https://www.duolingo.com/NathanLeee

Need help translating old German letter please!

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Hello, I was hoping someone could help me translate this German letter I found that was written from my Great-great-grandfather who at the time lived in Germany to my Great-grandfather who had just moved to America. He wrote in a cursive that I find extremely hard to read and it doesn't help that half the letter is in really bad condition, some of the words being completely illegible. I've managed to transcribe the majority of it but couldn't decipher several words. The words I'm guessing at are in parenthesis. Some of them aren't even words, I just tried to approximate what it looked like textually.

Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance!

Lieber Adolf! Deinen Briefe habe ich erst heute aus meiner Mutter ihrem Nachtisch entnommen. Ich hatte auch (garkeine bohresse) vom dir, darum sei dir mir nicht böse, da ich erst jetzt dir schreiben kann.

Ich hoffe dass wir uns auf eine schlaue weisse doch (einander) schreiben können. Wie geht ob dir den jetzt in Amerika hoffe besser als Deutschland.

Ich bin bei meinem Vater in der Lehre und lerne goldschmieden, da kann ich noch nicht aus Heiraten denken vor 4-5 Jahren und ich denke da könnte ich gerade auf dich warten bis du wieder in deine Heime Zurückkehrst.

Oder lieber Adolf hast du wirklich ein Amerikanisches Weib lieber als ein (treues) Deutsches (Mädel)? Lieber Adolf denke an deine letzten Stunden an die letzten wochen da du noch dein Deutsches lieb in Armen (hielst).

Denke an (Gaisbach) an den (Kain) wo wir uns (Hitzelten), und denke an die (Schaukel) im (Targ), denke an das Kaffee in Bühl und denk an die viele (illegible) die wir (einander schmieden vor) all (unserer) schönen (illegible).

All das ist (vergangenheit) soll dieser Kindliche (Traum), den wir (illegible) Leben wirklich (nichtnachten) vergessen und nicht wieder an uns (srwecht) werden.

Lieber Adolf du bist fern von der Heimat, wir sind weit getreu aber dein Deutsches Kind deine (Helene) liebt dich noch (ner/mer) mit Kindlichen Herzen und mit all ihrem (kleinen) schmerzen (obwol) auch (mich) das Leben in (Erust) und (klarheit), in (schweren trüben) stunden (dem) einen (scheu) von glück und liebe, harten Stunden schlug. Aber alles soll vergessen (sein) wir die Stunden die ich (mit) dir verlebte (blühen) frisch in Erinnerung auf.

Lieber Adolf sollen wir beide uns wirklich nach Jahren noch mal (unommen) dürfen wie werden wir uns das (anstellen) können (sag) kannst du deine Deutsche Freundin nocheinmal wirklich Lieber und (illegible), oder? (Ich) soll für dich eine andere in Frage können? Lieber Adolf meine Schwester (Frieda) ist schon ein Jahr Frau und (heist) fröhlich halt einen (Zeichen) Uhrmacher von (tannern) Geheiratet.

(Uber/Aber) noch was auch ein kleines Mädchen von einen (fierdel) Jahr hat sie ein liebes ding, mit ihrer (Laute Helene) lacht Sie wie ein kleiner (Maiküber). Lieber Adolf über Oberkirch (kann ich) dir leider nichts erzählen 14 Tages nach dir (aing) ich von Oberkirch weg, und hab (seidher wie uns) wehr getroffen.

Lieber Adolf und dass du (rechtbald) deinerer (Leuchen) ein Lebenszeichen durch schreiben gibst will ich schließe auf ein (baldigeb) Wiedersehen.

Copy of the letter: http://imgur.com/gallery/YqVVM/comment/1044393021

Thanks again to anyone who is willing to give this a shot! :) -Nathan

May 31, 2017

14 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/MortiBiRD

You made some mistakes by copying it here. Im not tlaking about the marked parts of the letter but about things like da kann ich noch nicht aus Heiraten denken. Here aus should be ans. So from these clear mistakes, there might be several more that are not that clear (and therefore could lead to wrong translations).

The letter is written by a girl/woman that was and still is in love with Adolf. Adolf moved to Amerika. Adolf wrote letters to the girl, but the mother of the girl kept them and hid them from the girl, otherwise the girl would've answered earlier. The girl tries to remind Adolf in an emotional manner on things that they did when he was still in germany. The girl is 8at the point where the letter was written) becoming a smith for jewelry. The girl has a sister, that got married (and she mentions this). She also asks Adolf if they will meet again and if he really prefers an american woman over a german one.

