Alfred and Klara arrived from Vienna, Germany (present day Austria) to Angel Island on August 28, 1940 via the SS Rakuyo Maru. They both had in hand a Quota Immigrant Visa issued in Vienna. Alfred and Klara are Jewish and it can be assumed they were fleeing persecution even though it is not stated in the transcripts or in the type of immigration status they are seeking. The network of immediate family they had in the U.S. were also recent arrivals, but again, their reason for leaving Germany is never directly stated. However, at the questioning of the immigration inspectors, the Marills claim to not have any relatives in concentration camps, which is indicative that the Holocaust was pervasive.
Alfred and Klara arrived in a precarious position. Their final destination was New York to reside with Alfred’s brother Victor Marill, who sells watches. However, the couple did not have a ticket to their final destination and only had $23 in their pocket. They told the immigration authorities that Victor would wire them $400 once Alfred contacts him but the officials were not convinced. A prevailing concern of theirs was that the Marill couple would become public charges. Alfred and Klara had to present their ticket before the authorities would continue with their examination of the case. They secured the ticket from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and were granted admission on August 31.
The interrogation files state that Alfred is 54 and is an attorney who practiced civil law for 30 years. Klara is 50 and a housewife. They are both born in Poland but spent their entire lives in Vienna, Germany. They have two daughters, Gertrude, age 20, and Alice, age 17, who attend college in Virginia. Gertrude goes to Sweetbriar College and Alice goes to Randolph Macon College. They received scholarships from the International Student Commission in New York and started their studies in 1939.
Alfred speaks and writes English and German. He does not plan to practice law in the United States. Rather, he intends to lecture on musical science. He has not studied in a conservatory, but has learned from a private instructor. He plays piano and lectured on music as a hobby that he did alongside his law career. The courts are suspicious of his proposed livelihood, but Alfred believes he is capable of this because “he has many letters from the old masters of music”. Additionally, he feels he is educated enough to be successful in anything. He wife has milliner training (garment industry) though she never worked in Germany. She believes that between herself, her husband and her daughters, the family can support itself. The immigration inspectors were still suspicious.
Another reason the officials showed hesitancy towards Alfred and Klara was that they were relegated to Class B for health deficiences. Alfred had a throat operation that left him with a speech impediment and Klara had varicose veins. In the end, the affidavit provided by a cousin, Max Rosenburg, who resides New York and works in an electrical filament industry combined with the support of Victor, Alfred’s brother and the ticket to New York provided by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society convinced the inspectors that the Marill family should be admitted.
Lakhpreet Gill is a graduate from Stanford University. She also served as a research volunteer for the Indo-American Heritage Museum in Chicago. www.lakhpreetgill.com
It is a Long Way…
By Alfred Marill
Introduction by Judy Yung: In 1938, after Germany invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia and turned to state sanctioned pogroms to persecute and eliminate the Jews from their midst, 140,000 Jews fled their homelands to find refuge in Western Europe, South America, Palestine, and the United States. Most took the Atlantic route and entered the U.S. at Ellis Island. But after the outbreak of war in Europe closed this route down, an estimated 3,000 took the Pacific route by way of the Trans-Siberian railroad and Japanese ships to reach their final destinations.
Based on ship passenger lists and immigration records, we know that at least 500 Jewish refugees made it to San Francisco in 1939 and 1940. Among them were Alfred and Klara Marill, who arrived aboard the Rakuyo Maru with over 100 Jews from Vienna on August 28, 1940. In the following account of his journey, written soon after his arrival in America, Alfred Marill describes in great detail the trials and tribulations of the 20,000 mile trip that lasted exactly fifty-seven days, including two days “in jail” (Angel Island) at the end of the journey.
We are grateful to Richard Kobayashi (Alfred Marill’s grandson) for sharing this story with us and granting us permission to publish it.
Let me talk to you about my experiences and my impressions on my trip from Vienna through Russia and Japan to this beloved country in the summer of 1940.
Once upon a time there was a fairy-tale. You went to the office of the American Express Company in Vienna. You secured a reservation and then you sailed to America.
Even now it is a fairy-tale, to go from Central-Europe to America, but in a very different manner. Many, many miracles must happen if you want to be successful.
The first miracle was to obtain an American visa. I don’t want to waste your time explaining how many difficulties you have to overcome. I emphasize only that I had to wait two years.
