Coming to America

Henry Birnbrey (center), aged fifteen, aboard ship to the United States, 1938.

Henry Birnbrey (center), aged fifteen, aboard ship to the United States, 1938.

Before a child could leave Europe, he or she had to receive permission to immigrate. Potential immigrants had to provide health records, photographs, affidavits, and forms from the United States Department of Labor and the State Department, often in triplicate. Each applicant had a number on a waiting list of other immigrants. The number had to be chosen before an immigrant could leave for the United States. Once permission was granted, a list was provided that explained which items could and could not be taken into the United States. Travel arrangements were usually organized by German-Jewish Children's Aid (later European-Children's Aid). Because transatlantic plane travel was rare in the 1930s, the children reached to the United States via ocean liners.

Once the children arrived in the United States, they were temporarily housed in institutions in the area around New York City (e.g., the Clara de Hirsch Home, the Gould Foundation, the Hebrew Orphan's Asylum) before going to foster homes. Because some of the children, particularly those from occupied France, had traveled through a succession of countries, often in harrowing situations to reach the United States, they needed time to get over the shock of their experiences. The children from France also tended to be malnourished or sickly and needed immediate medical care. Because the organizers of the One Thousand Children project did not want to create a refugee enclave in New York City, the children were dispersed to foster families throughout the country.

This section will detail some of the organizations that helped the refugee children to escape from Europe and later to adapt to life in America. It will also describe the Georgia Jewish community's response to the Holocaust, and what happened to the young refugees when they reached the Atlanta area.

Works Cited

Baumel, Judith Tydor. Introduction to Don't Wave Goodbye: The Children's Flight from Nazi Persecution to American Freedom , edited by Philip K. Jason and Iris Posner, 1-18. Westport: Prager Press, 2004.

Laqueur, Walter. Generation Exodus: The Fate of Young Jewish Refugees from Nazi Germany. New York: I.B. Taurus, 2001.