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The Roosevelt Administration’s handling of the Jewish refugee issue has been a hotly debated topic for the last decade. No single event has had more influence on this debate than the ill-fated Voyage of the SS St Louis.

The SS St Louis was a luxury liner that left Hamburg, Germany in May of 1939, carrying 937 Jewish refugees attempting to escape Nazi Germany. The passengers had purchased landing permits from the Cuban Government and hoped to find safe haven in Havana. When they arrived at the Port of Havana, they were refused entry and the ship sailed north towards Miami, Florida in the hope that the US Government would give them refuge. In early June, they arrived off the coast of Miami Beach within sight of palm trees and the city lights. The desperate passengers made their official request to the US State Department to be allowed to enter the United States. On June 6, 1939, they received their answer; entry to the United States denied. The ship was forced to return to Europe where many of the passengers perished at the hands of the Nazis. This highly publicized drama on the high seas became the symbol of the world’s indifference to the plight of Jewish suffering at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Robert Krakow, playwright, documentarian and an alumnus of Georgetown Law School will give a docu-drama presentation that will include:

1) Archival footage of Voyage of the SS St Louis

2) Excerpts from the Trial of FDR which highlight the following issues:

a. The political motivations of Cordell Hull and FDR in refusing safe haven to the passengers

b. The saga of the SS St Louis in the larger political context of America policy on Jewish refugees during the pre-war and wartime periods

c. The impact of Cordell Hull’s wife Jewish ancestry on his decisions regarding Jewish refugees

d. The impact of the SS St Louis in furthering the Nazi anti-Jewish polemic

3) The story of the SS St Louis and its contemporary relevance on issues of immigration and refugee policy

Attending the event as an honorary guest, will be Herbert Karliner, one the last remaining survivors of the historic voyage.

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