Nine hundred thirty-seven.
That was the number of passengers aboard the SS St. Louis, a German ocean liner that set off from Hamburg on May 13, 1939. Almost all of those sailing were Jewish people, desperate to escape the Third Reich. The destination was Havana, more than two weeks away by ship.
. . .
“Sailing so close to Florida that they could see the lights of Miami, some passengers on the St. Louis cabled President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for refuge,” the Holocaust museum noted. “Roosevelt never responded.”
A State Department telegram stated, simply, that passengers must “await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.”
Finally, the St. Louis returned to Europe. After more than a month at sea, the passengers disembarked in Antwerp, Belgium, where they were divided between four countries that had agreed to take them: Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
By the end of the Holocaust, 254 of them would be dead....
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