These information are not in the same order as in the letter.

Last thing, and here I am not sure without context and from the "quality" of this text. She is also talking about a child / Helene. It might be that this is her and Adolf's daughter, but its not mentioned and the way how it is talked about the girl, I'd guess Helene is not the daughter of Adolf (but I dont want to say, that this 100% clear from the text), yet she must have some meaning for Adolf, otherwise she would've not be mentioned in that way.

May 31, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/NathanLeee
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Thank you for the help! It was fun trying to transcribe the letter by deciphering the cursive, but admittedly I did a pretty poor job. Sorry!

Here is a copy of the letter if you're interested: http://imgur.com/gallery/YqVVM/comment/1044393021

It's in pretty poor condition and written in an older cursive script.

Thanks again! :)

June 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/MortiBiRD

Lieber Adolf!

Deine (The word was written as Deinen but the n was crossed out, likely she wanted to write Deinen Brief first) Briefe habe ich erst heute aus meiner Mutter ihrem Nachttisch entnommen. Ich hatte auch garkeine [sic] Adresse von Dir, darum sei Du mir nicht böse, das [sic] erst jetzt Dir schreiben kann. Ich hoffe daß wir uns auf eine schlaue weiße doch einander schreiben können. Wie geht es Dir denn (actually its a single n with a line above, usually this was an alternative to write nn). Next part is crossed out (in Amerika hoffe besser). als in Deutschland.

Ich bin bei meinem Vater in der Lehre und lerne Goldschmieden, da kann ich noch nicht ans Heiraten denken vor 4-5 Jahren und ich denke da könnte ich gerade auf dich warten, bis Du wieder in Deine Heimat zurückkehrst.

Oder Lieber Adolf hast Du wirklich ein Amerikanisches Weib lieber als ein treues Deutsches Mädel.

Lieber Adolf dencke [sic] an Deine letzten Stunden an die letzten wochen [sic] da du noch Dein Deutsches lieb in Armen hielst. Dencke [sic] an Gaisbach an den Hainwo wir uns Hitzelten, und denke an die Schaukel im Parg [sic], denck [sic] an das Kaffee [sic] in Bühl und denck [sic] an die viele.

I just did the first page and for that you did a very good job. Most was correct (and you even corrected the mistakes of the author of the letter/ updated old spelling rules). I just saw the second page and well, it discouraged me to do that.

Also just formal things (and Im sorry that Im to lazy to try to recover the "damaged parts of the letter"). The writer wasnt great with grammar and did well quite a few mistakes (and thats ok specially since the spelling was less strict unified at that time). The usages of words indicates a certain dialect and from that I'd tend that this was in southern germany and I'd even guess that this was written in the former state of Baden (but I could be wrong with this and it could be some region near that).

June 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Hannibal-Barkas
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Absolutely correct. Oberkirch is in the Black Forrest north of Freiburg, Durlach is near Karlsruhe, both in former Grossherzogtum Baden

June 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/PattoLoge
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I guess the girl is a daughter of her sister. The sister has got married one year ago, and the girl ist three months old. This would fit...

May 31, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Hannibal-Barkas
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I guess the writer's name is Helene and her sister got married and has a chíld of her own.

May 31, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/MortiBiRD

You're right. I somehow missed that. It's the daughter of the sister.

May 31, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Hannibal-Barkas
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Second part. I hope it fits your expectations

Dear Adolf, you are far from home, we are still faithful but your German child, your[s faithful] Helene still loves you with [innocent] heart and with all her [small – as in unimportant] pain [maybe better: sorrows]. Even as life hit me, too, in all it’s seriousness and clarity, in those hard and heavy hours when I was still timid with love and joy. But everything is forgotten when I remember the hours spent together with you.

<pre> [I would rather translate ”Deutsches Kind” as a hint of where she comes from, not that she is his child in Germany. Nationality was more important these days as you can see in the paragraphs before “Amerikanisches Weib” versus “Deutsches Mädel”] [This paragraph was a sentence of a young woman still in love with her boyfriend who went to the US and she remembers the time they spent together but mourns her fate of being left alone at home] </pre>

Dear Adolf, could we really meet again after years? How shall we manage this? Tell me, can you really love your German [girl]friend again or should it be that you might choose another [woman]? Dear Adolf, my sister Frieda is a woman for one year [is married for a year now] and has happily married a watchmaker from [maybe the village of] Tannern.

