The saga of the MS St. Louis – a German ocean liner that set sail in 1939, filled with persecuted Jews seeking political asylum – is one that indicts the US in a way few other stories from the time period can. How? It highlights a time when the US refused to accept Jewish immigrants – who were desperately fleeing the Holocaust – in fear they might actually be German spies. Also known as the "Voyage of the Damned," the journey of the St. Louis is one that took its passengers from joy to despair – and their eventual termination in concentration camps – as it made its way first to Cuba (where it was turned away), then to the United States (where it was turned away), and finally to Canada (where it was again turned away).
Eventually, the ship docked in Antwerp, Belgium, and the passengers dispersed throughout the continent. However, many ended up in places soon controlled by Hitler's rule and found themselves in concentration camps, after coming so close to freedom on the St. Louis. In total, more than a quarter of the passengers who sought political asylum on the ship were felled by Hitler's regime.
Despite this turn of events, the US continued to maintain a federal stance of xenophobia against Jewish refugees for most of WWII. This occurred at the same time that Japanese-Americans were being interned in camps inside the US as a consequence of these same forces. In fact, it wasn't until January of 1944 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the War Refugee Board (WRB), which was tasked with rescuing endangered refugees. And, though this did result in the safe haven of many of those in peril, it couldn't erase its previous stance or the story of the MS St. Louis and its 927 hopeful passengers disappear.
At First, The MS St. Louis Was A Jubilant Affair With Delicious Meals, Swimming, And A Covered-Over Bust Of Hitler
Then Cuba, The US, And Canada All Turned The Refugees Away – Turning Their Joyful Journey Into 'The Voyage Of The Damned'
Its Return To The European Continent Meant The End For Many Of The Passengers
This Wasn't The Only Time The US Turned Away Refugees During WWII
A Twitter Account Has Been Created In Remembrance Of The Victims