Monday, December 14, 2015

November 20, 1940: Small Joys

Letter from Ella to Opa


Berlin, Charlottenburg, Nov. 20th 1940
Droysenstrasse 14

My beloved boy, By now I have been without news from you for over 4 weeks, and I worry.
This time one year ago, you were ill, hopefully you are not ill again. I tell myself of course, that the mail does not come regularly, and that my boy writes to me every week, the letters do not arrive, and you know mamas are always worried about their children. Through a friend of Pattilein, I heard that she is well, and also received a few darling pictures of her and her husband. I do believe she is doing well. Did you receive my letter in which I replied to you letter in details about your feelings for Esther? It was the last one I received, I think every day about how it looks inside of you (your inner most feelings). Every day I wait for mail so longingly.  

Hunschen, there is a possibility (chance) to go to the “small Antilles" islands if somebody will guarantee to cover my living expenses. Might that be possibly for me? Do you know somebody who would do that? From here I cannot do anything, would not know who to turn to. Do you think the “Friends” could do something? Or perhaps Hanna’s brother? Hanna sent me a rather cool birthday letter, and did not respond to the matter of an affidavit at all.

Also Rose states only vaguely the she would handle things, when the time comes. Hunschen, please get in contact with Rose, without that affidavit nothing can be done from here. Once on the small Antilles, one can wait there until the number comes up. How great that would be. Sometimes it is hard not to lose courage, but we have to be brave. And every day also brings small joys. Anni and Gis were going to visit me today. Sadly I had to cancel, because I have no time this week, we rescheduled for Sunday after next. The Saturday before I will go to a lecture at the “Friends”, I have not been there for a long, long time, and I am looking forward to it very much. Yesterday I was at Ann’chen’s for dinner. She says to tell you hello, and will write a Christmas letter to you within the next days. I wish for you a happy Thanksgiving day my boy. Maybe there will be a letter today, when I get home. I am writing this on the road, first at the H-V (must be the school) where I was transferred to, and now, since I ran out of ink, at the post office. 

I am always, always with you and Patti, and also with Aust, and I am thinking very much of all other loved ones. My boy, I kiss you dearly.

Your Mama

Did Shelley’s receive my letter?

Ella is looking for any way out, ANY WAY. I want to remind my readers that the Wansee Conference (you know- the one where they come up with the "Final Solution" for Jews?)- it hasn't even happened yet. Right now the Nazis are just be supreme jerks and also highly encouraging all Jews to leave the country, while also taking away all of their rights and means of financial independence. Things are bad, but Ella knows that now is the time to get out- and I think she sees the writing on the wall- that things probably won't get better for a while. She is daring to be hopeful. This practical, humble, pragmatic woman is considering moving to the small Antilles on the sponsorship of a family member or Quakers. For Ella, that is a huge swallow of pride and a giant leap into the unknown. That's how bad it is. And they haven't started shipping people out yet.

Ella hasn't gotten news from many people lately, it seems the mail ebbs and flows. She knows that, but it doesn't help her anxiety and worry. She can't stop being a mother- she still worries about Patti's happiness and safety. She still worries about Opa's colds. She still wonders if he is heartbroken. She still hopes Patti's marriage is happy. All her worries, concerns, and wishes- they don't disappear when her own anxieties overwhelm her. In fact, Ella focuses in on her children so that her love and concern for them will hide and push away her worries for herself. 

Ella stays busy, working however she can. She's been so busy she hasn't been able to stay as connected with the Quakers- and had to cancel a visit with Gis and Anni (I'm so glad they are visiting her!)- but she is making time to go to the lectures that the Quakers held for folks like her. It gives her an opportunity to connect with other folks, to get spiritual/intellectual inspiration, and to not feel isolated for an evening.

Ella continues to hold on to hope, and to her love for her children. That connective thread to her family is stretched so far across the world- America, France, Amsterdam. It's a challenge to hold them all - but she does it for hope. She holds on to the small joys that make her journey bearable.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

November 4, 5, 1940: Don't Relax

Telegram from Opa to Marjorie Schauffler


Mrs. Marjorie Schauffler, American Friends Service Committee
 20 South 12 St Phila=

Received letter from Uhl today dated October 31, repeating order to leave. Does your telegram supersede this order. Should I remain here? Please wire advice=
Thomas Doeppner.
Uhl 31.

