Why did the German transatlantic liner St Louis return more than 900 refugees to Europe in June 1939?


The German transatlantic liner St Louis from Hamburg on 13 May, 1939, bound for Cuba with 937 passengers on board, but returned to Europe in June 1939 after the governments of Cuba, the United States and Canada refused permission for the passengers to disembark.. On its return voyage, the St. Louis sailed close enough to the coast of Florida that its passengers could see the lights of Miami.

On 17 June, after just over a month at sea, the ship docked at Antwerp in Belgium, and its passengers found at least temporary refuge in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Tragically, 254 of those on board the St. Louis who ended up in countries later occupied by the Nazis, and were killed in the Holocaust, victims of the German invasions of Western Europe in 1940. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, apologised in November 2018 for the role of his country in the fate of the ship and its passengers, “who paid the price of our inaction, whom we doomed to the ultimate horror of the death camps.”

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