In 2003, I was issued my first passport.  With it in hand, the girl smiling out at the world from the passport photo was ready to venture out into the great unknown beyond America!  That’s what you do when you get a passport – you explore!  You cross borders!  You go through customs!  With a passport, you see the world! 

Or you go home. 

----

I imagine that the spring and early summer of 1934 was a time of planning and preparation for Max and Anna and their small family.  There were changes in store for these Schellhardts.  Not only was another baby on the way but there was a move to make.  And this wasn’t any cross-city move.  This was a move across the ocean. 

For Max, it was a move back home. 

At some point – the facts and mundane details lost to history – Max decided to take his family back to Germany to help his father with the family business (a tavern?  a hotel?  it’s never been quite clear to me.)  You have to wonder too whether Max at 29 – now a man with family responsibilities and multiple dependents – was leaving an economically depressed country to go to a land of opportunity just as he had, in reverse, at the age of 19. 

Whatever the reason, the Schellhardts left America in July 1934. 

But remember, Max was no longer a German citizen.  He was an American.  And so he needed a U.S. passport to go home. 

He was issued Passport No. 113690 on June 6, 1934.  At that time, wives and children were included in the passports of their head of household so Max’s wife Anna and their three sons are listed in his passport.   In a bit of interesting timing, the fourth Schellhardt child, Helen, was born two days after the passport was issued.  Since you can’t just slip a baby through customs – no matter how cute – an amendment had to be made.  On July 9th, Helen’s picture was added on Page 6 and I would wager she is probably the youngest Schellhardt child to be recorded in a passport. 

There are interesting things about the passport – first, Anna’s name is listed as Marie Anna.  It is one of the many instances of Nanny’s flip-flopping name.  Secondly, Max’s birth date is incorrectly recorded – April 5, 1905.  He (someone?) was eight days off.  Lastly, look closely at the stamps and you realize that Max was going back to a different country than the one that he left as a young man.  But we, of course, have the benefit of hindsight and history books. 
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I blew up the cover of Max’s passport and it’s now framed and hanging in my dining room.  When I look at it, I imagine the journey that this record – and that’s what this is to this archivist, a record – took so many years ago.  I wonder if it was stuffed in Max’s jacket pocket or tucked away in Anna’s pocketbook.  Was it gingerly placed on a counter were some junior immigration official thumbed through the pages?  Was it hastily pulled out to be presented upon disembarking?  Did it get lost in the shuffle of a week long journey across the ocean?  Did it hear (records hear just like they speak, doncha know?) someone yell in a panic “where is the passport?!” 

I am lucky in that I can hold this piece of our family’s history in my hands.  Every once in a while, I take it out and I experience the weight of it even though it is not heavy in the least.  I run my fingers across the (surely fake) gold embossed cover and the raised stamps that are the hallmarks of a government record.  I flip through the pages, even the blank ones…because even without words, there is a story on those pages.  I look at the photographs and I see a family ready to venture beyond America. 

This passport took our family home. 

And brought them back home again.     
 


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Terry Fine
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Denise - Thanks for sharing the family history. This story made me pull out my passports (1984, 1997, 2007) and reminisce about my adventures abroad!

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