The U.S. immigration laws of the late 1930s specifically stated that individuals who were “likely to become a public charge” should not be issued an immigration visa, thus making elderly émigrés more vulnerable to exclusion. Despite this stricture, the immigration of elderly Europeans had been on the rise since 1925.
This paper will examine what the refugee experience was like for elderly Jews trying to leave Vienna after Austria’s annexation to Greater Germany. Multiple case studies will illuminate the many challenges that made immigration more complex for the elderly than for their younger coreligionists. Although a significant minority of elderly Jews left Vienna, most did not, meaning that the composition of the Viennese Jewish community became more “elderly” as well. This paper will also examine the factors that kept elderly Jews in Vienna and the role that family dynamics played in allowing for successful immigration. Finally, this paper will demonstrate the importance of the elderly immigration experience in understanding the complexities of 1930s and 1940s U.S. immigration policy.
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