Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria at Angel Island in 1940

by Katie Quan

One of the lesser known chapters in the history of the Angel Island Immigration Station concerns the arrival of Jewish refugees who left Nazi-held territories in 1939 and 1940.  Their journeys took them across Russia into China and Japan, where they boarded ships headed for San Francisco.  AIISF came upon this story because Alice Edelstein Steiner recounted her story to researchers in 2001.  Judy Yung and Erika Lee feature her family's story in the forthcoming book, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (Oxford University Press).

During this centennial year, we also mark the 70th anniversary of several hundred Jewish immigrants who had the good fortune to have relatives and sponsors in the United States who aided their emigration.  As one reads the immigration files of these immigrants, one is struck by the desperate situations cast upon Jews under the Nazi regime.  They were stripped of their jobs and livelihoods; they were forced to abandon all their property and leave all assets behind.  But they kept something even more precious - their dignity and their lives.

AIISF would like to learn more about their lives. If any of you reading these short profiles knows descendants of these families, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Isaak Adler, also known as Ignaz, age 49, was born in Rzeszow, Poland, but was a citizen of Austria. He was born on August 17, 1890. He was married to Mathilde Adler, who was born in Kapeczance, Poland, on May 17, 1900. He left Vienna, Austria on March 3, 1939 for Shanghai where he lived for one year.

Mr. Adler and his wife were going to New York because if he were to stay in Vienna, "(he) was put in a concentration camp, and there we had to stay until we found a free way out. And the only free way was to Shanghai." He and his wife were destined to go to New York City. His daughter, Stephanie Adler, age 19, lived in New York and hoped to live there permanently.

The Nazis would not allow them to carry any money out of the country but finished goods were allowed. Isaak had his wife and daughter buy two expensive fur coats worth over $2,000 to bring to America. They sailed on the SS Asama Maru from Shanghai and arrived in San Francisco on April 26, 1940. She was 39 years old when she was interrogated at Angel Island.

Mr. Adler worked as a merchant. He was very well educated, being able to read and write German, Russian, Polish, and Czech. He also read Hebrew.

We believe that they settled in New York, possibly in the Bronx where Mr. Adler's cousin George S Pause lived.

We wish to thank intern Katie Quan, who helped research this article.

Place of Origin
Rzeszow, poland

Place of Settlement

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