My Journey to America
My Journey to America
Written by: Dr. Hugo Schleicher (Elyse’s great-grandfather)
May I start with the date of Sunday, the 12th of May 1940, that remarkable day, when I was arrested together with all Germans and Austrian subjects in different parts of Great Britain. This fact stroke me like a lightning out of blue sky. It was not the treatment of my own person which stroke me but again the common fate of all the refugees who as innocent as in former times were suspicious and had to endure the treatment of an enemy. With regard to our thankfulness and absolute loyalty we hardly can comprehend the necessity of this order. As it often happens things are different if you look at them from different points. So I take out the best and remember with pleasure that last occasion of traveling through Scotland to Insch, Huntly, Banff and back to Aberdeen by a free seat in a Pullman car. Last not least I got the experience of having seen the internment camp and the endeavor of all guardians from the commander in charge to the last soldier to treat all of us as well as possible and to give us the best accommodation possible.
My condition was worse than of other people. I was occupied with my last preparations for my journey to America. I had booked already the ship and had the order to report on Thursday, 16th May at Liverpool, but did not know if I would be able to be at Liverpool at right time. Besides that I had no occasion to give Ruth the necessary orders, who celebrated the last weekend at Dinnet with Majel. It was a great pity that it had to be disturbed so harshly.
At once after our arrival at the camp, a former hotel at Banff, I tried to bring my case before the commander. I succeeded in it on Monday morning and I am glad to tell that he did his best of helping me. When he told me that Majel phoned with him shortly before, I knew that I would succeed. So it was no surprise for me when I was told that the Home Office agreed in releasing me. The joy was only shadowed by the order that I had to leave Aberdeen the next day. The adjutant showed me to the door, wished me Good Luck and through the sentries I walked into the liberty, after saying good bye to my comrades who were in good spirit hoping that the imprisonment would be only a temporary measure of a short time. I can hardly think of another solution.
Majel and Ruth waited for me at the bus-station, a moment of a seldom happiness.
The hours till our departure were like a dream. The next friends came to say good bye. Majel took me in town for my last business, a great help for me, without which I never would have managed all at right time. Finally she drove us to the station, with all our luggage in the trailer, taxi, chauffeur and carrier at the same time. When I look back, it was really the best that we had not time to become sentimental.
I was ordered to leave Aberdeen on Tuesday at 5:35pm. The county police sent the same man who had arrested me on Sunday, to show me off. The happiness in his eyes by saying good bye to me and wishing good luck will be a lasting memory. Worth mentioning that he showed his sympathy by giving a shilling to Ellen.
A last long look into the eyes of dearest friends and our train took us away, cutting off a period of our life-time, which previously seemed to become the most difficult, but was so wonderful by the help and care of all who took part. It is impossible to say in words our impressions by taking leave. I only may say that I know that we shall not loose us again and by keeping in mind the moment we shall meet again. I take away all the sadness created out of the point of view that thousands of miles will separate us.
Our journey to Liverpool went on according to previous plans. Appreciating the sacrifice of Mother Jones, who accompanied us in spite of the night-journey caused by the Police-Order. I am most thankful in saying that she managed it without any harm, although the neighborhood prevented any possibility of sleeping and although Ellen was as well a most difficult partner of the bedroom. But an uncomfortable night passes as well as a comfortable one and looking back we are able to forget the difficulties and to keep in mind only the memory of that indescribable evening through Perth shire. By the care of Majel and Peggy we enjoyed our super best.
Wednesday morning 6am we arrived punctually at Liverpool. Our nephew Rolf and an acquaintance of Mother Jones waited for us at the platform and brought us to the hotel Lord Nelson, where Mother Jones, Ruth and Ellen booked for the night while I accepted an invitation of Mrs. Marks, hostess of Rolf. The ladies spent the forenoon sleeping while I carried out my business reporting to the Police, looking after my luggage at the Parcel department of the railway, and paying a visit to the ?
It was fixed that we went to meet Mr. and Mrs. Marks at 12:30 for lunch. Mrs. Marks was late. As a result of a misunderstanding, Mother Jones was not invited and went away, a great disappointment for us, but for the sake of Rolf we ought not to refuse the invitation as we liked to do at that very moment. Later I learned that as it often happens; Mr. Marks did not dare to dispose without having asked Mrs. Marks. Mrs. Marks at once recognized the mistake and rectified it by bringing Mother Jones to her home by car for tea. Family Marks did their best to make our last continental day as comfortable as possible. I stayed the night with them and we talked till 12 o’clock in the night. I am very thankful that I had this experience before my departure. I saw that it is true that Rolf is kept like the own son and I saw the great progress of this boy, in the language as well as in his style of life. If he gets the right chance he will be successful. The contact of our souls is characterized best by the wish of Mrs. Marks to write to Majel and I only may add my desire that a new friendship may arise out of this adventure with Majel as well as with us.
Thursday, the day of sailing.