She has now another thing, a young girl of about three months [fierdel = viertel = a quarter], a lovely thing who laughs with her aunt Helene [I guess it is “Tante” instead of “Laute”] like a ladybug [“Maikäfer” instead of “Maiküber”]. Dear Adolf, unfortunately I cannot tell you anything about Oberkirch [a village in south west Germany]. I left Oberkirch two weeks after you and haven’t met anyone since. [“ging” instead of “aing”]

Dear Adolf, [I want you to] send your beloved one [“deiner Lieben” or deinem Liebchen” instead of “deinerer Leuchen”] a life sign by writing very soon and end my letter [“schließe” means “close the letter”] in hope of meeting you again soon

[Remark: This letter was written in a very old fashioned German, maybe in old German letters. It is not very easy read since many of the letters look very similar, especially when written by hand which can blur the different letters even more. I hope my attempt matches with the meaning you already deciphered. It was a letter from a girl left home and her hope to meet again the love of her life.]

May 31, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/NathanLeee
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Wow thank you so much for translating what you could! Sorry about my transcription of it, it's very poor but I believe you captured the gist of the letter and have helped me understand it much more than I had!

You're exactly right, it's an older way of writing German and the letter is in pretty poor condition and even if it was pristine it'd still be hard for someone like myself to read as many of the letters look the same. Lower case n, m, r, u, and i look almost identical. There is a flat line above double n's (nn), and u shapes above u's. Upper case A's and lower case t's appear similar. And some of the lower case d's look almost like "ol" or something. I was struggling a lot so thank you again!

Here are some pictures of the letter if this clarifies anything: http://imgur.com/gallery/YqVVM/comment/1044393021

June 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Hannibal-Barkas
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Hi Nathan,

I tried a transcript of the letter, maybe it becomes somewhat clearer now. The letter is from a woman in Durlach, which is a suburb of Karlsruhe. You can find it on a political map of Europe, it's where the French-German border takes a sharp turn to the left, leaving the river Rhine behind. Incidentially, that's about 20 miles south from where I live ;-). It was written in 1929, a time of deep economical crisis which explains the man's emmigration. It was before the time of the Nazis

I could read all but two words, here's the complete text. The orthography is far from perfect which makes it rather difficult to read.

Lieber Adolf,

Deine Briefe habe ich erst heute aus meiner Mutter ihrem Nachttisch entnommen. Ich hatte auch gar keine Adresse von Dir, darum sei Du mir nicht böse, da ich erst jetzt Dir schreiben kann. Ich hoffe, dass wir uns auf eine schlaue Weise doch einander schreiben können. Wie geht es Dir denn jetzt in Amerika hoffe besser als in Deutschland.

Ich bin bei meinem Vater in der Lehre und lerne Goldschmiedin, da kann ich noch nicht ans Heiraten denken vor 4-5 Jahren und ich denke da könnte ich gerade auf Dich warten bis Du wieder in Deine Heimat zurückkehrst. Oder lieber Adolf hast Du wirklich ein Amerikanisches Weib lieber als ein treues Deutsches Mäderl?

Lieber Adolf, denke an Deine letzten Stunden an die letzten Wochen da Du noch Dein Deutsches Lieb in Armen hieltst. Denke an Gaisbach an den Hain [?] wo wir uns kitzelten, und denke an die Schaukel im Park, denk’ an das Kaffee in Brühl und denk an die viele Brieflein, die wir einander schrieben von all unserer schönen Beisammensein. All das ist Vergangenheit, soll dieser kindliche Traum, den wir im Leben wirklich mitmachten, vergessen und nicht wieder in uns erweckt werden?

Lieber Adolf, Du bist fern von der Heimat, wir sind weit getrennt aber Dein Deutsches Kind, Deine Helene, liebt Dich noch immer mit kindlichem Herzen und mit all ihren kleinen Schmerzen obwohl auch mich das Leben in Ernst und Klarheit in schweren, trüben Stunden zu einem Sehnen von Glück und Liebe, harten Stunden schlug. Aber all das soll vergessen sein, nur die Stunden, die ich mit Dir verlebte, blühen frisch in Erinnerung auf. Lieber Adolf, sollten wir beide uns wirklich nach Jahren noch mal umarmen dürfen, wie werden wir uns das vorstellen können, sag, kannst Du Deine Deutsche Freundin noch einmal wirklich lieben und mich oder [????] soll für Dich eine Andere in Frage kommen?

