Berlin - Shanghai - Ellis
Island - Bremen
A Profound Story, Unfamiliar to Many
Shortly after the war had ended,
uncertainly loomed in the minds of many Jewish refugees with questions like,
“Where will I make my new home, and when will I leave Shanghai?” A poem
written in Shanghai by Gerhard Gottschalk, highlighting the anticipation of
leaving the Hongkew ghetto, is shown in figure one.
Those who fell, at the time, within the highest quota, and had a sponsor,
were the first to leave for the United States. A photo of the troop ship,
“General Gordon,” leaving for San Francisco with refugees aboard, is shown
in figure two. A third class ticket for a later voyage on the same ship is
shown in figure three, with other passenger paraphernalia shown in
A number of refugees had to settle temporarily in other countries before
they could legally enter the United States. In figure five we see a photo of
such a group in transit from San Francisco to Montréal. Another group of
Shanghai refugees left for, what is now, Israel; others left for Australia
or South America to unite with their relatives.
The main topic of this report, however, begins here which tells about the
involuntary return of immigrants from Ellis Island to Germany. The story
follows after the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) and the
International Refugee Organization (IRO) succeeded in chartering a ship, the
“General Gordon “, mentioned above, to the United States for 106 DP ‘s
(displaced persons). A newspaper clipping of 1950 (unknown origin) shown in
figure six with photos, announced the arrival of the “General Gordon” with
the unlucky Shanghai refugees aboard. The photos showed refugees getting
their first glimpse of America, a place they wanted to call their new home.
The 106 passengers, not able to get visas because of statutes of limitation,
were put aboard a sealed train for the east coast where they spent a little
more then a month on Ellis Island before leaving for Bremen on the “General
Sturgis “. The list of DP‘s is shown in figure seven and
A letter from Senator Herbert H Lehman to the ship by cable, while en route
to Bremerhaven, is shown in figure nine. The letter states in part: “I have
been advised that every possible aid will be given in expediting that
consideration of your applications to return to the United States...
A Joint Resolution in the Senate of the United States regarding the 106
refugees in question is illustrated in figure ten.
An editorial, which appeared in the “Allgemeine Wochenzeitung der Juden” on
July 7, 1950, is shown in figure 11. According to the editor’s report, only
18 of the 106 refugees wanted to remain in Germany to complete their lives.
Most of the other refugees never dreamed of having to live in Germany again
after what they went through before the war and after they learned about the
atrocities committed by the Nazis during the war. Aware of their hardship
and past experiences, German officials by request of Bundeskanzler Adenauer,
assured the refugees at the Tripitz-Kaserne that everything will be done to
make their brief stay pleasant and comfortable.
Two separate documents from two of the 106 DP‘s returning to Germany are
shown in figure 12,
figure 13 and figure 14. The first document is a
provisional certificate of nationality, issued in Shanghai in February of
1950. The rubber stamp on the back of the document permits the bearer entry
into the US, British, and French zone(s) in Germany. Note that it was also
rubber stamped in Bremen in July of 1950. The second document is a
certificate of identification issued by the IRO, a special organization of
the United Nations. It was issued in Bremen in February of 1951.
After their arrival and brief stay in Bremen, the 106 Shanghai refugees left
for Lechfeld, sixty km West of Munich, where they remained until their visas
for the United States were completed Dagobert Lewithan who in July of 1951
was one of 19 Shanghai refugees returning to the United States from Bremen
on the “General Sturgis” the same ship that took him to Bremen in 1950,
wrote about the red tape encountered by his fellow passengers and himself
trying to settle in America on their first arrival. His succinct report of
this difficult period, written on his way back to America, is found in the
“Sturgis News,” the ships news bulletin shown in
figure 15. The report
itself is shown in figure 16.
The General Sturgis, illustrated in figure 17, was built in 1943 in the
United States. During the Second World War she carried American troops to
all theaters of war, and in 1950 she still carried 4000 American soldiers to
Korea. It was the first ship to carry DP‘s from Europe to America.
As the ship was carrying Shanghai refugees to and from the United States, US
Navy officers and civilian personnel were in charge. All of the officers
were extremely friendly to their passengers, as documented in the ship‘s
news bulletin, and kept everyone well informed on the progress made for
their return to the States.
Documents: Courtesy Irene Heimann, and Andreas Heinsius.
Ralph Harpuder‘s personal archives.
Photos Ralph Harpuder‘s personal archives