Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Louis Singer and the Dershewitz Family

It's difficult to imagine the hardships my father's family, father, mother and 7 brothers and sisters, suffered in leaving everything they knew in Poland to travel halfway around the world to a new country and new life.  I've never heard any stories so I was left to try and piece together the events.  I have come to find that Louis Singer, my grandmother's brother, was the key to bringing the Dershewitz family to the United States.

Let me back up a bit and tell you what I've found about Louis Singer.  He was born in Lukowica, Poland April 27, 1883 as Leib Singer, son of Izaak and Ruchela Singer. His Ellis Island record shows that he arrived in New York May 17, 1899 after sailing from Bremen May 6, 1899 aboard the SS Konigin Luise.  He was a young man of 17 years likely travelling alone with $5 in his pocket.  His occupation was listed as a tailor.

The next record of Louis' life in the US is his Naturalization on August 8, 1904.  He was living at 394 E 8th in Manhattan at the time and his occupation was a dress case manufacturer.  I'm not sure what that was but I know my father often talked about working in the garment trade in New York in his younger years.  After only 5 years in the country, Louis was establishing himself in his new home.

The 1910 Census found Louis living on 3rd Avenue in Manhattan.  He was now a liquor store owner.  It seems so many of my relatives were involved in some way in the liquor business in Poland and now in the US.  The next census page showed that he now had a wife, Regina, living with him as well as his brother, Joseph who must have followed Louis over.  Joseph was listed as a liquor store employee so I assume that he worked for his brother.  Louis has been in the country only 10 years and is already doing well.

Records show that Louis applied for and was granted a passport in March 1920 to travel abroad.  The reason he gave on the application was to visit his parents in Poland, I believe with the situation deteriorating in SE Poland he went over to try and get his close family members still in Poland out of the country.  He was to leave around April 15th and would be gone for about 6 months.  The birth registration for one of the Dershewitz family members was dated November 20, 1920 so Louis may have been over in Poland helping to arrange documentation for his family members.  A passenger list for the SS La Savoie shows Louis returning to the US via Le Havre, France on June 28, 1920.

Louis must have gone back to Europe one more time to accompany his family back to the US.  He is shown on the passenger list for the SS Saxonia which arrived at the port of New York on April 20, 1921 after sailing from London.  It seems like after London, the Saxonia stopped at Cherbourg, France where the Dershewitz family and Louis' parents boarded and then on to New York.  I hadn't until this time realized that Louis Singer was also on this ship as he was listed with the naturalized US citizens and not with the immigrants.

Louis Singer played a pivotal role in getting his close family out of Poland and to safety in America.  I wouldn't be here today to tell the story if it hadn't been for him.