By Sarah Amtower
When I first opened the Hebrew immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) file on Frances Kastrovitzky I immediately knew that it contained a unique and impressive story. The very first page was a Declaration of Intention filed October 26, 1948, and unlike any of the other files I had gone through, it had a small photo of a beautiful young woman attached. After pausing to think about the meaning behind a matter-of-factly filled out form stating, “visible distinctive marks: tattoo on left arm,” Frances’ story unfolded.
Born in Romania on January 27, 1922, Frances was taken to Auschwitz in 1944. After being liberated in 1945, she then worked for the US Army. Knowing that the Romanian refugee quota to immigrate to the United States was approximately a ten year wait and fearing further persecution in her home country, Frances obtained the birth certificate of a German woman whom she knew to be deceased and applied for immigration within the German quota under the assumed name, Ilse Franziska Nassauer. She entered the US on November 29, 1947 on the S.S. Ernie Pyle.
On November 26, 1950 Frances (as Isle Nassauer) married a U.S. citizen, David Kastrovitzky. Shortly after the birth of her second daughter in 1955, Frances’s interaction with HIAS began. She wanted to gain citizenship status under her real name and wasn’t sure how to go about it, especially considering the way in which she entered the country. Her file eventually ended up with Specialized Services at the HIAS national offices. The Boston HIAS executive secretary and the Specialized Services case consultant corresponded multiple times regarding Frances’s case. They feared that her misrepresentation could lead to a deportation hearing, so they waited for the decision in a similar case, which would set a legal precedent for future immigration appeals.
In almost all of the files in the Boston HIAS collection, the papers and notes contained therein are in reverse chronological order. Therefore, the archivist has to read the case from end to beginning, usually knowing the outcome of a request and working back to its origin. Such was the case for Frances Kastrovitzky’s file, with one major exception. There is no documentation of a resolution for her citizenship status. Did she get deported or become a citizen? A quick search of ancestry.com led to the answer: a copy of Frances Kastrovitzky’s naturalization record dated May 12, 1958.
Sarah Amtower, archival volunteer, earned a BA in History from the George Washington University, Washington, DC.