The Stateless Woman Fled Nazi Germany To Become US Citizen. This is a fantastic passport set of two travel documents of a stateless German woman who most likely fled in time from Nazi-Germany to become US citizen. Meet Margarethe Schmidt, born in Magdeburg, Germany on 30 Jan 1886, housewife and stateless. Her German Alien passport was issued at the German Consulate in Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 1934. A German Alien passport issued abroad is something very rare!
Margarete traveled by sea with the SS Deutschland, a HAPAG Ocean Liner to USA. See the stamp on the passport confirming exchanging money – 200RM.
The SS Deutschland was sunk in a British air attack on May 3, 1945 when it was in the process of being converted as a hospital ship. All people on-board the Deutschland survived the attack, though two accompanying vessels sank with great loss of life.
Obviously she was married (occupation: housewife) but why she got her Alien passport in Cleveland is only speculative. Maybe her husband was American? Was she Jewish? Open questions. However many (Jewish) Germans fled in 1933. With the beginning of WWII in 1939 it was almost impossible for Jews to escape from Germany.
Her US passport was issued in 1953 but I believe that´s not her initial (first) US passport being in the US since 1934. Her US passport shows travels to Germany and Netherlands from 1953 to 1955.
However this is a really great document set and I am happy to have it in my archive.
Update: Dec 6th 2016
Thanks to Dave Miller we know now more about the bearer. Dave has a fantastic Flickr site with an outstanding album of old passport pictures did some great research and wrote to me as follows…
Hi Tom, I do have a comment and perhaps some of the answers you are looking for. I’ve been diving into ancestry.com on our Margarete and have come up with a few records. You didn’t note, but I’m sure you noticed, that her passport gives her birth name as “Wentzlau”, which proved a vital clue in tracking her.
She was ethnic German, not Jewish. Her third husband was Kurt Schmidt a tool maker in Detroit. She came to the US as a 42 year old divorcee with (I believe) a 20 year old daughter, in May 1928 under the name Margarethe Iffland. Although being born in Magdeburg, she was living in Leipzig at the time of her immigration. She seems to have resolved her “staatenlos” problem by 1937 when she is traveling on a US Passport.
Data as follows:
Marie Margarete Iffland Steil Schmidt nee Wentzlau, born Magdeburg, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany 30 Jan 1886, daughter of Theodore Wentzlau and Emma Dreyling
26 May 1928 Margarethe Iffland, aged 42, divorced, arrived on board the SS America (dep Bremen 16 May 1928, arr NYC 26 May) accompanied by Elli Iffland, aged 20. Both women give their occupation as clerks and nationality as German (Note that Jews are clearly distinguished from other European nationalities at this date). Margarthe’s birthplace is given as Magdeburg and Elli’s as Leipzig. Both women give their last place of residence as Leipzig and their destination as Detroit. Margarethe’s brother Wilhelm Wentzlau of Magdeburg is given as next relative in Germany. Their relative in the US is “Father: Mr. Schaubrenner, 5041 Hartwell Ave Detroit.”
On 8 May 1929 Margarete Iffland declared her intention to become a US citizen before the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. She states she was born in Germany 30 Jan 1886 and that she is divorced. She arrived at the Port of New York on 26 May 1928. She did not, at the time of her declaration, renounce her allegiance to her foreign ruler, says she will do so before being admitted to citizenship.
On 15 Jun 1929 a marriage license was granted to Adolf Steil of Grand Rapids, Michigan and Margarete Iffland of Detroit. His parents named as Nicolas Steil and Mary Hufflin and hers as Theodore Wentzlaw and Emma Dreiling. They were married 15 June 1929 in Detroit.
On 17 Dec 1932 a marriage license was granted to Kurt Schmidt of Warren Michigan and Margarete Steil of Detroit Michigan and they were married in Wayne County. His parents’ names given as Herman Schmidt and Annie Kinzil and hers as Theodor Wentzlaw and Emmy Dreyling. They were married Christmas Day, 1932, by a Lutheran pastor in Detroit.
In August 1934 she arrives on board the SS New York (dep . Hamburg 9 Aug 1934, arr. NYC 17 Aug 1934), states her birthplace as Magdeburg. She says she speaks and writes German but claims no citizenship. Her last permanent residence is Warren, Mich. She has a brother, “W. Wentzlau, Magdeburg, Schoenebeckstr. 25”, and her husband is Kurt Schmidt of Warren Michigan.. She has been a resident of Michigan from 1928-1934 and that she last left the US 17 May 1934.
She seems to be the same Margarete Schmidt who travels to and from Germany, on a US Passport, in 1937 and 1938 giving an address on Edmore Ave Detroit. The 1940 US Census of Detroit shows a Kurt and Margaret M Schmidt living at the same address. Kurt is a die and tool maker in the steel products manufacturing industry.