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.

41 Thoughts to “Skipper of Exodus, The Ship Carrying Holocaust Survivors to Palestine, Dies”

  1. Witness Too

    I am so sad that this happened. What a stain on our history.

    In my view, the greatest contribution that religion has offered humanity is humanity. We are born selfish creatures, capable of inhuman acts toward one another, especially those we see as different. Religion has offered the most powerful and most widespread appeal to rise above this selfishness and see all human beings as our brothers and sisters.

    The fact that the passengers on the St. Louis and the Exodus were treated in this manner is appalling considering we are a nation that likes to think of itself as moral, righteous, and religious (if not specifically Christian as per the Constitution).

    It think Elena is right that the KKK-written anti-immigration law of 1924 is what blinded our country from its Christian roots. Think about it this way, since we saw this on a smaller scale in PWC: Imagine all the hateful propaganda that must have been necessary nationwide to promote a law that effectively restricted “legal” immigrants to Western Europeans only. That is just plain bigotry, and yet it became the foundation of Americas immigration “law” until the 1960’s. It must have been much uglier than what we saw in PWC, especially as there was a lot less shame for being openly racist then, which is not to say that what we saw wasn’t ugly. The cultivating and stoking of anti-immigrant hysteria in the 1920’s was the precursor to this story: a loss of humanity for all Americans, not just those targeted for dehumanization and irrational scapegoating.

  2. Elena

    There was one congressman, in particular, who spoke out strongly against the bill. The bill only had SIX dissenting votes, can you imagine?

    “An “Un-American Bill”: A Congressman Denounces Immigration Quotas

    At the turn of the 20th century, unprecedented levels of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe to the United States aroused public support for restrictive immigration laws. After World War I, which temporarily slowed immigration levels, anti-immigration sentiment rose again. Congress passed the Quota Act of 1921, limiting entrants from each nation to 3 percent of that nationality’s presence in the U.S. population as recorded by the 1910 census. As a result, immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe dropped to less than one-quarter of pre-World War I levels.

    Even more restrictive was the Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson-Reed Act) that shaped American immigration policy until the 1960s. While it passed with only six dissenting votes, congressional debates over the Johnson-Reed Act revealed arguments on both sides of this question of American policy and national identity. For example, on April 8, 1924, Robert H. Clancy, a Republican congressman from Detroit with a large immigrant constituency, defended the “Americanism” of Jewish, Italian, and Polish immigrants and attacked the quota provisions of the bill as racially discriminatory and “un-American.” “

  3. The 20’s and 30’s were very much a time of anti-immigration.

    The St. Louis will always go down in the national hall of shame.

  4. Witness Too

    It’s good to see that it was a Republican who stood up against the wave of anti-immigrant hysteria that ushered in the era of Western European whites only immigration from 1924 to 1965. We need the party of Lincoln to stand up once again, and not give in to a similar wave of needless hysteria. Where are the Republicans who put their country first? I hope they do some soul searching during the holidays and return to Congress with a new attitude. Immigration will be a good way for them to show that they are not willing to let their party, and thus our country, go backward.

  5. That is truly sad and disgusting. Clearly, immigrants should be accepted for humanitarian reasons. And truly, FAIR’s attempt to control population through banning of immigration and persecution of current immigrants.

    However, if we don’t limit the number of people coming into the country (except for humanitarian reasons) are we setting ourselves up for failure?

  6. Elena

    Great question Pinko, how do we set limits? I am not sure, but the way it is working, or rather not working, should surely tell us we need to re-evaluate.

  7. That really poses a question. Afraid I have no answer either.

  8. Witness Too

    Well, the fact is and always has been that immigrants create jobs, and create economic niches, and grow the economy. The contribute much more to our society than they get back in return. This has always been our history. The problem comes when there are not enough immigrants; not when there are too many.

    As Pinko points out, those who fear too many immigrants are not thinking straight. They are misguided by fear of those who are different, as if America can only function if 95 percent of the population is Western European white. That was the reasoning behind the 1924 anti-immigration law, and it was the reasoning for those who fought against the 1965 law that banned racial quotas designed to preserve the 95 percent white majority, AND it is the reasoning behind the formation of the anti-immigrant lobbying network of which our friends FAIR and Numbers USA are a part.

