Jewish Refugees 1939–1947

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Map Code: Ax02247

In 1939, the St Louis set sail with 937 Jewish refugees on board, all fleeing Nazi Germany. The ship was to stop in Cuba before carrying onto America. Although nearly all of the passengers had the correct tickets, visas and paperwork, they were refused entry into Cuba. Failed negotiations forced the St Louis to carry onto America where they hoped to dock in Miami, yet American immigration restrictions once again prevented the refugees from disembarking. The St Louis returned to Europe and the passengers sought refuge in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Of those who returned, just over half survived the war and the Holocaust. Hitler used the failed voyage as propaganda to illustrate his beliefs that nobody wanted these ‘undesirables’. In 1947, when the British Navy seized the Exodus, carrying some 4,500 Jewish passengers to Palestine, the refugees were also returned to Europe. This time they refused to disembark and, against a backdrop of international outrage and protest, were forcibly removed to British internment camps. The tables had finally turned; this notorious incident was to play a significant role in the eventual recognition of a Jewish state in 1948.

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