Cover image for A thousand kisses : a grandmother's Holocaust letters
A thousand kisses : a grandmother's Holocaust letters
Pollatschek, Henriette, 1870-
Publication Information:
Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvii, 210 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
1100 Lexile.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS135.C95 P65 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



These letters to a beloved son and his family tell the poignant story of one woman's life in Nazi-occupied Prague and help explain why some Jews stayed behind.

Henriette Pollatschek was 69 years old when the Nazis marched into Prague, where she and her daughter had sought refuge after fleeing their German-held homeland in northern Bohemia. Henriette's son and his family had already escaped to Switzerland and later to Cuba and the United States. At each step of the way, her family urged Henriette to join them. But in the face of what was then only a vague and, to many, unbelievable threat of danger, she was unwilling to abandon her financial independence, her accustomed way of life, and the familial objects she had gathered over a lifetime. As living conditions for Jews worsened in Nazi-occupied Prague, however, Henriette began to have second thoughts. Her letters to her son and his family in Havana reveal an increasingly desperate situation as the obstacles to escape mounted while living conditions eroded. Ultimately both Henriette and her daughter perished.

Henriette Pollatschek's letters provide a detailed picture of the lives of Jews in Prague during the war years: the evictions, the food shortages, the worries about livelihood, and the increasing prohibitions and regulations, as well as the brave and cheerful attempts to maintain a normal life and bear hardships. Henriette's letters also help explain why more Jews did not escape. As Renata Polt, Henriette's granddaughter, concludes, "Who could imagine a Holocaust?" Translated, edited, and annotated by Polt and illustrated with intimate family snapshots, this book brings the horrors and dilemmas of the Holocaust alive in a moving, personal account while answering pertinent historical questions about the motives of Jews who stayed behind.

Renata Polt is a free-lance writer and film critic living in Berkeley, California.

Author Notes

Renata Polt is a free-lance writer and film critic living in Berkeley, California.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Freelance writer and film critic Polt translates and edits this collection of letters written by her grandmother and aunt during the first half of World War II. Czechoslovakian Jews, Polt's immediate family managed to immigrate to Cuba 18 days before Germany ceded the Sudetenland. But her grandmother and aunt stayed behind, hoping to emigrate later. In the end, neither was able to escape; they died in concentration camps in 1942. This collection of letters is a good example of the struggles people went through to escape the terrors of the Nazis. Unfortunately, owing to the Nazi censors, much of the content of the letters is vague, repetitive, and coded. Polt does give explanations and some historical detail, most of which provides clearer insight into this aspect of the Jewish plight. If she had instead chosen to write a research-based book augmented with personal letters, it would have had more scholarly value. Recommended for large or specialized collections.‘Jill Jaracz, MLIS, Chicago (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Edited and translated by the author's granddaughter, this book consists of the letters that Henrietta Pollatscheck wrote from Prague to her children and other relatives. Pollatscheck's son and his family recognized the Nazi danger in time to flee--first to Switzerland, then to Cuba, and finally finding refuge in the US. Pollatscheck stayed, and these moving letters document the steady deterioration of the conditions of Czech Jews. They reveal the erosion of the quality of life and unsuccessful attempts to leave the country. Both Pollatscheck and her daughter were deported and perished. This book provides a concrete picture of Jewish life in Prague in the years following the German occupation, as well as a moving and very personal testimonial to one of victims. General readers; undergraduates. G. M. Kren Kansas State University