St. Louis survivors dispute new book’s absolving of FDR and U.S. Coast Guard

( Survivors of the Holocaust-era SS St. Louis refugee ship are disputing a new book’s claim about their ship’s fateful voyage.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

In a new book titled FDR and the Jews, historians Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman make the claim that the U.S. Coast Guard was not sent to prevent the St. Louis from reaching the United States in 1939.

“There is no truth to the notion, found in some literature, that American officials ordered the coast guard to prevent any passengers from reaching American shores,” the book states on page 137.

The survivors of the St. Louis, however, categorically deny that claim based on their own first-hand experience.

“We saw the Coast Guard planes that flew around the ship to follow its movements. We saw the Coast Guard cutter that trailed us and made sure the St. Louis did not come close to the Florida coast. We heard the cutter blaring its warning to the St. Louis to stay away,” St. Louis survivors Herbert Karliner, Professor Hans Fisher, Col. Phil Freund and Fred Buff said in a statement.

“It was President Franklin Roosevelt who decided our fate, who denied us and our family’s permission to land, forcing us to return to Europe, where many of the passengers were murdered by the Nazis. We categorically reject any and all attempts to distort these indisputable historical facts,” they said.

The St. Louis was a German ocean liner that was notable for its 1939 voyage in which her captain, Gustav Schroder, attempted to find homes for the 937 German Jewish refugees abroad. They were denied entry to Cuba, the U.S. and Canada. After their return to Europe, historians estimate that about a quarter of the ship’s passengers died in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Posted on March 21, 2013 and filed under Books.