    Yes, there is such thing as too much immigration, but we have never experienced it. The limits have come from two sources: anti-immigrant and racist sentiments that led to laws with quotas (before that we had no such laws), and, the red tape that is impossible to cut through fast enough given all the laws we created, usually in a frenzy of needless hysteria.

    That said, hysteria may not be entirely needless in the age of terrorism. So I’m not saying we should do away with the procedures we have in place. What we need to do is fix the broken system so that the procedure is fair, sane, and not creating 10 to 20 year backlogs. This will help our economy grow, which will be good for our country.

  9. Wolverine

    The period right after World War I was tough economically. When the war economy was no longer a factor, when thousands upon thousands of our troops came home and were demobilized into the private economy, jobs became scarce. My maternal grandfather suffered greatly during the Depression years but the fact is that he lost his first job when the tannery where he was a foreman closed down in 1923. I have a letter he wrote that year in his Swedish-tinged English in which he described the economic misery in his once prosperous Michigan city. There were no other jobs to be had. He had to sell his house and move elsewhere, only to lose the next job even before the Crash of 1929. Many did not really benefit from the so-called “Roaring Twenties” — including most of our farmers. And our war veterans eventually marched on Washington in an effort to get the service bonuses they had been promised and which they felt would save them from poverty and joblessness. I do not think that the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment was necessarily “evil” because we hated certain types of foreigners and did not want them among us. A big part of it was economic.

  10. Formerly Anonymous

    I think that people who bemoan the US refusing to issue visas to the passengers of the Exodus are applying a little too much hindsight. The US took in thousands of refugees from Europe in the run-up to World War II. Did we take in every single one? No. But we, along with the rest of the world, did not know in 1939 what would happen in 1942-1945. I think it is very reasonable to suggest that we might have acted differently if we had known that the passengers of the Exodus were facing certain death as opposed to economic privation and discrimination (which is about all that had happened as of May 1939.)

    It reminds me of the end of Schindler’s List when Oskar Schindler is berating himself for not saving enough people. He, like the US before the start of WW2, did not do everything that could have been done, but he (and the US) did far more than others.

    If you want to look for a country that deserves eternal shame for their treatment of the Jews, look to France. They were the only country that voluntarily rounded up *their own citizens* who happened to be Jewish and turned them over to the Nazis. The other occupied countries did not cooperate and made the Germans do their own dirty work. (I’m not trying to bash France here, but that’s pretty despicable behavior in my book and almost beyond comparison to the US failing to take in every refugee who tried to come to America.)

  11. Elena

    I agree anti immigrant feelings were fueled by the economy in part, but there has always been anti immigrant backlash in almost every generation. From the Chinese, Irish, Italians, Jews, etc etc. The ONLY group never to have suffered the backlash are the English or other “white” western european nationalities.

    I would argue that anti immigrant backlash is fueled by the economy NOT because of facts but because of fear.

  12. @Wolverine
    And you see that same kind of economic resentment now whenever it looks like an immigrant, especially and illegal immigrant, “takes” someone else’s job. When an illegal immigrant takes a job, especially if s/he doesn’t pay taxes, anger grows among the citizens. And when corporate America thrives on the underpaid, underprotected backs of illegal immigrants, they make things worse for all immigrants and all workers, thus encouraging that kind of anger and social tension.

    Also, there is a basis for this resentment that really has nothing to do with race or citizen status. When jobs become scarce, those who get the jobs are envied and for some people, any attribute of those hired becomes a reason to resent. A black person, for example, might say, “He got that job because he’s white and I am not.” A poor person might say, “She got that job because she can afford better clothes than I can.” One man might say, “She got hired because she wears short skirts.” A woman might say, “He got hired because he knows the company’s owner.” Do you see what I mean?

  13. Wolverine

    Can’t argue with you, Pinko. Those things you described do exist. But I do think we have to separate out the anti-immigrant sentiment of the early 1920’s and even the 1930’s from other eras. I had an uncle who once studied the situation of my maternal grandfather and his peers at length. The conclusion was that your job was your life, even more so than today. There were no benefits to be had — no retirement, no unemployment benefits, no company-provided health care, very little left over to put into the savings accounts. In effect, the men of that era had to “work until they dropped.” And when they lost the job, they had nothing. They and their families went hungry.

