Deportation Notification

Letter to Chaim Rosenfeld
Letter to Chaim Rosenfeld

My great-grandfather Chaim Rosenfeld, an Austrian Jew, fled Vienna after the Nazi annexation in 1938. He was held in a French detention camp until he traveled to the United States to reunite with his daughter Renee in 1941. Three years later, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Naturalization and Immigration Service sent him this deportation notification letter. It explained that he had entered the United States without a proper visa, and as per the Immigration Acts of 1917 and 1924, he would no longer be allowed to remain. Chaim – described as “an alien, a native of Austria, now Stateless” – was determined to be “deportable to Austria at the expense of the steamship company on whose vessel he arrived.” But after what I imagine was a difficult legal battle, Chaim ultimately found a way to naturalize as a citizen of the United States in 1953 and escaped deportation. 

My family was unaware of this history until very recently. We had always assumed that America had welcomed our family in its time of need, but upon finding this document, we realized that this was not the case. Rather, my great-grandfather was nearly expelled from the country, despite the fact that had he been forced to return to Nazi-occupied Austria, he would have faced near-certain death. The letter reminds me, then, of what is at stake for those trying to escape peril in their former homes and settle in America. And it makes me wonder: why did my family never know of this close encounter with deportation? 

Place(s): Vienna, New York
Year: 1941

– Daniel Rosenblatt

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more