Reflectionof the Event of the denial of Refuge for St. Louis Passengers and theHolocaust
Theincident “Refuge Denied: St. Louis Passengers and the Holocaust”entailed about nine hundred and thirty-seven passengers and most ofthem were Jewish refugees who were escaping from the Third Reich(United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016a). These refugees wereleaving Germany to Cuba waiting to go to America. However, thepresident of Cuba denied the passengers to enter to Cuba even thoughthey all had legal documents to permit their entry (United StatesHolocaust Memorial Museum, 2016b). The passengers did not know thatthe president had commanded to cancel all the landing certificatesbefore their ship left Hamburg and the entry was only through theauthority of labor and state secretaries of Cuba plus a bond of fivehundred US dollars (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016a).But all these inconveniences were caused by the German Government whoaimed to eliminate all Jews worldwide and therefore had requestedvarious parties to assist through the refusal of admitting manyrefugees in their countries (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,2016c). However, only 28 passengers met the new regulations and wereaccepted in Cuba.
Theship waited for one week in the harbor of Havana as Berenson Lawrencenegotiated for the travelers with the President, hoping that the restwill be accepted but the negotiations failed and the ship was orderedto leave Cuba (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016b). Inthe second June 1939, the ship cruise to north hoping that the USwill accept them, but they didn’t succeed. So, the passengers wereforced to go back to Europe and other countries took the refugees.For instance, Netherlands accepted one hundred and eighty-onerefugees, Belgium two hundred and fourteen, France two hundred andtwenty-four and Great Britain two hundred and eighty-seven (UnitedStates Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016a). Unfortunately, thosepassengers that took refuge in France, Belgium and Netherlands wereeliminated by Nazi party (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,2016d).
Thereare various parallels between the response to the St. Louispassengers by Cuba and the United States. In Cuba, the St. Louis’passengers expected to be allowed to settle in Cuba because they hadlegal documents for migrating to avoid death and many inhuman acts ofNazi movement (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016a). Butto their surprise, the Cuban Government denied their entry despitethe Berenson’s efforts to negotiate on behave of the passengers.The government nullified all the recently offered landingcertificates and authorized the entry through Cuban secretaries oflabor and land only after posting a bond of five hundred dollars perperson (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016b). Theunderlying reason as to why they imposed this law was to reduce thenumber of refugees in their country because they had already admittedmore than two thousand and five hundred refugees.
Cubawas going through a tough period of Great Depression, and the countryobserved that a significant number of Jews refugees were competingfor the scarce jobs hence putting more pressure on the economy(United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016a). Additionally, therewas a serious propaganda published by the Nazi German stating thatthe immigrating Jews were communists. These propagandas createdunfriendliness to refugee which increased both xenophobia andanti-Semitism (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016c). Thesailing off St. Louis resulted in the largest demonstrations ofanti-Semitic in the history of Cuba which was sponsored by a former apresident of Cuba with the main aim of driving all the Jews out ofCuba(United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016b).
Onthe other hand, following the denial of the passengers in Cuba theysailed to Miami hoping that the US will accept them however despitetheir request for the refuge, they were denied (United StatesHolocaust Memorial Museum, 2016d). They were told to wait until theyobtain visas to be allowed in the US. Nonetheless, this was anotherplan to deny these refugees because the US could have accepted thembecause they were already rejected in Cuba and going back to Cubayielded no positive result. The plan was to restrict more immigrantsto the US following the Act of 1924 concerning the US Nationality andImmigration which aimed at limiting the immigrants’ numbers eachyear (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016c). And duringthis particular year, the number of immigrants supposed to come tothe US was already full.
Thesame issues in Cuba contributed to these immigrants’ restrictionsin the US. The problem of the competition of scarce jobs whichprovided high unemployment rates as well as activism, isolationism,xenophobia and anti-Semitism made the US refuse their request (UnitedStates Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016a). In fact, about eighty-threepercent of the US residents contested against relaxing immigrants’restrictions for fear of immigrants’ hostility, the previous gainsof Republicans’ isolationists and other political issues (UnitedStates Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016d).
