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Henry Weil family papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 1995.A.0477.2

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    Henry Weil family papers

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    The collection documents Henry Weil and his father Hugo Weil's emigration from Vienna, Austria to the United States in 1939. Henry's documents consist of his birth certificate, immigrant identification card, and naturalization certificate. Hugo's documents include an affidavit of support signed by Richard J. Rice, an appraised itemized inventory of items he took with him from Austria, a copy of a telegram announcing his arrival in the United States aboard the RMS Aquitania, and clippings regarding the arrival of the RMS Aquitania in New York after avoiding German submarines.
    inclusive:  1938-1955
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Henry Weil
    Collection Creator
    Henry E. Weil
    Henry Weil was born Heinz Weil on September 22, 1935 in Vienna, Austria. Henry’s father, Hugo, owned and operated a leather goods store. His mother, Marishka, cared for Henry and their home. The Weils were an observant Jewish family, attending synagogue regularly. Henry had many cousins living close by and spent his childhood riding tricycles and playing games with them in the courtyard of his apartment building.

    On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria and annexed the country the following day. Henry and his mother watched from the window of their apartment as Nazi soldiers marched through the streets. Soon after the Anschulss, antisemitic legislation from Germany was extended to Austria and life for Jews in Vienna grew restrictive. Hugo began to make preparations to emigrate. He was able to acquire an affidavit for an American quota visa from a Mr. Rice, an unknown man from Boston, who guaranteed to give Hugo work upon arrival to the U.S. Hugo contacted Marishka’s brother Joseph in the United States who also assisted him in obtaining a visa; unfortunately, the visa only listed Hugo. To rectify this issue and ensure Henry and Marishka would be able to emigrate with him, Hugo made dozens of trips to the American consulate in Vienna over the next year. Passage to the United States via ship was secured as well.

    In August 1939, the Weils were forced out of their apartment. An old classmate of Hugo’s hid the family in his home while final preparations were made to leave Austria. After approximately one week in hiding, Henry and his family left for Paris under the cover of night. The family lived in a hotel room for a time, narrowly escaping falling bombs by riding the metro during nightly air raids.

    Eventually, the family was able to make their way to Southampton, England where their voyage to the U.S. was to begin. The Weils missed their scheduled departure time due to the delays in obtaining the correct visas, but were able to secure passage on another ship chartered by a Jewish relief organization. Passengers were required to wear gas masks and life vests for the duration of the voyage. Their ship, The Aquitania, zigzagged through the Atlantic to avoid German U-Boats and took nearly three weeks to reach Ellis Island. Later, the family learned the ship they had originally planned to take had been sunk by the Germans. The family arrived with Marishka’s iron, Hugo’s opera glasses, and $20. The Weils stayed in the Bronx with Henry’s aunt and uncle for one year. During that time, Hugo commuted to and from Philadelphia each week to work in a leather factory.

    The family settled in Wilmington, Delaware, which had a robust leather industry at the time. Both Hugo and Marishka went to night school to learn English and became naturalized citizens in 1941, the same year Henry’s little sister Shirley was born. Henry began school in kindergarten and picked up English fairly quickly, although the family still regularly spoke German at home. A few years later, the family received a telegram from the Red Cross informing them that Hugo’s family had been murdered in concentration camps. Fortunately, all of Marishka’s family survived the Holocaust.

    Henry attended Georgetown Law School, became a lawyer, and opened a private practice.

    Physical Details

    German English
    2 folders
    System of Arrangement
    The collection is arranged as two folders:
    1 of 2. Weil, Henry, 1939-1955
    2 of 2. Weil, Hugo, 1938-1939

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    The donor, source institution, or a third party has asserted copyright over some or all of the material(s) in this collection. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Topical Term
    Corporate Name
    Aquitania (Steamship)

    Administrative Notes

    The collection was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by Henry Weil in 1993. An accretion was donated in 2018. The collections previously cataloged as 1995.A.0477 and 2018.485.1 have been incorporated into this collection.
    Primary Number
    Record last modified:
    2023-10-12 14:57:04
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