The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.
Переклад цього матеріалу українською мовою з російської було автоматично здійснено сервісом Google Translate, без подальшого редагування тексту.
Bu məqalə Google Translate servisi vasitəsi ilə avtomatik olaraq rus dilindən azərbaycan dilinə tərcümə olunmuşdur. Bundan sonra mətn redaktə edilməmişdir.

"We knew what was waiting for us there": 80 years ago, Jews tried to escape from Nazism, but the US refused to accept them

On May 13, 1939, the ship "St. Louis" with 937 passengers on board sailed from Hamburg, Germany, to Havana. Most of its passengers were Jews who fled Germany - from pogroms, violence, discrimination and camps. But neither in Cuba, nor in the United States, nor in Canada, refugees were not allowed to get off the ship. They were sent back to Europe. A third of the St. Louis passengers did not survive the Holocaust.

Фото: Depositphotos

The story of this tragic voyage told the publication “Currently,".

On the night of November 10, 1938, throughout Germany, in the annexed Austria and the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, wave of anti-Jewish riots: about 400 Jews were killed, another 30 thousand were sent to camps. After three months, most of the prisoners were released on the condition that they leave Germany.

That night went down in history as Crystal, or the Night of Broken Glass Windows. After her, Jews began to leave Germany en masse. One of the ways to escape the Nazis seemed to many to be a Cuban visa: Cuba remained almost the only country that accepted Jews. Refugees paid their last money for entry permits and a ticket for the liner. There, in a more relaxed atmosphere, they hoped to wait for an American visa: 734 St. Louis passengers had US immigration quotas numbers, allowing them to enter the country in three years.

Luxury liner after a miserable life in Berlin

Gizela Knepel (married Feldman) was 15 years old when she set sail with her mother and younger sister on the St. Louis. Gisela survived the war and the Holocaust, later in interviews she repeatedly told her story.

On the eve of the Crystal Night in Berlin, the SS men arrested her father, a native of Poland. He was waiting for the deportation.

Gisela remembered the broken glass on the sidewalks after the pogrom of the night, looted shops and burning synagogues. Their apartment was given to a German family, and she, her sister, and mother had to move in with her aunt, whose husband was also deported.

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Gisela's mother repeatedly tried to get a visa anywhere, just to leave the country. So she found out that the Cuban embassy was selling entry visas, and she managed to get them - the day before the departure of "St. Louis".

“When we boarded the ship, I felt a mixture of relief and awe. The food was great, we were served by waiters! We have never lived in such luxury. The atmosphere of a holiday reigned, we enjoyed the fun ”, - told Gisela Knepel in an interview with The Jewish Chronicle.

Only Gisela's mother was not happy: she left her husband in Germany, despite his pleas not to leave him. In addition, with them for three they had only ten German marks.

“But we were kids, and the ship had cinemas, comfortable cabins and a pool. It was such a contrast to our unhappy life in Berlin! ”- Gisela Knepel recalled.

The captain of the ship did his best to make the trip enjoyable. He allowed the portrait of Hitler to be removed from the wall in the room where the passengers held Saturday services, the women brought their candlesticks, and on Friday evening there was a very family atmosphere, Knepel recalled.

Фото: Depositphotos

Captain Gustav Schroeder

Liner "St. Louis" was commanded by Gustav Schroeder. He remained the last captain in the Hamburg-America shipping company who did not join the Nazi party NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party) and did not wear a swastika armband. He was well aware of the passengers on board the ship and insisted that the crew treat them with all respect.

It was thanks to Gustav Schroeder that the passengers of the liner managed to escape the Nazi camps. He became a hero to them.

On May 23, the captain received a telegram stating that the St. Louis passengers would not be able to disembark in Havana. Tourist visas that people had such a hard time getting proved to be invalid.

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Even before the ship’s departure, it turned out that the Minister of Internal Affairs of Cuba, Manuel Benitez, had issued visas on his own initiative and had appropriated all the money received for them. The Cuban government, upon learning of fraud, canceled documents. But none of the passengers before the departure of the liner knew that their visas were invalid.