Letter from Opa to Byron Uhl of INS


Thomas Doeppner  McPherson, November 5, 1940.
McPherson College
McPherson, Kansas

Mr. Byron Uhl
District Director
New York District    ((99503/254))

Dear Sir,

I have your letter of October 31 advising me to leave the United States by November 5. I have also received a telegram from Mrs. Marjorie Schauffler of the American Friends Service Committee of Philadelphia saying that Mr. Salisbury of the State Department in Washington is attempting to arrange for a student visa for me. She also indicated that she had been in touch with your office, apparently after the date of your letter, and that you had agreed to take no action pending the outcome of Mr. Salisbury's effort. I am assuming that this is correct, unless I hear differently from your office.

Yours very truly,

Thomas Doeppner.

Telegram from Marjorie Schauffler of AFSC to Byron Uhl at INS


Byron H. Uhl          (November 5, 1940)
District Director
New York District
U.S. Department of Justice

Regarding Thomas Doeppner McPherson Kansas E.E. Salisbury is handling his case and has instructed him through our office to await Washington decision STOP Salisbury discovered two Washington files on case and one contains request from Doeppner dated July 21 requesting change of status to student visa STOP We have advised Doeppner remain McPherson until instructions received from Salisbury STOP If you advise otherwise please wire us collect

Marjorie  Page Schauffler
American Friends Service Committee

Telegram from Marjorie Schauffler to Opa


Thomas Doeppner          (Noveber 5, 1940)
McPherson College
McPherson, Kansas.

Have wired Uhl that Salisbury is handling matter and has instructed you through us to await his decision without further action STOP Suggest you remain McPherson until Salisbury advises otherwise 

Marjorie Page Schauffler

Letter from Marjorie Schauffler to E.E. Salisbury of INS


November 5, 1940.

Mr. E.E. Salisbury:

We have just received the following telegram from Mr. Doeppner:

"Received letter from Uhl today dated October 31, repeating order to leave. Does your telegram supersede this order. Should I remain here? Please wire advice."

and in reply and in accordance with the telephone conversation I had with you on November 1, in which you advised that Mr. Doeppner take no action until he or we had heard from you, I have sent the following telegrams to him and to District Director Uhl:

"Have wired Uhl that Salisbury is handling matter and has instructed you through us to await his decision without further action STOP Suggest you remain McPherson until Salisbury advises otherwise"

"Regarding Thomas Doeppner McPherson Kansas E.E. Salisbury is handling his case and has instructed him through our office to await Washington decision STOP Salisbury discovered two Washington files on case and one contains request from Doeppner dated July 21 requesting change of status to student visa STOP We have advised Doeppner remain McPherson until instructions received from Salisbury STOP If you advise otherwise please wire us collect"
We are sending you this letter for your record.

Very sincerely,

(Mrs.) Marjorie Page Schauffler

This whole exchange is a perfect example of what it means to be a refugee: your life is completely and totally in the hands of arbitrary decisions. One minute Opa can be consoled that all is well and he can relax, someone is taking care of things. The next minute he gets notice that he really needs to leave the country, despite the fact that he had been told that that person would not ask him to do that again. For Opa, his refugee status has meant that he must always be alert, always on task, never relaxing into the comfort of his home. At any moment, someone may have the authority to demand he leave. At any moment his freedom might be taken on the condition of a missed deadline, a missed communication, an arbitrary decision. I think Opa had sort of settled in and was feeling comfortable, but this letter exchange reminds him he has let his guard down and comfortable is a luxury he has not earned yet.

To be a refugee means that you have no idea where home is. It means that someone else gets to decide- always. This would throw me into a perpetual state of anxiety, high-alert, poised to move. A refugee must be in a position like a kitten that prepares its body to pounce, ready to go where it needs to go for safety- when at any moment, someone can grab you by the scruff of your neck and put you where ever they want you- rendering you paralyzed until you've been placed. Being a refugee means having little to no control over your life. These letters remind Opa that he is not a visitor, he is a refugee- and he cannot relax.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November 2, 1940: Oh Yeah, School

Original Letter from Kathleen Hanstein of AFSC to Opa


Mr. Thomas Doeppner
McPherson College
McPherson, Kansas

Dear Mr Doeppner:

I want to acknowledge your letter in regard to your plans for next year although I have not yet had the chance to look into the possibility at the college you mentioned and shall, therefore, have to write you in greater detail later on I think that it would be wise for you to discuss the whole situation with the dean at McPherson, or with your faculty advisor and the on the basis of their advice to see what the scholarship possibilities might be in any of the colleges in that vicinity which have satisfactory engineering courses. We shall, at the same time, be keeping you in mind for a possible scholarship elsewhere as we do sometimes have scholarships available in colleges with engineering courses and we can, of course, understand that your final years of college work you should be in a college giving the type of professional training that you wish to secure.

