Gottfried's Letters — 6.10.34
In 1934, my cousin Gottfried Ballin was arrested for involvement in an anti-Nazi resistance cell in Cologne. He was to be convicted for conspiracy to commit high treason, imprisoned, and eventually deported to Auschwitz where he was murdered. His letters from the prisons and concentration camps where he was held have been collected and I’m attempting to translate one letter a week. This is the third letter in the series.
I was just about to write you a letter when the sergeant at our station (I live on the first floor) ordered me to go the chief of the watch. I was told I was going to court. But I didn't believe it because the preliminary investigation hadn't even taken place yet and I didn't know what they wanted in court. And I was right: I didn't go to court, but in the "green Minna", as the police wagon is popularly known, to the police headquarters. I had to wait until evening for the interrogation in a dark cell in the basement of the building, the only furniture in which was a wooden bunk. Then at 6:30 am we were taken to the Gestapo on the 3rd floor and questioned there and confronted with Richard. After the interrogation, while waiting for the police officer to escort me to the cell, I had the long-lost pleasure of seeing a sunset. Then it was “Ready! — March” with 2 men with 1 official guard back into the basement. For supper in the now completely dark cell: a plate of semolina pudding, 1 piece of dry bread and 3 pancakes. Then the light in the hallway is also turned off, and after a quarter of an hour the first sounds of snoring from fellow prisoners can be heard from the neighboring cells. I can't fall asleep and lie awake for a long time. Dim light enters my cell from the courtyard of the Presidium, and soft radio music plays from the quarters of the S.A. [Brown Shirts] department on duty. The bad thing about the interrogations in the police headquarters is not the interrogations themselves, but the long wait in the dark cell, and so even returning to the prison is a small pleasure. But I'd rather tell you in detail at home, orally.
Now, as to why I am writing to you and not mother: I didn’t like it all when she last visited on Tuesday. She was far too excited and far too worried about my fate. You have to calm her down and, if possible, get her to concentrate entirely on her painting. You really don't need to worry about me, my health is fine, my digestion is O.K. again. The only shortage at the moment is literature. The library turned out to be a lottery, in which I had drawn the main ticket last time. The day before yesterday during the distribution I received Fuchs, Jewish history for elementary and secondary schools, and Jakob Seifensieder’s biography of Gabriel Riesser, a German Ulan of Jewish faith.* So, really good children's and Jewish Center reading. However, since I have always been averse to lotteries and would like to make the most of the time I have here, I wanted to ask you to hand in the books I requested in the previous letter as soon as possible. (Get permission from the examining magistrate!) Mother knows about it. Awaiting an early letter from you. Warm greetings also to mother and the young one.
*I think Gottfried is making a joke of here: Seifensieder’s book is entitled Gabriel Riesser, Ein Deutscher Mann Judischen Glaubens — A German man of the Jewish Faith, but Gottfried writes “ein Deutscher Ulan” — An Ulan was a type of light cavalry lancer. Riesser was a lawyer and advocate of Jewish emancipation and civil rights, not a cavalry trooper. It seems like Gottfried, with his sophisticated literary taste, is making fun of the book as edifying and pedestrian “Jewish Center” reading.