The second miracle was to finance the trip. The reservations must be paid in dollars and nobody in Germany is allowed to have foreign money for foreign bonds. Therefore if the emigrant has relatives or friends in America, they have to buy the reservations. But for us in Vienna there was another way. The Jewish community of Vienna was entitled to sell dollars. Of course, we had to deposit twenty times more money in marks as the equivalent in dollars would amount to. The Gestapo agreed upon such financial transactions, because the community was enabled in this way to gain the funds of feeding the poor people. And in this time almost every Jew in Vienna was poor. At my departure, I believe the Jewish population amounted to 30,000. More than 25,000 must be fed by the community. Thus I could secure the reservation for Mrs. Marill and for me and besides transfer a little money for the first incidentals after my arrival.
The third miracle was to find a route. We obtained our visa in May, 1940. Immediately after I had received the visa I went to the office of the United States Lines in Vienna. I secured two reservations on the liner Manhattan which was supposed to sail from Genoa on May 27. But only a few days later I was informed by the manager of the line that they had to cancel the reservation, because Italy refused to give transit visa for Genoa. American citizens were admitted only.
Then I was advised to transfer the booking to the Italian lines. And so I did. But from the one day to the other the departure of the great steamship Rex was deferred. Meanwhile, I started to pack my baggage. Just the day we finished, Italy entered into the war and our hope of sailing seemed gone.
We tried to find out other possibilities. It was impossible to reach the clipper at Lisbon. Switzerland did not allow the transit and France was closed to everybody. Even an official of the American consulate who tried to reach the Spanish border in this manner failed. Then I was thinking of Finland. I thought it should be possible to travel through Finland to the port of Petsamo and then to sail on a freighter to Iceland and then to America. I had talk with the Finnish consul, but he told me that only residents of the Scandinavian states were allowed to sail on this line and that besides all the roads from Helsinki to Petsamo had been destroyed in the war. Thus I was very desperate.
But suddenly I was told that a new opportunity had been found. The Berliner Hilfsverein discovered it. Its officials were in touch with the Intourist, the official tourist bureau of the Soviets, and with the agents of the Japanese line NYK in Berlin. After many difficulties they were able to secure reservations on the Transsiberian Express Railway and on the steamers of the NYK.
Although nobody in Vienna knew this route or the details of such a trip I decided to try this route at once. My visa was valid for four months only and, in my opinion, it would have been very dangerous to let it expire. Therefore, I started to the hard task of preparing this trip immediately. I needed the visa of the United States, Japan, Mandchukuo, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, a special permit to leave Germany on the Eastern border and a recommendation of the German Minister for foreign affairs to the Russian consul in order to obtain the Russian visa. And I succeeded. Within two weeks the work was done. Only one hour before the train left Berlin the last of the visas had been given to me. If I had been unable to get the visa at this time it would have been impossible for me to reach the boat and the visa would have expired. You can imagine my excitement!
I was not alone. There were 50 persons from Austria and 50 from Germany who also undertook that voyage. There were old men of 76 and children of 2 years. There was a lady with an unborn child. We all were pioneers. Nobody had experience in such a trip. We did not know if we had to be prepared for gold or for warm weather. There were difficulties about the food. We were promised to be fed by the railway for seven days only during the trip from Moscow to the boarder of Mandchukuo. It was very difficult to procure food for the rest. We were living in a land where the nutrition was regulated by cards. But it was perhaps the most interesting and comforting experience of the whole voyage to notice that inside and outside the borders, a human feeling and a readiness of helping still exists. It is hard to describe the amount of food which suddenly appeared in the bags of emigrants. The regulation with the ration cards was not too severe in Germany and Germany was not starving.
No, Germany was not starving. We could see it when our train was rolling through the fields of East-Prussia. We saw all the fields of live-stock and wonderful horses. East-Prussia is a very rich country and not devastated by the war.
Then the last German railway-station, Eydtkau, formerly Eydtkuhnen. The control was very liberal. Our baggage was not examined. The historical moment of crossing the German border, perhaps forever, was not exciting, not (missing text from original document)
The first man we saw on the soil of Lithuania was not a Lithuanian; he was a Russian soldier. A few days before Russia had occupied and fortified the frontiers as a preparation of the imminent political occupation of the Baltic states. We could notice that the military preparation on the frontier was very intense and still going on. There were planes in the air, tanks on the roads, troops on the fields with tents, depots of food end munitions and a heavy guard on the railways. The whole preparation seemed to be a measure of defense against Germany. Obviously the Soviets were afraid that Germany might occupy these regions. And this was the feeling of population too. Perhaps this is the explanation why the so-called re-unification between Russia and the Baltic states was taking place so rapidly.