Sincerely yours,

Kathleen Hanstein
Associate Counsellor

P.S. I had dictated this letter before your letter arrived describing your visa difficulties. I turned your letter over to Mrs. Schauffer and trust you have heard from her by this time.

I'm impressed that in the midst of figuring out the whole visa fiasco - Opa has the ability to make plans for furthering his college career. I have this weird image of Opa on a train- slowly making its way to the destination, but flocks of birds are dive-bombing the windows, cows are standing in the tracks, other trains are going in front, people are debating whether to continue to allow the train to go forward- and in all this Opa squints to the future- noticing that he'd like to make sure that if he gets there- it has an engineering degree to offer.

For Opa the education is more than just a vehicle to get to the United States- it is a vehicle to stay there, to get a job there, and to hopefully maybe bring his mother there on his own hard-earned dime. That destination is a strategic choice and he has to keep his eye on it.

Monday, November 30, 2015

November 1, 1940: A Tale of Two Files

Telegram from Marjorie Schauffler of AFSC to Opa

Transcription (of telegram above and below - two copies):

Thomas Doeppner
MacPherson College
Have been in touch with Salisbury Washington and Urls office New York STOP Difficulty due to confusion in Washington records STOP Mr Salisbury has matter in hand and will try to arrange visa or special hearing if necessary he will advise us of outcome Uhl will take no action meanwhile 
Marjorie Schauffler

 Copy 2 of Telegram from Marjorie Schauffler to Opa

Memo of Phone Conversation between Miss Doyle of INS and Marjorie Schauffler of AFSC


Thomas Doeppner
Hans Buchinger

11-1-1940  Telephone conversation with Miss Doyle in Mr. Uhle's Office at Ellis Island re. Hans Buchinger and Thomas Doeppner, both of which were referred to Washington by Mr. Uhle, their request for extension having been denied by Ellis Island on the grounds that each in accepting renumeration had violated the terms of the visitor's visa. Communications regarding their cases should, therefore, be taken up directly with Washington with copies to Ellis Island.

Memo of Phone Conversation between Marjorie Schauffler of AFSC 
and Mr. Salisbury of INS


Re: Thomas Doeppner    Date: November 1, 1940

Conversation with: E.E. Salisbury, Department of Justice
By: Marjorie Page Schauffler

Subject Matter:

We phoned Mr. Salisbury as he did not call us back. He has discovered that there had been two files on Thomas Doeppner in the Washington office and that the confusion has arisen from this fact. We explained that Mr. Uhl had no file at Ellis Island containing a copy of the letter from Mr. Doeppner that his status be changed to a student visa. Mr. Salisbury in his record in Washington has a letter from Mr. Doeppner making this request and dated July 21. He will take care of the situation and advises that Mr. Doeppner take no action until a decision is reached in Washington. We asked what action Mr. Uhl might take in the meantime and Mr. Salisbury assured us that Mr Uhl could take no action except as instructed by Washington. The letter which Mr. Doeppner received is not a deportation order but simply a notification that request for extension of his visa had been denied.


Thank GOD the AFSC is on Opa's side! What a royal mess! If you read through all the documents, it looks like the whole issue boils down to a filing error. There are two files for Opa in Washington, one is controlled by the mean Mr. Uhl who denied him, and the other by the nice Mr. Salisbury, who the AFSC are in conversation with. There should not be duplicate files, which is why Opa felt like he had to tell everyone his requests twice- because that's exactly what he was doing. It is amazing how little details like his request for the Student visa and the connection Mr. Salisbury had with the AFSC really does make a difference. You see almost a perfect double blind experiment here - Opa's story could have gone two very different ways.

Luckily it seems that Opa is safe to stay and Mr. Salisbury is going to work out the confusion that is his two files. (But seriously, how many Doeppner's are there in America? I'm related to all of the ones I've met.) I love that the letter that tells Opa to leave in five days is not a deportation notice. You can see how someone who didn't have help like the AFSC could have been completely lost in the web of immigration papers. You could have been deported for having the wrong guy look at the wrong file. It is so grey, so arbitrary, so ambiguous. 

