The ship of Jewish refugees nobody wanted

From an article By Mike Lanchin 

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-2-02-15-pmOn 13 May 1939, more than 900 Jews fled Germany aboard a luxury cruise liner, the SS St Louis. They hoped to reach Cuba and then travel to the US – but were turned away in Havana and forced to return to Europe, where more than 250 were killed by the Nazis.

“It was really something to be going on a luxury liner,” says Gisela Feldman. “We didn’t really know where we were heading, or how we would cope when we got there.”

At the age of 90, Feldman still clearly remembers the raw and mixed emotions she felt as a 15-year-old girl boarding the St Louis at Hamburg docks with her mother and younger sister.

“I was always aware of how anxious my mother looked, embarking on such a long journey, on her own with two teenage daughters,” she says.

In the years following the rise to power of Hitler’s Nazi party, ordinary Jewish families like Feldman’s had been left in no doubt about the increasing dangers they were facing.Jewish properties had been confiscated, synagogues and businesses burned down. After Feldman’s Polish father was arrested and deported to Poland her mother decided it was time to leave.

Feldman remembers her father pleading with her mother to wait for him to return but her mother was adamant and always replied: “I have to take the girls away to safety.”

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-2-02-51-pmSo, armed with visas for Cuba which she had bought in Berlin, 10 German marks in her purse and another 200 hidden in her underclothes, she headed for Hamburg and the St Louis.

“We were fortunate that my mother was so brave,” says Feldman with a note of pride in her voice.

Tearful relatives waved them off at the station in Berlin. “They knew we would never see each other again,” she says softly. “We were the lucky ones – we managed to get out.” She would never see her father or more than 30 other close family members again.

By early 1939, the Nazis had closed most of Germany’s borders and many countries had imposed quotas limiting the number of Jewish refugees they would allow in.

America imposed those quotas too. The person in charge of visas at the US State Department, during this time was Breckinridge Long. He denied visas to Jews when they should have been issued. Click HERE to find out about his biography.

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Children saved from Nazis plan memorial to parents

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Sir Nicholas Winton organised eight evacuations of Jewish children from Prague in 1939. He died in 2015. 

From a Guardian Article, see it HERE.

Their 11th-hour escape on the eve of the second world war became the stuff of legend, earning international recognition for the man who organised it, Sir Nicholas Winton.

Now people spirited out of German-occupied Czechoslovakia when they were children are to pay homage to previously unsung heroes in the affair – the parents who boarded them on to Winton’s “kindertransport” trains bound for Britain in a desperate attempt to save them from the Nazis.

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Holocaust stories from survivors – critical for humanity to survive

The Guardian has published some stories from Holocaust survivors. Here are two. Please go HERE to read all of them. Polar Bear and Company has published books by Neil Rolscreen-shot-2017-01-14-at-1-03-01-pmde about the Holocaust. Rolde’s latest seres has dozens of stories, like the Guardian’s, about survivors and about the people that help them escape in clandestine ways. Rolde highlights the work the War Refugee Board did throughout this time. Please go here to read more from a Maine Insights’ article.

The Guardian article also highlights the photography by Harry Borden, who traveled far and wide to capture soulful images of these nobel survivors.

Lidia Vago
screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-11-30-02-amHolocaust survivor Lidia Vago at home in Israel – Photograph: Harry Borden

Lidia Vago was born in Romania in 1924. She was a 20-year-old French and English student when she and her sister were selected for a women’s work camp. They were liberated in May 1945.

On 10 June 1944 we were taken to what the SS called the Central Sauna (disinfection chambers) at Birkenau (also known as Auschwitz II). We had our heads shaved, even our pubic hair, everything, and I was given a black gown to put on. My sister and I were empty-handed because everything had been taken away from us. We had been separated from our mother and father, and didn’t know where they had gone.

We were marched to a row of huts, surrounded by electric barbed wire, that had no bunks, just wood floors and a leaking roof. This was the horrendous quarantine camp. It was a terrible place we would never have been able to imagine, even if someone had told us about it. We were defeminised: all our periods stopped. And we were given a metal bowl for five women to share but no spoon; so we had to sip this horrible soup-like liquid, taking a gulp and passing it to the next woman. We slept on the floor without blankets and after a few days everyone had diarrhoea. There was a makeshift toilet but we weren’t allowed to use it all the time, so we had to use the metal bowl for our physical needs; we washed it out in water so dirty, there was a sign above the ditch that read “Danger of epidemics”.