    Often only mercy saved such people, as in the case of my wife’s paternal grandfather, once a farmer and then a home builder on his own land. When hardship strick his community and those living in the homes he had built could not pay the mortgage or the rent, it left him facing possible bank foreclosures on all his properties. He was a devout Catholic who was not hesitant to get down on his knees. When he arose, he was determined never, ever to evict those down-and-out people from their homes. He took all those mortgages down to the bank and slapped them on the desk in front of his banker-creditors. Somehow he convinced them not to foreclose, and those people were not forced from their homes.

    In situations such as that, you could hardly blame an American when a job opened up and he found himself shut out by a recent immigrant who was ready to take it for a cheaper wage. That job was family survival on every front. If the “fear” of immigration was eventually transformed into some kind of distrust and even hatred of the new immigrants, this was only a repetition of what has happened everywhere at every moment of human history. I have even seen this replicated in Africa on a tribal basis in our own time. At one moment there was peace and co-existence. When the economy suffered and the jobs diminished, tribal animosity and hatred was right behind. Sometimes even violence.

  14. Wolverine

    BTW, Elena, my maternal grandfather absolutely hated the English.

  15. I see what you are saying, Wolverine, about the differences between then and now. Sometimes I think, though, it’s just the same story, different version. “There’s nothing new under the sun.” There are only various sunsets.

  16. Witness Too

    Wolverine, whatever the cause of people’s fear, when they look for scapegoats they tend to look for ones that are vulnerable to attack, who’s rights can easily be taken away. So, yes, economic anxiety is often part of the impetus for anti-immigrant or racist movements. It’s a natural progression for people who are easily manipulated by fear politics, but that does not make them any less racist or any less anti-immigrant.

    Same goes for the current wave of anti-immigrant hysteria, which began actually with 9/11 which put a fright in all of us. The natural progression was to give in to our fears and our weaknesses, and make arbitrary leaps of logic like invading the wrong country.

  17. Witness Too

    To spell it out: the anti-immigrant lobby saw how malleable the public became after 9/11 and said this is our chance to spread the fear and legitimize what, up to that point, had been seen as a racist message. They are now falling back on their tried and true source of irrational fear: economic anxiety fused with racial resentment.

  18. @Witness Too
    Some of them are racist and some are not, Witness. I don’t know if that is what you are saying, but I thought it was worth typing either way.

  19. Elena

    Posting As Pinko :I see what you are saying, Wolverine, about the differences between then and now. Sometimes I think, though, it’s just the same story, different version. “There’s nothing new under the sun.” There are only various sunsets.

    I love that Pinko, I will remember that euphimism!

  20. Elena

    I do agree with your analysis Wolverine. Tribal security trumps all, it just seems like at some point human beings would evolve!@Wolverine

  21. Witness Too

    Yes, Pinko, point taken.

  22. Witness Too

    Elena, I think the point at which we evolve comes when our country is so racially diverse and racially mixed that there is no political advantage in scapegoating any particular minority. As long as elected officials keep using this tactic, it will have at least some viability at least in the short term.

  23. Elena

    Witness, when we talk of people , the people that we honor the most throughout history, it seems to be those people that showed the most selfless act. Think of Schindler, who saved over a thousand jews, or the Irene Sendler, who saved several hundred Jewish children. Martin Luther King, who risked so much, to help bring the message of unity to a Nation enveloped in fear of the “others”. As human beings, I believe, through each century, we do evolve towards that ideal of commonality. We are ALL interconnected, one way or another.

  24. Wolverine

    We are all very human, sure enough. When they take somebody else’s job, you have the luxury of waxing philosophical on the situation and on the oneness of the human race. But when they come to take YOUR job, you just might discover that you have within you the same foibles as those you previously criticized for intolerance.

    Story time — something I read years ago by a Nigerian author. It is 1960, the year of Nigeria’s independence from Britain. Because of vast tribal and religious differences, Nigeria has been born as a federal state in the hope that this will join all the multiplicity of tribes and religions into a workable governance.