I must confess that the peasants seemed to be on the best terms and showed friendly feelings towards the Russian troups and that the character of the country was not very different from the character of the Russian land. Only the difference from the German countryside is very striking. For instance, the first railway station in Lithuania is Wirballen. The building is dirty and ruined. Instead of discipline and silence you hear noise and disturbance. The clothing of the people is worse, the cultivation of the fields more superficial. The livestock is not the same and not of the high standard as in Germany. But you can see wonderful woods, especially birch-trees.
A few days later I understood that the real frontier between Europe and Asia is not to be found in the mountains of Ural, but between the stations Eydtkau and Wirballen.
The second night after our departure from Berlin we reached the real Russian frontier. The name of the station was Bigossowo. The control was extremely careful. All passengers had to leave the train and all the baggage was brought to the custom house. After the removal of the passengers every car was carefully examined, every pillow in the seats turned over, and nobody was allowed to re-enter the train.
The custom house was a high wooden building, richly decorated with red flags and on the walls painted with the words: “Proletarians of every part of the world, unite!” I don’t know the exact translation of this slogan. The challenge was written in many languages, but I could not discover any in English. Obviously they do not expect any callers from England.
Every trunk, every case was opened and everything carefully examined. Especially dangerous are cameras, papers and books, of course. The trunk or the suitcase, containing such things had to remain sealed throughout the whole trip through Russia. The passengers did not have much luggage and they needed it urgently during the voyage. Therefore the majority of the travelers preferred to abandon these things. And that seems to be the main purpose of the action.
It happened to me that my controller of papers and books was a spinster. Her German sounded like my English. She found the following books dangerous for the Russian people.
Frist: English Dialogues on How To Make An English Conversation
Second: Manual of Playing Solitaire
I relinquished both books and therefore I do not know how to play Solitaire and may be, therefore, my conversation is so poor.
In this station the mighty organization of the Intourist joined us, represented by a young fellow and by a much nicer young lady. They accompanied and guided us up to the last station on Russian soil. They were very kind and helped many passengers to overcome their difficulties. He spoke a little German and she spoke fluent English.
Every official was polite, but they spoke only Russian. Since I had a little knowledge of Slavic languages, I could understand them and make myself understood.
The control lasted more than five hours. It was a wonderful morning when we continued our trip. Maybe, it was one of the last custom controls which took place at this locality. Three days later Bigossowo ceased to be a frontier-station. The “re-unification” of Russia and the Baltic states was accomplished.
Now we were very anxious to observe the practical effects of the famous theories of communism.
But the closer we approached Moscow the more it became obvious to us that we were going to see more and more misery. Along the railway the houses were decayed, the sheds ruined, children miserably dressed and the clothes of the adults were terribly dirty and torn.
The train was overdue seven hours when we arrived in Moscow at night. Imagine our surprise! In front of our train we saw not Russians, but many Japanese standing in one line and making several deep bows towards our train. The bows were not for us, of course. A large Japanese delegation arrived with us. The delegation was headed by his Excellency, Count Sato, the chief leader of the foreign department, in Tokyo. We were told that the delegation should come from Rome and Berlin after signing a trade-agreement. And the Japanese who stood in front of the train were the members of the Japanese embassy and the Japanese colony in Moscow. The delegation was welcomed cordially by high Russian officials. But our information was not true. As we know now, the purpose of the delegation was to prepare and may be to settle the “Axispact”, the military alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan. The Japanese gentlemen were our companions during the whole trip through Russia. Their manners were very charming, indeed.
Now our guides and guards took us into big buses and brought us to the hotels. The drive lasted about 25 minutes, but I shall never forget it. We saw enormous multitudes of people in the streets. They were walking obviously without a certain goal. They were dressed not in garments for walking, but for doing some dirty work at home. Most deeply we were impressed by the entire lack of shoes. They work old slippers, galoshes, tatters and so on. The houses were dirty and looked like ruins. The doors of the houses have not been painted since the times of the Czars. We could see some stores but it was impossible to perceive what they sold.
Then we arrived at our Hotel Savoy. It was relatively clean and comfortable. The whole furniture was made before 1900. We were received by a smart lady. She was the real sensation of our visit in Moscow. For she was the only woman we have seen with shoes, with very elegant shoes of French style. In this town of more than four million people we did not see anyone else in leather shoes, except the soldiers and the police.
