I was born on May 11, 1933. After the promulgation of the Nurnberg laws in 1935, my parents decided there was no future for them or their in children in Nazi Germany and applied for a U.S. immigration quota number. It would be four years before this number would come up. In the meantime, my father was arrested the day after “Krystallnacht”, 11/10/38, and taken to Dachau concentration camp.
Once my mother was able to show proof to the Gestapo that all our documents were in order, they released my stepfather with the understanding that we were leaving Germany permanently. The ship that we booked passage on was the S.S. St. Louis. Since we were expecting our quota number to come up sometime in Nov. of 1939, my parents decided they would rather immigrate to Cuba rather than Shanghi China since Cuba was only 90 miles from the U.S.A. My mother bought landing permits for us for Cuba for the sum of $500.00.
The ship left Hamburg for Cuba on 5/13/39, just two days after my sixth birthday. The Nazis allowed each family to take ten marks out of the country, but all valuables had to be turn over to the Nazis. Upon our arrival in Cuba it was discovered that the president Bru, invalidated the landing permits, and only the people with good Cuban visas were allowed to leave the ship. After seven days the Cubans wanted the ship out of the harbor. We sailed North to Miami in hopes that the U.S. would allow us to land there since most of the refugees on the ship held quota number for the U.S. that would be coming within the next six to nine months. Had Roosevelt gone to bat for these 912 people, all would have been saved. As it turned out of the 638 that went back to the European continent less than half survived.
After negotiations with the U.S. failed, Hitler called for the ships return. He had proved his point. Being that, Germany admits they don’t want the Jews and are willing to let them all go; i.e. the St. Louis. Hitler said we don’t want the Jews, but the Hypocritic Western Democracies wouldn’t even take the 912 Jews that were on this ship. Consequently, the ship started to return to Europe while frantic negotiations were under way by a Mr. Morris Tropler, for the Jewish agency.
At the eleventh hour, Queen Wilhilmena said that Holland would take 194 of the passengers with infants. By this time everyone was ready to grasp at any straw and here was our chance not to return to Germany and my stepfather back to Dachau because we had my stepbrother who was just a year old. We ended up in an old army officers camp called Heijplaat, which already had many Jewish refugees from Germany. Back to square one with no money or tickets to get out of Holland.
Luckily, my stepfather had a second cousin in Milwaukee, WI who would be our sponsor. When our quota number came up in November, 1939 he sent us the money for steamship tickets to America. My parents bought passage on a brand new Dutch ship called the Staatendaamn. At the last minute the Dutch decided it was too dangerous to send this ship since it might be sunk by a U?boat. Instead, they decided to let an old pre? WWI ship make the trip, called the Vehendaamn. It took that old bucket fourteen days to make the trip from Rotterdam to Hoboken N.J. We arrived 2/5/40.
Why didn’t Roosevelt do something so these people could be saved?
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