Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Voyage of the St. Louis

When my students were working on the background research for the Guardians of Freedom project we used this site, The Voyage of the St. Louis from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Quoting the site, Students of the Holocaust frequently ask, "Why didn’t Jewish people flee Germany when the Nazis took power?" Framed in the context of several broader issues, the story of the St. Louis offers a historical case study through which to address this question. The broader contextual issues include: German anti-Jewish policy in 1938 and 1939; the international response to the growing refugee crisis; the plight of refugees in German-occupied western Europe; and United States immigration and refugee policy during the 1930s and 1940s.
Using documentary evidence, Museum researchers have reconstructed the individual stories of many St. Louis passengers. This information will help students understand the complex issues mentioned above, especially the difficulties that Jewish refugees faced when fleeing Nazi Germany and how United States government policies influenced the fates of refugees.


Students used the primary documents to discover the fate of several passengers on the St. Louis. There is something very powerful about scrolling the database of prisoners registered at Auschwitz, scanning for the name of a family member you are trying to "locate". This site certainly enhanced the students' understanding of the plight of Jews during the Holocaust.


2 comments:

elementaryhistoryteacher said...

What a unique way to answer student questions. When I used to teach WWII that same question always came up with my 5th graders. I've been trying to send a few people your way to this fantastic site.

You may want to check out the History Carnival and Education Carnival to submit some of your posts.

The Tour Marm said...

My introduction to the story of the St. Louis was a special pre-screening of the movie, 'Voyage of the Damned'. Until that time, I thought that the united States welcomed all the refugees.

Although none of my family were on that ship, I did find out the fate of a cousin through a 'passport' handed to me before one of my visits to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum visits to the permanent exhibit. It was jarring at the time.

However, I reasoned that if this information and her photo existed, then some of the family survived. I have since found some of the survivors!

It's a long story, but it seems that my relatives did not want to go to the United States and live with my family in Brooklyn since they became too 'assimilated' and not observant enough for a Rabbi and his family.

The passport is Maria Theresa Halpert Katz, should anyone want to look it up.