1 Reply Latest reply on Jun 26, 2020 10:38 AM by Rebecca Collier

    Seeking reason grandfather detained in Seattle by immigration


      I'd like to find out why my grandfather, Abraham Liwer, was detained for 2 months by US immigration, when he landed in Seattle (from Japan) on July 7, 1941.


      I am researching my family’s escape from Poland during WWII. To summarise: my grandfather, Abraham Liwer, was the recipient of a Curaçao destination visa given to him by Consul Jan Zwartendijk in Kaunas, Lithuania, as well as a transit visa to Japan by Consul Chiune Sugihara. I recently learned that on his way to Vladivostok, my grandfather went to the American Embassy in Moscow and got a 30-day US transit visa.


      My aunt and grandmother, Jadzia and Chawa Liwer, got Polish passports from the Polish embassy in Japan, and also two Canadian visas, with the help of Ambassador Tadeusz Romer. But I have no idea if my grandfather also got or maybe already had, a Polish passport. I have never found his documents.


      I don’t know why my grandfather was allowed to board the Hie Maru ship with a 30-day US transit visa and his  Curaçao destination visa. Out of the 2,345 refugees who had these visas, none of them were allowed to continue from Japan using the so-called Curaçao visa. They all had to wait until they could get real destination visas, or they ended up in Shanghai for the duration of the war.


      I don’t know why my grandfather got off the Hie Maru ship from Japan, in Seattle, on July 7, 1941, and was kept in immigration detention for two months. (His wife and daughter continued on to Seattle where they remained for two years until they could join my grandfather in NY.)


      My Aunt Jadzia and grandmother Chawa Liwer were the only two Jews to get out of Siberia while the Soviets and Germans were allies. My family story goes like this: my grandfather bugged a woman commandant in Vladivostok for months until she relented and got permission for their release. I was told she did this because she had a crush on him. I would love to find out if there was a woman commandant working in a government office in Vladivostok with the power to do this.

        • Re: Seeking reason grandfather detained in Seattle by immigration
          Rebecca Collier Ranger

          Dear Ms. Liwer-Stuip,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


          If you have not already requested it, we suggest that you submit an Index Search request to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Genealogy Program.  There may be a record that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) created for Abraham Liwer. It could include a Visa File and/or subject correspondence file.  Please include any known name or date of birth variants available to ensure a successful request.


          We also suggest researching how Curaçao visas were handled within the US. Please begin by emailing the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Historical Library at cishistory.library@uscis.dhs.gov to inquire about any documentation they may have regarding administrative policies of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) related to Curaçao visas. Also inquire about possible detainment of those arriving in the US under such specific war-time visas.  Please frame the question more broadly than using your grandfather’s information in order to gain an understanding of what the experience of those with Curaçao visas may have been like.


          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!


          [Information provided by Elizabeth Burnes, Subject Matter Expert]