Mrs. Marks drives me to the hotel; the forenoon is spent with packing. Mrs. Marks took us for lunch to a restaurant and drove us to the dock. Unfortunately we had to say Good Bye before the dock, to which only passengers are admitted. This moment was very hard, but all is bearable by the love which unites us. I think that Mrs. Marks took Mother Jones back to town. For hours we searched all over to have a last glimpse but alas in vain. The examination took a little while because our papers had to be examined carefully. When the examining lady saw the prayer of Alison, she asked: Oxford Group? I told her that we stayed with Majel, whom she knows very well. She was very interested to hear about Majel. Unfortunately, she did not mention her name, and I did not dare to ask for it. She asked what sort of war work Majel is doing mentioning that this work is her war-contribution. At 5 pm the steamer began to move and slowly the docks of Liverpool disappeared with course to the channel – the journey has begun.
On this evening we met dear friends by chance and enjoy very much that we travel together. They are friends from Stuttgart, who we had visited at London-Ealing, when we arrived at Great Britain. They are on their second journey, a year before they traveled to Cuba by the St. Louis, but had to go back, when the Government of Cuba refused to let them land. Then I met a girl from Offenburg, daughter of a client of mine, whose parents and sister are in Italy waiting for the possibility to cross the Atlantic for America.
This first evening was spent with unpacking after having got finally all the luggage. This work was very unpleasant because the cabin was extraordinary hot. Traveling in northern direction it very soon changed to cold weather. Besides that we opened the porthole and finally we get accustomed to the conditions of present life.
Weather good, sun, sea calm, we rent deck-chair and enjoy the mixing pot of human beings. The ship is an old veteran, but very comfortable, especially by calm sea, the accommodation is good, we are a little too near the bow and suffered very much the following days by rough sea, but nevertheless we will be content hoping to be at the Canadian coast in a few hours.
Ellen found nice children and is very soon at home. She knows all and is a good leader through the ship. She plays the whole day and likes to go to the pictures.
Generally spoken the humor is according the situation pressed, the best humor you find in the third class, people there are closer than here.
Vitals excellent, but I am sorry to say that we could not eat equally through the journey, already the next day the family was sick. In this night the sea became rougher and as I told before our cabin was in a terrific motion, the sleep was disturbed.
Getting up Ellen began to vomit, the parents followed by sympathy. I try to have breakfast – and flee out of the dining room. Leaning over the railing I feed the fishes, nice occupation.
Beginning the second part of my report of traveling, I at first must apologize because I alter the method. I find it tiresome to report chronically because the days till the arrival at Canada passed without any events worth mentioning “Dolce far niente”, the doing nothing becomes the spirit of the ship and if you want or not, you get a victim of it. Deck chair, blue sky, waves, one like the other but funny thing, nevertheless you look at them for hours and hours without getting tired at any moment.
The first two days we did not look too intensively into the sea, because this occupation caused trouble ever again. After two days we were accustomed and began again to enjoy the journey. I am glad to say that all of us were no more sea sick for the entire time.
The passengers were mixed very much. In the cabin class, the British were dominating. A few Americans and Canadian officers, Germans only a few lucky persons who were in the possession of tickets like us. Although we did not belong to this class because of the conditions of our situation we enjoyed thinking that this last trip first class shall be either a bridge to our new life or a nice memory.
More comrades we had in the tourist and in the third class. Naturally there were most immigrants, friends or friends of friends, many connections and a common fate. It was a pity that the talks with these people too often circled about our uncertain situation in the next future.
Unnecessary to say that the news not always pleased us and that the grave situation shadowed the journey to the end. We took with us the confidence and I am glad to say that the confidence seems to be unshaken here. But your sorrows are ours and we are most impressed of the news, the last the surrender of the Belgian army.
Approaching the Canadian coast we were told that we would arrive at Halifax on Saturday, 25th of May. Shortly before we came in a thick fog. The foghorn began it monotonous sound, going through and through. As a result we crossed for 24 hours before the harbor not daring to go in.
Sunday morning the weather cleared and we went in. From 6:30 am we were on deck. Curious feeling, the first land, the first green beautiful colors, ships, in one word the life began again. The Canadian passengers left the boat and the usual work went on for the day, probably a little slower because of the Sunday or is it the speed of the wok at Halifax? No wonder that they had to work till the late evening that we feared not to leave the harbor before Monday.
10:30pm we left the harbor, an unforgettable picture. No blackout, searchlights showed us the way out, the coast in brightest light of thousands of lamps, first night without blackout. For the first time we felt the American continent.
People with British passports had the chance to have a walk on land at this afternoon, while we were kept on the ship. The barricades of the 20th century.
I found it very pleasant and interesting to watch the business of loading and unloading, it is incredible, what a lot of things disappears in the belly of the boat.
Again for 36 hours we only saw sky and water, the foghorn sounded again for a long time creating the fear that we again shall have to wait before entering the harbor of NY. But as nearer we came as more the weather cleared.
On Tuesday, 28th May, early in the morning the passing ships increased, while the journey before was very lonely, very seldom we for a fortnight on the boat, I entirely lost the sense of time.
At 11 am the pilot came on board to lead the ship through the harbor to the place of destination. All on board were very excited. The patience of all was to be proved very hard. Only at 2 pm we landed. The monument of liberty impressed all of us most, as I was told afterwards the sun shone for the first time during ten days, good luck.
My cousins and his wife and the friends of Offenberg were waiting at the pier. With their help the formalities were over very quickly. Because my cousin has no place for us, we went with our Offenburger friends to their home and there we are for our first steps in this town.