Saving Private Ryan, 57:40 ©Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures
I’ve met with any number of book clubs where someone remarked how little they knew about French forced labor during WWII before hearing Marcel’s story (…hey, me too, sister. Me too!) A number of readers have also remarked that — now that they know more about what happened to conscripted French civilians — they’ve ‘picked up’ on references to it while reading other books.
Who doesn’t enjoy a pictogram? You know what that is: it’s where a picture represents a word, concept, or instruction. Gosh, I remember having so much fun with those kinds of books as a kid (…a big shout-out to the Verona Public Library, where, as a kid, I’d check out books by the armful).READ MORE
Saturday, October 10, 1942
My dear Mom,
Today no letter from you, but a package for which I thank you very much: a padlock, Felisedine, slippers, hard candies, envelopes, a blanket, in short, everything that was written on the little paper inside, everything except the ‘Comedia’ that you may have taken out at the last minute.
If that’s the case, you were right, for the reading of ’Echo de Nancy’ is enough for me. Again, thank you but please do not deprive yourself of anything for me, for I don’t need anything else and I wouldn’t fear asking you if I did. So please don’t go without something for my comfort, promise?
Elbing, July 2, 1944
Dear Madame and Monsieur Roland,
I received your kind letter [which] gave me great pleasure to have your news and information about the arrival of Roland. Thank you very much for the information about the [unclear] young lady. I’m in good spirits, don’t worry.
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. (I mean really—how fun was that email to get?!)
I am ridiculously honored to learn they chose ‘Marcel’s Letters’ for their September Postmarks & Paperbacks online book club. The book club meets virtually on September 13. The event is totally free but you have to claim a spot. JOIN ME!
People often ask whether I’m still actively searching for information on Marcel. People seem disappointed when I tell them I am not trying to find additional information on his life or his time in the Berlin-Marienfelde labor camp. I feel I have enough information to understand who he was and what he may have experienced. And I believe that even if I were to find additional documents (or letters!) it would not fundamentally change the man I came to know: a kind and loving husband and father.READ MORE
Photos: Pack O’ Good Nights by Onolee Jones, Wetzel Publishing, 1943
For men* shipped abroad during WWII, this book was meant as a keepsake they could leave at the bedside of their beloved. It’s small—just 4.5″ wide x 2,75″ tall—and its 86 pages are filled with night-time wishes, words of love and prayers the war would soon be over.READ MORE
This is a silly departure from the serious handwriting specimens I typically post. But this sample was too fun not to share. Take a look at this sweet, sweet ledger page from December 13, 1880. It lists a variety of candies being purchased: lemon drops, kisses, peanut bars, crab apples, chocolate twists, cinnamon sticks, mint sticks, sugar cigars (spelled “segars”), rock candy, caramels, fruit balls and more. Then, at the bottom you’ll find a variety of firecrackers: paper caps, bomb shells, penny torpedoes, penny smokers and more. READ MORE
Aaron and I took the lockdown seriously. He is a frontline medical worker and witnessed early on what COVID could do to a body. We knew the possibility of exposure* was high for him—especially in those first months when PPE and testing were scarce. We also have medically fragile family members who we couldn’t bear to unknowingly expose. So for the last 14 months we have largely kept away from social gatherings, haven’t taken unnecessary risks, and have always worn masks in public. READ MORE
Most of the old letters I buy are cheap. As in, my self-imposed budget is $5–$15. Heck, Marcel’s original letters were only $6 and change. I’ve only broken that rule a few times, such as when I acquired this WWII postcard—and I purchased it only because the postcard had been mailed from the Berlin-Marienfelde labor camp at the same time Marcel was there.READ MORE