Holocaust History: What Happened to the Jewish Refugees in St. Louis

Jewish Holocaust History
Jews captured and forcibly pulled out from dugouts by the Germans during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Photo: Wikipedia

Holocaust history has been reincarnated by the Twitter account St. Louis Manifest. St. Louis was the infamous transatlantic ship boarded by 937 ill-fated Jews fleeing from the horrors of the Nazi Germany on May 13, 1939. Most the Jewish passengers begged for US visas as refugees and planned to disembark in Cuba before they could enter the United States. The US State Department and it’s consulate in Havana as well as the Cuban government refused permission for the passengers to disembark: most of the passengers were turned back to Europe. History of the Holocaust lays it bare that the owners of the St. Louis knew the fate of the Jewish refugees even before they boarded the ship. The executive order by President Donald Trump banning Muslim refugees entering the US reminds us of the same decision made by Cuban President  Federico Laredo Bru: he  issued a decree that invalidated all recently issued transit visas and landing certificates.

History of the Holocaust and St. Louis Manifest

Russel Neiss, a Jewish educator and technologist, revived the brutal history of the Holocaust by tweeting the names of the passengers on the St. Louis. International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2017 was observed on last Friday, and Russel Neiss’ tweets that he made using a bot that collected relevant data from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum went viral. Russel Neiss’ project St. Louis Manifest is now followed by 72,000 people and the number is continuously rising.

Holocaust History and Jewish Refugees

As the Holocaust Encyclopedia reports, Jewish refugees went through horrible obstacles in finding just a shelter during the Depression and  World War II. It is estimated that more than 350,000 Jews fled from Germany. The ill-fated 100,00 Jews who took refuge in other European countries had been killed in the Holocaust. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order which created the War Refugee Board and facilitated the rescue works saving the helpless Jewish refugees. Through Executive Order 9417 signed on January 22, 1944 demanded the “immediate rescue and relief of the Jews of Europe and other victims of enemy persecution.” Despite the initiative, the effort of the War Refugee Board was, in the words of the director John Pehle, “little and late”. It is reported that the WRB helped to rescue and protected thousands of Jews in Hungary and Romania.

Jewish Refugees and American Hostility

However, the US also claimed that the Jewish refugees were a threat to the national security as many government officials believed that Nazi spies could infiltrate into the country in disguise. The story of Herbert Karl Friedrich Bahr who was accused by the FBI of posing as a refugee to steal industrial secrets and pass them to the Gestapo. Bahr’s case has been used by the US government to justify its rejection of Jewish refugees entering into the US.

Holocaust history is vividly represented by @Historical Opinion. Public opinion on Jewish refugees seeking shelter in the US is quite interesting. Majority of Americans, even though the survey has been participated by less than 5% Americans, believed that the United States should keep the refugees out of the US; less than 5% thought that America should increase the immigration quotas to accommodate political refugees. The twitter account Historical Opinion shared the important information on the issue:

However, holocaust history is full of denials and rejection: a totally different and opposite information regarding the Americans’ attitude towards the Jews was reflected by the survey conducted by the Gallup’s American Institute of Public Opinion in 1939. Surprisingly, 61% of Americans did not want the 10,000 Jewish refugee children to be taken in American homes.

Holocaust history tells us that time and again refugees have been rejected by governments . Holocaust history also tells us that many countries welcomed helpless refugees with arms wide open. Turning away people who are vulnerable, people who are fleeing away just for their lives is revived by Russel Neiss’ twitter account. The doomed passengers of St. Louis remind us the fate of the many helpless Syrians who are trying to save their lives and mercilessly being rejected by many nations.


About the author


Business and technology have always been Sam's areas of interest, and he transformed that interest into a passion through his regular contributions on issues related to these. As an IT specialist Sam is well versed in the most up-to-date trends in the field of computer technology. He earned his Master's in Information Science from Penn State University. He writes on technology, science, business, nature, and contemporary issues.


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