Elly Ringel

More on Emile Gissot

Usually, when you google a historical name of someone who was not particularly famous, you don't expect to find much. With Emile Gissot, we hit a veritable gold mine of information. First, there is this biographical sketch of him on a city web site for the Toulouse region. There he is a portrait in full French military regalia. We learn from the article that he was born in 1882 in the village of Fleurance. He was a brilliant student and was well educated in Parisian schools. After graduation, he accepted a foreign service position in Chile, and distinguished himself during the 1906 Valparaiso earthquake. The following year, he authored an report on the economy of Chile, which is still available on the Internet today.

After returning to France, he was appointed as a career consular official, and was posted again to Chile, as well as later to Athens and other outposts. In 1917, he was arrested in Salamanca, Spain, for associating with an early band of Spanish Republicans. He also played in politics, running but losing in Parliamentary elections in 1919. Between 1928 and 1932, he advised French Interior minister Albert Smock. The article then skips over to his death in Toulouse in November 1958, omitting any mention of his role in the 1940 refugee crisis.

We'll set that aside for the moment, too, as we consider the inventory of Internet sightings. Most deliciously, that portrait from the biography article, showed up as a physical postcard available for sale on several Internet memorabilia sites. Evidently he had the cards made for himself and used them as stationery. This one is hand-inscribed to a correspondent in 1916, so the photo shows him perhaps in his early to mid 30s. Note that same distinctive signature we will see on visas 24 years later. After I tipped off Olivia at the Sousa Mendes Foundation about the card, I'm pleased to say she purchased it online for the foundation's collection.

The next thing of note that turns up is that Chilean economic report,, available for download as a PDF. Finally, there are a number of citations and references to his activities as Portugal's honorary vice consul in Toulouse, including from several French Sousa Mendes tribute sites. Most intriguing is this listing in the index of archived records of Antonio Salazar, Portugal's longtime strongman leader, of a report about an inquiry into irregularities involving the activities of Emile Gissot in Portugal's Toulouse consulate.

The report is not available online or evidently physically in the archive, since the documentation is said to have mysteriously disappeared. Now on to what might actually have happened in the next post.

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.

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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