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Welcome the Stranger to America

17 2 8
Almost exactly 80 years ago, the St. Louis, a German transatlantic liner, set sail from Hamburg, Germany to Havana, Cuba. The ship carried 937 passengers, almost all of whom were Jewish men, women, and children fleeing the Third Reich. Cuba was meant only to be a temporary stopover, where passengers could stay until the US visas they’d applied for had been granted. Instead, passengers were forbidden from disembarking in Cuba, victims of bitter feuding within the Cuban government. For many Cubans, the Jewish refugees were seen as unwanted competition for scarce jobs. Others labeled the incoming Jews unwanted communists.

By the time the St. Louis landed in Cuba, only 28 passengers were allowed to disembark. The rest were left relatively powerless, begging any who would listen to grant them the necessary paperwork to be able to enter the United States. Their pleas for amnesty, and asylum, sadly, were ignored. Despite intense media coverage, President Roosevelt denied the ship passengers their visas. At the time, the United States had strict German-Austrian immigration quotas. To have granted visas to the passengers of the St. Louis would have meant skipping over many who were on a years’ long waiting list. And, it was not like the American public was ready to greet these weary Jews with open arms.

Like their counterparts in Cuba, most Americans saw Jewish refugees as competition for jobs in an already depressed economy. The refugees had no choice but to return to Europe. They were sent back to the horrible conditions they fled from. They were, and this is no exaggeration, sent back to die. Our government leaders during the 1930s and 40s had forgotten the........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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