The St. Louis set sail on May 13, 1939. The Jewish passengers were mostly German citizens, some were from eastern Europe and some were considered “stateless”. They were sailing from Hamburg, German to Havana, Cuba. Captain Gustav Schroder carried 937 refugees seeking asylum from Nazi persecution ….. in later years, this was termed “The Voyage of the Damned’.
These are the facts of this tragic journey:
- The St. Louis set sail from Hamburg to Cuba on May 13, 1939.
- Although the passengers aboard the St. Louis were “treated with contempt before they boarded ( anti-Semitism was on the rise) , but once on the ship they were treated like privileged tourists. This trip was regarded as the “vacation trip to freedom”, since all of the luxurious amenities were available to the passengers. The crew was elegant and elegantly outfitted as they served food that was rationed in Europe to the “well-heeled” passengers.
- The ship dropped anchored at 4 am in Havana harbor and was denied entry.
- It was announced that passengers arriving on the ship would only be allowed to enter if they had official Cuban visas, this applied to only 29 passengers. These 29 were allowed to stay in Cuba.
- After long negotiations, the remaining 908 passengers (mostly Jewish) (one passenger had died of natural causes en route) were forced to return to Europe.
- The members of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s cabinet tried to persuade Cuba to accept the refugees but were unsuccessful.
- The Dominican Republic said that they would accept up 10 100,000 but it was unknown as to why this offer was not taken up.
- Legally the refugees could not enter the US on tourist visas, as they had no return addresses. The US had passed the Immigration Act of 1924 that restricted numbers of new immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. Ultimately the United States did not provide for entry of the refugees.
- The situation was the same in Canada. Canadian immigration official Frederick Blair, hostile to Jewish immigration, persuaded the Prime Minister on June 9 not to intervene. In 2000, Blair’s nephew apologized to the Jewish people for his uncle’s action.[
- Captain Schroder, the commander of the ship, was a non-Jewish German who went to great lengths to ensure dignified treatment for his passengers. He arranged for Jewish religious services and commanded his crew to treat the refugee passengers as they would any other customers on the cruise line. As the situation of the vessel deteriorated, he personally negotiated and schemed to find them a safe haven. (At one point he formulated plans to wreck the ship on the British coast to force the passengers to be taken as refugees.) He refused to return the ship to Germany until all the passengers had been given entry to some other country. US officials worked with Britain and European nations to find refuge for the travelers in Europe.
- The ship returned to Europe, docking at Antwerp, Belgium, on June 17, 1939 with 907 passengers.
- The United Kingdom agreed to take 288 of the passengers (31.76 percent), who disembarked and traveled to the UK via other steamers. After much negotiation by Schröder, the remaining 619 passengers were allowed to disembark at Antwerp; 224 were accepted by France (24.70 percent), 214 by Belgium (23.59 percent), and 181 by the Netherlands (19.96 percent). Without any passengers, the ship returned to Hamburg. The following year, after the Nazi German invasions of Belgium and France in May 1940, all the Jews in those countries were at renewed risk, including the recent refugees.
- 180 of the St. Louis refugees in France, 152 of those in Belgium, and 60 of those in the Netherlands survived the Holocaust. Including the passengers who landed in England, of the original 936 refugees (one man died during the voyage), roughly 709 survived the war and 227 did not.
So….. Angela, why did you print this 13 point factual piece? Because I have read and witnessed liberals trying to change the facts of history by implying that the “evil” USA did not accept the Jewish refugees and thus the Jewish refugees were sent to their death in the Holocaust. This was not true. and I will add that this refusal of the refugees were based upon the poor state of the economy, having just begun to gain recovery from the depression and yes, more than a little anti-Semitism. I will add that none of these Jewish refugees posed a possible terrorist threat to the USA. Unlike the fear that exists today.