In the years preceding the height of the European Holocaust’s worst atrocities, Adolf Hitler, the new Chancellor of Germany, confronted the world with a moral test. His early experiment of allowing Jews to seek homelands elsewhere came to define his future course of action toward the Jewish population of the continent. The acidic hatred he bore for the Jewish presence in European society was clear enough, but the leader of the Nazi Party could not precisely gauge the international community’s likely response to a campaign of extreme abuse directed against his own citizens. Thus, in the months that preceded the Nazi invasion of Western Europe, he tested global resolve by allowing a ship to depart from the port of Hamburg, bound for Havana Harbor in Cuba.
The MS St. Louis carried 973 Jewish refugees from various locations within and outside of Germany, most holding landing permits and visas enabling them to live in the United States. Following their arrival in Havana, they would wait their turn on the immigration list for a final destination. In the case of the United States, that period averaged at least three years, sometimes more.Once the St. Louis was out of port, however, the propaganda arm of the Nazi government arranged for the Cuban president to invalidate landing passes and prohibit the passengers from disembarking. This was done by creating a toxic, xenophobic atmosphere in which Jews were perceived as job-stealing intruders.
After the Cuban rejection, Hitler watched as a solitary band of seagoing refugees wandered the world in search of a haven. Based on the international community’s response, he would soon know if the Jews had a champion anywhere in the world’s sovereign states. He watched with considerable satisfaction as nation after nation crumbled in one of the “worst diplomatic fa
©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors