Peter Josef Weiss

Born: Vienna, Austria, 23 November 1918

Profession in country of origin: Student of chemistry

Arrived in Britain as a refugee from Belgium on 14 August 1939

Documents

Male enemy alien - Exemption from internment - Refugee  
                         
Surname: Weiss
Forename: Peter
Alias: -
Date and place of birth: 23/11/1918 in Vienna
Nationality: German
Police Regn. Cert. No.: 712 922
Home Office ref: C 3063  
Address: Kitchener camp, Richborough, Sandwich, Kent
Normal occupation: Student of Chemistry
Present occupation: Electrician in Camp
Name and address of employer: -
Decision of tribunal: Exempted "C" & 9A  
Date 20.10.1939
Whether exempted from Article 6(A): Yes
Whether desires to be repatriated: No

Handwritten later addition: Embarked 30.05.1940
                                          Peter Weiss

Released
Embarked 30.05.1940

23.11.1918

712922

Richborough E.C. W14355

Source: National Archives, Home Office: Aliens Department: Internees Index, 1939-1947.

B. Non-transmigrants
Name of ship: Antonia
Steamship Line: Cunard White Star Limited
Names and descriptions of ALIEN passengers embarked at the port of Liverpool
Date of Departure: 30th May 1940
Where bound: Quebec, Montreal

Contract ticket number: 50048
Port at which passengers have contracted to land: Montreal
Names of passengers: Weiss, Peter
Class: 3rd
Ages of passengers - Adults of 12 years and upwards - Accompanied by husband or wife - Males / Females -
Ages of passengers - Adults of 12 years and upwards - Not accompanied by husband or wife - Males 21 / Females -
Children between 1 and 12: -
Infants: -
Last address in the United Kingdom: Kitchener Camp, Richborough
Profession, Occupation, or Calling of passengers: Student
Country of last permanent residence: Foreign Countries
Country of Intended Future Residence: USA
Country of which Citizen or Subject: Germany

Source: National Archives: Passenger Lists leaving UK 1890-1960.

Editor’s note: We are not allowed to reproduce National Archives (UK) images, but we are permitted to reproduce the material from them, as shown above.

Memories

My father, Peter Josef Weiss, was born in Vienna, Austria, on 23 November 1918. He died on 18 September 1990 in the state of Maryland, USA.

His first cousin, Herbert R. Weiss, was born in Vienna, Austria on 23 July 1920. He died on June 19, 2009 in the state of North Carolina, USA.

My grandparents (see below) left Austria and arrived in Belgium in early 1940. My grandmother’s brother, Robert Furst, lived in Brussels. They arrived in the US on 5 February 1940 (see p. 42 of diary, below).

My father, Peter Weiss, left Austria in 1938, around the time of Kristallnacht, and with a friend was able to sneak into Belgium and was in a refugee camp there for some months.

Herbert arrived at Kitchener Camp first, in 1939, and my father (Peter) later that year.

They left Kitchener together around March 1940 – both had passage on a ship to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and from there they both went to the USA. He and Herbert worked their way to New York, knocked at my grandparents’ apartment door, and they were reunited after years apart.

Another cousin, Walter Fuerst – or perhaps Furst – arrived at Kitchener Camp with my father. What happened to him thereafter is not known to me.

Upon getting to the US, my father worked for a time in a belt factory and sometimes as a waiter. He attempted to get into the US army for a few years, but since his English was poor, he was not a citizen of the US, and his knees and eyes were not so great, he was turned down.

But by 1943 the standards had relaxed and his English had improved. He was able to go on a 10-day immigration/basic training course for the Army and become a US citizen, and then he was shipped to France. He was a medical corpsman.

After his service in Europe, where he may well have been valuable since he spoke German and French, he returned to the US.

After his service in the army, and because of the GI Bill – a US law assisting veterans with university expenses – my father was able to go to Georgetown University in Washington, DC, for his undergraduate studies and then on to a PhD program. 

My father obtained a doctoral degree in organic chemistry, and was then employed with our Food and Drug Administration. I’m amazed that he was already a “student of chemistry” back at Kitchener Camp, as it says in your documents.

I note that on the ship’s manifest was a person named Leo Storch. We used to live a few doors away from a person with that name, here in Baltimore, although I never met him.

Kindly submitted by the Weiss family for Peter Weiss

Below is Peter Weiss’s diary account of these years.

The originals of the Weiss family archives are housed with the excellent United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC:

Click to expand autobiography pages below:

My grandfather was born in 1886 and died in around 1971. In the US he was a door-to-door salesman of brushes and household items, and he also worked at a print shop. My grandmother was born in 1890, and died in around 1986. She had no trouble getting employment in the US because she was a milliner and expert seamstress. For a time they lived in Boston and she worked at a shop that proudly put a sign in the window: “Viennese milliner on site”. My wife and I were married in 1983, and my grandmother was able to attend and enjoy the event. 

While my grandparents retained the name Weiss, my grandfather added an “e” at the end of his first name, Americanizing it to George.  My grandmother dropped the “he” at the end of her name and became Margaret. 

Her brother, Robert Furst (referred to in my father’s diary, above, as “uncle Bobby”) and his wife lived in Brussels. They had no children. During the war they were hidden in a farm house in the countryside for about a year and half. After the war, they returned to the same apartment in Brussels where they lived before the war. 

My parents visited them in the 1970s; I visited in 1981. My grandmother and her brother corresponded often and, on one occasion, they spoke on the telephone. 

My grandparents married in December 1917.  Obviously, my grandfather gave my grandmother a ring. When the National Socialists came to their apartment in Vienna and ransacked it, many items were stolen or destroyed. My grandmother, however, had baked a cake and put the wedding ring in the middle of the batter. She shipped the cake to her brother, with the note saying that the filling was special … it was made to George’s recipe. Now, my grandfather had never cooked or baked anything – ever – and so, Uncle Bobby found the ring. 

After fleeing, my grandparents stayed in Belgium for a few days to visit Uncle Bobby. My grandmother retrieved the ring, which is engraved inside with their names and the date of their wedding. She wore that ring for the rest of her life, and now, that ring is worn by my wife. 

Thank you so much for keeping these memories alive.

With the kind permission of the Weiss family, for Peter Weiss

Photographs

  • Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, 'The Electro Course'
  • Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, 'Carpentry shop'
  • Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, Heini Mantel, Walter Fürst, 'A Home Corner'
  • Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, 'A Visit'
  • Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, 'At the harbour'
  • Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, 'Leopoldville, Antwerp'
  • Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, No. 18 dormitory, Belgium camp
  • Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, Manu Goldstein, Otto Sternberg, Peter Weiss, Max Kenfein, Robert Singer, Willy Geller, Ernst Sternbg, Schone Lacker, Theo Moser, Walter Kraus, Armin Hacker
  • Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, 'Last adjustments to the motor'
  • Kitchener camp, Peter Weiss, Autobiography, Archbishop of Canterbury visit
  • Kitchener Camp, Peter Weiss, US military, 1944

With the kind permission of the Weiss family for Peter Weiss.

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