‘M.S. St. Louis’ vigil planned in support of refugees

Seventy eight years ago, the M.S. St. Louis set sail from Germany carrying 937 passengers, most of them Jewish refugees seeking asylum from Nazi persecution. Turned away from the Cuban, United States, and Canadian borders, the ship was forced to return to Europe. More than 250 of those passengers were killed during World War II and the Holocaust.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, interfaith leaders will gather their communities at the Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse, 111 S 10th St., in tandem with other memorial services across the nation. This candlelit vigil will commemorate those who were refused refuge and ultimately killed during the Nazi-conducted genocide. Participants will bear witness to the consequences of turning away the most vulnerable when they seek sanctuary. 

In 1939, public opinion in the United States, although sympathetic to the plight of refugees and critical of Hitler’s policies, continued to favor immigration restrictions. The Great Depression had left millions unemployed and fearful of competition for the scarce few jobs available. It also fueled anti-Ssemitism, xenophobia, nativism, and isolationism. 

“Each of the individuals who stood on the deck of the St. Louis breathed easier believing that their suffering was behind them and a new life awaited them, a life of happiness, a life of safety,” said Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, in a news release They were able to do the incredible—leave Germany and escape the war—and yet, as country after country closed their borders, the world watched as they had no choice but to return to a massacre. We refuse to allow the same fate to face the refugees of today.”

The vigil will include recitation of the names of the 254 lives lost that could have been saved if allowed entry into the U.S. 

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This vigil is organized by a variety of organizations, including JCRC, Central Reform Congregation, Congregation Shaare Emeth, the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis and the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

For more information, visit https://goo.gl/SbrzoI.