MS St. Louis, carrying 963 Jewish refugees, turned away

The vessel under command of Captain Gustav Schröder was carrying 937 passengers, most of them Jewish refugees seeking asylum from Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany.

One of the darkest moments in modern history occurred today in 1939, when the Hamburg-Amerkia vessel MS St. Louis, carrying 963 Jewish refugees, was denied permission to land in Florida, in the United States, after already being turned away from Cuba.

The St Louis had been cruising in the West Indies for several weeks vainly seeking a port where the refugees would be allowed to land.

The captain of the St Louis had received orders to return to Hamburg if he could not get the refugees disembarked abroad.

These events, known as the “Voyage of the Damned” in one account, have inspired film, opera, and fiction.

Eventually, forced to return to Europe, more than 200 of its passengers later died in Nazi concentration camps.