An Orphan of the Holocaust

Michael Pupa, age 12. (National Archives)

His parents were victims of the Nazis when he was only four, and he and his uncle spent two years hiding in the forests of Poland, waiting until the end of World War II.

But the ordeal of Michael Pupa was far from over. He became a “displaced person,” or DP, moving from one DP camp to another until 1951, when Michael, by then 12, and his cousin were flown to the United States and sent to a home for refugee children, then to foster homes in Cleveland.

Michael Pupa’s story does have a happy ending, and it is told in a new exhibit that opens at the National Archives on Friday, June 15, called “Attachments: Faces and Stories from America’s Gates.”

Curator Bruce Bustard says the exhibit draws from millions of immigration case files in the National Archives holdings to tell a few of these stories from the 1880s through World War II.

“It also explores the attachment of immigrants to family and community and the attachment of government organizations to immigration laws that reflected certain beliefs about immigrants and citizenship,” he says. “These are dramatic tales of joy and disappointment, opportunity and discrimination, deceit and honesty.”

Of the individuals chosen randomly to be included in the exhibit, only Michael Pupa is alive, and he and his family from Cleveland will be at the Archives June 14 for the exhibit’s opening. His heart-warming story is told in the exhibit and in this article in the forthcoming Summer issue of Prologue magazine, the flagship publication of the National Archives.

In her article, “An Orphan of the Holocaust: His Journey to America,” Miriam Kleiman of the National Archives Public Affairs Staff tells Michael’s fascinating story, complete with its dark moments and its happy ending. (The Summer issue of Prologue will be available later this month at the Archives Shop in the National Archives Building.)

The “Attachments” exhibit runs in the O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives through September 4.

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