I am reminded time and again how very hard it was to come to the United States, and how miraculous/lucky/blessed/fortunate Opa was to have somehow continually slipped through the loopholes and land with his feet still on American soil.

Friday, November 27, 2015

October 31, 1940: UGH!

Letter from Byron Uhl at INS to Opa


October 31, 1940      file number 99503/254

Mr. Thomas Doeppner
McPherson College
McPherson, Kansas

Dear Sir:

In reply to your letter of October 29, 1940, I mist advise you that the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., arrived at its decision, denying you extension of your temporary admission, after careful consideration of all the facts in the case. This office is not empowered to amend or qualify that decision in any particular.

If you wish to pursue a regular course of study in this country, you should effect non-quota immigration as a student, under Section 4(e) of the Immigration Act of 1924. You should leave the United States, secure an appropriate visa fro an American Consul on foreign territory and then apply for and successfully pass examination as an immigrant at some designated port of entry. The enclosed circular, concerning status of student's, should prove helpful to you in formulating your plans.

In any case, it is expected that you will arrange to leave the United States without delay, and that you will advise me as to name of ship or other means of transportation, port and exact date, so that your departure may be verified and your file closed.

Very truly yours,

Byron H. Uhl
District Director
New York District

Translation: I will be of zero help to you sir, in fact, after reading this letter- you will want to pull your hair out.

I mean, really. First- this guy HAS to hate his job. I hate this letter, I can't imagine being in a position where I have to write multiples of them! Second- I don't think this guy cares if he is helpful to Opa. If you are an Uhl descendent- I'm sorry - he might have been a nice guy- but he seems annoyed with Opa and he is ready to close his file and ship him OUT. He recommends the student visa process- which is nice- but infuriating because that is what he was supposed to ENTER on!! That guy at Ellis Island who randomly gave Opa a visitors visa-- grrrr!

The plan all along was for Opa to have his student's visa. He did all of the things that Mr. Uhl is asking- except he did it at the right time and he was able to get to the US. If he leaves now and tries to go through the process again- I have to imagine even Mr. Uhl knows it is close to impossible to gain entry into the US. He's also forgetting that Opa has NO VISA or passport right now. So how is he supposed to travel? Mr. Uhl gave no insight for that- which was Opa's main question other than to ask why he was declined- which Mr. Uhl also couldn't tell him. This letter is useless to Opa other than to state that he has to figure out how to leave. If not ship- I guess by foot or car to Mexico or Canada??

Oh man this letter gets my blood boiling. How did Opa not tear this up and burn it?! "Very truly yours"- baloney.

So seriously. What is Opa supposed to do?

Thursday, November 26, 2015

October 30, 1940: Immigration Catch-22

Memo from AFSC staff's phone conversation with Mr. Salisbury at INS


Memo of Telephone Conversation

Re: Doeppner          Date: 10/30/40

Conversation with: Mr. Salisbury - Wash
By: M.P.S (name of Staff Worker)

Subject matter:

MPS phoned re sit in Mr. D's (regarding situation in Mr. Doeppner's) letter of 10/28. Mr. Salisbury will check up and call us back.

11/1 Request for extension for 1 yr (Sept 3-12)
no date, no notarization
no request for chg of status
reasons given-continued impos.(impossibility) of returning X

Oct 21 - denying ext (extension)

Effect non-quota     4E 1924

Spec Asst to the Atty Genl in Charge Immigr. & Nat-
(special assistant to the attorney general in charge immigration and naturalization).

Ok- so here's a memo for Mrs. Hanstein to look at as she processes the madness that is Opa's visa denial. I'll be honest, while I could figure out the shorthand of the notes, I'm not entirely clear on what the information is. It sounds like Opa's first request for an extension did not include a request for a change of status or a date and notarized something or another.  Then it looks like the main reason for denying the renewal was the impossibility of returning to the country of origin. This does sort of make sense because that was part of the Catch-22 of immigration then. You were more than welcome to come if we know without a doubt we can ship you back when we want to. If your country is at war or hates you- well then that makes you stuck here- and we want to be able to kick you out. 

