The document chain from Lisbon to Miami

The document chain from Lisbon to Miami

Arriving in Lisbon in the last days of July 1940, Elly and Helga, and also Elly's sister Hilda and her husband Herbert Peiser, had solved the first of their goals in escaping immediate danger of being captured by Nazis. But they were no closer to achieving their second goal, to gain entrance to the United States as legal immigrants.

They were setting out on a eight-month process of learning the ropes, queuing up at endless consulates, sharing tips with other refugees at cafes, finding suitable lodging for a refugee family with dwindling means. As before, we can follow the documents to see how they come to the desired conclusion.

I imagine that they visited the United States consulate in Lisbon soon after their arrival. There they learned that the United States would issue immigration visas only to those with documented family members in the U.S. They also learned that it might be possible to get a temporary visa to stop in New York if you had a legitimate visa from another country.

So they didn't have the first, but already they must have had the idea that they might be able to find someone named Ringel who would vouch for them. As I wrote before, this could have been in her mind since Nice but it was certainly now.

What we see next is that in October Elly obtains two visas from the governments of Costa Rica and Venezuela. Like the Curaçao visa that had gotten them this far, these two permits were for visitation only, not immigration. I'm thinking Elly presents these stamps at the American embassy, but again comes away empty as she is told that she needs an immigration visa from another country to get the stopover visit in New York.

Then on February 27, she gets an immigration visa from the government of Ecuador. This will prove to be needed document to get on the boat to New York. I imagine she gets confirmation from the consulate sooner, but Elly finally gets her U.S. transit visa no. 786 on March 31, the day before they set sail.

So now they have achieved the next part of the plan. They are crossing the ocean, getting farther away from the madness in Europe. They have a sort of far-fetched plan for Elly to find a magic Ringel relative, but otherwise are ticketed for Ecuador. I'm thinking that she may already have some decent leads of possible Ringels in New York. Also, how is Hilda trying to qualify since she isn't a Ringel?

Anyway, as you know, the long shot comes through and Elly is able to find a Ringel in New York to vouch for her, a judge no less though we think one not actually related to Hermann Ringel. Joanne knows more of this story and about Helga's later acquaintance in California with the daughter of that very Judge Ringel.

Unfortunately, we don't have a record of Judge Ringel's affadavit, but we know that Elly changes her travel plans. With just five days left on her bonded New York stay, she gets a travel visa to visit Cuba and then sails with Helga for Havana, arriving May 19 or 20.

The reason for going to Cuba is that you have to be outside of the United States to apply for immigration. Even though they were already in New York and had the needed Ringel affadavit, they had to be somewhere else to present it. Walter has suggested that they might have gone to Quebec, and I wonder about places like Bermuda, but evidently the place to go was Havana.

There on May 21, with the Ringel paperwork and under whatever quotas may have applied according to their status, they got the coveted U.S. immigration visa that they had been seeking for so long.

From Hermann's domicile certificate to the INS Miami entry stamp, our chain of documents tells the story of our loved ones' inspiring exodus to America.