Earlier this year, the last of my parents’ generation passed away in Chicago. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the funeral but was in constant contact with my cousins as they mourned the loss of their beloved mother. As they sat shiva, there was conversation about the family and questions about when our paternal grandparents had arrived in the USA.
As a child, my parents always spoke about the family and the stories were embedded in my memory. My parents were fortunate to get visas at the end of 1939 to come to the USA because my mother’s brother had come earlier and found a lawyer in New York who specialized in a little used quota for farmers. That same uncle was also the one who sponsored one of my father’s brothers. Another brother was on the St. Louis and was able to be rescued from a camp in Holland because they paid HIAS to help. The story of Uncle Fred and the St. Louis lives on at the US Holocaust Museum.
When my cousin asked me how our grandparents arrived, I searched my mind and said that they had arrived in 1940 or 1941 leaving on a ship from Spain. I hadn’t thought about it in a long time, but I remember my father telling me about the voyage his parents had experienced. Within minutes I found the documents I had saved and in fact our grandparents, Abraham and Marianne Hofmann arrived in New York on the SS Mouzinho on June 21, 1941 leaving from Lisbon on June 10, 1941.
On the ship’s manifest were the names of my grandparents as well as Marc Chagall, his wife and 130 children whose passage were assisted by Eleanor Roosevelt. My paternal grandparents always lived a very humble life. They were able to escape Nazi Germany because their children and extended family did whatever they could to save their parents. How fortunate are we that they believed in the commandment to Honor thy Mother and Father.
The experiences of our family should never be forgotten. Their stories are what has given future generations the gift of life. May their memories always be a blessing.