Stevens Creek Press







In March of 1940, as a result of Hitlerís plans to eradicate Jews, 10-year-old Lizzi left Vienna by joining a small transport of children seeking refuge in America. 

Two weeks later she began her new life in San Francisco, getting a new name, Phyllis, and having to learn a new language. 

Her family is scattered on three continents, but linked by letters.

War Orphan in San Francisco is a coming-of-age story and a poignant memoir.          more


Phyllis Mattson's memoir, War Orphan in San Francisco, is a coming of age story told through family letters. Phyllis wrote her parents details of her new life as she grew into adolescence and became an American, while they tried to parent her long-distance.

During the next six years Phyllis moved in and out of foster homes and an orphanage due to her rebellious behavior, but as she defended herself stoutly in her letters, she gained self-confidence and skills to become an independent, responsible adult.

Her parents tried desperately to join her, but were stopped by incredible red tape and war hysteria. Her motherís letters are unbearably painful, but despite her hard labors in German slave camps, she doesnít give up hope. Her fatherís letters show his resignation to the bureaucracy that has him erroneously incarcerated in Australia.

The moods, hope, fears, and accomplishments are all recounted in the details of the letters, thereby authenticating one familyís experiences during World War II, and the love that sustained hopes of a reunion. Interwoven between the letters is a narrative that depicts the times and places of that era.

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The Author :

Phyllis Helene Mattson was a community college teacher of Anthropology and Health Sciences in Silicon Valley. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, received graduate degrees in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin and Public Health from Harvard. 

Phyllis started her career in health research, culminating in the book, Holistic Health in Perspective, in 1981, then turned to teaching. In 1989-90 she taught English at Shandong University in China, and in 1994 joined the Peace Corps in Nepal. She has two children and two grandchildren.

Reviews :

"Sent across the ocean by their parents and taken in by foster parents and distant relatives, approximately 1,000 children, ranging in age from fourteen months to sixteen years, landed in the United States and out of Hitler's reach between 1934 and 1945.

One of the fortunate children brought to America and out of harm's way was Phyllis Finkel Mattson. Leaving her parents behind, she arrived in the United States in the spring of 1940. Though separated by an ocean and unspeakable perils, her parents continued to communicate by letter. Today, those letters, and Phyllis' own recounting of those times are contained in an exceptional book entitled, War Orphan San Francisco." --- Iris Posner, author (read the entire review)


"Your book brought back many memories of the 1940ís. I thought that your description of Homewood Terrace was very accurate. The Home was run in a very fair manneróall of us sharing in the upkeep of our own cottage and thereby learning the skills of housekeeping preparing us for our future..." -- Eda Pell, San Rafael


"Your struggle during adolescence was a universal storyÖand the letters were so touching, they brought me to tears." -- Gail Levine, San Francisco

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Contact Information :

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