They served us a dinner. It was a surprise for us too. For it was an excellent dinner in the style of 1914, with caviar, ducks and ice cream, things we had not seen for years. The price of the dinner and of our whole stay in Moscow was included in the price of our tickets. After the dinner we took a little walk without any guards. Even in these late hours of the night the streets were full of people. They debated, they shouted, but they were not gay or joyful.
On the top of a hill we perceived a gigantic building, quite a skyscraper. I believed that it was the Kremlin. But it was not. That enormous absolutely modern looking building was the residence of the commissars of the people, the real government palace. Every window was lighted. And people could see it from every part of town. That is a peculiarity of dictatorships. Dictators like to govern at night. People must see that the dictator does not sleep. He works for them day and night. Thus the fortress of power radiated over the city the whole night.
From the windows of our rooms we could throw a glance into the apartments of the house opposite to our hotel. There were no curtains or Venetian blinds. We saw many people in every room, but we did not see any furniture. Wooden trunks and cases were placed in the middle of the rooms. In the corners something like mattresses were lying around. Certainly more than one family was living in every room. My wife started to cry seeing all the misery.
The next morning we spent our time at the custom house again. If one were to ask me what I know best in Russia I would have to reply: The custom houses. In Germany the so called experts gave us the bad advice to send a part of our baggage directly to Moscow in order to facilitate our trip and to avoid troubles in changing trains. We had to change many times. But in Moscow we were not allowed to take it with us. We had to check the baggage further and to pay for it respectable amount of dollars. To the custom house we drove in very modern cars. The view of the city was not changed much. But things looked a little better. We found houses not so ruined as those we saw the day before. We noticed buildings of the most recent style, palaces of iron and concrete constructed by very famous architects, but only for the purposes of the government, for instance, the department of Electrical Power by Courvoisier. Again we were deeply impressed by the bad clothes of men and women. Everywhere there were a lot of children. But every woman was carrying her bay on her arms. The institution of the baby carriage, familiar to every worker’s wife in Germany, seemed to be unknown.
Then we inspected the subway of Moscow, the pride and glory of the town. It was a miracle of steel, marble and chromium and I have no doubt that it is the most beautiful subway of the world. The stations were mostly the former churches. The mixture of modernity and antiquity was really fantastic.
But at the doors of the stores we noticed long lines of people waiting many hours. We were told that they wanted to get milk. During our stay at the custom house the employees of the department got their lunch. It consisted of a glass of tschai – a kind of light tea – and one roll without butter and nothing else.
Another group of my fellow-passengers visited an agricultural exhibition. They were surprised about the plenty of food which you can find in Russia. But obviously more in exhibition than in stores.
The afternoon of the same day we left Moscow. It remains in our memory a depressing nightmare.
It was a nice train we were to live in for the next seven days. Again we passed the Japanese line making deep bows. We were placed in the same car as the diplomatic delegation. The delegation was increased. German couriers joined them.
Thus we started our trip through the endless land with its forests, extending for days, its dark-green prairies, full of beautiful, blooming flowers, but really uncultivated. An empty country, no men, no animals. But Russia is the country of inexplainable contrasts, an enigmatic country. Along the railway route stations are rare, the soil is mostly uncultivated, prairies and woods only. But the stations were overcrowded with people. And there was enormous traffic on the railway. Practically every 15 minutes trains were rolling in the opposite direction with crowds of men, even of children in every car. It seemed as if whole tribes were going to wander. In the stations you could hardly get anything to eat, only hot water was available everywhere. Everybody filled his hot water bottle and prepared his tschai in his compartment.
We remarked that not only trains for passengers were passing by. Endless trains overloaded with war materials running in the westward direction. What was the reason? Defense against Germany? Or invasion of Romania? Or war against Turkey?
Naturally we were anxious to observe the transition from Europe to Asia in the mountains of the Ural. But on our route the Ural appeared as an unimportant number of hills only end we could not perceive any difference between the two continental Europe appeared on her Eastern border as Asiantic as Asia appeared European.
The deeper we drove into Asia the more the picture was changed. The countryside looked friendly, we discovered impressing factories, electric power station s and increasing symptoms of modern cultural life. The houses were only constructed of solid wood with strong windows and nice little gardens. People wore real shoes and clean clothes. We were surprised to see magnificent modern cities like Omsk, Krasnojarsk or Irkutak, which is beautifully situated on the enormous Baikallake. The spiritual and cultural center of Siberia is Nowo-Sibirsk, a newly built town with universities, colleges and a railway station of more than twenty floors.