One of the women asked the head of our block, Hella, “Where are our family members?” and she pointed at dark clouds of smoke and flames in the distance [coming from the gas chamber]. Most of the women did not want to believe it, but I knew then that I’d never see my mother again. Continue reading

Neil Rolde’s comprehensive history of the War Refugee Board

 

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-1-51-03-pmOf the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust, approximately two-thirds were killed. Many of the same elements that led to the Holocaust survive today. Neil Rolde has dedicated himself to broadening our awareness of this era. His histories highlight the degree to which the U.S. helped save Jews during the war and what that required.

The War Refugee Board saved over 200,000 lives, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive written history about the extraordinary work that the Board did—until now.

Neil’s More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, The Tempestuous Story of the War Refugee Board is the definitive history of this heroic organization.

“The War Refugee Board’s feat of saving some 200,000 targeted innocents is surely worthy of respect. I’m proud to have told the saga of the War Refugee Board in its detailed entirety, in these two volumes,” said author Neil Rolde.

A new documentary by Ken Burns, The Sharps’ War, is the story of how a Unitarian minister and his wife risked their lives to save an estimated 125 Jews, during the height of WWII. Burns said that their story needed to be told.

While researching, Rolde found a treasure trove of stories where people accomplished extraordinary things to save Jewish refugees but their actions were rarely attributed to the work of the War adRefugee Board.

For example, Raoul Wallenberg, a heroic Swede who saved at least 20,000 Hungarian Jews is known. “But not many people know that the War Refugee Board had sent Wallenberg secretly to Hungary,” said Neil. “Most of the workers weren’t Jewish. They were a small group of about thirty people doing extraordinary things.”
Tragically, during WWII the U.S. didn’t help refugees as
much as the should have because of the U.S. State Department official in charge of matters concerning all European refugees during the Holocaust, Breckinridge Long.(click to view Neil’s book on Long)

“When I researched Long I came across the War Refugee Board and soon saw the need to write about their work. That lead to my latest about what happened to the Jews after the allies ‘liberated’ Europe. It concentrates on the Bricha, which is Hebrew for escape.”

Rolde’s books are always extensively researched. Neil has won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council.

More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, The Tempestuous Story of the War Refugee Board – the definitive history of this heroic organization.

 

Neil Rolde’s comprehensive history of the War Refugee Board

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-1-51-03-pmOf the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust, approximately two-thirds were killed. Many of the same elements that led to the Holocaust survive today. Neil Rolde has dedicated himself to broadening our awareness of this era. His histories highlight the degree to which the U.S. helped save Jews during the war and what that required.

The War Refugee Board saved over 200,000 lives, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive written history about the extraordinary work that the Board did—until now.

Neil’s More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, The Tempestuous Story of the War Refugee Board is the definitive history of this heroic organization.

“The War Refugee Board’s feat of saving some 200,000 targeted innocents is surely worthy of respect. I’m proud to have told the saga of the War Refugee Board in its detailed entirety, in these two volumes,” said author Neil Rolde.

A new documentary by Ken Burns, The Sharps’ War, is the story of how a Unitarian minister and his wife risked their lives to save an estimated 125 Jews, during the height of WWII. Burns said that their story needed to be told. Continue reading

Crimes of War deals with a true life SS massacre of a small town in France

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Crimes of War deals with a true life SS massacre of a small town in France during World War II called Oradour-sur-Glane.

“The drama here was that some of the perpetrators were French citizens—Alsatians drafted into the SS. They were put on trial in 1953 for their part—under duress, it was claimed—in the horrendous killings and destruction of that peaceful village,” said historian/author Neil Rolde.

During the Spanish Inquisition many Cathars where tortured and murdered in the same region where the SS massacre took place, echoing the past.

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-9-09-49-pm“Neil tells this compelling story as if he were there—a silent witness through the centuries,” said Paul Cornell du Houx, of Polar Bear & Company, the book’s publisher. Specific historical figures make appearances in the story.

In the novel Professor Eugene Desfosseux, a historian and self-taught ventriloquist, conjures amid the ruins figures from deep into his past and records the interviews and interrogations in a tale that epitomizes what this or any other war crime might encompass—including his own daily life of pleasures, romance and memories inflamed to a vengeance that would destroy his life’s work.

“Thus it brings up the question of what war crimes entail and thus the plural in the title. Crimes of war are still a universal problem,” said Neil.

Upon the order of President Charles de Gaulle the town was kept as the Nazis had left it in ruins and is a national monument.