Submitted by Amanda
Sonia Pressman Fuentes is a leading author, feminist lawyer and one of the founders of NOW. The following is her story of how a she went from fleeing Nazi Germany as a child and went on to become an activist and the first woman lawyer in the EEOC's Office of the General Counsel. It's a truely remarkable journey...I can't wait to read her full memior later this summer!
I was born in Berlin, Germany, of Polish Jewish parents in 1928. In 1933, my brother, Hermann, who was fourteen years my senior, saw the threat Hitler posed to Germany's Jews and urged my parents to leave Germany. My father, who had lived in Germany for over twenty years and was the prosperous owner of a men's clothing store, scoffed at this suggestion. He was sure that Hitler and his Nazi followers would soon blow over.
My brother decided to leave on his own, and, in May 1933, he moved to Antwerp, Belgium. Shortly thereafter, my father changed his mind about leaving Germany, met with a group of Nazis, agreed to give them our business for a fraction of its cost, and they gave us permission to leave.
In July 1933, my parents and I moved to Antwerp. There followed months during which my father and brother tried to find a way to make a living in Antwerp and other European cities, but nothing worked out. My brother made countless applications for visas to permit our family to remain in Belgium; all were denied. Then, my father read that ships were departing for the U.S., and my parents decided we would get on one of these ships. Since my parents had been born in Poland, we were able to get visas for the U.S. on our Polish passports. We left Antwerp on the Red Star Line's S.S. Westernland in April 1933, arriving in New York City on May 1, 1934.
After we had left Antwerp, the police came to our apartment to serve us with deportation papers; they planned to deport us to Poland, where my parents hadn't lived in twenty years. Had our visas to remain in Belgium been granted or had we been deported to Poland, we would, in all likelihood, have been killed during the Holocaust.