Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria at Angel Island

by Katie Quan

One of the lesser known chapters in the history of the Angel Island Immigration Station concerns the arrival of Jewish refugees who left Nazi-held territories in 1939 and 1940.  Their journeys took them across Russia into China and Japan, where they boarded ships headed for San Francisco.  AIISF came upon this story because Alice Edelstein Steiner recounted her story to researchers in 2001.  Judy Yung and Erika Lee feature her family's story in, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (Oxford University Press).

During this centennial year, we also mark the 70th anniversary of several hundred Jewish immigrants who had the good fortune to have relatives and sponsors in the United States who aided their emigration.  As one reads the immigration files of these immigrants, one is struck by the desperate situations cast upon Jews under the Nazi regime.  They were stripped of their jobs and livelihoods; they were forced to abandon all their property and leave all assets behind.  But they kept something even more precious - their dignity and their lives.

AIISF would like to learn more about their lives.  If any of you reading these short profiles knows descendants of these families, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


On June 16, 1940, Ms. Blum arrived on Angel Island after traveling from Shanghai on the SS Asama Maru. She was 44 years old. She was born in Odessa, Russia, and could read German, Russian, and English. Her sister helped pay for her travel to the United States from Russia. After arriving in the US, she planned to join Rosaline Riskin, her sister, Soloman Riskin, her brother in law, and Bernice Blum, her daughter. Her sister, Rosaline Riskin lived in San Francisco on 10th Ave. Bertha's father Juda Blum and Bertha's sister Pauline Pedrin also lived in San Francisco.

Before going to San Francisco, Ms. Blum lived in Shanghai. Her brother in law, Mr. Riskin ran a jewelry store and so he was able to support Ms. Blum on her passage over to the US. During the questioning, she was asked about "the affairs of her husband, Joseph Blum who was a Russian refugee from Latvia because he had no official nationality. Bertha was unsure if he would come to the US or not." The clerk, Arthur Jarrett says in his summary, "The applicant...appears to be in good health, intelligent, and a person of some education."

We have one photograph of Bertha Blum from her naturalization on March 21, 1941.

We believe that the family remained in San Francisco.

We wish to thank intern Katie Quan, who helped research this article.

Place of Origin
Odessa, Russia

Place of Settlement
San Francisco, CA

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