The heart-wrenching, relevant story behind a viral Twitter account

You’ve probably seen the haunting Twitter posts popping up over the past couple days. They’re being shared all over, and for good reason. 

“My name is Regina Blumenstein.” reads one. “The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered in Auschwitz.”

“My name is Arthur Weinstock,” reads another. “The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered in Sobibor.”

The tweets go on and on, more than 250 of them. They’re the names of Jewish people who were denied refuge in the United States, then later killed in Nazi concentration camps. 

The account sharing those stories, called @Stl_Manifest, started as a project to remember Holocaust victims on social media. But it gained added tragic relevancy on Friday when President Donald Trump signed an executive order that effectively amounts to a far-reaching ban on Muslim refugees and other visitors.

This is the story the account tells, and how it links two moments in American history that are separated by nearly 80 years. 

Trump’s executive order Friday was widely seen as contradicting ideals the United States of America has ostensibly represented for centuries. It bans all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, bans Syrian refugees indefinitely and blocks citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from visiting America. 

Doubling the grotesquery for many was that Trump signed the executive order on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. That’s quite a time to sign an order that, first, targets a specific religious group, and, second, shuts the door to America on those fleeing atrocities and war. 

Now back to those posts from the @Stl_Manifest Twitter account. They’re the names of passengers in the manifest of the S.S. St. Louis, a ship that left Germany in May 1939. Of the 937 passengers on board, “almost all” were Jews fleeing Hitler’s Nazi Party, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

The S.S. St. Louis was bound for Cuba, from which “the majority” of its Jewish passengers planned to go on to the U.S., having already applied for visas to enter, according to the Holocaust Museum. 

But they never reached American shores and 254 of those aboard the S.S. St. Louis later died in the Holocaust as a result. The names, and often photos, of those 254 doomed passengers are what the @Stl_Manifest account began sharing Friday. 

The images and their captions are haunting in their starkness and uniformity.

What dreams did these people hold? What fears did they have? 

What would they say, 78 years later, of the United States shunning those fleeing horror? 

Anti-Semitism and anti-refugee sentiment were on the rise in Cuba, in part “because they appeared to be competitors for scarce jobs,” according to the Holocaust Museum. When the S.S. St. Louis arrived in Havana, just 28 passengers were allowed entry into Cuba. That lucky handful already had valid paperwork. The remainder of the ship’s passengers, people who were fleeing Nazism in Europe but still awaiting their final paperwork to enter Cuba or the U.S., were denied. 

So the St. Louis sailed toward Florida, getting close enough to American shores that those aboard “could see the lights of Miami,” according to the Holocaust Museum. Effectively stranded, some of the ships passengers cabled American President Franklin D. Roosevelt in seek of refuge. They never heard back. One passenger received a telegram from the State Department saying passengers of the St. Louis must “wait their turn.” Further appeals to find safe harbor in the Americas also went unmet. 

With the door to freedom slammed shut, the St. Louis charted a course back to Europe in June 1939. Continental European countries accepted more than 600 of its passengers. But Hitler and the Nazis invaded Western Europe the following year. Ultimately, 254 people from the S. S. St. Louis died in the Holocaust. 

The names of those ill-fated passengers who could have been saved were shared via the @Stl_Manifest Twitter account on Friday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as Trump signed his executive order. 

The U.S. State Department issued a public apology to the S. S. St Louis‘ surviving passengers in 2012. 

It was, history judged, a shameful moment in U.S. history. 

via Mashable! http://on.mash.to/2kQb9GC

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