Emilie Wehle Letters

Vienna, Austria

As part of a collaborative project with the Sammlung Frauennachlässe (Collection of Women's Personal Papers) housed at the Department of History at the University of Vienna in Austria, six letters selected by Li Gerhalter have been included in the Digitizing Immigrant Letters digital archive. While the originals remain in Vienna, the DIL project uses digital copies of the letters accompanied by their German transcriptions as well as introductions and contextual information, also by Li Gerhalter. The letters were translated from German into English by Birgitt Wagner of the Sammlung Frauennachlässe. Thanks also to Professor Christa Hämmerle for granting permission to use the content in the project. The work in Vienna was funded by the City of Vienna (Magistrat der Stadt Wien, Magistratsabteilung 7 - Kultur).

Fragmentary Correspondences of Flight and Migration, taking Vienna as point of reference

This selection presents the correspondences of an upper middle class family from Vienna, whose history in the 19th and 20th centuries has been characterized by mobility in the form of migration and flight. The disparate positions of the respective family members become obvious in their letters, which were preserved in the estate of Emilie Wehle (born Sch., 1873-1955).

Emilie Wehle was born as oldest child of a factory owner in Budapest; in the 1880ies her family moved to the imperial city of Vienna. There she married a businessman who in turn originally came from Prague. Six of her seven siblings left Austria as early as the beginning of the 20th century: three of them went to Germany, two to South America, and one brother for a couple of years to Africa. During National Socialism, the family was persecuted for being considered Jewish and was finally scattered across several continents. Emilie Wehle herself was deported to the Terezín concentration camp.

The letters of Emilie Wehle’s estate contain fragments of correspondences that were written to her as the one who had remained in Vienna. They were written by her siblings, who had emigrated for economic or adventurous reasons, and by their descendants in Argentina or Germany. Other authors were for example a Viennese woman who had emigrated to the US after her liberation from Terezín. Individual family members - all of them women - continued their transatlantic correspondences even after their aunt’s death with her daughter, children’s writer Lilli Wehle-Weber (1894-1987).
The subject of these correspondences were amongst other things reminiscences of - and later visits at - their common point of reference, Vienna. For the emigrated letter writers, the city was embodied by the respective positions of a sister, sister-in-law, aunt or friend.

Read letters received by Emilie Wehle between 1904 and 1953.