Refuge Denied: The St. Louis Passengers and the Holocaust by Sarah A Ogilvie and Scott Miller

>> Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Published: 2006
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 187

From the inside cover:
In May of 1939 the Cuban government turned away the Hamburg-America Line’s MS St. Louis, which carried more than 900 hopeful Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Germany. The passengers subsequently sought safe haven in the United States, but were rejected once again, and the St. Louis had to embark on an uncertain return voyage to Europe. Finally, the St. Louis passengers found refuge in four western European countries, but only the 288 passengers sent to England evaded the Nazi grip that closed upon continental Europe a year later. Over the years, the fateful voyage of the St. Louis has come to symbolize U.S. indifference to the plight of European Jewry on the eve of World War II.

Although the episode of the St. Louis is well known, the actual fates of the passengers, once they disembarked, slipped into historical obscurity. Prompted by a former passenger’s curiosity, Sarah Ogilvie and Scott Miller of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum set out in 1996 to discover what happened to each of the 937 passengers. Their investigation, spanning nine years and half the globe, took them to unexpected places and produced surprising results. Refuge Denied chronicles the unraveling of the mystery, from Los Angeles to Havana and from New York to Jerusalem.


Some of the most memorable stories include the fate of a young toolmaker who survived initial selection at Auschwitz because his glasses had gone flying moments before and a Jewish child whose apprenticeship with a baker in wartime France later translated into the establishment of a successful business in the United States. Unfolding like a compelling detective thriller, Refuge Denied is a must-read for anyone interested in the Holocaust and its impact on the lives of ordinary people.


I first heard about this book via an email newsletter from Capitol Book & News. It came highly recommended and I have to agree. The stories of the passengers are often tragic and sad, but there are many that are tributes to the human spirit.

This is a link to the Holocaust Memorial Museum's online exhibit about the St. Louis story and the passengers.

13 comments:

Literary Feline 5/30/2007 9:01 PM  

This book sounds interesting. I know a little about the St. Louis, but really nothing of the fate of the passengers. This is definitely going on my wish list.

Booklogged 5/31/2007 9:47 PM  

I had never heard the story of the St. Louis. Was it an American ship? I can't imagine the amount of research the authors did to find out what happened to all these people. I'm adding this to my TBR list. Thanks for the great review, SuzieQ.

SuziQoregon 6/01/2007 7:22 AM  

Literary Feline: it's a short, but emotional book. I hadn't heard the story of the St. Louis till I heard about the book.

Booklogged: It was a German ship and the research was like detective work. I was amazed that they were able to account for all 937 passengers after nearly 10 years of work.

I've added a link to the Holocaust Memorial Museum's site about the ship and the story. It's an excellent adjunct to the book.

Nyssaneala 6/01/2007 9:54 AM  

I'm very familiar with what happened to the St Louis, as I have used this historical event in community presentations to compare to the plight of modern-day refugees, but I've never heard of this book. Thanks for the great review, I definitely want to check it out!

Marg 6/01/2007 2:28 PM  

This sounds really interesting. Thanks for the review.

Carrie K 6/01/2007 3:30 PM  

Oh, that sounds really interesting, SuziQ! I'd never even heard of the St. Louis or their plight.

Bookfool 6/01/2007 4:40 PM  

I don't think I could handle "tragic", right now, but this sounds like my kind of book . . . later. :) Thanks for a terrific review!

SuziQoregon 6/01/2007 5:37 PM  

Nyssaneala: what a wonderful way to use this story.

Marg: It is interesting. Although many of the passengers died in the camps, the researchers were surprised at how many did survive the war.

Carrie: even if you don't read the book, do check out the link to the museum's site.

Bookfool: no doubt about it, there were parts of this book that made me cry, parts that made me irate, and parts that gave me hope for humanity. But it's definitely a book that you need to be in the right mindframe to read.

Lynne 6/03/2007 8:06 AM  

I've never heard of this before. I've found that I've discovered little unknown pieces of history recently. Fires, sinking of boats, murders - the world of non-fiction is fascinating.

MyUtopia 6/04/2007 7:11 AM  

That sounds really interesting. I love historical books.

SuziQoregon 6/05/2007 9:15 PM  

Lynne: I love reading books that make me start doing further research online :-)

MyUtopia: not an easy read because of so much sadness, but still a great book.

Tristi Pinkston 6/08/2007 9:07 AM  

Thank you for sharing this -- I'm definitely going to have to read it.

SuziQoregon 6/08/2007 7:52 PM  

Tristi: thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment. I read and respond them here although not always right away. If you would prefer an email response let me know.

I do moderate comments on posts older than 14 days in order to control spam. I will approve your legitimate comments as soon as I can.

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