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
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Weiss family, for Peter Weiss
Below is a link to the passports and some other documents from my grandparents, Georg and Margarethe Weiss. The passport authorities gave my grandfather the middle name “Israel”, though he had no middle name. I think this was to designate them as Jewish. My grandmother was given the middle name of “Sarah” – I think for the same purpose. She had no middle name either.
You will see here that my grandparents were able to come to the US because a man named Louis Weiss, who was not a relative, signed an affidavit saying that he was related, and would support my grandparents so they would not become a burden to the US government:
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