The Voyage Of S.S. St. Louis

Allison Gossett-7

The Tragedy That Will Live In Infamy

On The 13th of May in 1939, more than 900 passengers, which all consisted of Jews, were fleeing their own tyranny filled homes to look for freedom. Whenever the Nazis took over, thousands of Jews fought for their lives to survive, and lost it, along with their hope. But when word got out that their was an outlet, and that it was on a luxury liner, families found hope again. Men, Women, and children boarded the S.S. St Louis, a luxury liner that was their gateway to freedom. When the passengers boarded the ship, they were told that they were leaving and going somewhere safe, that they "...don't have to look over their shoulders anymore," said Sol Messinger. But for some families, that was not the whole truth.


The ship was sailing from Hamburg to Havana. The passengers were leaving Germany after Kristallnacht, the pogrom of burning and mass arrests, which happened just previously before. Each passenger carried a valid visa for temporary entry into Cuba. But during their trip, as they approached Havana, the officials in the Cuban government said that their visas were invalid, and did not let them enter. The owners of St Louis predicted that their might be a little trouble as they attempted to land in Cuba, yet the passengers were unaware. They attempted to negotiate with Cuba, but they would not readjust their decision. They also tried to negotiate with the United States, but their refugee policy would not allow it. There was only a certain number of refugees the United States allowed in and after the combined German and Austrian immigration, the refugee policy had been fulfilled. As a result, the United States Government refused to allow the ship to dock, which resulted in the ship waiting twelve days in the Havana port and off the Miami coast. After the long wait, the liner was forced to return to Europe.


St Louis, however, did not return to Germany. After a month had past since St Louis had set sail, the king and prime minister of Belgium agreed that two hundred passengers on the ship could stay in Belgium. Following this event, Jewish organizations, such as the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, spoke with four other European countries and the negotiation resulted in success. The Netherlands welcomed 181 passengers, Great Britain admitted 288, Belgium took in 214, and 224 passengers were at least able to stay in France temporarily. Since not all of the passengers were able to find refuge in those countries, 620 had to return to the continent. 84 of those were able to escape before the German Invasion. Although, 532 of the passengers were captured when the German invaded. About half of them survived the Holocaust, but 254 perished.

Trailer: When Canada Said No: The Abandoned Jews of the MS St. Louis

Works Cited

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"The Voyage of the SS St. Louis." The Voyage of the SS St. Louis., 1999. Web. 3 Feb. 2016. <http://www.blechner.com/ssstlouis/>.


Thomas, Gordon, and Max Morgan Witts. "The Tragedy Of S.S. St. Louis." The Jewish Virtual Library. N.p., 20 May 2014. Web. 29 Jan. 2016. <https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/stlouis.html>.


Trailer: When Canada Said No: The Abandoned Jews of the MS St. Louis. 2011. www.holocaustbbctaskforce.ca


Two women looking out of porthole on S.S. St louis. Digital image. Canada Turned Away Jewish Refugees. Herald News, 15 Dec. 2013. Web. 3 Feb. 2016. <http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1174272-canada-turned-away-jewish-refugees>.


Wood, Angela. Holocaust: The Events and Their Impact on Real People. New York, NY: DK, 2007. Print.


"Voyage of the St. Louis." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 29 Jan. 2016. <http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005267>.