Affidavit (from Latin affidare, to trust)

PROSPECTIVE IMMIGRANTS to the U.S. not only had to wait for their quota number to come up – and for German Jews in the late 1930s, this could take more than a year – but also had to have affidavits of financial support to assure that they would not become public charges (a particular concern with high unemployment in the 1930s).

 

As there was no standard criteria for determining an immigrant’s financial stability, each consul could make its own judgments, and in many cases it was exceedingly difficult to have acceptable affidavits.

In August, 1939, when Cecilia Razovsky (who wrote the fascinating 1922 pamphlet, What Every Emigrant Should Know) of the National Refugee Service wrote this letter to the State Department on behalf of my father's brother Max, she detailed the three affidavits given by cousins (affidavits from relatives were favored), which the Stuttgart consulate had deemed “not acceptable.”

 

Fortunately, Ms. Razovky’s letter had an effect and Max Sonnemann’s visa was approved. But by November of 1939, Washington imposed even stricter affidavit standards – one of the main reasons why so many visa applicants from Germany were rejected.