Voyage of the St. Louis
On May 13, 1939, over 900 Jewish refugees traveled from Germany towards Cuba on the SS St. Louis. The passengers aboard believed their tourist visas would allow them to find refuge in Cuba and eventually obtain American visas.
"There is a somewhat nervous disposition among the passengers. Despite this, everyone seems convinced they will never see Germany again. Touching departure scenes have taken place. Many seem light of heart, having left their homes. Others take it heavily. But beautiful weather, pure sea air, good food, and attentive service will soon provide the usual worry-free atmosphere of long sea voyages." -Captain Gustav Schroeder
"We didn't really know where we were heading, or how we would cope when we got there." -Gisela Feldman
Eight days before the ship sailed, a Cuban law was passed that all non-Cuban citizens must receive a written approval of the Cuban secretary of State and Labor and make a payment of 500 pesos to enter the country.
These are newspaper articles about the SS St. Louis being rejected in Havana, Cuba. Source: New York Times and Associated Press
"They're not going to let us rot on the ocean. I mean, something had to happen to us. Of course, the fear was that we would go back to Germany. That was the big thing you know." -Gerda Blachmann Wilchfort
When the ship arrived in Havana, Cuba the refugees were rejected and forced to leave Cuban waters. The captain of the SS St. Louis, Gustav Schroeder, then sailed to Florida, where they were denied the right to dock. Schroeder was then forced to return to Europe.
Over 250 of the passengers that returned to Europe were murdered by Nazis.