Among the migrants and refugees of the World War II who came to the U.S., many were great scientists. Albert Einstein, Hans Bethe and many more fled from the rule of Nazis and were able to make their valuable contributions. However, there are many stories of refugees and scientists who did not reach the U.S. shores.
Laurelle Leff, Michelle Borkin and John Wihbey are some faculty of Northeastern University who started searching for the migration records at the New York Public library. Coming across the World War II letters in The New York Times, Leff found families who contacted their relatives who were still stuck in Germany. The ‘calamitous events’ as he calls them dominated the ambiance of Europe in 30s and 40s. He also writes about the ‘formal affidavit’, the document that would ensure the protection of refugees by the state government once they were in U.S.
Even the Jewish professors, by the reason of natural migration, could migrate to the U.S. for their fellowships. This was needed as in Germany, no Jewish was allowed to work for the state under the Nazi rule. There were letters of these scholars who requested assistance from the U.S., and they went on become individuals who contributed largely to science. These letters were received by the Northeastern faculty and were researched heavily. They also studied the contribution of some women scientists and mathematicians, of which some of them secured positions at U.S. Universities but some did not.
One of the challenges was the Geography. As in, during the World War II, many of the addresses were destroyed, boundaries were changed etc. Borkin says that since the information available was scattered with different cities and languages, it became difficult to decipher data.
The faculty observes the condition of the refugees in the past and relates it with the condition of the refugees today. According to them, it is very important for us to accept, allow, and appreciate the contributions made by these lost individuals.