by Lia Dun
Jakob Rubin and his wife Ernestine arrived at Angel Island from Vienna, Germany on August 28, 1940. Jakob and Ernestine were both Jewish, and although neither directly stated their reason for leaving Germany, it can be assumed they were trying to escape the mounting persecution against Jewish people in the years directly preceding World War II. In Vienna, Jakob worked as an office clerk buying and selling men’s clothes in a department store; however, according to his interrogation records, he “was forced to leave that business.” His response hints at actions of Hitler’s early regime that forced Germany’s Jewish population out of employment (Krystallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, in which over 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed in Germany and parts of Austria, had occurred just two years prior). Jakob also mentioned not being able to contact his brother in France for five months “Because it was impossible to get anything” and that his other brother in Vienna was no longer operating his business for similar reasons—“because it is impossible”—again suggesting the presence of the Nazi regime. According to an account by Jakob’s brother-in-law Alfred Marill, at the time Marill Rubin left the country (Jakob mentioned in this interrogation report that his sister Klara and her husband Alfred came to the US with him and Ernestine on the same ship), 25,000 out of Vienna’s 30,000 Jewish residents were “fed by the community.”
When they disembarked for the Untied States, Jakob was 57 and Ernestine 51. The couple planned to live with their adult daughters, Lilly and Hertha, in New York City. Both had immigrated a year and a half and a year ago respectively. Lilly was successfully working as a tailor, while Hertha worked making corsets. Jakob also had three brothers living in the United States; two in New York City, who had come to the United States 25 years ago, and one in Los Angeles, who had come recently. Because his brothers constantly moved and did not have a permanent address, Jakon’s second cousin Louis Klein sponsored him to come to the United States. From his interrogation transcripts, it seems like Jakob did not know Klein well (Jakob did not know the names of Klein’s children), but his cousin was willing to help him escape Nazi Germany.
Lia Dun is a student at Yale University and a Tina Yeh Fellow at the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.
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