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Voyages of the damned: asylum seekers and xenophobia

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It is almost exactly 74 years to the day since the end of the "Voyage of the damned" - the return of the MS St. Louis to Europe.

For those who don't know, the St. Louis, under the command of Captain Gustav Schröder, was a ship bound for Havana, Cuba in 1939, carrying 937 Jewish men, women and children to safety from Hitler's Nazi regime.  But when the St. Louis arrived, the captain and his passengers were dismayed to discover that the Cuban government had retroactively invalidated their visas as well as changed the tourist and asylum laws.  They were turned away.

Captain Schröder, a non-Jewish German, then sailed for the US, but was turned away from Florida by the coastguard.  So concerned was the captain to get his passengers to a point of safety, that even contemplated running his ship aground so as to avoid returning his passengers to Europe.  But the US coastguard prevented this (it is reported that they fired warning shots over the bow of his vessel).

Next he s…