Liselotte Levy, born in Neuwied, Germany, received her German passport on Tuesday, December 6, 1938. Two days later she travelled with her brother Leo to the U. S. consulate in Stuttgart, Germany, and received her much coveted visa stamp. She and her brother departed for the United States aboard the USS Manhattan on January 17, 1939, nine months before the outbreak of war.
An examination of her passport offers insight into the workings of the German bureaucracy and its persecution of Jews.
Emblazoned on the first page of Liselotte’s passport, along with the swastika, is a large red ‘J,’ which identifies the bearer as Jewish. After Hitler seized Austria in March 1938, many Austrian Jews fled to Switzerland. The Swiss government tried to prevent this influx and insisted that the Germans identify the passports of all Jews with a ‘J.’ It is significant that the Swiss, and not the Germans, initiated this idea of marking the passports. There were not many places in the world were Jewish refugees were welcomed.
Liselotte’s name was Rosette Lieselotte Levy, yet she signs her name “Sara Rosette Lieselotte Levy.” (In America she changed the spelling of her name to Liselotte) In August 1938, to identify and further isolate Jewish people, the German bureaucracy issued a decree that Jewish women affix ‘Sara’ to their names, and Jewish men ‘Israel’ to theirs. ‘Sara’ and ‘Israel’ were seen as typically Jewish names and readily identified the bearer of the passport as Jewish.
On page two of her passport Liselotte again signs her name “Sara Rosette Lieselotte Levy.” On this page is a stamp issued by the mayor’s office in Neuwied. The necessity of going to government offices, in order to receive various stamps for emigration, was a terrifying experience.
Place of birth: Neuwied
Birthday: July 7, 1921
Body type: middle, big
Eye color: gray, green
Hair color: black
No special features
On these two pages are stamps from various German offices that were required for emigration.
Liselotte went to a bank in Neuwied to withdraw money and acquired another stamp on her passport. This was on January 14, 1939, a day before her departure for Hamburg where she would board the Manhattan for the United States. Scribbled on page six is “RM 9.90.” (RM=Reich Marks, German currency). This was the amount of money (the equivalent of a few dollars) that a refugee was allowed to take out of the country. Their property was seized by the German government, reminding us that the Nazis were thieves before they became murderers. But Liselotte was not permitted to leave the country with even ten Reich Marks, as ten Pfennigs were subtracted from that amount, presumably by the bank to pay for the transaction.
The stamp on this page indicates that Liselotte departed Germany from Hamburg, aboard the USS Manhattan, on January 17, 1939.
When Liselotte went to the American consulate to pick up her visa stamp, she had to provide several documents and pass a mental and physical examination. The visa, confirmed by a stamp on an unnumbered page at the back of her passport, was signed by an American vice-consul, Julius O. Jenson. Liselotte’s quota number was 10218. This tells us that of 27,300 people (from Germany, newly annexed Austria, and newly annexed Sudetenland) in line to receive a U. S. visa that fiscal year, she was number 10,218. Liselotte and Leo were fortunate that their parents had the foresight to register them for immigration several years earlier. The U. S. quota was filled to capacity during only one fiscal year. When the war broke out in September 1939, immigration to the United States became very difficult and much more expensive.