In a world where women have been taught to be meek and submissive and not speak their truth for fear of being “too much”, “Too different”, “too loud”, “too opinionated”, “a witch”, or any other label you want to place on strong women who speak their truth, it is time for us to release the chains of our shared past and start speaking now.
During World War II, the propaganda was that women were to send the men to war. Yes, women did participate in the war effort serving in military branches, but it was overwhelmingly men who served while the women waited at home. It really doesn’t matter what country we are talking about either. Women sent the men and waited for word. Word which came usually by standard government issue form letter. “We regret to inform you that you husband/brother/son was killed in action.” No real answers but these letters created a lot of questions.
Over the last 11 years I have been reading military files, I have seen women accept the standard answers which lack depth, especially if their husband or father (the head of their heir line for decisions if someone died), was dead and could not speak up to demand some answers. However, one woman stands out as a shining example of a woman speaking her powerful truth. A woman who said the things we know most people were thinking during and after the war, but did not have the courage to voice because that would be “unlady-like” or “unpatriotic” to question our mighty military and government who always “have our best interests at heart.”
Who was this amazing woman? Nellie Seder.
Nellie’s brother Vittolh, was Killed In Action on 11 July 1944 in France. He is permanently buried in the Normandy American Cemetery. Nellie took it upon herself to write the letters to the military about her brother’s death, personal effects, remains, and unanswered questions. I do not know if she did this because her parents didn’t speak or write English (well or at all), or if she felt she was the family warrior and it was her job to speak out. Nellie married and died it appears, without having had children, so we cannot ask.
Their parents were immigrants from Lithuania who had been naturalized in the U.S. prior to the war. Nellie and Vittolh were born in America. First generation, which makes her letters even more powerful, in my opinion. Makes me wonder how much of her parents’ lives she knew about when they lived in Lithuania. What did her ancestors endure as every war changed country borders and ruler? What restrictions, oppressions, and rules did her ancestors face that were silently transferred through the DNA or through carried energy in the family that made Nellie so adamant about speaking her truth?
What Nellie’s letters also show us is the lack of information to families about what was happening when a soldier died. When you read Nellie’s 29 November 1944 letter about her brother’s personal effects, she is angry that not everything was returned. The military didn’t like to say that some soldiers from all countries would pick over the dead or that effects may have been blown away from the body or blown to bits. Or that the soldier may have given his beloved watch to a buddy to send home to his family, only for that buddy to be killed later.
In this excerpt from her 29 November 1944 letter, we hear and feel her anger as she speaks about what many think but do not say.
The important thing to know about military research, is the story is not only just about the service member. It is time we start looking at what the families experienced, felt, carried forward, kept secret, lied about, that continues to hurt us today.
Military Response to Nellie’s Letter
The government did respond to Nellie’s letters. In this excerpt dated 8 December 1944, just from the first paragraph, we get an idea of what the military was up against – in a time where communication was slow and computers and instant messaging did not run the world.
The letter goes on to explain many things the military has to deal with when someone dies. This kind of explanation is not found in most IDPFs or OMPFs. It is seen only when someone demands answers.
Nellie’s 11 December 1944 Letter
This letter dated 11 December 1944 in response to the government letter above, feels more emotional to me as we hear and feel Nellie’s frustration and anger and grief. Maybe it is her grief I feel most of all coming through the pages and her words. She, like so many other sisters, mothers, fathers, wives, children, were suffering and most did not have the tools to begin to heal.
Being an emapth and medium, I have felt the pain these families held on to, even 70+ years later, as I work with their descendants or in some cases, siblings of those who died. I feel it as I read the letters they sent begging for answers and peace, when most of the time, none came.
In this letter in particular, we also get a look at the kind of man Vittolh was in the way he handled money and himself. His sister makes this very clear. She also questions how after five months, any other effects could be found. Again, we need to remember that in those days, everything took time to move from one place to another and information took forever to get up the channels.
Read All of Nellie’s Letters
It is my hope that by sharing these letters, families today can look deeper into their own histories to see where pain and grief like this has been buried, silenced, ignored, but still energetically passed through the entire family whether they are aware of it or not. By exploring the past and FEELING what they felt, we can allow these energies to surface and we can all begin to heal.
I am so grateful Nellie so powerfully spoke her truth. That she stood up and asked the questions others were thinking. In her own way, she helped the collective heal. These letters also allow readers to start to heal their own family wounds and ask questions they may have never thought to ask. Nellie is my hero and an inspiration.
Would you like to read Vittolh’s entire IDPF which contain all of Nellie’s letters? You can view it here.
Are you ready to start your healing journey?
Are you ready to begin untangling and looking at your family’s war trauma? Or any other family trauma that has affected your life? If you would like assistance in this, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask how I can help you. I use facilitation packages of 1, 3 or 5 hours to work with clients as we explore their genealogy and military histories, to find the patterns, and do energy healing together.
Are you ready to heal your past to live a fuller, more vibrant life with more possibilities?
© 2021 WWII Research & Writing Center