In May 1939, as the Holocaust was beginning, the United States turned away the M.S. St. Louis, a ship carrying 937 mostly Jewish refugees from Europe. They returned to Europe. Great Britain took in 288 of them, and they lived. The rest disembarked in western Europe, and just over half of them survived the Holocaust.
Last week, each one of their names and their deaths were announced on Twitter, one at a time.
@Stl Manifest was launched last Friday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It went through the ship’s manifest, or list of passengers, line by line, and then told how each passenger was killed. Some of the posts included photos.
The St. Louis set sail from Hamburg on May 23, 1939. Twenty-nine of them were able to disembark in Havana, though the Cuban government wouldn’t allow the rest to enter. Subsequent appeals to the United States to let the refugees enter through Miami were rejected. A 1924 law had severely restricted immigration from Germany, and anti-immigrant sentiment was prevalent in the United States at the time.
The feed is a project of Russel Neiss, a Jewish educator. It came as the question of whether to admit refugees again is roiling the country. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that temporarily barred all refugees from being admitted to the United States, and also banned citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering.
Many Jewish groups have opposed the ban, citing the Jewish experience. In the description of @Stl_Manifest, Neiss wrote #RefugeesWelcome.
The feed posted a tweet every five minutes. It took more than a day to run through the manifest. In the end, the feed had more than 73 thousand followers, and one post was reposted 42 thousand times.
JTA Wire Service