    Three young Nigerian men have just received their degrees from Oxford University. Together they embark upon a ship to return home to Nigeria. One is a Fulani from the North. One is an Ibo from the East. One is a Yoruba from the West. But all three now consider themselves as educated and sophisticated men of the world, destined for professional success, far beyond the petty jealousies of tribe and clan. All during the voyage, they stick together as great friends and discuss how they can work together to make Nigeria into a successful African state. They swear an oath as one people, as one nation.

    Eventually the ship docks in Lagos. The Fulani and the Ibo are at the rail of the ship when one of them notices their Yoruba friend going down the gangplank carrying his luggage. He pokes his friend in the rib, points at their departing friend, and says with a sneer: “Well, there goes that damned Yoruba!”

    A lesson for us all from an older world: human attitudes are awfully hard to change.

  25. Elena

    Great story and it is easy to throw that first stone when it isn’t you, I don’t disagree with you there. But that is why ,every journey, and every crisis, is a test to each one of us personally.

    I think they call that “walking the walk, not just talking the talk” 🙂

  26. The 20’s and 30’s had no safety nets like we have today.

    A good lesson in humility is to watch the dust bowl on PBS, American Experience: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/dustbowl/

    There are also hour long videos on the building of Hoover Dam and the ’29 crash.

    My father told me about saving up money during the Depression by setting up pins in a bowling alley for 10 cents on hour. He felt lucky to have the job.

    People had to give up their children or place them with relatives because they simply could not care for them. People were very aware of other people’s ethnicity. Not sure why.

    Europe is not all too different. The Europeans I know sure have a pecking order about people of different ethnicities. I just think it is the human condition. Perhaps that is what Wolverine is trying to tell us. Wolverine, I enjoyed hearing about your ancestors.

  27. Elena

    @Formerly Anonymous

    I believe history says other though anonymous about what we did and did not know. Jewish leadership was pleading with Roosevelt to allow the Jews to enter the U.S. Certainly, our intelligence knew about the death camps by 1943.

    It is no accident that Albert Einstein, along with other well known scientists, artists, musicians, and educators were given preferential treatment for visas during the 30’s.

  28. Elena

    Formerly Anon,


    The Film & More
    Interview Transcripts | Bibliography | Primary Sources

    1. Barring U.S. Doors To Aliens/Refugees
    2. News Of Extermination Reaches U.S.
    3. President Roosevelt’s Apparent Reluctance To Help Europe’s Jews
    4. Bermuda Conference
    5. Something Can Be Done: War Refugee Board
    6. Bombing Railways And Auschwitz

    1. Barring U.S. Doors To Aliens/Refugees

    Memo from Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long to State Department Officials dated June 26, 1940, outlining effective ways to obstruct the granting of U.S. visas

    Letter from Margaret E. Jones, an American Quaker working with European Jews hoping to emigrate to the U.S., expressing her distress at the impact of Breckinridge Long’s memo

    Visa Application of U.S. State Department, Visa Division, January 1943
    The visa application process was extremely complicated. The double-sided form itself was more than four feet long.

    2. News Of Extermination Reaches U.S.

    U.S. State Department receives information from Switzerland regarding the Nazi plan to murder the Jews of Europe

    In August 1942, the representative of the World Jewish Congress in Switzerland, Gerhart Riegner, heard about a German plan to annihilate the Jews of Europe. His source was a German industrialist with access to top Nazi circles. Riegner immediately took the information to the American consulate in Geneva, where he asked the Vice-Consul Howard Elting Jr. to send the information to Washington and other Allied governments.

    Cable from London to Rabbi Stephen Wise regarding the “Final Solution”

    The State Department decided that the information passed on by Gerhart Riegner was nothing more than a “fantastic” war rumor. It did not pass the telegram to American Jewish leaders. However, Riegner had also informed the British consulate, who cabled the information to the Foreign Office in London, where it was passed on to a member of Parliament, Samuel Sydney Silverman. On August 28, 1942, Silverman sent it to Rabbi Stephen Wise.

    Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles tells Rabbi Stephen Wise he has information confirming that the Nazis plan to kill all of Europe’s Jews
    Stephen Wise was extremely distressed by Gerhart Riegner’s information. Not realizing the State Department had already received Riegner’s message he passed it on to Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles. Welles asked Wise not to release the message to the press until the State Department had been able to confirm it. This process took more than two months.

