The Unanswered Letter: One Holocaust Family's Desperate Plea for Help

The Unanswered Letter cover

By Faris Cassell, MS ’90 (journalism)

In 1939, as the Nazi closed in, Alfred Berger mailed a desperate letter to an American stranger who happened to share his last name. He and his wife, Viennese Jews, had found escape routes for their daughters. But now their money, connections, and emotional energy were nearly exhausted. Alfred begged the American recipient of the letter, “You are surely informed about the situation of all Jews in Central Europe . . . . By pure chance I got your address . . . . My daughter and her husband will go . . . to America . . . help us to follow our children . . . . It’s our last and only hope . . . .”

After languishing in a California attic for decades, Alfred’s letter ended up in the hands of Faris Cassell, a journalist who couldn’t rest until she discovered who couldn’t rest until she discovered the ending of the story. Traveling across the United States as well as to Austria, the Czech Republic, Belarus, and Israel, she uncovered an extraordinary story of heart-wrenching loss and unforgettable love that endures to this day.

Did the Bergers’ desperate letter find a response? Did they—and their daughters—survive? Did they leave living descendants?

Amazon, September 2020