« Glenn D. Lowry | Main | Leo Castelli - Summary of a Three - Act Comedy that took place in New York between December 1995 and March 1996 »


I  was  married  to   my  first   husband  Leonard  Barton  Herrmann , (called Peter) in 1947, in spring of 1948 aged 20, I went to New York with Peter, to meet his parents. In those days, it was a long trip of approximately  15 hours ;  the airplane made  several  stops for fuel, I remember: in Switzerland, Shannon, Gander etc. I had obtained the Visa at the US Embassy in Rome, as the wife of Peter, an American citizen.

Upon arrival in New York on a Friday night, the custom officers required a copy of my marriage certificate, as evidence of the validity of my Visa. I had not been advised at the US Embassy in Rome of that requirement, therefore I did not travel with my marriage certificate. This was happening over the week-end and all concerning offices were  closed. I  was   abruptly  deported  to Ellis Island. While being quickly escorted by two policemen to a boat, I managed to tell my husband, to call immediately Mr. Angelone. He was the Commercial Attaché at the Italian Embassy, a good friend of my father for many years.

When the boat left for Ellis Island, I discovered that I had been allowed only one bag, and that was: my hat box ! I could not change my clothes after the long trip, nor did I have a pajama to go to bed. We arrived in Ellis Island; I remember what took place, as something out of an horror story. Always walking between policemen at my side, I was escorted to a very low-ceiling room, with more policemen standing all around, a strange light glaring in my face, as though I was a criminal.

I was very upset and in tears.

After a long harsh interrogation, a policewoman walked in, she led me to the shower rooms. She took my clothes, gave me a uniform and delivered me to a room, where six other women, were being imprisoned. There was a very high small window with bars. 

I saw six heads looking up at me, the new arrival. Petrified I slipped in bed. The day after, was Saturday and I was summoned to a very large space, where hundreds of people were walking around.

I discovered by talking to one of the guards, that refused any of my requests (such as a telephone call) that those were all people being deported to their countries of origin, either because they had committed severe crimes, or because being Germans, they had refused to fight against their country of origin. Several of the women were prostitutes.

I did not want any food. We were then permitted an hour of walking on the grounds outside. A very high fence divided men from women, guards with guns surrounded the place, also up on a high tower. The men from the other side of the fence, were shouting money offers at me. I guessed there was a way they knew, on how to get to a woman and have sex.

Later, when returning indoors, there was some kind of music played by the Germans, on a home-made instrument.

The very same day, I received a telegram from Angelone: “Welcome to America, unfortunately you arrived on a week-end, do not worry, we will get you out by Monday”. It was an hallucinating experience the all day, also finding out that one of the women that shared my same room, had murdered her husband.

On Sunday, during the night, one of the men managed to escape, so there was shooting and light beams all over, which even came into the room. He was either a very good swimmer, or was killed on his way across, because he was never found. The violence of the search that took place, was something I will never forget. During the night, every hour a guard came into our room, called each one of us by name, and we were supposed to answer.  I never slept.

First thing Monday morning, I refused to leave the room and go anywhere, but luckily mid morning a guard came to get me, gave me back my clothes and escorted me to a court room, where there was a judge. Much to my relief, my husband was there with the marriage certificate.  I was released under his responsibility.

My husband had called a friend at TWA in Rome, his name was Garvin. He asked him to get in from the courtyard window, on the first floor of the apartment where we lived, and take the marriage certificate, that was inside a box of documents.

Garvin, arrived with a ladder and did just that. The doorman of the building thinking that he was a thief, called the police. After much translating from Italian into English, as he spoke very little Italian, Garvin was able to rush the document to the pilot, leaving Rome on the next flight to New York. This is how Peter received the marriage certificate so quickly.

Mr. Angelone was outside waiting for us, he took us to his home and golf club. We met his American wife and were given a royal welcome. We were his guests for two days, in order if possible, to recuperate from the chock of this experience, also to clean up and change clothes. We then drove to Newburg, N.Y. where Peter’s parents lived.

When we arrived, his father was waiting in front of the house, pacing anxiously back and forth. He helped me out of the car and hugged me with much affection. His mother and sister were inside and very indifferent.

The day after, he took me to visit his place of business.

As I remember, it was a 3-story small building; on the ground floor, all electric objects were being sold, on the 2nd floor, there was the repair department, on the 3rd floor, there was the project department. They were mainly working on lighting for streets and bridges. Whatever I looked at with much surprise, he would bring me home in the evening as a gift.

This is how I received the first electric sawing machine, and a beautiful electric blanket (it was then 1948). He was a very loving and generous man. When we left, the last words of this wonderful father to his son were: “You take good care of her, because she is very precious”.

Needless to say, I was happy to be back at our home in Rome and tried to forget about what had happened. We returned again in Newburg after our son Carlo (Leonard the 4th) was born and was about 10 months old.  Peter’s mother and sister made my life miserable.