Letter from Lilly Chunn to Etta Chunn Crary on the outbreak of war and Adolf Hitler, 16 November 1939

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Lilly Chunn wrote this letter to her sister-in-law, Etta Chunn Crary.  At the time of this letter, Lilly resides in Myatts Park in London, England.  This letter dated 16th November 1939 was written approximately one month after Britain declared war on Germany.  She discusses with Etta her bleak financial situation.  Additionally, according to Lilly, her friends also face similar financial circumstances.  As an example, her son, Junior, had to pawn a watch in order to pay their rent.  She briefly comments on the war.  She declares with certainty that Britain will be victorious.  She describes Adolf Hitler as “that madman” who will eventually discover “to his sorrow one day” that Britain and all its allies stand on the side of right.

Beginning in 1938, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, Germany quickly amassed territorial gains in Europe beginning with Austria.  Practicing a policy of appeasement with Germany, Britain and France did not stand against Hitler’s annexation of the German parts of Czechoslovakia and Hungary.  Hitler saw this as the legal reacquisition of German culture and not the illegal seizure of territory.  By 1939, Hitler set his sights on Poland.  Due to Poland’s proximity to major European countries, Britain and France vowed their allegiance to Polish independence.  This was Britain and France’s first attempt to block further territorial concessions.  By this time, Germany entered into an alliance with Italy and a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.  In the pact with the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union leader, agreed to divide Poland and Eastern Europe into spheres of influence.  With the German invasion of Poland, Britain and France declared war against Germany on September 1st 1939, thereby launching Europe into the Second World War.


Lilly Chunn to Etta Chunn Crary, 16 November 1939, Ruth Crary Miller Papers, Manuscripts Division, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.


Nov 16th 1939

Dear Etta,

            Your letter of the 7th of Oct just received.  I answered your last letter to me in which you said you couldnt help me, maybe you didnt receive it, I sent you the little note Alvah wrote you from hospital in it I think did you get that.  It was very kind of you to write Mr Howell I havent heard anything from him as yet, not it was not paid me.  Jnr. [Junior] is out of work to had to our worries, he can’t get anything on account of his age 22 because he will be joining up in January then as far as I am concerned, I am finished, he had to pawn the watch Leslie gave him last week to help pay our small rent, I often wonder what the end will be.  I suppose you wonder why I didn’t ask friends here to help me, my dear I have no friends who can, they are kind and give us little things, but financially they are not well off, all Alvah friends’ were in the music line, and I didn’t meet then, my Mother is living on her old age pension of 10/ a week, we try to help each other the best way we can.  I wrote

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you a letter Etta telling you we hadnt received anything from you last xmas, you couldn’t have received that letter than.  I wonder why my letters seem to be going astray like this.  If you write me at 1 Cormont, I will get your letters.  I trust this war will soon end, but I’m afraid it will be long, but in the end we are bound to win because we are in the right, that madman will find that out to his sorrow one day, I only hope the day wont be long.

            I was glad to hear you and Will are in better health, may it continue.  How is Ruth and William, you never say.

                                                            Our love to you both,

                                                                        Your sister Lilly


Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 5-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the economic boom-and-bust in America in the 1920s and 1930s, its resultant political instability, and the subsequent worldwide response.

Indicator 5-4.4 Explain the principal events related to the United States’ involvement in World War II—including the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the invasion in Normandy, Pacific island hopping, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and the role of key figures in this involvement such as Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Adolf Hitler.

Standard 7-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and effects of world conflicts in the early twentieth century.

Indicator 7-5.3 Explain the worldwide depression that took place in the 1930s, including the economic crash of 1929 and political responses to the depression such as the New Deal in the United States, the rise of Nazism in Germany, and the economic retrenchment in Britain.

Indicator 7-5.4 Summarize aspects of the rise of totalitarian governments in Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union, including Fascist aggression and the responses of major powers and the rise of Joseph Stalin.

Indicator 7-5.5 Explain the causes, key events, and outcomes of World War II, including the German, Italian, and Japanese drives for empire; the role of appeasement and isolationism in Europe and the United States; the major turning points of the war and the principal theaters of conflict; the importance of geographic factors; the roles of political leaders; and the human costs and impact of the war both on civilizations and on soldiers.

Standard GS-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the effects of economic, geographic, and political interactions that took place throughout the world during the early twentieth century.

Indicator GS-5.4 Explain the causes, key events, and outcomes of World War II, including the German, Italian, and Japanese drives for empire; the role of appeasement and isolationism in Europe and the United States; the major turning points of the War and the principal theaters of conflict; the importance of geographic factors during the War; and the political leaders during the time.

Indicator GS-5.5 Compare the ideologies and global effects of totalitarianism, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, and democracy in the twentieth century, including Lenin’s adaptation of Marxism in Russia, the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe, and militarism in Japan prior to World War II.

Standard USHC-8: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of World War II on United States’ foreign and domestic policies.

Indicator USHC-8.1 Analyze the United States’ decision to enter World War II, including the rise and aggression of totalitarian regimes in Italy under Benito Mussolini, in Germany under Adolf Hitler, and in Japan under Hideki Tojo; the United States’ movement from a policy of isolationism to international involvement; and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.


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