"Hearing one person tell their story gave a completely different perspective to what happened, as it wasn't about statistics or about a nation as a whole, but one person who lost his family and home." ~O. Avery (student)
The Journey of Ronnie Breslow and the M.S. St. Louis
After Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938, many Jews in Germany decided it was time to leave because of rising antisemitism. By this time however, nearly five years after Adolf Hitler took power, many Jews had little money and it was increasingly difficult to obtain travel visas which were needed to leave and enter countries.
One of our Survivors, Ronnie Breslow, was among the 937 passengers that obtained travel visas to board the M.S. St. Louis, one of three passenger liners destined for Havana, Cuba. in May, 1939.
Her personal story can be read here.
Upon reaching Havana, the Cuban government declared that 915 out of the 937 travel visas were invalid and refused entry to those Jewish refugees. Only 22 Jewish refugees were allowed to depart the ship. The rest of the refugees waited on the ship for five days as representatives from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee negotiated with the pro-fascist Cuban government. Negotiations failed and the ships captain, Gustav Schroeder, sailed the ship towards Miami, Florida, hoping that the United States would allow the rest of the refugees to disembark. By this time however, the quota that the United States maintained for Jewish refugees was filled and they rejected the requests for refuge and Schroeder was forced to sail back to Europe.
While sailing slowly back to Europe, four European countries, France, Great Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands, agreed to take the passengers. However, by 1940, the Nazis invaded these countries and once again, the passengers of the St. Louis were under Nazi control.