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The Fates of the Refugees of the St. Louis

In 1939, the St. Louis set sail from Hamburg, Germany, en route to Cuba. Aboard were 937 passengers seeking refuge from the Jewish persecution of Nazi Germany. They had hoped they could stay in Cuba until their applications for U.S. visas could be approved. But Cuba turned them away. And the U.S. wouldn't let them in.

The State Department sent a telegram to the ship stating: “[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.”

With no further progress to be made, the ship sailed back to Europe. Four European nations, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium, did agree to take the refugees when the ship returned to the continent. However, as the Nazis invaded western Europe over the following years, 532 of the former passengers found themselves in German-controlled territory. In the end, 254 were killed during the war and Holocaust.

A Twitter feed called St. Louis Manifest gives each of those 254 people their own memorial, naming each one, their fate, and a photograph if available, in separate Tweets. The Stein family shown above has three entries. Read the short version of the St. Louis refugees' story at Smithsonian.

(Image credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum courtesy of Judy Katz)


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