Reflections On Immigration After WWII This 4th Of July
Freedom...Independence...these are wonderful things and mean a lot to all Americans. But those words often sound a little different to people who now have American citizenship but came from places where they did not have the kind of freedom and independence native-born Americans have enjoyed all their lives. Probably most baby boomers with post-WWII immigrant parents know something about the process at the time. Others often do not and are curious.
How did these people get here? Who paid for it? Did they all get welfare when they came? Do they let people in that could pass along diseases? I've been in the position of hearing all kinds of rumors about this and some of them a far cry from the truth.
The process, while it has a certain sameness, also seems to be constantly changing. In 1951 it was relatively easy for Dad to get on the list to potentially immigrate to the U.S. He was considered a displaced person, a DP. His homeland was Yugoslavia but he had been taken prisoner during the war and placed on a train to a POW camp in Germany. When the war ended, his homeland was now communist and he was given the option to return, remain in Germany or have his name added to waiting lists of potential immigrants allowed by quotas to relocate to other foreign countries. He had to have a job prior to the immigration to America. A church in the U.S. worked with employers and made arrangements sight unseen prior to his being able to depart Germany. Meanwhile, Mom had no such choices.
She was a German by birth who found her homeland area ceded to Poland after the war and then successfully escaped to West Germany. She met Dad there. Since she was a German by birth, she was not a displaced person. Immigration to the U.S. in 1951 was not an option for her. There was one exception: if she was married to someone that qualified for immigration to the U.S. by the rules of the time, she could also immigrate. Hence both of them immigrated to the U.S. in 1951 via a former American troop transport ship. Neither could board the ship until days after they passed extensive physical exams and questioning about their backgrounds and past associations. They had friends with two children that were rejected because one of their children was sick. The same church paid for the passage for both of them. Interestingly, all the male immigrants on the ship were required to work during the passage. The women were not. But that would be another discussion about the 1950's.
Other family members emigrated, and even escaped. Each has their own story.
As surprised as Americans may be sometimes by the habits and customs of immigrants, in the reverse position there can be considerable culture shock. But, like the majority of immigrants of that era and perhaps any era... Freedom... Independence... they are especially wonderful things to these naturalized citizens of America.
Born in the U.S., Vera Miller is the first child of European immigrants that settled in Milwaukee, WI in the early 1950's. She wrote a book in honor of her mother's eightieth birthday entitled:
In Search of a Childhood Song
Buried Memories My German Mother's Girlhood Escape From Communism
To read the first chapter online, see the website and click the link entitled: Read the first chapter
To hear more about the book, see the website and click the arrow at the top entitled: Listen to the author