Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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IMMIGRANT VOICES

Riding the Trans Siberian Railroad to Angel Island

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.”


The two came on Immigrant Quota visas issued from Vienna, indicating that Jakob and his wife were some of the few who had been allowed to immigrate to the United States under the Immigration Act of 1924.  At the time, many European nations had already become embroiled in World War II, and it was impossible to leave the continent from ports in Western Europe.  Alfred tried to leave via Italy, Switzerland, and Finland before finally deciding to leave via the Tran Siberian Railroad through Russia to Asia before sailing from Japan to the United States.  Because Jakob and Ernestine sailed on the same ship as Alfred and Klara, it can be assumed they made the same passage, which took them through Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Manchuria, Korea, and Japan before finally reaching Angel Island.

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.

When they arrived, Jakob and Ernestine had only $14 and did not have tickets to New York City; however, while on the island, Jakob received a $140 check from Mrs. Deustch of National Jewish Council of Women to pay for their transit.  Medical inspectors also reported that Jakob also suffered from a ventral hernia and varicose veins but because a doctor deemed these conditions would not impede his ability to work, he and his wife were released from Angel Island on September 3, 1940.

Lia Dun is a student at Yale University and a Tina Yeh Fellow at the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.

Place of Origin
Vienna, Germany

Place of Settlement
New York, New York

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