The St. Louis arrived in Havana on 27 May. Only 22 passengers with US visas were able to disembark. The rest were denied entry.

Fred Buff, who sailed the liner (in 1939, he was 17 years old), in an interview with Jewish Standard in 2009 I toldthat the mood of the passengers changed “dramatically and quickly”.

“There was despair. The ship's infirmary was full of depressed people. We hoped that we would not return to Germany - it would be a disaster: we knew what would be waiting for us there, ”he said.

One of the passengers tried to commit suicide. It was Max Lev, previously a successful lawyer. At the age of 14 years he managed to participate in the First World War and get a reward for heroism. Having been in the Nazi concentration camp at the end of the 1930-s, Lev always saw the surveillance of the SS and Gestapo agents. In Havana, he lost his nerve: a man cut his veins and rushed into the water. The sailor saved him, from the ship Lev was taken to the hospital. So Max Löw was the first refugee to hit the Cuban land. His wife and children not allowed leave the ship. (Later, having recovered, he was able to return to the family, which at that time lived in France).

“St. Louis” stood in the roadstead off the coast of Havana for four days. On June 1939, XNUMX, Captain Schroeder was ordered to leave the territorial waters of Cuba. For almost five more days, the liner was near the Cuban coast in the hope that the authorities would overturn the decision.

At this time, a refusal came from the United States: Secretary of State Cordell Hull advised Roosevelt not to accept Jews.

Captain Schröder circled off the coast of Florida: he thought that you could run aground off the coast and allow the refugees to escape. But the US Coast Guard did not allow this to happen: when the ship approached Miami, American boats blocked his way to the port of the city.

Canada could be another rescue option. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, upon receiving an asylum request from passengers on the St. Louis, handed it over to Immigration Director Frederick Blair, known for his hostility to Jewish immigration. He convinced the prime minister not to interfere.

June 6, 1939 "St. Louis" was forced to return to Europe.

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The ship panicked, the passengers almost staged a revolt. However, Captain Schroeder assured everyone that the ship would not return to Germany until all the passengers received asylum. Moreover, he developed a plan for an emergency, according to which the airliner was to crash off the coast of England in order to force the British authorities to take measures to rescue passengers.

Fortunately, as a result of negotiations between the charitable organization "Joint" ("American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee") with the authorities of several European countries, refugees from "St. Louis" agreed to accept Holland - 181 man, France - 224, United Kingdom - 228 and Belgium - 214.

How it all ended

The passengers were able to leave the St. Louis on June 17, 1939. They went ashore at Antwerp and departed for the countries that agreed to receive them. By 1940, all the passengers on the liner, except those who fled to England, were again in the hands of the Nazis. Of the 288 passengers sent to England, all but one survived the war and the Holocaust. 254 people in other European countries were killed in concentration camps.

Gisela Knepel, her mother and sister were in the UK. Her father died during the Holocaust.

Captain Gustav Schroeder never went to sea after 1940. Thanks to the testimony of some of his surviving refugee passengers, he was released from the denazification process. In 1949 he published a memoir on the voyage of the St. Louis.

Gustav Schroeder died in 1959 at the age of 73. In Germany, Schroeder was awarded the Order of Merit; in Hamburg, one of the streets was named after him. In 1993, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Complex posthumously honored Schroeder with the title Righteous Among the Nations.

Apologies later xnumx years

In 2000, the nephew of the Director of the Immigration Service of Canada, Frederick Blair apologized before the Jewish people for the actions of their uncle.

U.S. Department of State apologized passengers of "St. Louis" in 2012. The official ceremony was attended by Deputy Secretary Bill Burns and 14 surviving passengers on the ship.

In May, 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter, that the Canadian government will soon apologize for its role in the fate of the ship’s passengers. Official apology followed in November of the same year.

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