Frankfurt am Main 1936 to 1946







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Emigration


My father secured a visa on April 1, 1940 for his daughter and himself in Stuttgart, the capital city for Baden-Württemberg. The reason he went there may have been that his birthplace was Krautheim which is also in Baden Württemberg, and perhaps he had to go there if he had a hope of obtaining a visa. Or, more likely, it may have been that Stuttgart was the only office for providing visas.

Long Wait

How long did he have to wait for the visa? There must have been a massive queue at the Stuttgart embassy. Quite likely my father had been trying to leave for a year, and perhaps even since Kristallnacht in November 1938. 

Still, the Nazi policy until mid-October 1941 was to encourage German Jews to leave. Quoting Christopher Browning,

"...the short-term priority of the Nazi regime was to make the Third Reich the first territory in Europe to be free of Jews. This meant that Germany temporarily used its influence not to facilitate but rather to hinder the emigration of Jews from elsewhere in Europe and monopolize the scant emigration possibilities for its own Jews. One thread that ran through Germany's diplomatic activities in the 1939 -- 1941 period, therefore, was the effort to arrange for the continuing emigration of German Jews while simultaneously blocking the exit of other Jews." [p. 195]

Genoa to West 18th

It was a close call. Sometime between April 1 and mid-May, he and my sister traveled to Genoa, and on May 19th 1940, they boarded a US passenger ship, the SS Washington, that had started its trip home in Naples. Yet, Browning notes, "As Italy prepared to enter the war in May 1940, it refused to grant further transit visa to German Jews in order to avoid having them stranded when war broke out." My father and sister arrived at the West 18th Street pier in New York City in the morning on Tuesday, May 28th, 1940. Their worthiness was guaranteed by one of my father's brothers, Emil Metzger. The ship's Chief Officer, citing the report of the ship's surgeon, John G. Matt, licensed to practice in Tennessee, attested that "from the report of the surgeon and from my own investigation, I believe that no one of the said aliens is of any of the classes excluded from admission into the United States by laws regulating immigration." Presumably, they were met on their arrival by my father's siblings and spouses -- Emil, the oldest who had also been their reference for obtaining a visa, Adolph, Siegfried, the youngest, and a sister, Lina. 

The New York Times, costing three cents, reported the weather, as mostly cloudy with scattered showers and pleasant temperatures. The weather in Europe was also provided a pleasant backdrop to disaster.

Not German but Hebrew

The SS Washington had many American citizens on board, presumably vacationers but also undoubtedly many expatriates or employees of US companies leaving while they still safely could. My father was 45. My sister was nine years old at the time, the same age when I followed with my mother in 1946. The ship's "Manifest for Alien Passengers for the United States" declared that my father was a salesman and my sister a student, that they could both read and write albeit in German, that their nationality was Germany but that their "race or people" were not German but rather Hebrew. Just before them on the ship's manifest were Elisabeth and Edith Meisels, presumably mother and daughter, the mother 36 years old and her daughter eight, thus sharing with my sister the same given name, age, and also having in common that their mothers had the same given name and age. Hard to imagine that the two girls did not find each other, to talk, to play, to wonder -- and perhaps to cry about their torn families. Elisabeth Meisels "race" was given as German but her daughter as Hebrew. Edith Meisels might well have been declared a mischling and allowed to leave by virtue of her mother being a Christian. 

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My sister, Edith, in 1940, shortly after she arrived with her father in New York. She was nine.


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