Thursday, May 21, 2015

November 3, 6 & 8: Leaving Europe!

RCA Radiogram




November 6, 1939

Mrs. Alice Palmer
The New York Protestant 
Episcopal City Mission Society
38 Bleeker Street
New York City

Re: Thomas Doeppner

Dear Mrs. Palmer:

     The enclosed radiogram sounds as if Thomas Doeppner would arrive very soon now. Individual Friends in Holland helped him with his passage money and I believe that explains the rather cryptical wording of the cable. I hope he won't have any difficulty in landing. I think he should not have but if there is anything we can do, please let us know. 

Sincerely yours,

Charlotte Salmon,
Placement worker.

November 8, 1939

From: Charlotte S. Salmon      To: Louise Clancy

Re: Thomas Doeppner

      The latest news is that Thomas Doeppner who has a scholarship at McPherson College, McPherson, Kansas, will arrive on the "Pennland" November 14. I have written to the boat and have arranged with Mrs. Alice Palmer to meet him and help him through Ellis Island. I only want to let you know about his coming in case there should be any difficulty and Mrs. Palmer calls upon you.


At last he is on his way! These telegrams and letters just tell us the hurried message that Opa is finally on his way, on the Pennland. I have one more resource: Opa’s autobiography. He gives us the background scoop on how he was able to hop on the Pennland. In case you think it’s like changing from one flight to another- his words remind me how precious that ticket on a boat out of Europe was at that time:

my ship...was diverted… and all other ships scheduled to leave from Holland were sold out. The next ship to leave for the States was the SS Pennland, departure date late in October. It was also sold out. In desperation, I asked the shipping line if I could have a copy of the passenger list on that ship. They gave it to me, along with local telephone numbers. I spent a long time calling American passengers on that list offering to trade tickets with them. My English was very poor in those days (two years in high school), and I don’t know how many calls I made, but finally I found one American - I think he was a businessman - who wanted to stay in Europe a little longer, and agreed to trade with me. We exchanged tickets, and I finally left for America… (From Nazi Germany to a Career in Freedom, p.9)

<mouth open>

Thank you American businessman. God bless you Opa for having such determinism. Thank you shipping line person who was crazy enough to give out the passenger list and phone numbers to a nineteen year old German half-Jew. And thank you Charlotte for paving the way for Opa in America.

He's on the ship. To the land of the free. What did Opa think about when he watched the European continent and everything and everyone that he knew... disappear? I can only imagine. I am thinking about his mother, Ella, stuck in Berlin and without recent word from him. I am thinking about his father and step-mother: August and Emma- in Holland without a clue what the future would hold for them, and a stillness in the home now that Opa was gone. I am thinking about his sister, Patti, studying in France, who doesn't know when she'll see her brother again. It has already been over a year since they'd seen each other. I am thinking about Gisela, and Anni, and all of Opa's friends in the Quaker group. None of them knew if they would ever see each other again. I think they all assumed they wouldn't. 

Opa left home in search of a future in freedom. He titled his autobiography: "From Nazi Germany to a Career in Freedom" - freedom was very important to him. I imagine he had mixed emotions as he sailed toward freedom, but left home behind. 

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