Letter from Julius in Germany to brother Saul in New York, 1919
Letter from Julius in Germany to brother Saul in New York, 1919

Julius migrated to the Lower East Side of New York City from Pinsk, Poland in 1912, and his brother Saul, my great grandfather, joined him shortly afterward. Julius served in the United States during World War I, but Saul refused to do so. This letter from Julius to Saul comes from Mayen, Germany in February of 1919. In it, Julius documents his frustration about the fact that he cannot visit his family in Pinsk while he was serving in Europe. My family is in possession of documents telling that in September of 1921, after returning from Europe, Julius applied to the United States government for immigration visas for their younger sisters Frida, 17, and Sonia, 15. We have no documentation, however, of Frida or Sonia ever making it to the United States. There is proof that they moved to Kiev at some point, but they disappeared during the Holocaust. Julius and Saul never saw their family again. This question remains: why didn’t their sisters come? Was it because the Emergency Quota Act of 1921’s Polish quota was already full by September? Might the political turbulence in Eastern Europe have prevented them from leaving? Whether there is a correct answer remains to be seen. Though my family’s experiences are unique, the plot of the story is familiar to many. It depicts persecution in one’s homeland, unjust immigration laws, and a family’s separation across political borders. Unfortunately, it is timeless. This letter represents the patterns that connect our histories.

Place(s): New York, New York; Pinsk, Poland; Mayen, Germany
Year: 1912

– Emily

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