The Escape of the Philipp Windmüller Family
This report is based on information received from Philipp’s granddaughter Amy Windmueller-Markon of Minnesota, USA. My thanks go to her, for her permission to include this summary.
Also included are some data and photos from the Windmueller Family Chronicle (page 183)
In June 1939 the Philipp Windmüller family left Beckum for Dortmund. The story of their departure from Germany was unusual. Harry Truman, then a senator from Missouri, intervened at one stage, and wrote a letter to the US Consul-General in Stuttgart, requesting visas for the Windmüller family. Earlier, they had been denied such a visa, because their young son Helmut had a cold. The ruling was, that if anyone in the traveling party was sick, the visas were denied. Subsequently the visas were approved - but only for the immediate family. Philipp's sister Jeannette (b. 1884, d. Holocaust) affectionately called Nettchen), who lived with Philipp and Erna in their house in Beckum on Weststrasse 32, was not considered an immediate family member and thus was not included in the permit. Philipp insisted on staying with Jeanette - and besides, he considered himself a good German who had fought in WWI. But Erna refused to stay any longer, and endanger the boys. In the end, Philipp was persuaded to leave together with his family.
Philipp (1888 - 1956) and Erna (BAER, 1904 - 1965), together with their children Fritz (Fred, 1933 - 2005) and Helmut (Henry, 1935 - ), thus left Germany on 20 August 1940. They traveled through Russia and Japan, and stayed in Singapore for a while before boarding a ship to cross the Pacific. On 23 September 1940 they arrived in Seattle WA and traveled to Kansas City for a family visit, before settling in Richmond VA. For some years, they lived on a farm in Dutton VA, in one of the sharecroppers' houses.
In 1946 the family learned that Jeanette had died in one of the camps. Philipp had a mental breakdown upon learning this news and was overcome with guilt at having left Jeanette behind. He continued to work in his modest grocery store with Erna, but became a broken man. He died in 1956 in Richmond. Erna lived in Richmond until her death in 1965.