to write more. Thousand kisses!

This is roughly what I would have written if, in the afternoon, I had not received a postcard from Liesel. I must confess to you here that I was expecting such a card because I know your golden heart, and I know that you miss no opportunity to cheer me up. Chance played its part and the card arrived punctually today. I really can’t describe my joy. What emotions have these laboriously written letters released in me. From the moment since I hold this harmless card in my hands, I see you in front of me all the time: Liesel with a sincere expression in her face, how she embarks on this important task armed with a pencil and much good will, anxious and excited. You sitting next to her, almost equally excited, kindly encouraging her: "make a real effort and take care so that papa is pleased when he gets the card". The excitement of the child increases with every stroke, especially when the unruly pencil makes several unplanned journeys sideways, the visible traces of which you carefully remove with the help of an India rubber. Liesel breathes a sigh of relief, proud and radiating happiness; the great deed, her first postcard to papa is ready. You still make a few corrections and the hard work is finished, the card is passed from hand to hand for appraisal, and now it has to be brought immediately to the pillar-box so that it can set off on its long journey to Siberia.

During this whole process Edith watches the artist Liesel with admiration and envy. Kurtel's role, unfortunately, I cannot imagine because to my great regret I do not know him and I have no idea how far he has progressed. You know darling, I see you very well and I believe that my fantasy is not too far from reality. However, when my mind is so vividly engaged with you I do not only see you, I feel you, I hear you. Darling, although I am now really an old man, my heart has remained young, young for you.

You really cannot imagine how I love you because there is no word that could express the depth and sincerity of my feelings. What does it mean when I say that my love for you is without limits; anybody can say that! What have I done when I try with all my strength to protect you from grief and sorrow, to make your life as smooth and even as possible? Every decent person would do that and I am certainly not better than the next man. But my love for you, my one and only one, is different, it must be different from what is simply called love, and that is how far I can get: how can I prove it to you? May the Almighty, who has been so gracious and given me you and the lovely kids and protected me from a thousand dangers, give me also the strength and means to form your future life which you have tied to mine, as you so amply deserve.

When I think of you so intensively, I am more and more aware of the cruelty of my current situation. So far, so immensely far away! So long already - and how much longer still? The duration of this miserable state is now beyond my comprehension. Soon summer will come, August will be with us in a trice, that is 2 years already, then winter will come again, when will it ever stop?! The uncertainty is almost unbearable. One laments and complaints about the cruel fate and one forgets that so many lie outside, from where nobody ever returns. When one incidentally speaks about one of those, one says: "poor chap, he's been unlucky", and then goes on bemoaning the duration of one's own suffering! Oh yes, darling, we are ungrateful. 1000 kisses.

© The estate of Otto Feldmann: Monica Lanyado, Tzafrah Shushan and Aya Shochat