Captain of famed Exodus refugee ship dies at 86
By ARON HELLER (AP) – 5 days ago
JERUSALEM — Yitzhak “Ike” Ahronovitch, the captain of the Exodus ship whose attempt to take Holocaust survivors to Palestine built support for Israel’s founding, has died. He was 86.
He died Wednesday in northern Israel after a long illness, his daughter Ella said.
The Exodus 1947 ship left France in July 1947 carrying more than 4,500 people — most of them Holocaust survivors and other displaced Jews — in a secret effort to reach Palestine. At the time, Britain controlled Palestine and was limiting the immigration of Jews.
The British navy seized the vessel off Palestine’s shores, and after a battle on board that left three people dead, turned the ship and its passengers back to Europe, where the refugees were forced to disembark in Germany.
The ship’s ordeal was widely reported worldwide, garnering sympathy for the refugees, especially because they were taken to Germany, where the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews during World War II originated.
THIS is a story of strict immigration restrictions and its aftermath. The Johnson-Reed Act in 1924, spearheaded by the KKK, was intended to greatly reduce the number of immigrants from certain areas in Europe, mainly the undesirable eastern Europeans, and of course, the Jews.
When Hitler threatened to kill the Jews of Germany and Eastern Europe, fifteen years after the passage of Johnson-Reed, American Jews pleaded with Roosevelt to amend the immigration quotas.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1933, Americans were struggling to survive the greatest economic depression the country had ever seen. Many Americans feared that needy immigrants would take precious jobs or place an added strain on an already burdened economy.
Hmmm, sounds familiar doesn’t it?
America’s immigration laws have always placed quotas on the number of people allowed to enter the United States from other countries. For example, in 1939 the quota allowed for 27,370 German citizens to immigrate to the United States. In 1938, more than 300,000 Germans —mostly Jewish refugees —had applied for U.S. visas (entry permits). A little over 20,000 applications were approved. Beyond the strict national quotas, the United States openly denied visas to any immigrant “likely to become a public charge.” This ruling proved to be a serious problem for many Jewish refugees who had lost everything when the Nazis took power and might be in need of government assistance after they immigrated to the United States.
In May 1939, only a few months before war began in Europe, a passenger ship called the St. Louis left Germany carrying nearly a thousand refugees, most of whom were Jews. Many of these people had already qualified for, but had not yet received, American visas. They arranged for temporary Cuban tourist visas that would enable them to wait outside of Germany for U.S. visas. By the time the St. Louis reached Havana, however, the Cuban government had changed its visa regulations. It refused to allow most of the refugees to land.
Forced to leave Cuban waters, the St. Louis sailed up the Florida coast. The U.S. Coast Guard followed close behind to prevent any passengers from swimming ashore. The State Department refused to allow the refugees to land without special legislation by Congress or an executive order from the president. Efforts by American Jewish organizations to work out a compromise failed. The desperate passengers aboard the St. Louis sent President Roosevelt a telegram pleading their case; he never replied.
Finally, the St. Louis returned to Europe and several nations granted asylum to the refugees. But when Hitler’s troops marched through Europe, most of the St.Louis’ ill-fated passengers were eventually caught by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps.
I am not suggesting that the immigration issue facing this country today is akin to Nazi Germany, what I am suggesting, is that immigration law is MAN-made and so it will forever be a work in progress. Rule of law is relevant only as it applies to the man making the law in the present day. As we all know, many laws have changed, with much strife, throughout the history of this country.
Father Creedon says it best in this interview.