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Refugees faced enormous obstacles in finding safe havens during the Great Depression and World War II.
A pair of candlesticks, bought in Poland and used every Friday evening during observance of the Jewish Sabbath. Polish Jewish refugees fleeing the German invasion of Poland in 1939 carried these candlesticks with them to Vilna.
A suitcase used (ca. 1939) by a Jewish refugee fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe to Japan. The suitcase is covered with labels from various stops along the journey, including one from a hotel in Moscow (top left), one for the NYK Line (top middle), and six from hotels throughout Japan. [From the USHMM special exhibition Flight and Rescue.]
On May 25, 1939, artist Moritz Schoenberger sent this radiogram (a telegram sent by radio) from the ocean liner "St. Louis" during the voyage from Hamburg, Germany, to Havana, Cuba. On this voyage, the "St. Louis" carried over 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. The telegram reads, in part, "Physically and spiritually recovered and invigorated most confident about reaching Havana Saturday. Money received. Many thanks. Kisses. Papa." Schoenberger's optimism proved unfounded. Cuban authorities refused entry to the refugees. After the United States also denied entry to the passengers, the "St. Louis" was forced to return to Europe. During the return voyage, Great Britain, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands agreed to accept the Jewish refugees. French authorities interned Mr. Schoenberger in southern France.
San Francisco Chronicle newspaper article titled "The Refugee Tragedy." The article was based on an interview with Moses Beckelman of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, an aid organization. It discussed the overcrowding of Polish and Lithuanian refugees stranded in Shanghai, Kobe (Japan), and Lisbon (Portugal), all stops en route to North and South America. The primary cause of this bottleneck was a lack of transit and entry visas, a result of most countries closing their borders to immigrants. May 1941. [From the USHMM special exhibition Flight and Rescue.]
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