Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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IMMIGRANT VOICES

Jewish refugees from Germany

by Judy Kawamoto

Erna and Julius Scheuer, a married couple, arrived at Angel Island Immigration Station on August 28, 1940. They had been passengers on the ship the Rakuyo Maru leaving from Yokohama, Japan. They were interviewed by the Immigration Board on September 3, 1940. The interview was conducted through a German interpreter.

The Board wanted to know if Erna and Julius were in good health and had a way to be taken care of if they were allowed to stay in the United States. They could not be a “public charge” and be allowed to remain.

Julius Scheuer was born in Heldenbergen, Germany and was living in Frankfort-on-Main when he left Germany for the United States. He was going to join his brother-in-law in Hartford, Connecticut where he would live and work and eventually become a U.S. citizen. He was 36 years old, could read and write German and was of the “Hebrew race.”

In Germany, Julius had been a butcher for eight years, and before that a chauffeur for four years. He reported that his sister, Blanka Scheuer Hahn, in Hartford, CT had been wanting him to come to the U.S., and he said “there is no chance for me in Germany to make a living any  more."  By the late 1930s, Jews were fired from their jobs and kept under curfew. He said that if he could not find a job in the United States in his “trades,” he wanted to join the army and be a soldier.

When asked about siblings, Julius reported that he had four sisters, three living in the United States, and one in France. He had no brothers. He could give the address of his two sisters in Hartford, but not of the others. One lived somewhere in New York City for twelve years and was already a U.S. citizen; the sister he and Erna were to live with was not yet a citizen. The other sister lived in the Alsace Lorraine area of France.

The brother-in-law Julius and Erna were to live with was Arthur Hahn, a traveling salesman, who earned $50 a week and owned his home.

The interview with Erna Scheuer was slightly shorter and less detailed. She was 37 years old, born in Heinchen, Germany, literate in the German language, also of the “Hebrew race.” She left Frankfort-on-Main with her husband, Julius, to come to live in the United States and eventually become a U.S. citizen.

Erna stated that she had been a housewife in Germany and had received no training for any other occupation. She had one brother and two sisters.  The brother was in Germany, one sister in Chicago and the other’s residence was not named. She said she had “lots of aunts and uncles” living in the U.S.

Both Erna and Julius were asked if they had ever been in a concentration camp. Julius said that he had been in Dachau in November 1938 for two months. Family members  secured the release of men detained in concentration camps by proving that they had exit visas to leave Germany for another country. They also had to leave all their homes, possessions, and money in Germany and promise to never return. 

Erna had not been in a camp, but her brother had been in Dachau along with Julius. It is not clear how he got out, either, but he was said to be living in Germany at the time of the interview. No other relatives on either side were in camps.

When they landed at Angel Island, Julius Scheuer had three dollars in his pocket. At the time of the interview they had $151. The additional funds had been provided by Erna’s brother living in Chicago. The couple both agreed that Julius’s sister and brother-in-law, Arthur and Blanka Hahn, in Hartford wanted to give them a home until they could become settled in the United States.

The Board of Special Inquiry found the passports and visas of Julius and Erna Scheuer to be in order, that they were both in good health—“not deformed or crippled”—capable of employment and had relatives to support them if necessary. They would not become a “public charge.”

The couple was admitted to the United States September 3, 1940.

Judy Kawamoto is a volunteer with AIISF.

Place of Origin
Heldenbergen, Germany

Place of Settlement
Hartford, CT

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