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Between 1933 and 1939, Jews in Germany were subjected to arrest, economic boycott, the loss of civil rights and citizenship, incarceration in concentration camps, random violence, and the state-organized Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom. Jews reacted to Nazi persecution in a number of ways. Forcibly segregated from German society, German Jews turned to and expanded their own institutions and social organizations. However, in the face of increasing repression and physical violence, many Jews fled Germany. More Jews might have left Germany had such countries as the United States and Great Britain been more willing to admit them.
The plight of German-Jewish refugees, persecuted at home and unwanted abroad, is illustrated by the voyage of the SS "St. Louis." On May 13, 1939, the SS "St. Louis," a German ocean liner, left Germany with almost a thousand Jewish refugees on board. The refugees' destination was Cuba, but before their arrival the Cuban government revoked their permission to land. The "St. Louis" was forced to return to Europe in June 1939. However, Great Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands agreed to accept the stranded refugees. After German forces occupied western Europe in 1940, many "St. Louis" passengers and other Jewish refugees who had entered those countries were caught up in the Final Solution, the Nazi plan to murder the Jews of Europe.
Throughout most of German-occupied Europe, the Germans sought to round up and deport Jews to killing centers in occupied Poland. Some Jews survived by hiding or escaping from German-controlled Europe. Some escape routes out of occupied Europe led to belligerent states (such as the Soviet Union), neutral states (such as Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey), and even to states allied with Germany (such as Italy and Hungary before they were occupied by Germany). After the German attack on the Soviet Union, more than a million Soviet Jews escaped eastward, fleeing the advancing German army. Thousands more Jews managed to leave Black Sea ports in Bulgaria and Romania, seeking to reach safety in Palestine.
Following World War II, several hundred thousand Jewish survivors remained in camps for displaced persons. The Allies established such camps in Allied-occupied Germany, Austria, and Italy for refugees waiting to leave Europe. Most Jewish DPs preferred to emigrate to Palestine but many also sought entry into the United States. They decided to remain in the DP camps until they could leave Europe. At the end of 1946 the number of Jewish DPs was estimated at 250,000, of whom 185,000 were in Germany, 45,000 in Austria, and 20,000 in Italy. Most of the Jewish DPs were refugees from Poland, many of whom had fled the Germans into the interior of the Soviet Union during the war. Other Jewish DPs came from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania.