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Gender: Female
Hometown: Kansas
Home country: USA
Member since: Sun Jul 11, 2004, 03:53 AM
Number of posts: 54,381

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In 1939 the U.S. turned away a ship carrying nearly a thousand Jewish refugees from Germany.

Some found refuge in other countries. Many died in the Holocaust:

But last night they dreamt up the St. Louis Manifest, a Twitter project sharing the story of some 900 Jews who fled Nazi Germany in 1939 on the MS St. Louis, which planned to stop in Cuba and then continue on in an attempt to gain entry into the United States. Unable to enter due to strict immigration quotas, the passengers were forced to return to Europe, where a number of countries accepted them as refugees; 254 of them were killed in the Holocaust. This story, Neiss and Schwartz believe, serves as a fitting tribute to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, and a reminder of a time in American history when the country closed its doors to refugees.


Russel Neiss: The MS St. Louis was a ship [holding] primarily Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939. So this is after Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, when some folks saw the writing on the wall and thought: “I have to get out of here to be safe.” These were folks who booked tickets; they had applied for visas to the United States, and the ship was going to go from Germany via Cuba to the United States thereafter. The Cuban government held their documents on the way from Germany to Cuba, which basically stranded everyone on the ship. Even though these people had applied for visas, the United States would not grant them entry. The ship afterward went from port to port in Europe (dropping off the passengers).

Approximately half of these refugees (among the 620 who were returned to continental Europe) ended up being murdered by the Nazi death machine over the course of the war.


Neiss: On the one hand, it is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is important to remember the victims of the Holocaust—not just the six million Jews that were murdered, but the 10 million victims of Nazism and Hitlerism in general. The other thing I think makes this story particularly timely is the talk we’ve seen this week of a Trump executive order banning refugees. People always say that if you forget history then you will be doomed to repeat it. This is one of those moments where history gives us an opportunity to think about where we are now. When folks say “never again” or “we remember,” it is important for us to actually do so. The MS St. Louis is an interesting story in particular because we literally had hundreds of refugees waiting outside the Port of Miami to get in, and they were turned away and sent to their deaths, because of politics and all sorts of other issues.


Many of the refugees at our border today are also fleeing murderous violence, yet we are repeating the callousness of the past while adding a large extra helping of vicious abuse.
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