So the problem is that the US let Opa in once, and now they've decided he's crossed that threshold from having a country to go home to ... to not having one (Holland falling to German invasion). The problem is that for that very reason- Opa can't go home now- because he has no home to go to. So it seems like the US is stuck. Or worse- they'll just put him on any ship and not care what meets him on the other side. We'll see how this progresses. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

October 29, 1940: Opa's Heartbreak

Letter from Ella to Opa


Berlin Charlottenburg, 10/29/40
14 Droysen St. 
My very dear boy,
I want to be sitting by you now, holding your hand and stroking your dear head over and over—and I want to try to make you happy and cheerful again. I know, my dear boy, what pain you’re in; but you can’t let it do you in. We can’t allow any experience to make us weak; we must come out of each one stronger. Hunschen, enjoy the positive things that you can get from being with Esther, and don’t let that kind of friendship be destroyed. Unless you’re seeing Esther through rose-colored glasses, she must be a very good person. I am so glad, Hunschen, that you’re not just wasting your time, that you are always drawn to worthy people. To be honest I can’t believe at all that my little bub is practically a man, that he really loves a girl.  
Hunschen, it occurred to me how identical—or rather, similar—your fate is to Maurice’s. Age, even name, is the same. And the fact that your feelings weren’t returned in the same way is due to the fact that Esther is still too young. I once spoke exactly the way she speaks, wanted what she wants, and then suddenly real life experience comes along, and all of one’s principles fade away. The same will probably happen to Esther at some point. Our Patti child spent years longing for someone to whom she could be friend and beloved—and so now she can give Maurice her total, true love. Esther does really like you and would be sad to lose you as a friend. I know how terribly hard it is to remain friends with someone when your heart wants something else. It’s easier to just make a clean break. Hunschenboy, you wrote that you are trying to forget. Believe me, my dear little one, that doesn’t work, and it won’t work. You don’t seriously believe you’ve forgotten Anni—and you can’t forget Esther, either—not if you live to be a hundred. These experiences stay with you for a lifetime. We can only be careful that they stay neatly in our memories and that they bring us forward in our own development. Already the memory of these two girls will hold you back from starting up frivolous relationships with frivolous girls.  
You have your work, which will help you get over all of this—a lot of work, from what you write, and varied. It’s great, Hunschen, that you’re not busying yourself with other things. I am so sure that you will achieve something significant. Your gifts and the happy way other things have fallen into place make it your duty to. Your fate isn’t just any ordinary fate, and your accomplishments shouldn’t be ordinary, either. And you can’t let personal experiences hold you back from that. I was happy to read the words that Esther wrote in your yearbook: Always live so that everyone must value you. You will also find, I am quite sure, the love of a very worthy woman who wants to be with you. For now you are still far too young for a lasting commitment. You’re still growing up, and right now deep in the “Sturm und Drang” phase. Write to me about it more, Hunschen. Sometimes these hard things lose some of their painfulness when we’re able to talk about them—or write about them. And for me it is worth so much just to have my children come to me, if I can live with you even just in that way.  
My Hunschen, what should I write about myself, then? You can imagine how it is for me without you both. I already wrote that Papa’s colleague brought me greetings, and a couple of other generic things. Then a few weeks ago came a very sweet card. Naturally Papa knows that Patti got married, and also at least in a general sense how you are doing. Annchen writes regularly. Have I actually thanked Jim Erill for his nice words? I’m just all mixed up these days so I never know what I wrote and to whom.  
By the way, Hunschen, Martha had a very difficult mastotomy. But that’s something her children don’t need to find out for any reason. They would just worry and wouldn’t be able to help anyway. They didn’t even know she was sick. Everything went well, and it healed extraordinarily well and quickly. She’s been in the hospital for four weeks and comes home—that is, to my house—tomorrow or the day after. If and when the Shanghai plan will work, we can’t know. I’m glad that you share my viewpoint. I realize more every day how completely impossible it would be for me to be dependent on Erich. Even though I already know him, I’m always astonished at his attitude toward all the important things. Two worlds without a bridge! I asked about Hertig. She’s doing fine. She’s written to Uschi several times, but never gotten an answer—Erich’s daughter. If you know anything, write to our Hertig.  
A couple weeks ago Tilli was here for a few days. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see each other much. We never got the opportunity to be alone even for a few hours. Hopefully she can come back again soon.  
So, my dear boy, now our chat time is over!  If you’d like, say hi to Esther from me, and Jim Erill and Winton and above all the Shelleys. I know them all—and I’m thankful to them for meaning something to my boy. As always, write again about everyone so I’m caught up. Did the Shelleys get my letter?
My dear, dear boy! If I could only be with you!
I’m hugging and kissing you!
Yours, Mama

