Martha's Letter to Hastings

Read Martha Sharp's letter to her son explaining her reasons for remaining in France while her husband returned back to the United States.
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At a Glance



English — US


  • History
  • The Holocaust

1 Rue Pythéas

Marseille, France

September 19, 1940


Dear Hastings,

I am sending this letter to you by clipper. It will leave my hand at the post office and be sent by train from Marseille, France to Narbonne, to Perpignan to Cerbère. Look them up on the map. There it will cross the frontier and be in Spain! It must go to Barcelona and then across seven mountain ranges. Some of these are white cliffs others are black rock and no plants grow anywhere near-and black ravens fly through the lonely sky. The letter and its train will fly through villages made of rough houses with two rooms built of stones with no cement between - here goats pigs and chickens live on the dirt floor among the family. The train on which it rides will stop at great cities like Salamanca where you can see one of the oldest universities in the world. Daddy and I stopped there and saw a great market place where food was all being sold on tables in the street. The university has beautiful carved door arches. It is in a narrow street like the smallest alley you ever saw in boston. Some of the houses are so top heavy that they seem to lean out to look at the street!

After it passes the last cliff on a mountain range it will be in Portugal. It will go through a town where I bought some blankets of goat’s hair. They cut the hair off the goat and pound and weave it into blankets!

Finally it will leave the mountains and ride down to Lisbon. A lovely city on the sea which Daddy will describe to you when he comes home. There it will be put into a big bag, weighed, and be stored in the wings of the clipper as it flies for home and you. And it comes to tell you that I love you and miss you very much. Uncle Dallas thinks you had a hardy time this summer, I hope so. I hope that you played so hard that now you are going to work your hardest to make this the best year you have ever had in school. I am so proud of you and I know that you can be the smartest boy in the class if you try. Will you try for my sake so that when I come home you will have a fine report card to show me?

I like your letter so much. I could just see you catching crabs and going out in the teachers pet!

Now I have some very important news for you. Here in France today the children do not have enough food. They do not have enough milk. There is not enough soap left to wash the clothes. I have seen no butter since I came here in July. THere is no chocolate. There is not enough wool to make them sweaters and there are no more factories making woolen cloth to make trousers and skirts - and there is no coal to heat the houses for the winter - so the children will be hungry and very cold and some of them will be sick. These children would like to have good food and warm houses. Some families in America are inviting these children to come spend a year or so with them in their homes. They must come soon before winter, so I am going to wait until I can arrange for them and bring them to America myself. This means that I shall not return home with Dad. I must waiting until I can make all the arrangements for the children. So, I must give up seeing you until about your birthday! Then what a celebration we will have! I hope Dad will bring you with him to meet me at New York when I arrive. It would be wonderful if Martha could come too.

Will you go to see Midgie and tell her very gently why I am not coming home? I know that you will understand that it is so that fifty or a hundred children will have a chance to come to America. Please explain it to her.

It is Sunday. I have been to my first French Sunday school picnic. It is so hot in Marseilles that we couldn’t wear coats. There were boy and girl scouts playing games in a beautiful garden all day. They sang a hymn in a circle before eating. The minister told them a Bible story. I spoke to them too!

Next week I go to Vichy. See if you can see it on the map. I expect to return to Marseilles after a week. Could you write me a letter by clipper right away? I want to hear from you. Also I wish someone would take a snapshot of you and later you could send it to me.

Now I send you my love and many kisses.



Letter from Martha Sharp in Marseilles, France to her young son Hastings in Wellesley, MA, September 19, 1940

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