We can see that the Russia government is going to transfer its main interests from Europe to Asia. This policy may explain why Russia is living in good terms with Germany. Russia does not seem interested any more in European affairs. Therefore I gained the impression that Siberia, formerly the most abhorred part of the world, is going to have a great future. It reminds me of a beautiful scene in the famous play “Nachtasyl” (Asylum for night by Maxim Gorkij). There are many poor man fearing deportation to Siberia. But the pious pilgrim Luka says the comforting words: “Don’t worry! Siberia is a wonderful country. It is God’s country!”
Maybe, but now a country without God. Every church, every chapel was destroyed or transformed into storehouses, clubs, factories and so on. Only in our train religious men and women were lighting candles on Friday nights and reading prayers. During the whole night these messengers of piety and devotion were shining through the godless country Russia.
Our opportunities to talk to Russian people were limited, of course. But every time we could talk to them they declared they were satisfied with their government. Nobody wanted the times of capitalism back. They said: “The situation of the Russian people continues to improve. The development has to be slow because the people lack intelligence and speed. The overwhelming size of the country prevents a quicker development, too. Stalin is a great politician. He avoided a terrible war by his agreement with Hitler”. Anything like criticism could not be heard.
A depressing event took place in the last days of our trip through Russia. One day we noticed long trains, filled with old men, women and children. They were not workers or wanderers, they were Polish and Jewish people, expelled from their homes near the Russian-German frontier. They were absolutely destitute without sufficient food and clothes and without any sanitary help. They did not know where they would find refuge. For months they had been on the way. All were excited, cried and were afraid of being killed during the next days. The poor men asked us urgently to report their fate in foreign countries and to try to help them. The discussion lasted a short time only. Then the officials of the Intourist came in a hurry and prohibited us to speak more. We have never heard from them since.
The cars of the Siberian Express were of European style with large seats. In every compartment there were two or four bedsteads. Besides the so-called "Polstered class" there is a "Wooden class" with opportunities of sleeping. The cars were rather dirty. We were not allowed to open the windows during the whole trip. And the weather was terribly hot. Only when the train stopped we had an opportunity to step out and to enjoy fresh air. The food in the dining-car was suffice and mostly well prepared. Delicious caviar appeared on our tables and excellent vodka was served very often.
After seven days and nights we reached the frontier between Russia and Mandchukuo. Again the life in the surroundings of the railway began to look like wartime. We noticed military preparations on a large scale. The last station on the border, called Otpor, seemed to be a military fort only. Once again the custom ceremonies took place with the same accuracy and slowness as ten days ego. My notes about the trip were confiscated. But the letters I had written and mailed
We received our passports and we said Good Bye to our guides from the Intourist Bureau. Eugenia Kikolajevma, the nice Russian lady, left with tears in her eyes. That was no surprise for us. For both the Japanese and the German diplomats were very courteous to her. And I suppose, that the courtship from the representatives of the Axis powers to Russia was not without success.
At the station of Wandchoulia we entered a new world. It is a modern building, shining white and clean. A long train was visible, camouflaged in yellow, green and blue colors. Japanese officials greeted us and coolies dressed in burning red took our baggage ever. We had to wait until the next afternoon.
We entered a little Chinese provincial town with broad, dirty roads, small houses, dark stores and few people. Small cars, drawn by one horse and reminding me of the old "Einspanner" of Vienna, realed through the streets. In almost every car sat a Chinese Lady with a parasol above her head and a little child on her back, put into the pretty colored kimono with broad stripes. Each one looked like Madame Butterfly.
But an idyll like this stood in sharp contrast to the aspect of many houses. They were destroyed by machine guns and canons. It was not a peaceful place we had entered, but a conquered city. On the walls we noticed proclamations of the Japanese military forces. The citizens were not allowed to leave the town on the roads.
How could we foreigners find a place to stay without knowledge of the language and without money? Of course, it was possible. A new kind of providence was established. Its name was "The Committee". Everywhere such an organization existed. Its help was of unestimable value. They were really a kind of substitute for providence. Nevertheless many of the emigrants are disappointed and quarrel with them.
The committee of Mandchoulia consisted of one person. He was an old Jewish tailor from Russia, living in this town many years. Therefore he had forgotten Hebrew too. We had to converse with him by gestures. But he happened to find out nightquarters for most of the passengers. It is a little difficult for me to describe the locality of this quarter. Maybe we could call it — a teahouse. Friendly smiling girls greeted our party, unusual at such a place. A camel stood in the courtyard, not a big one bur a real camel.