Thereare still parallels in the way the international community respond tothe refugee crises today and the way the US and other countries’representatives met to the same crisis in the 1930s and 1940s(Kristof, 2016). Just like the way they showed some sympathy for theJews refugees without admitting them in their countries, due to thexenophobia of anti-Semitism and inclusion of Nazi spies, theinternational community also fears that some incoming refugees couldbe spies (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016e). Therefore,there are only a few leaders who are courageous enough to accept therefugees in their countries who face considerable opposition fromothers. For instance, President Obama’s willingness to admit aboutten thousand refugees in the US is widely opposed by the Donald Trump(Kristof, 2016).
Similarcases happened back in 1930s-1940s where those leaders and peoplethat were willing to help the refugees were highly condemned andprosecuted. For instance, the cases of Sharps and Mendes, who helpedthe refugees despite being physically and socially tortured (Kristof,2016). However, their history is still remembered and honored becauseof showing humanity to the desperate people unlike those who fearedto welcome the refugees because of possibilities of spies, and theirhistory remains unforgiving (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,2016e). For instance, though the US and Cuba did not commit thegenocide of the Holocaust, they will continue to be condemned becauseof refusing to accommodate distracted groups (Kristof, 2016).Therefore, the international community should avoid the same mistakesthat were committed back in World War II and should engage themselvesto save lives of refugees.
Theincident of St. Louis’ passengers was one of the most saddeningevents that took place as far as Jews are concerned. There is a greatconnection between this event and group behaviors especially when itcomes to the relationship between Jews and the Germans (FacingHistory and Ourselves, 2016d). For instance, the act of officers ofthe Third Reich to force Jews to emigrate from Germany was an act ofdiscrimination against the Jewish people because they were alreadyGerman citizens and were in German legally (Facing History andOurselves, 2016c). Although the Jewish people were already subjectedto prejudice, many countries had accepted their presence includingthe United States and Cuba (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,2016a). At the same time, taking Jews or a Jew to represent the wholeof the Jewish community and subjecting them to such treatments was anact of prejudice that was not only illegal but inhuman (FacingHistory and Ourselves, 2016b).
TheCuban president, as well as the authorities in the United States,should have accepted these Jews as the way some of the countries inEurope did. Both Cuba and the United States governments can also besaid to have expressed prejudice and discriminated the St. LouisPassengers (Facing History and Ourselves, 2016a). The officers of theThird Reich can also be said to have been stereotypic because theysaw themselves as an ethnically distinctive race that had the rightto live in Germany and dismissed the rights of Jewish race as to livein Germany (Facing History and Ourselves, 2016b). This discriminationwas an expression that, a certain race had more rights than the otheryet they were all human. At the same time, their behavior wasinfluenced by their race as German people, and thus they exhibitedstereotypic behavior (Facing History and Ourselves, 2016b). Theofficers in countries such as France, Belgium, and Britain dismissedthe issue of the race when it came to accepting the St. LouisPassengers. Stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination are inhumanbehaviors (Facing History and Ourselves, 2016a).
Thisevent is one of the most empathetic events that happened at the onsetof the Second World War. The officers of the Third Reich, as well asthe German government, are guilty of discriminating against theJewish people and St. Louis Passengers in particular which caused alot of suffering and psychological torture to these passengers. Thispain has been demonstrated by one of the passengers who attempted tocommit suicide (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2016a).However, the German government, the Cuban government or the UnitedStates governments cannot be entirely accused because they hadalready accommodated many Jewish people. The existence of stereotype,prejudice, and discrimination as invented behaviors of many peoplethroughout the world lead to the suffering of refugees. Some of thisbehaviors are still surviving today especially against the Muslimimmigrants from Middle East (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,2016e). The people of the world should arise, show solidarity andreject such behaviors. The acts of the European countries thataccepted the desperate passengers demonstrated the triumph of humanvalues and the fact that discrimination, prejudice, and stereotypesare human creations which can be defeated.
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