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Press Release | April 7, 2017

Nadeau Resolution Honors Jewish Refugees Turned Away From the U.S. During WWII - Office of Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau

Remember the St. Louis Day is a reminder of the consequences of rejecting refugees in need 

WASHINGTON – The Council of the District of Columbia unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau that remembers Jewish refugees who were denied entry into the US during WWII and later perished in the Holocaust. The resolution designates May 13, 2017 as Remember the St. Louis Day, a reminder of the tragedy that comes with refusing to welcome refugees and those seeking asylum from war and persecution. Councilmember Nadeau will formally present the resolution to members of Washington’s Jewish community during the Council’s legislative meeting on May 2. She co-introduced the resolution with Councilmember Brandon T. Todd.

“We’ve seen what happens when America closes its doors to refugees and we don’t want history to repeat itself,” said Councilmember Nadeau. “My family immigrated to the United States several generations ago, fleeing religious persecution that Jewish people faced in Europe. Each of us has a responsibility, now more than ever, to stand up for our neighbors who are vulnerable.”

“As our world faces the most severe refugee crisis since World War II, it has never been more important to reaffirm the values of compassion and hospitality that our city hold so dear,” said Councilmember Todd. “This resolution brings attention to a historic injustice and serves as a reminder that the District of Columbia will always welcome those fleeing oppression and war.”

“During World War II my father fled Europe as a little boy on a boat just like the St Louis,” said Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue. “Fortunately he was eventually able to disembark in Cuba. It is thanks to that that I am alive today. This family history impels me to feel a moral obligation to help all those – and especially children – who are fleeing oppression. We can never repeat the mistakes that our country made when it came to our rejection of the innocent people on the St. Louis ship.”

The resolution recounts the 1939 journey of the German transatlantic liner MS St. Louis carrying 937 passengers, almost all of them Jews fleeing from the Third Reich. The United States government refused to permit passengers to disembark and the refugees were told by the State Department to “await their turns.” The ship sailed back to Europe. Eventually 532 MS St. Louis passengers were trapped when Germany conquered Western Europe, of which 278 survived the Holocaust and 254 died in the Holocaust.

The full text of the legislation, the Remember the St. Louis Day Ceremonial Resolution, is available online.