I and a few others found a building, proudly called "Hotel Astoria". Although the house contained ten rooms, there were only five beds. The majority had to sleep on the floor. And that was the better choice. As a compensation we enjoyed a dinner of enormous varieties, and size, excellently cooked by the hostess, an elderly French woman. The price was very cheap.
Then we visited the nightclub of Mandchoulia, called "The Paradise". Its owners were a nice White-Russian couple, looking like a grand duke and a grand duchess. The citizens were not allowed to call on this place. Even we should better not have visited it. The "committee" was very angry about our escapade. The man told us that foreigners are not very welcome in Mandchukuo and that we must be very careful. But nothing happened during our visit, except that the bill for many Jewish Emigrants has been paid by German diplomats.
The next day at noon we had to undergo a new custom inspection and many other controls again. Casually the custom-official who was in charge of my baggage noticed a picture of my older daughter as an American college girl. He asked me if he might take this picture. It is a difficult task to resist a custom official. Thus I had to agree. Perhaps this little picture is hanging now in a little unknown house in the middle of Asia.
Then we started the ride through the deserts of the Mongols. A new surprise awaited us. The Mandchouria Express, which we had entered was not a common train. It was a masterpiece of a modern railway. We were driving through the most deserted part of the route in the most modern cars of the world. We were sitting on broad comfortable couches of blue and green plush. The walls were paneled with light yellow wood. Carpets ran through the corridors. There were luxurious sleeping compartments for the night. Splendid observation cars invited us; but there was nothing to observe.
Primarily the curtains had to be let down. Japanese and Mongol soldiers continued to walk through the cars unceasingly and at night even machine guns were carried through the train with much ceremony.
The honors granted to the Japanese delegation continued and increased. In Mendchoulia and in the other stations where the train happened to stop young and old men stood in long receiving lines making the special Japanese courtesies. In this way we were able to see practically the whole Japanese government of Mandchukuo. There were many high officers and companies of soldiers. Charming ladies bowed wearing the most beautiful kimonos I have ever seen.
The gaiety and the splendor contrasted sharply to the deserted and devastated countryside. Later as we were allowed to open the windows we notices an empty land. No trees, no flowers, no animals, no men, no human habitation. Only a few ruins of quadratic towers, certainly the former houses of the signalmen of the railway. Because we were on the border of the enormous desert Gobi we had to experience a little sandstorm too. It was not heavy, a kind of a little performance only. The desert was not smooth. Hills of many hundred feet appeared.
Finally we reached one of the important places of the trip, the town Charbin. It is a real international place, a mixture of all the races and nations of Europe and Asia. Fifteen different nations are the habitants even now. A mighty river, the Sungari River, divides the city in two essentially different parts. One side a place of enjoyment. The other a busy overcrowded noisy city. An enormous traffic impressed us. But why be worried! At once Providence appeared, formed by a number of friendly men and boys. Everybody spoke German. They were mostly German emigrants themselves. They took care of our baggage, they showed us (missing text from original document)
The view of the town impressed us very much. Almost every street belongs to another nation. There is nothing like a department for planning how to build up a town. Therefore the streets look a little peculiar. We were warned not to eat fruits even canned, because a far reaching epidemic of typhoid fever was causing many casualties in the last few weeks. Nevertheless our hosts declared that
Charbin is destined to grow up to an Eastern New York. The town is only 50 years old, there are now more than 500,000 inhabitants, Charbin is the most important railway junction of East-Asia.
There prevails a bad feeling about the possibility of new wars. The tension between Russia and Japan hampers the quicker development of the town. Especially the big colony of White-Russians fears an eventual victory of Soviet Russia. The Japanese rulers are not visible often in the streets of the town. But we could hear remarks that the treatment of the territory of Mandshukuo has been quite the same as of a conquered colony.
The emigrants told us that they have found good positions in the different kinds of business. The most important branch of trade is the trade of furs. The cultural institutions are very few. There is no opportunity to get a higher education for children. Only in sports they are very active. A charming girl of 15 years who guided our ladies through the town told us that she holds the championship at the Far-Eastern Olympiad in swimming.
In this town we had to say farewell to our companions who were bound for Shanghai and for the Dutch East Indies. Among these passengers there was a young fellow, the son of the Dutch Ambassador in Stockholm. He took a trip around three quarters of the world to fulfill his duties as a Dutch navy officer in the Indies. They left Charbin to go to the port of Dairen.
