Wednesday, June 24, 2015

November 15, 1939: Ship Manifest of Alien Passengers

List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigrant Inspector at Port of Arrival
Arriving at Port of New York on November 15th, 1939
(from the S.S. Pennland)
(check out passenger number 5!!)

Transcription of Opa's listing: 
(I'm just going to list the categories and Opa's corresponding info)

Family name: Doeppner
Given name: Thomas, Walter 
Yrs.: 19
Sex: M 
Married or Single: S
Calling or Occupation: Student
Able to- Read: yes
     -what language: German
     -write: yes 
Nationality: without (this is underneath, then written over top is this:) Holland CERT. of Identity
Race or People: German
Place of Birth-
   Country: Germany
   City: Berlin
Immigration Visa, Passport Visa, or Reentry Permit number: PV. 281
  Place: Amsterdam
  Date: 9/22/39
Last permanent residence-
  Country: Holland
  City or town: Amstelveen.
The name and complete address of nearest relative or friend in country whence alien came, or if none there, then in country of which a citizen or subject: Father - Döppner, Aug. Holland. Emmakade 8 Amstelveen.
Final Destination(*Intended future permanent residence) - 
    Foreign country via (port of departure)-      NY
    In USA, its territories or possessions - 
    City or Town: McPherson
Whether having a ticket to such final destination: No
By whom was passage paid? Myself
Whether ever before in the United States, and if so, when and where? No
Whether going to join a relative or friend; state name and complete address, and if relative, exact relationship: McPherson College. Macpherson, Kansas
Whether alien intended to return to country whence he came after engaging temporarily in laboring permits in the United States: Yes
Length of time alien intends to remain in the United States: 8 months
Whether alien intends to become a citizen of the United States: No
Ever in prison or ???, or institution for care and treatment of the insane or supported by charity? If so, which?
Whether a polygamist: No
Whether an anarchist: No
Whether coming by reasons of any offer, solicitation, ???, or agreement, expressed or implied, to labor in the United States: No
Whether excluded and deported within one year: No
Whether arrested and deported at any time: No
Condition of health, mental and physical: Good
Deformed or crippled. Nature, length of time, and cause: No
(Handwritten above these last set of questions: Protestant City Mission Society)
Height - Feet & Inches: 5'7''
Complexion: Fair
Color of Hair:Brown, Eyes:Brown
Marks of Identification: None  

Seeing Opa’s name on the manifest, with his language listed as German and his age listed as 19... it emphasizes in plain ink his youth and alien state. Can you imagine sailing on a giant ship by yourself at 19, not speaking the language of choice, and being from a commonly recognized enemy country? Or even worse- traveling "without" a country to call home? I thought that part was really fascinating- his German nationality completely revoked or refused. He really was a refugee with no place to call home. 

Now that I look at the details in black and white, I can see just how lucky Opa was. He was allowed entry into the United States based on some flimsy foundations. He had no country, but rather a certificate of identification from Holland. This is pretty shaky. He was born in the capital of a hostile country. His only listed relative or next of kin was McPherson College, a small liberal arts school in the middle of Kansas. 

Opa said he had a hard time at Ellis Island, but looking at the stats on him, I'm kind of amazed that they let him in, especially considering all the obstacles they had in place to give any official an excuse to turn away immigrants. 

The questions that Opa (and all other immigrants) had to answer upon arrival are bizarre and confusing. Can you imagine English not being your first language and having to answer whether or not you were a polygamist? Who could have even understood such bizarre questions? The words "Protestant City Mission Society" are handwritten over the top of Opa's answers to these questions. My guess is that Alice Palmer was there to either answer these questions on Opa's behalf or at least explain the questions to him in a way he could understand and answer intelligently. I wonder if Alice spoke multiple languages- a skill that would be handy in this line of work. 

For Opa, this simple sheet of answers obtained on a busy port of arrival- became a document almost as significant as a birth certificate. It is his record of his arrival and passing through the insane obstacle course put before hopeful immigrants to the United States. This is documentation of his first solid victory towards freedom. 

PS- Opa was not 5'7". He was more like 6'2".... so I'm wondering if he was a late bloomer or if the person measuring him was more concerned with getting a number on paper than having accuracy.

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