American History Name: __________________________
Reading – The Voyage of the St. Louis Bell: _______
The Voyage of the St. Louis
Many Holocaust survivors consider the night of November 9-10, 1938, the night of Kristallnacht, to be the true beginning of the Holocaust. Kristallnacht was a rampage led by Nazi SA brown shirts and their supporters that destroyed nearly 7,000 Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues in Germany. Nazis arrested 30,000 people in Germany and killed 91 German Jews. Anti-Semitism in Germany had been prevalent for the first five years of Nazi rule, from 1933-1938. While living under religious persecution was not how any Jewish citizen of Germany wanted to live, leaving Germany during that period was not a common or affordable option. However, after Kristallnacht it became clear that anti-Semitism in Germany was not going to dissipate, it was only going to increase. Tens of thousands of German Jews began searching for ways to flee Germany. During this period, many countries had implemented immigration quotas which made leaving Germany, especially as a Jewish citizen, extremely difficult. The United States had shut its gates, claiming that their immigration quota for Eastern Europeans had long been filled. The Jewish people of Germany had nowhere to escape, even Palestine which was under British rule in 1938 would not allow any German Jews in.
Obtaining visas in Germany was not only extremely challenging due to the large amounts of people who crowded the foreign consulates but the cost was extensive. Only the wealthy could afford to leave Germany at this point, which was a very small number because most German-Jews had lost their jobs or gone out of business under Nazi rule. Six months after Kristallnacht a steam ship, which was part of the Hamburg-American Line, waited for its’ next trip to depart from Hamburg Germany to Cuba. The eight-decked ship had accommodations for four hundred first-class passengers at $800 Reichsmarks each, and five hundred tourist-class passengers at $600 Reichsmarks each. In addition, there was a $230 fee which would cover the cost if anything were to happen, such as a return trip. The MS St. Louis provided hope for fewer than 1,000 German Jews to seek refuge in a new country. Families searched for enough money to send at least one family member aboard the ship, while others were fortunate enough to have relatives living outside of Germany send money.The St. Louis
On May 13, 1939, 937 people boarded the SS St. Louis. A little over 900 of them were German Jews. All the passengers aboard the ship were under the impression that their tourist visas, which they had purchased from the Hamburg-American Line, would allow them to find refuge in Cuba until their American Visas were granted. There they would reunite with their families or start a new life. Little did they know that just eight days before the ship set sailed, a new law was passed by Cuban President Federico Laredo Bru wh...