Jewish Refugees and St. Louis

The Jews were discriminated against in Europe on an off since the middle Ages. For centuries, most Jews in Europe were severely discriminated. By the 19th century Jews were considered equals in many places such as France, Germany and Austria. In 1871 the Edict of Tolerance gave Jews freedom to be full citizens. In other countries such as Russia, Romania and Poland, Jews were restricted as to where they could live and what occupations they could try.

After World War l, the Germans were treated poorly by the allies under the Treaty of Versailles. They had to reduce their army and lost some land that they also had to pay a great deal of money in reparations. Germany was not financially stable so they printed money that had no value, prices for simple things like milk went up and citizens were not able to afford.

When Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933, they began to remove Jews from Germany. On April 7, 1933 forty two laws that restricted the rights of German Jews. Jewish property and businesses were confiscated and Jewish children were denied the right to a public education. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 further isolated Jews by taking away their citizenship. The goal was to make Germany judenrein (free of Jews).On Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass). November 9, 1938, Jewish synagogues and businesses in Germany and Austria were attacked and hundreds of Jews arrested. This marked a new level of cruelty in the Nazis' anti-Semitic policies. By the end of 1941, the Nazi policy of eliminating all Jews was in place and the mass deportations of Jews to the concentration camps had started.

There were approximately 1800 camps in all. After the occupation of Poland, the Nazis established death camps, where gas was used to murder victims. One camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was a complex that included a concentration camp, a labour camp and an death camps. At Auschwitz, most children were selected for death immediately upon arrival. Only those who appeared older, stronger and capable of labour had any hope of survival.
German and Austrian Jews began to face restrictions. In 1939 with the outbreak of World War II and the Nazi invasion of Eastern Europe, the Jewish populations of Poland, Lithuania and Romania came under Nazi control and anti- Semitism rose. As other countries like France, Holland, Belgium and Hungary fell to the Nazis; their Jewish populations met the same fate. The Nazis took over countries such as Czechoslovakia in March, 1939; Poland in September, 1939; Belgium in May, 1940; Hungary in March, 1944 was a turning point that changed their lives forever.
Between 1933 and 1938 life for German Jews got worse and worse. Dachau concentration camp was set up for political prisoners- people who disagreed with what the Nazi +Hitler were doing to the Jews. Many Jews decided to leave the country before things got worse for them. After Kristallnacht more people wanted to leave the country before they were sent away to concentration camps to be killed. It was not easy for Jews to leave Germany because they needed an exit visa from Germany and an entry visa to another country. Many countries accepted Jewish refugees from Germany.
On May 13th, 1939, the ship St. Louis left Germany with 927 German Jews on board. They were going to Cuba to live there. They had visas to live in Cuba. When they arrived in Cuba only 22 were allowed to enter the country. The Cuban government wanted money to accept them. Jewish refugee organizations tried to raise the money but could not so the St. Louis had to get out of Cuban waters.
A shipload of German Jewish refugees aboard the S.S. St. Louis, were refused sanctuary in Canada and forced to return to Europe. During the Holocaust, Canada admitted only about 5,000 Jews, one of the worst records of any of the refugee receiving countries. However, in January 1939 Prime Minister Mackenzie King was only taking special cases. He did not want to take a lot of refugees because many Canadians could be out of work. Also part of the reason was some Canadians were anti- Semitic and did not want a lot of Jewish people in their country.
Canada the United States and, seven Latin American countries refused the refugees. The St. Louis sailed back on June 10th to Antwerp, Belgium. They arrived a week later. France took 242, Belgium took 214, Holland took 182 and Britain took 288. Britain also accepted refugees from two other ships that had been refused entry in North America. Within a year of coming back to Europe, the Nazis had taken over Europe (except Britain) and 200 of the people who were on board the St. Louis were sent to death camps immediately.
After the war, Canada was one of the first nations to cautiously open its doors to Jewish displaced persons. In 1947, the Canadian government issued the Order in Council #1647 granting permission for 1,000 Jewish war orphans to enter Canada. In 1948, Canada's immigration policies were liberalized, as workers were needed for the booming post-war economy. Within a decade, almost two million newcomers, including thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors, were admitted.