The Unanswered Letter

One Holocaust Family's Desperate Plea for Help

"You are surely informed about the situation of all Jews in Central us to follow our children.... It is our last and only hope."

That was the desperate plea of Alfred Berger, mailed in a letter to an American stranger who happened to share his last name. Fifty years later, after languishing in a trunk in a California attic, the letter improbably found itself in the hands of journalist Faris Cassell, who wouldn’t rest until she had discovered the ending to the story.


In 1939, as the Nazis ratcheted up their persecution of the Jews in Vienna, Alfred and his wife Hedwig had exhausted their money, connections, and emotional energy to find escape routes for their two daughters. Now they were desperately trying to join them.

Cassell’s research took her across the United States, Austria, Belarus, Czech Republic, and Israel, uncovering an extraordinary story of heart-wrenching loss and unforgettable love that endures to this day.

Was Alfred and Hedwig’s desperate plea answered? Did they—and their daughters—survive? Readers will find the answers here.

The Unanswered Letter is a story that will move any reader and a poignant reminder that love and hope never die.

"Her writing is powerful, her research prodigious... a work of power and passion, depth and determination.”
—MICHAEL BERENBAUM, Professor of Jewish Studies at American Jewish University, Former Project Director U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

“For them, the Holocaust was not just history.

It was a major family event that haunted them all.”

This is the story of the Bergers. Alfred and Hedwig. And their daughters Martha and Gretl. Through letters, family archives, official documents, and firsthand accounts, The Unanswered Letter tells the story of life, love, loss, and survival. It is a true story of the Holocaust.

unanswered letter, faris cassell

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ISBN-13: 9781684510177