But we had to go to the port of Fusan and to the straits of Tsushima. We had to sit two nights and three days in overcrowded cars without an opportunity to sleep. It was the most tiresome part of our voyage.
The next morning we arrived at Hsin-Ling, at present the residence of the emperor of Mandchoukoa and of his puppet-government. A town with a modern big railway station, with streetcars, busses and many newly built governmental buildings. And besides them nothing but loan huts. Then we passed the enormous city Mukden with millions of poor loam huts. The soil in this southern part of the country became more and more fertile. In many points near the railway military objects were erected. We could see not only Japanese soldiers but also many Mandchu contingents. The giant types of the Mandchus were in a remarkable contrast to the little Japanese troops.
IV. Korea and Japan
On the frontier of Korea the well-known formalities of many kinds of controls were repeated. An-Tung, a friendly looking small town was the first place in Korea. Again a surprise. The Yens we got in Charbin were not valid in Korea. And the Yens I got in Korea were not valid in Japan. There are three different kinds of Yens.
Korea is a mountainous country, well cultivated, and rich in industries and mines. The agriculture is on a high level. We were very interested in the culture of the rice fields as we have never seen them before. We enjoyed the light green shining fields, they were carefully cultivated and drained. The fields extended far hundreds of miles. The countryside with the various hills and rocks, the large waterfalls, the small valleys and the beautiful woods reminded us of the European landscape. But people seemed to be very poor. They were housing in black huts built of loam. On every roof the name of the owner is written with big black letters.
At our arrival in the port of Fusan we were very exhausted. The charming beauties of the beach of Fusan, the sailing through the Straits of Tsushima with its rocky islands, where the Russian fleet commanded by Admiral Roschdetsehwensky perished in the war against Japan, the fresh air and the radiant sunshine gave us new strength.
At night we reached the port of Shimonoseki, a place of great commercial importance, situated in a beautiful landscape too. We were in Japan now. Again endless controls of passports end other investigations took place. The most suspicious land we passed was Japan. In the last minute we reached the train for Kobe.
The marvelous land Japan made the deepest impression on us. Its mountain world reminded us of the mountains of Austria. But everything is colored in a much deeper dark green. The inhabitants are of unusual cleanliness, politeness and decency. The cities we saw, Kobe and Yokohama, are almost miracle towns. Kobe rather more Japanese with the countless small houses none of which resembles the other, but still every one showing the real Japanese character. Yokohama looks more like a capital with magnificent banking houses, palace hotels and big stores, elegant teahouses of red Japanese lacquer, and its mile long business streets. The abundance of splendid foods, vegetables, and meat prevented us from feeling that even this country was entangled in a great war. Even here they have rations of sugar and rice. But what we missed most was bread. The Japanese does not eat any, his bread is called rice. Very little is made for Europeans.
Everywhere in Japan the amount of goods was remarkable which was piled up at railway stations. It seemed to me that a good part of them was destined for Germany.
Naturally at the station of Sanamyia, the center of Kobe, the committee expected us. The very nice men, mostly of German origin, took care of our baggage and lead us to the quarters in the higher parts of the city. There were special houses rented by the committee for us passengers. We were advised not to walk through the streets in larger groups. The atmosphere was hostile against foreigners we were told. But I must say that personally I did not notice that.
We had to stay a few days in Kobe. The town is one of the most beautiful towns I have seen on my trip. It is situated between the sea and high, green mountains with houses of every color in the world and with the famous gardens of Japanese culture. Increasingly you hear a high trembling sound in the gardens. It originates from grasshoppers which are bred almost everywhere. You can buy them in the department stores. The higher the voice the higher the price.
The whole time we spent in Kobe the heat was so great that we were unable to make excursions in the famous surroundings of the town. Therefore we did not visit the neighboring city Osaka. You can imagine the density of the population when you hear figures of the inhabitants. Kobe has more than one million, Osaka more than four million. We drove from Kobe to Yokohama the whole night. During the whole night we could see one house near the other without interruption. The traffic on the railways, was enormous, of course. Automobiles are rather rare, perhaps due to the shortage of oil and gasoline.
In Yokohama we had another astonishing impression. In this most modern city of Japan reconstructed after the great earthquake, we noticed the oldest vehicles of the world, the rickshaws. They looked very clean, the wheels are of rubber, the seats of plush and, as we could see, only rich men were using them.
