Immigration

Child immigrants rescued, cast adrift

Haitian children I worry about the Haitian child immigrants. In addition to adjusting to terrible losses and a new life in a new land, they run great risks of psychological disturbances. I wrote in Is It Night or Day?: "Stories of other immigrant children often aren't featured in history books either. For many reasons -- war, famine, political persecution, economic hardship, natural disasters -- children have been painfully separated from ...

Welcoming Haitian orphans

Haitian orphans arrive at Pittsburgh airport on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010. Once again, we are witnessing the painful realities of child immigration. The Haitian earthquake has torn apart families and threatened children. Throughout history, war, natural disasters, political situations, and poverty have forced children to relocate by themselves without the protection of their parents. No matter what the reason, child immigration reminds us of the daunting task necessary to rebuild ...

'I'm American, but I'm different.'

German flag American flag When my son was six years old, he pointed out a black, red and yellow flag on a plastic place mat that featured the flags from around the world. "Look, Oma," he said. "Your flag!" "That's not my flag," she told him. "But you're German." "I was German. Now I'm American." "But you're still German, Oma." She didn't see the irony; he had called her by ...

Frieda's letters: 'I am wishing for a way out'

My grandmother, Frieda Westerfeld, age 40, in 1938 One of Frieda's letters Trapped in Nazi Germany, my grandmother, Frieda Westerfeld, wrote letters to her family who had escaped to America and South America. Since I have written books about our family history, relatives have sent me those letters to archive. Here are a few excerpts from Frieda's letters written between 1938-1941: After she had sent both of her young daughters ...

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas…"

Irving Berlin wrote the best-selling record of all time – the yuletide ballad, “White Christmas.” Irving Berlin? Christmas? That’s right, Irving Berlin, a self-taught Jewish immigrant who chose to name himself after an English actor and a German city. His original name was Israel Baline. In 54 melancholy words, Berlin captured the World War II yearning for happier times, hearth and home, the mythic New England past. Amazingly, the sales ...

My mother, the enemy alien

One Sunday over brunch several months ago, the family was having a political discussion about racial profiling. In her inimitable way, my mother turned to me and said, “You know, I was an enemy alien.” “What? When?” In recent years, my mother, who is now in her eighties, has begun to talk about her past, but I was completely shocked by this new revelation. “When I was 14-years old.” I ...

Szrow zee ball!

There are scientific reasons why many immigrants can’t get the sz out of “throw” or the z out of “the.” Most likely, those who speak with an accent emigrated after the age of 8. Since the critical period for language development begins in infancy and ends between eight years and puberty, it’s difficult to speak a second language without an accent after that time. “Second languages learned after the critical ...

Thanks a million, HIAS!

The last picture taken of my mother with her parents before she was sent to America in 1938. When my mother came to this country at the age of 12 all by herself, she had no idea what program organized her journey. She was part of an American rescue operation recently named "the One Thousand Children," which sought to place child refugees in foster families to escape Nazi persecution. The ...

The Forgotten Adults

After I give a speech, many people come up and tell me their experiences of immigration, loss, or the legacy of the Holocaust. One woman told me her poignant story many years ago and it has stayed with me. Here’s what she said: “I escaped Vienna as a child in 1939. The Nazis killed my parents so I never had a mother or father to love me after the age ...

The Forgotten Children

World news spotlighted another heartbreaking story of child immigration this week. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized to thousands of British who were shipped to Australia as children. They were promised a better life; instead, they had a Dickensian existence. More than 500,000 children were placed in foster homes, orphanages and other institutions during the 20th century, according to a 2004 Australian Senate report. Many experienced emotional, physical and sexual ...
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