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Archive Visit Number Four: Picture Postcards from the Front Lines

Cassie Bendel

Posted on November 01 2020

Archive Visit Number Four: Picture Postcards from the Front Lines

Along with the many letters shared with the Sisters of the Visitation at Mount de Chantal during their efforts to send food and supplies to monasteries in war-torn Europe, there also exists a small collection of postcards. Since we don’t have much in the way of photos from this time, these postcards offer an interesting glimpse into what the monasteries and the sisters being written about actually looked like.

              

  At a time in history when image sharing is so commonplace, it’s hard for us to imagine not knowing what a friend or a certain place looked like. Postcards gave people the change to share images that otherwise would have been costly to ship.

                According to Wikipedia, postcards from this time period “provide snapshots of societies at a time when few newspapers carried images. Postcards provided a way for the general public to keep in touch with their friends and family and required little writing. Anytime there was a major event, a postcard photographer was there to document it (including celebrations, disasters, political movements, and even wars)… They give insight into both the physical world, and the social world of the time. During their heyday postcards revolutionized communication, similar to social media of today.”

        

        With that in mind, we’ll take a look at one such brief missive from a community that was formerly in the Czech Republic but was moved to Bavaria during the war. The writer quickly ran out of room on the card (something to which anyone who has written a postcard can likely relate!) and also used the front and doubled up the type. Here it is in full:

 

Steinhoring, January 7, 1949

                Very Honored and Dear Reverend Mother, Xmas-eve at 4 o’clock p.m., the Heavenly Child brought us 3 Care-parcels from you, honored and Dear Reverend Mother and our met your Charity with tears in her eyes and her heart full of thanks. The distribution of the gifts for the poor ill children and our employees had taken place the day before and every corner had been emptied and then came as a capital surprise and most unexpected from our dear Wheeling your generous gift and there were many exclamations of thanks to be heard among us. Our dear Reverend Mother is so glad she can give some extras to our Sisters who are working very hard and often during night-time. We can nothing but admire the Divine Providence who is aware of the good souls who want to help us, even if they are over the sea.

                We hope our Circulaire reached you and so you know how we came to stay here. Our dear Sisters of Czech nationality still live at Chotieschau (Abbey), but we do not know how long they shall remain there as Communism is spreading strongly. Since 1945 we admitted 5 young Sisters among us and just now a very dear Sister from Zangberg who is very ill is being cured here for her heart disease. We are so glad to be able to do something for her. We wonder what a way our Lord will lead us on. Things are settling little by little. Being expulsed we will be very content with all that pleases God to send us. We try to say a ready “Yes, Father”. Our dear Reverend Mother and our whole community repeats her thanks exchanging with you the kiss of peace for the Feast of our Holy Founder.

                In the Sacred Heart,

                The Sisters of the Visitation at Steinhoring.

                Interestingly, the town where these Sisters were located was home to Hitler’s Lebensborn program, the Nazi racial organization that aimed to breed “racially pure” individuals. When the allies liberated Steinhoring on May 1, 1945, 300 children aged six months to six years were abandoned by their caregivers. While we can’t know for certain if these Sisters were involved in caring for these orphans, the reference to “poor ill children” makes us wonder. Either way, we’re certain these courageous women were a force for good in a world that must have felt so evil.

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