Now only a few sidelights; Fear of spies, the distrust against foreigners is enormous. A lady of our party was imprisoned only because she declared, asked by an official, that she understood the Russian language. As we left her fate was still undecided.
The correspondent of the Reuter-bureau in Tokyo committed a mysterious suicide after his imprisonment. To take photographs was forbidden, especially on the shores.
Culture: Sunday night at ten o-clock I was unable to enter a bookshop in Yokohama. Not because it was closed on holidays. Sunday as a day of rest is unknown in Japan. But there were so many customers in the store that I could not step in.
The Fujiyama: This most famous of all the mountains in the world perhaps does not like, as many famous personalities do not like to be visible in public too often. Therefore it is covered with clouds most of the time during our stay in Japan it was impossible for us to see it. Finally as we were on the way through the Pacific we could admire its phantastic beauty. Really and truly, it appears like the seat of gods.
The next day our steamer Rakuyomaru arrived in Yokohama. She was a boat of 10,000 tons only and very old-fashioned. Almost all passengers of my party were steerage-passengers. More than a hundred man had to sleep and to eat in one room. It was dirty and hot. Most of them preferred to sleep on the open deck.
But the departure of the boat was a stirring event for all of us. Crowds of people, most of them Japanese women and children stood at the pier waving their hands and Japanese flags, a band played. The members of the committee who had much trouble with our passports and baggage stood in a long line in front of the boat, even the president of the NYK line and the chief of the police were present. I felt that it was the great moment for the sake of which we had to undergo so many difficulties, it was the farewell from the old continent and from the old life.
As we left the zone of the harbor we observed outside the molo in the open some big dark looking ships. They were German ships. We were told that they are lying outside the harbor since war has been declared. The reason was to avoid paying of fees in the Port. But I believe that these ships are supporting the mysterious German raiders on the Pacific.
Our trip across the ocean lasted 26 days. It was a quiet trip over a very peaceful sea and without seasickness. I do not want to speak about the various passengers today, I shall mention one of them only. He was an American and an English teacher at the war school in Tokyo. He taught the princes of the Emperor's family. His 77th birthday was celebrated on board. He offered me a bite of a cake which had been presented to him by one of his highborn students. It was decorated with the imperial insignia; but it tasted like a common American cake.
A fortnight after our departure from Yokohama we arrived at the Hawaiian Islands.
The first greetings of America were the battleships and the submarines which were maneuvering in the waters off tne coast of Hawaii. We spent two unforgettable days in Honolulu and Hilo. Everywhere we could see large preparations of military character and many people from the navy,
Finally we reached the golden gates of San Francisco. Our endless voyage seemed to be finished. But after the boat had anchored we had to experience bitter disappointments. We were not allowed to disembark. Instead of entering the land of liberty we had to enter a kind of prison. The reason of this surprise was the following: we did not have in our pockets money enough to pay the tickets from San Francisco to Washington. We had to remain in the immigration station of San Francisco until the money which I had ordered from New York was sent.
The name of the place was Angel Island. But to stay there was not so pleasant as the name of this place would suggest. Two weeks ago the greater part of the station had been destroyed by a big fire. Therefore we men were kept in a building for Chinese immigrants. The ladies were separated from us and we had only a few opportunities to see them. Besides we were told that the fire was causes by an act of German sabotage. The last weeks before the crew of the German ship "Columbus" and some pilots from the South American airlines were internees in the station. You can understand that the guards were very careful.
Fortunately within two days we had overcome these obstacles too. We were free. The same night we admired the beauties of the world-fair at Treasure Island. It was a dream of colors, flowers, lights and waters. As we attended the famous aquacade we had tears in our eyes. The greatest success of this lovely play was a Viennese waltz by Johann Strauss.
The last part of our pilgrimage started. Four night and four days we were travelling through the various states of this wonderful country. After all the blessed hour came when we could embrace our beloved children in Washington.
Now a little statistics.
It was a long way, more than 20,000 miles. It lasted 57 days. We had to undergo 25 custom controls, more than 50 controls of passports and money. We crossed three continents and saw more than 5,000 railway stations. We spent 26 days on boat, 19 in railway cars, only 8 in sleepers, 11 days in hotels and two days in jail.
In conclusion let me answer the question: "What was the climax of my trip?"
This is the answer: The day after my arrival in Washington I went to the Library of Congress and worshipped at the eternal pillars of humanity: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. This was the climax and the true sense of my trip.