Historically yours : A family secret


When I was a junior at Hillside High (New Jersey), my parents divorced. Some twenty years later, my mother received a proposal of marriage from a gentleman named Otto Brief. An accountant in Newark, Otto was bright, sensitive and considerate. She accepted and they enjoyed many years of happiness together. One day, Arlene and I visited with my mother and Otto, but he was disconsolate and refused to speak. I had never previously seen Otto depressed and I asked him to please call me. The following day he called and I rushed over to meet him. Otto was working on the genealogy of his family. He related how his family came from Russia, that the family name there was “Nosabrief,” and that he, his siblings and his mother remained in Russia while his father left for America on board the USS Roosevelt in 1910. He arrived in Newark, obtained employment and continually sent support for the family, while he saved enough money to bring the entire family to America. Within (3) years, the family was united. This followed the tradition of the arrival in America of many Jewish families from Eastern Europe. Otto told me that to complete the genealogy, he wrote to the survival Steamship Company for the complete details of his father’s trip. With his head down, he showed me the letter from the steamship company. Registered together for the trip to America were Mr. and Mrs. Nosabrief. Otto literally cried, “How could my father do that- he was my hero?” I urged Otto to write to the steamship company and explain his belief that his father would have never dishonored his mother in that manner. I told him that it could have been a mistake. Otto sent the letter, praying for some appropriate answer. Three weeks later, Otto called me with delight in his voice. “Come right over,” he said. He proudly showed me the letter absolving his father of all wrongdoing.

The letter explained that when people of modest means arrived at the port of embarkation in Germany, the fare for a single adult to America was the equivalent of $75, however the fare for a married couple was $100. The single passengers soon realized that by teaming up and registering as husband and wife, they each saved $25, which, as the letter continued, was undoubtedly used by your father to help bring your family to America. The letter further stated that most of the third class steerage passengers slept on single bunks in large rooms filled with many people. Thrilled with that information, Otto concluded that his father undoubtedly maintained his martial vows to his mother. Otto completed the genealogy and proudly distributed copies to the entire family.

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