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The S.S. ST. Louis
Transcript of The S.S. ST. Louis
The S.S. ST. Louis
Me and my family decided to board the S.S. St. Louis after I was released from Dachau the day after Kristallnacht in November 1938. But we were very poor and could only afford one ticket. So I left my wife and kids behind and went on the S.S St. Louis to find freedom. I went aboard on May 13, 1939. I had my tourist visa that I got from the Hamburg-American Line and hoped that I could find refuge in Cuba. I knew that once I got there I would need to start a new life and make enough money to bring my family over to be with me again. We felt as though this was our last hope.
To get on board we had to pay 600 reichsmarks (tourist class) with an extra 230 reichsmarks for the customary contingency fee. This was to cover any accidents that could occur and the cost if we were to have to return back to Germany.
Life on the boat was nice. We were well fed and had a lot of fun activities including movies and a swimming pool. We tried to relax despite the problems going on in the world.
Decree 937 said that all non-Cuban citizens must get a written approval of the Cuban secretary of State and Labor. You also had to pay 500 peso bonds. Because of this we weren't sure if we were going to be able to land in Cuba.
In the end I ended up in France. I got a job and was able to get enough money to pay for my family to come over. The Nazis were still a threat in Western Europe but luckily me and my family were able to find a peaceful place to settle down.
On May 27 we arrived in Havana. We waited there for awhile to get approved by the US. The Cuban government later told us that we could not stay there. We had to find a different place to stay.
Life on the boat
Waiting for approval
The captain was Gustav Schroeder. He told us in the beginning that he wouldn't take us back to Germany. He said he would take us the whole journey. When we couldn't land in Cuba he negotiated with other countries were they let us temporarily seek refuge. These countries were France, Great Britain, The Netherlands and Belgium.