Voyage of the Damned

gustavshroeder

Over the years I have heard many people criticize the Jews of Germany and Poland for not doing something about Nazi persecution during the Holocaust.  The two big things I have heard is 1.  Why didn’t they fight back?  and 2.  Why didn’t they leave?

In 1939 a group of 963 Jews did try to leave Germany on the MS St Louis, on what was later nicknamed the “Voyage of the Damned”.  They were treated like pariahs on their way tot he ship.  Once on board they were treated as luxury cruise passengers by the staff, on orders of the Captain.

This made the initial part of the voyage a pleasure, like a holiday.  Sadly this was not to last.

Initially bound for Cuba, they were refused entry there.  US officials tried to put pressure on Cuba to accept the refugees, but the Cubans would not agree.

The USA then refused asylum.  After making an attempt to land in Florida the Captain was sent away with a warning shot fired over his bows by the US coastguard.

The Captain then tried Canada.  Anti-Semitic politicians in that most liberal of nations succeeded in blocking their entry.

Eventually they returned to Europe where they were accepted into a number of countries as refugees.  The Captain refused to return the ship to Germany until his passengers were accepted elsewhere.  UK, France, Netherlands and Belgium accepted them in.  When France, Netherlands and Belgium were overrun by the Germans these Jews were interned and a quarter of them died in camps.

So much for suggestion 2 – Why didn’t they leave?  Jews in Germany observed this debacle and realised that nobody was putting out a welcome mat for the Jewish people in 1939.

In 1993 the Captain of the ship, the MS St Louis, Gustav Schröder, was awarded the title “Righteous among the nations” by the state of Israel.

The Burning Of The Books; by Bertolt Brecht (Michael Burch: Transl)

When the Regime
commanded the unlawful books to be burned,
teams of dull oxen hauled huge cartloads to the bonfires.

Then a banished writer, one of the best,
scanning the list of excommunicated texts,
became enraged: he’d been excluded!

He rushed to his desk, full of contemptuous wrath,
to write fierce letters to the morons in power —
Burn me! he wrote with his blazing pen —
Haven’t I always reported the truth?
Now here you are, treating me like a liar!
Burn me!

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