Helga Ruby

Rua de Gloria 41-28

Before returning to Mssr. Gissot, we'll skip ahead a month or so to when our intrepid travelers have reached the promised city of Lisbon. Several years ago, Walter's friend Valery Bazarov, who was the house historian for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, searched the HIAS files for information about our family members. He discovered two important bits of information, as is described in the blog at the time. One piece was a scrap of notepaper with the names of Elly and Helga Ringel and an address in Lisbon.

When Joanne was in Lisbon last summer, she and Bill located Rua de Gloria 41-28 on the map not very far from their hotel on the Rossio. Here are Joanne's photos of the building exterior and front door closeup. It is not hard to imagine the same scene in the summer and fall of 1940.

Who was Emile Gissot?

Yesterday, as a result of our contact with Olivia Mattis at the Aristides de Sousa Mendes Foundation, we learned the identity of the Portuguese consular official in Toulouse who issued a Portugal transit visa to Elly and Helga Ruby on July 11, 1940. Here is that visa. Notice the signature in two places of one Emile Gissot.

Gissot was known to the people at the Mendes Foundation as one of several vice-consuls in cities near to Bordeaux who cooperated with the actions of Sousa Mendes during his campaign of mercy. The foundation has several records in its files of families with Gissot visas from Toulouse. They had been working from the assumption that the vice-consuls in Bayonne and Toulouse had acted under instructions from Sousa Mendes, the senior consular official in the region. But in at least one of their cases, and now with our new Ringel instance, some Gissot visas date from a week or more after the Sousa Mendes campaign had ended in his summary recall to Lisbon.

So who was Emile Gissot? You don't have to go far to find out, since he has a wonderfully google-able name and a fair number of notable achievements. More in the next post.

Germany and restored citizenship

Joanne and Walter have been talking for some time about the possibility of Helga's descendants having the option of obtaining dual German citizenship based on Helga's status as a displaced former citizen. I have regarded that possibility with skepticism, but prompted by my latest health insurance woes my two siblings have gone to the trouble of learning the German law.

Walter spoke with an official at the German consulate in New York and found that all the relevant information is here. The applicable law reads: "Former German citizens who between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds, and their descendants, shall on application have their citizenship restored."

The information page continues with the following explanation:

Between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 there were basically two laws pertaining to the loss of German citizenship. With the 'Law on the Revocation of Naturalizations and the Deprivation of the German Citizenship' of July 14, 1933, some persons were deprived of their German citizenship individually. Their names were listed in the Reich Law Gazette ('Reichsgesetzblatt') and with the publication of the particular Reichsgesetzblatt they lost their German citizenship.

The main group of former German citizens, however, lost their citizenship with the 'Eleventh Decree to the Law on the Citizenship of the Reich' of November 25, 1941. This stipulated that Jews living outside Germany could not be German citizens. This mainly affected Jews who had left Germany in the years before or shortly after the beginning of the Second World War.

I recently came across a listing of our Aunt Hilda, Elly's sister, having her citizenship revoked by name, but the second paragraph is the one that would apply to Elly Ringel and her daughter Helga. Walter writes that the official told him that if we have the proper documentation (and we do), then we could become citizens of Germany and of Europe within a year of filing the application.

What that means for any of us Rubys remains to be fully considered, but it is certainly interesting to understand that acquiring European citizenship (presumably without renouncing U.S. citizenship) is a realistic option for any of Helga's children and grandchildren.

Helga's ship manifest and special inquiry

Here are a couple of fascinating new documents also discovered via Ancestry's hinting feature. First is the passenger manifest of U.S. aliens arriving on the SS Guine in New York April 15, 1941, showing Elly and Helga Ringel and Herbert and Hilda Peiser among the passengers. The second is a record of those aliens held for special inquiry, showing those same four names.

Both documents include lots of annotations and data that I have not yet taken the time to fully interepret, but presumably tells the story of the group's initial stop in New York, where they were denied admission to the U.S., but where they gained the documentation that allowed them to enter later through Miami from Cuba. More analysis to come.


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