    In January 1943, the American legation in Switzerland sends information to Sumner Welles, Undersecretary of State, confirming reports of mass executions of Jews in Poland

    The State Department sends a memo to the American legation in Bern, on February 10, 1943, stating that in the future they not transmit reports to private citizens, since they “circumvent neutral countries’ censorship”

    As more information about the progress of the Holocaust continued to arrive in the U.S. from Switzerland, the State Department tried to prevent news of this sort from reaching U.S. citizens. The ban on information from Europe imposed by this memo lasted two months.

    3. President Roosevelt’s Apparent Reluctance To Help Europe’S Jews

    Entry from Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long’s diary in which he notes that President Roosevelt supports his policy of encouraging consulates to “postpone and postpone and postpone” the granting of visas

    A report written by Adoph Held, the president of the American Jewish Labor Committee recounting President Roosevelt’s 29-minute meeting on December 8, 1942 with a small delegation of American Jewish Leaders

    After the State Department confirmed reports that Hitler was planning to murder all the Jews in territories under German control, several American Jewish leaders including Rabbi Stephen Wise managed to arrange an audience with President Roosevelt. At this meeting, the only one FDR had with Jewish leaders about the Holocaust, the President was presented with a document outlining the Nazi plan to annihilate European Jews. As this report of the meeting indicates, the president was acquainted with details of the atrocities being committed by the Nazis.

  29. Many people, including Jews living Europe, simply didn’t believe it. One has to ask, doesn’t it seem rather far fetched that in a civilized nation, certain members of that society would be annihilated? Who would believe it? Remember the mini series, The Holocaust? The mother refused to believe it. She kept saying this is the country of Mozart and Beethoven or something to that effect.

    During the war, did America let in any immigrants from anywhere?

  30. People refused to believe that Bosnians were being subjected to ethnic cleansing also, and that was in the 1990s.

  31. Elena

    I agree M-H, even the Jews themselves in the beginning refused to believe the stories, but by the early 40’s, there was enough evidence to prove that mass murder was occuring.

  32. Wolverine

    I think that many of the Jews caught on earlier than others — early enough to get all those children out to Great Britain before the curtain of war fell on Europe. What a story of courage and perseverance that is.

  33. Elena

    I just recently read an amazing book based on the courage of a Nanny (Christian), having promised her charges Jewish mother on her deathbed, SHE would take on the role of adopted mother to keep the young boy safe from the death camps. She kept her promise and that boy is alive today, living in America. The other incredible part of that story was how an SS oficer, married to a Jewish woman, had the good sense to send their only daughter to Palestine as the war broke out. His wife was eventually murdered by the gestapo because he refused to divorce her as was the “law” at that time.

  34. To refuse the passengers of the St. Louis entry into the United States is simply shameful.

    As for knowledge of atrocities during the war, I don’t know what could have been done. Perhaps that is where this discussion should head. What could allied forces done differently during the war to help victims of the Holocaust?

    Most Nations were fighting for their very existence.

  35. Formerly Anonymous

    I’m a little confused. I never said that the US did not eventually find out about the Nazi plans to exterminate the Jews and other ‘undesirable’ (in their eyes) people. I was commenting that people who claim that turning away the St. Louis in May of 1939 was ‘a stain on our history’ are applying a far too much hindsight. The Europe of May, 1939 was much, much different than the Europe of 1942, 1943 or later. Germany hadn’t even invaded Poland yet, and while everybody knew that the Jews were being discriminated against, there is a huge difference between the ghettos of the late 30’s (although again, the famous Warsaw ghetto didn’t even exist yet.) and the death camps that were to come in 1943.

    In 1939, the US was still in a perilous economic situation. With no knowledge of the Holocaust to come, it is unrealistic to expect any people to accept a large number of refugees who at the time were only fleeing discrimination and economic privation. Having national quotas for people ‘likely to become a public charge’ is not unreasonable during the Great Depression when you had millions of your own citizens needing food, shelter and jobs.