Lieber Adolf, meine Schwester Frieda ist schon ein Jahr Frau und heißt Fröhlich, hat einen reichen Uhrmacher von Pommern geheiratet. Aber noch was auch ein kleines Mädchen von einem viertel Jahr hat sie, ein liebes Ding mit ihrer Tante Helene lacht sie wie ein Maikäfer.

Lieber Adolf, über Oberkirch kann ich Dir leider nichts erzählen. 14 Tage nach Dir ging ich von Oberkirch weg und hab seither niemand mehr getroffen.

Lieber Adolf, dass Du recht bald Deinen Leuten ein Lebenszeichen durch Schreiben gibst will ich schließen auf ein baldiges Wiedersehen.

Enjoy your history

June 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Hannibal-Barkas
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Hi Nathan, I had to change the translation a bit (especially the middle part) under the light of the original letter.

Think about Gaisbach [village in Germany, some 30miles north of Stuttgart/Baden-Württemberg] and the grove where we tickled each other. Think about the swing in the [park] and about the Coffeeshop in Brühl and all the many little letters that we wrote each other. All that is history [now]. Shall this childish [naïve] dream that we lived really be forgotten and not become aroused again [in our hearts] ? Dear Adolf, you are far from home, we are separated [by a long distance] but your German child, your[s faithful] Helene, still loves you with [innocent] heart and with all her [small – as in unimportant] pain [maybe better: sorrows]. Even as life hit me, too, in all it’s seriousness and clarity, in those hard and heavy hours when I was longing for love and joy. But everything is forgotten; only the hours I spent with you are flourishing. Dear Adolf, if we two should really embrace again after years, how shall we picture this? Tell me, can you really love your German [girl]friend again or could it be that another one [woman] might come into consideration for you Dear Adolf, my sister Frieda is a woman for one year [changed from “Fräulein” to “Frau”, a way to address a married woman] and has changed to the name of Fröhlich. [she] married a rich watchmaker from [the German county of] Pommerania.

June 1, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/NathanLeee
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Hannibal-Barkas you are the best! Thank you again for all this, I really appreciate it! That is crazy, it's a small world that you're only 20 miles away from the town that this letter was written from! :)

I was randomly doing some searches on line for the town and his name, this was a letter to my mother's father's father and his last name was Gatz, which didn't seem like a very popular name, and found a description for Gatz that read "German: habitational name from a place so named in Pomerania." I wonder if that's just a coincidence or if it's related to their proximity to Pommerania?

Anyways, all this has definitely got me curious about this history. Unfortunately we believe he never made it back to Germany, due to several factors, but hopefully Helene lived a long and healthy life! :D

June 2, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/Hannibal-Barkas
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I will try it in pieces for I am a little short of time now. Here is my attempt for the first part:

Dear Adolf! I took your letter from my mother’s bedside table just today. I haven’t had your address, so don’t be angry with me that I can write only today. I hope that we can write each other in a cunning way. [Obviously the mother did not want the two to write each other] How is it going for you in America, I hope better than in Germany. I do an apprenticeship at my father’s [shop] to learn being a goldsmith. So I cannot think about marriage in the next 4 to 5 years. So I think I can just wait for you until you return to your home country. Or, my dear Adolf, do you really like an American woman more than a faithful German girl? Dear Adolf, think about your last hours and the last weeks when you still had your German sweetheart in your arms. [hielst = hieltest = past tense of halten] Think about Gaisbach [village in Germany, some 30miles north of Stuttgart/Baden-Württemberg] and the [maybe pier?] where we sat down [hinsetzten]. Think about the swing in the [park] and about the café and all the many [maybe plans] that we made [I suppose it is meant: einander schmiedeten] about our wonderful [here the word “future” would fit in a love letter]
All that is history [now]. Shall this childish [naïve] dream we had in [real] life be really [mitnichten = in no case] be forgotten and not become unreal.

May 31, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/MaxBabel
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This is so cool! Thanks for sharing this. And thanks to those who've had a go at translating.

May 31, 2017
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