Buying false papers

JoAnne Goldberg

I'm interested in Sarah's story about buying false papers, as my family has a similar origin story vis a vis our Goldberg surname, and I've never been clear about how it worked.  Whose papers were sold, and what happened to those people -- without their own papers? Did they have to buy papers from another person, or could most people get by day-to-day without papers? What were papers used for anyway? My understanding was that you did not need papers to immigrate to the United States in the 1800s.

Seems like these questions should have obvious answers but it's all kind of murky.

JoAnne Goldberg
Menlo Park, California USA

Helen Krag

Grandmother with 2 fake birth certificates

My grandmother Elke, no surname given – she had 6 of them – had two fake
birth certificates. She didn't buy them though. She first needed one
when she had fled to Vienna in 1914 and wanted to marry. Her mother in
Tarnopol, Austrian Galicia, went to Russia to get one from her niece,
who was appr. of the same age. As Elke said: In Russia one didn't need
papers. The second birth certificate was also fake, some rabbi in Poland
wrote one in 1938 so my grandmother could make it into exile in Great
Britain. This one had the correct date and name but wrong place of birth.


Helen Krag, Copenhagen

KÖNIGSBERG, all in Galicia and Vienna

Sue Martin

My aunt had false papers in Budapest, but she had to hide anyway.  I'm not sure of the chronology; it could be that she got the papers afterward.  She did magyarize her surname, and left Hungary after the war as a displaced person, to live in Paris with her sister for a decade before moving to the US.  My memory of what she said is that she got the papers from a non-Jewish friend.  I don't recall her ever talking about buying them, and I don't think she would have had the wherewithal to do so.

Eva Lawrence

I have the journal of my 4x great-grandfather who led a group of emigrants  sailing from Antwerp to New Orleans in 1852. Even in those days you needed papers to embark from Antwerp, but he reported that any old papers seemed to do. They all had to show their ID to the local police, who really weren't bothered..  One man offered his children's vaccination certificate, and my ancestor himself  signed an official-looking piece of paper for a man fleeing from the Prussian police. 
In New Orleans, there was no call for ID.  This was of course before the Civil War, and laws were different in different states, All the examples so far seem to be from the 20th century, and I'm sure controls were then.  

Eva Lawrence
St Albans, UK.


My mother escaped Russian Czernowitch after the war by buying approved visa to Romania from a young couple 
who applied and received also a visa to USA which they preferred to keep.
She also had to get a false marriage cerificate and a false death certificare for the couple's young daughter. 

Clifford S. Goldfarb

My father, aged 18, arrived in Antwerp from Poland in 1920 with a boat ticket from his sister in Toronto, but no papers. He was told to go to Brussels. In Brussels he was told to go to the Ukrainian charge d’affaires. Having no money, he found a number of people also looking for papers, offered to provide them for a fee, and raised enough to buy papers for himself. He got a “laisser passez” good for one trip to Canada, showing him as a 20 year old from Berezhany, Ukraine — a short distance from Dalesczye (Kielce), where he was from. I still have it.

Cliff Goldfarb

Jane Foss

Rose Lowenkron, my cousin Estelle's mother, bought her sister's papers and ship's ticket and managed to get into the US tho she was only about 14..Jane Lowenkron Foss

Steve Stein

I think every case was different. Our synagogue just this week lost one of our survivors. He was born with the surname Steinberg; at the end of the war, as a de facto leader of a group, he had a pile of exit visas to come to the US. He had one for himself, but one of the young men in his circle did not. So he gave the Steinberg papers to him, and eventually got another set of papers in the name of Blumenfeld, which he used. I don't know if he tracked the progress of the new Mr. Steinberg, but he died and was buried with the surname Blumenfeld.

Steve Stein
Highland Park, NJ