Letters to a Lost Soldier: World War II geography lessons

Dear Daddy,
(I originally wrote in February, 1945) I wanted to find Persia in the World Atlas to see where Queen Esther defeated Haman and saved the Jewish people. Persia is now called Iran, and was on the side of Germany at the beginning of this war until the Allies forced out the Shah. His son was appointed the next Shah instead of being elected. He changed sides and is now against Germany. I laughed when I learned that “Shah” meant king because the only time I heard that word was when Mimi told Bepa to be quiet by saying, “Shah, Sam.” Now when I think of the Shah, I will call him “Be quiet.” I thought we were fighting a war to save democracy, yet a dictator is in charge of Iran. It’s complicated trying to figure out who are the good guys and the bad guys. It is written that Haman was an Amalekite. It is also thought that Hitler and the Nazis are Amalekites. Are Iranians and Arabs also Amalekites?
Some Arabs are on the side of Nazi Germany and one of their leaders, the Mufti of Jerusalem, lives in Berlin and supports Hitler. I found Jerusalem on the map and that’s where our pushke money goes for the Jews in Palestine. It’s a long distance away, just as you are, Daddy. I found Metz, France. The last letter we received from you was addressed to Dorothy Clametz, and Uncle Eddie said you must be writing from Metz, France. It will take ships, boats, trains and cars to find you, and judging from the newsreels, the American military has plenty of vehicles.
I also found Odessa and Kiev on a map and studied how Mimi and Bepa traveled from there to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both Mimi and Bepa came from Russia by train and boat to the US in 1902-1904 when they were children. You told me your father left Manchester, England for Chicago when he was 20 in 1889. I’m glad that Mommy and her parents moved to Chicago so she could meet you and get married and I’m happy I was born in Chicago. I love my school and my teacher.
Mimi and Bepa own a duplex in Los Angeles and want us move there when the war is over so we can live next door to them. They rode a train from LA to Chicago when you went into the service and said it took 3 days and 2 nights to travel across the USA. The El Capitan train went through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. I’d like to take a vacation and visit them in California when you return home. In the meantime, they remind me that no news is good news.
I traced a trip we can take to California on a map and if you want to drive there we can travel by car instead of taking a train. We can stop at The Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest on the way. Since you are the only driver in our family, you can be the one to decide how we will travel. I can’t wait for the war to end and for you to return home, Daddy, but I don’t have a choice. I am spending my time reading the World Atlas and taking daydreaming trips, but I don’t want to go to Europe.
The Allies bombed Dresden in Germany on purpose and bombed Prague in Czechoslovakia by mistake. I hope that doesn’t give Hitler an idea to bomb Chicago. Hopefully, he is too busy fighting the Russians, who captured Budapest in Hungary. I am locating these places in the Atlas, which I’m glad you bought for me, Daddy. I’m learning we live in a big, scary world. I wonder if there is any place that is safe for us to stop being afraid and start being happy again.
Sunny California sounds like a good place to start a new life. It’s very appealing since the weather here is terrible. I’ll keep dreaming of a happy ending and a new beginning.