    By 1943 when we did know that the Nazi’s were trying to exterminate the Jews, we were already up to our neck in World War II. The ‘should we have bombed the railroads’ debate has been hashed over endlessly by people who know far more about the subject than you or I. You can argue the merits of which course of action would have saved more lives (prosecute the war to the fullest or divert resources to try to save the Jews) but a debate over the effectiveness of tactics is very different than ‘a stain on our history’ and can only be done with hindsight. (For the record, I would argue that slowing the Third Army’s advance into the Ruhr in the fall of 1944 cost the lives of more Jews by prolonging the war than the 900 people on board the St. Louis, 254 of whom would eventually die in the Holocaust.)

    Yes, we did give visas for people of particular distinction to enter the US. That’s just common sense. If you have a world renown physicist or artist who wants to immigrate, any country would take them. But the St. Louis was not filled with physicists and artists. It was filled with ordinary people with little to no means, something there was no shortage of anywhere in the world in 1939.

    With hindsight, it is unfortunate that the passengers of the St. Louis did not find refuge in the US or anywhere else, but that is because of actions of the Nazis in the 1940s, not because of any action of the US. To claim otherwise seems to me to be looking too hard to find a mote in the eye of the US while ignoring the planks strewn across Europe at the time. Read what we did do:

    1. Telephone records show discussion of the situation by Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, members of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s cabinet, who tried to persuade Cuba to accept the refugees.

    2. The Coast Guard was not ordered to turn away the refugees, but the US did not make provision for their entry. Efforts to persuade the Canadian government to accept the St. Louis also failed.

    3. US officials worked with England and European nations to find refuge for the travelers in Europe. The ship returned to Europe docking at Antwerp, Belgium. The United Kingdom agreed to take 288 of the passengers who disembarked and traveled to the UK by other steamers. After much negotiation by Schröder, the remaining 619 passengers were allowed to disembark at Antwerp; 224 were accepted by France, 214 by Belgium, and 181 by the Netherlands. They appeared to be safe from Hitler’s persecution.

    from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_St._Louis

    And that is a ‘stain on our history’?

  36. Wolverine

    Moon-howler, I think you have hit upon something critical in your last para of #34. Europe became truly a place of “sauve qui peut” — for non-French speakers that’s “Save yourself if you can.” It was not just Jews who were running for their lives.

    I once had a female friend who was a non-Jewish Czechoslovak. When the Germans took over Prague, one of her uncles went over to the partisans. As she told it, that family and extended family lived in mortal fear every minute of every day. And then the Gestapo found them. First they took the uncle’s immediate family. The rest of the family fled their homes. My friend and her parents could find no shelter except among the tombstones inside a Catholic church— yep, just like in “The Sound of Music.” Only in this instance the Gestapo found them there too. My friend was one of the few in the family who escaped. She was later taken in by strangers and kept safe. The day she told me this story, she had no idea whatsoever of what had happened to the rest of her family. Every day that I remember her story, I look with greater fondness on that red, white, and blue banner flapping in the breeze at our local war memorial.

  37. Wow what a story. They were ruthless. I can’t imagine not knowing what had become of my family. I believe I have said this on this blog before. I often questioned by parents over stuff that happened during the war, especially things that are perhaps seen through different eyes than people of that generation. My mother told me shortly before she died that I had no idea just how ‘nip and tuck things were back then and that they didn’t know until it was over that they really were going to win.’

    They always feared invasion. Once I scoffed at that idea and the lady tore me up verbally. There are sunken U-boats in the Potomac, off the coast of New Jersey, and German frog men landed in New York.

  38. Formerly, you sound exactly like my mother on this subject. Actually, I think you make some very valid points, and I am not one of those ‘my country-right or wrong’ kinda people. Hind sight, it was a hideous decisions. I think think a boatload of less than a thousand people wouldn’t have upset the applecart,

    Every day people seeking political asylum are evaluated. Some are let in, some aren’t.

    Through post WWII eyes, we did the wrong thing. Before that…we probably still did the wrong thing but the reasons aren’t quite as dastardly.

  39. Elena

    Formerly Anon,
    I do see your point, that is why, in this time in history, we are required to not wait for hate and fear to build to such a level. I feel as though it is MY burden to remember so that I won’t ever say, in any given circumstance, if only I had 20/20 hindsight, I would have done things differently.

    That is why the golden rule is the best rule to live by in my opinion.

  40. Elena

    Thank you for sharing such an amazing story, one told to you first hand.

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