Ella has words of comfort for her heart-broken son. He has a new girl, Esther, who has broken his heart. Opa seems to allow himself to get his heart broken a lot. Ella is so kind in how she compassionately writes to her son and affirms his feelings, while also opening space for him to heal and move forward. She talks about what he can learn from the experience, how every experience can be opportunities to grow stronger. Ella doesn't just say "Oh get over it- it's just a girl." I have to imagine this is a little unusual- that she is really more in tune to her child's needs and emotions than a typical German mother might have been. She does not belittle his trials or skip past them. She takes this opportunity to be a mother, to dote on her son even from afar. She wishes she could sit with him and comfort him through this normal rite of passage in a young man's life: heartbreak. She wants him to keep writing about these things, keep needing her, keep confiding.

Ella encourages Opa in her usual way, with high expectations but in her hopeful and confident manner. She tells Opa that she has no doubt he will do something extraordinary, that he has been so lucky and has a responsibility to utilize his good luck and fortune. 

It sounds like Ella's sister had a major surgery, which must have been a huge impact on their life in Ella's apartment. I'm sure it delayed their Shanghai plans as well. It seems like Ella and Opa are going back and forth about how they feel about the whole Shanghai deal- and I think that they are agreed that it isn't ideal. There is definitely some awkward tension between Ella and Erich- I don't know but it seems like Ella is really uncomfortable with living under his care/financial support. 

I'm reminded that sometimes, all you need is someone to hold your hand and tell you that everything is going to be OK, that you're normal to feel how you feel, and that you have extraordinary things in your future of your own making.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

October 29, 1940: #HelpTomStay!

Letter from V.F. Schwalm, President of McPherson College, to John Rich at AFSC


McPherson College
McPherson, Kansas

Mr. John Rich
20 South Twelfth Street
Philadelphia, Penna.

Dear Mr. Rich:

We have in our college a young man named Thomas Doeppner. We secured him through the Friends Service Committee. Mr. Doeppner came to this country from Holland on a visa that was good for only one year. Since then the government of Holland has been destroyed and he cannot secure an extension of his visa through them.

Recently Mr. Doeppner has received word from the government that he is to leave the United States by November 5. Mr. Doeppner does not know where to go nor how to get out of the country. I am wondering whether you could give assume help or advice on his case. We do not know what to do.

The Friends Service Committee offices has his records and knows the case. Our correspondence regarding him was with Miss Salmon of your offices. I shall be in McPherson by Friday or by Saturday at the latest. It may be that someone else has written you about this. I shall be glad to have word from you advising further procedure.

Yours sincerely,

V.F. Schwalm


I love Mr. Schwalm. First of all- if you went to college- do you even know the name of the president of your school, much less have the kind of relationship with him where he knows your immigration woes? I am amazed by this community's commitment to Opa- to helping him and supporting him as he pursues his studies and remains in the United States. Even the President is writing to ask for help and information mere days after Opa received his letter. How did he know Opa was in trouble? Did Opa talk to him? 

Either way, Schwalm puts his President card on the table for all it's worth and asks what they should do to help Opa stay. You wonder if in social media days Opa would have his own hashtag: #helpTomStay! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

October 25, 28, 1940: Record Scratch

Letter from Byron Uhl of INS to Opa


US Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service
Ellis Island, New York

In replying refer to this file number
October 25, 1940

Mr. Thomas Walter Doeppner
McPherson College
McPherson, Kansas

Dear Sir:

The Department of Justice has denied your application for an extension of your temporary admission to the United States.

You are, therefore, advised that your departure should be effected not later than November 5, 1940.

At least five days prior thereto, this office should be notified of the date, manner and place of departure. If you leave by steamer, please furnish the name thereof, date of sailing and numbers of your ticket, stateroom and berth, so that your departure may be checked to clear your record in our files for future reference.

