The Tale of Frances Kastrovitzky

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.

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8 Responses to The Tale of Frances Kastrovitzky

  1. Patty kurz says:

    Frances is my dear mother who now lives two blocks away from me in queens New York . She is the mother of three daughters, eight grandchildren, and sixteen great grandchildren, thank G-d.
    Peshy Kurz

    • Esther Lasky says:

      This regal, elegant woman is also my cherished mother,grandmother of 8, and great-grandmother of 16, and counting, thank G-d. We are still learning lessons of valor,goodness, and love from her, and pray to for many more years. Esther lasky

  2. JoAnn Goldstein says:

    And I am and always will be the “baby” daughter, the “Chavala,” of this beautiful, strong, loving woman who has been through so much and continues to be grateful for every day, every visit, every kiss. She is a queen. Thank you, Sarah, for posting her story.

  3. Barbara Morris says:

    I am a longtime friend of Frances Kastrovitzky. Peshy Kurz, her beautiful second daughter, was a classmate of mine at the Maimonides School in Brookline, MA as well as at Stern College for Woman of Yeshiva University. Esther, the 1st daughter, and Chavala the “baby”, and Peshy, all reflect the midos, the stellar personality traits of their mom. Frances is a gorgeous woman, inside and out, and it is from her that her daughters get their internal and external beauty.
    Dovid Kastrovitzky, Frances’, Esther’s, Peshy’s and Chavala’s beloved husband and dad, was likewise a tzaddik, such a learned man. If one knows Dovid’s three daughters, one knows that this is true.

    Frances, her late beloved husband Dovid, and her daughters, Esther, Peshy, and Chavala, have contributed so much to this world.

    Thank you Frances and Dovid.

    Barbara Morris

    • Webmaster- AJHS New England says:

      Hi Barbara, thanks for reading and for your comment. It’s been wonderful to hear from those who know Frances and to learn more about her life and her family. Best wishes to you in the new year.

  4. Esther lasky says:

    Barbara, thank you for your beautiful words; I know you mean them from the heart. Best to you and your wonderful family, Esther lasky

  5. Anita Freitadt Buyers says:

    Fagel was a relative by marriage- she married my Grandmothers nephew – I remember going to the wedding as my parents drove her to the Chupa.
    I remember when each daughter was born and we visited in NY and Mass,
    How proud she was to educate each of he girls.
    Fagel was a wonderful seamstress and beautiful soul.
    Anita Freistadt Buyers

    • Webmaster- AJHS New England says:

      Thank you for your comment, Anita. The stories you’re all sharing mean so much to us.

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