Very truly yours

Byron H. Uhl
District Director
New York District

You know the sound of a record scratch that you hear in the movies or silly sitcoms when something completely halts all forward progress? I hear it now. When Opa read this letter... what did he hear? Did his stomach drop? Did he feel a tightening in every muscle, up into his heart, alerting him to the impending possibility of danger? Did he read it several times over, just to make sure he was reading the right thing?  Did he feel his hands start to tremble, and his legs start to shake? I cannot fathom the fear, the dread, the anxiety that had to have come with this short and ridiculous letter. "Leave by November 5, 1940! -Very truly yours!" How? How could he be denied? Just a week ago he got letters of confirmation that all would be well- from a source at the INS! What is going on here?!?!?! 

Letter from Opa to Mrs. Hanstien at AFSC


Thomas Doeppner  McPherson, October 28, 1940.
McPherson College
McPherson, Kansas

Mrs. Kathleen H. Hanstein
American Friends Service Committee

Dear Mrs. Hanstein,

Today I received the following letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, Ellis Island:

"Dear Sir:

The Department of Justice has denied your application for an extension of your temporary admission to the United States.

You are, therefore, advised that your departure should be effected not later than November 5, 1940.

At least five days prior thereto, this office should be notified of the date, manner and place of departure. If you leave by steamer, please furnish the name thereof, date of sailing and numbers of your ticket, stateroom and berth, so that your departure may be checked to clear your record in our files for future reference. Very truly yours, Byron H. Uhl District Director, New York District." The letter was mailed October 25, my reference number is 99503/254.

I went down to the immigration and naturalization officer of McPherson, asking him for advice. However, he could not help me at all, he did not even know about my staying here. The conference Mrs. Schauffler had with the State Department in Washington showed that there the case has been handled favorably, thus I figure that the two departments don't know about the fact that my extension of the visitor's permit and the application for the student's permit have been handled separately. Do you think there is any possibility of obtaining a student's permit before November 5, of any other way of avoiding that limit? I am going to write to Mr. Uhl, asking him for suggestions as to how he imagines I can leave the country by that time, not having either a visa for another country, nor a passport, nor a passage.

Please forward this letter to Mrs. Schauffler, too. I would be very thankful to you if you would answer me immediately, telling me what in your opinion are the best steps to take.

Sincerely yours,

Thomas Doeppner.

I cannot even imagine Opa's fear, but what really shines through in this letter is his pure frustration and annoyance. He shares with Mrs. Hanstein his letter doom. Then he tells her he went to the local Immigration and naturalization officer in McPherson (guys- I have been to McPherson- this HAD to be a VERY part time job)- and this guy didn't even know Opa existed, much less how to help him. Opa talks about Mrs. Schauffler's supposed amazing conference were everything was to be A-OK. Then he wonders to Mrs. Hanstein- where the INS seems to think he should be able to go without a passport or a boat ticket? Of course I'm sure the ships to Europe were having a sale on tickets.  

Opa's ultimate request: what should I do?!?!

Letter to Mr. Uhl of INS from Opa


Thomas Doeppner          October 26, 1940.
McPherson College
McPherson, Kansas

Mr. Byron H. Uhl
District Director
New York District
N.Y.                              99503/254

Dear Mr. Uhl,

Today I received your letter dated October 25, 1940, in which you state that the U.S. Department of Justice has denied my application for an extension of temporary admission.

As I stated in my application as well as in the conversation I had with an officer of the immigration office in Kansas City, who came to me on August 27, 1940, it is impossible for me to leave the United States at the present time for the following reasons: My passport, a Dutch certificate of identity, expired on August 28, 1940. It cannot be renewed, first, because this kind of passport is not renewable, second, since the country Holland as such does not exist because of the German invasion. Being a German refugee, I cannot go back to Germany. As far as I know, there is no country which would take me or even grant me a temporary permit.

When I came over to the United States, I ca e with the intention of leaving the country after studying one year at McPherson College. In the meantime conditions have changed completely such that it is no longer possible for me to leave the United States.

I want to ask your advices to what I shall do either to find a way to leave the United States or to apply again for an extension of my permit. There is an application for a student's visa pending for me in the State Department, Washington. Might that help to clear up my situation?

Sincerely yours,

Thomas Doeppner.

This is Opa's mic drop. He basically says- how in the hell do you imagine I leave by November 5th without passage, a passport, or a country to go to? Opa pulls out the refugee  card, which he hasn't done much in the past because it doesn't actually help you get in the country- but in this case he's hoping it'll help him stay in the country. Opa's letter is specific, informative, and a little snarky. I love it.

So..... where does he go from here? November 5th is eight days away.