Friday, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It may also become the day President Donald Trump signs an executive order banning all refugees from entering the US for four months, and banning Syrian refugees indefinitely — along with any other refugees from countries that the federal government decides don’t have “sufficient safeguards” in place.
The coincidence is particularly painful for anyone familiar with a dark chapter in US refugee history. The US turned down multiple opportunities to help Jews fleeing Nazi Germany in the run-up to the Holocaust. In one case, it refused to allow a ship carrying 900 German Jews to dock on American shores. The ship eventually turned back and returned to Europe, where over 250 of its passengers were ultimately killed.
That ship was called the St. Louis. A Twitter account, set up by activist techie Russel Neiss, is currently tweeting out the names and fates of its passengers.
My name is Margot Hirsch. The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered at Auschwitz pic.twitter.com/uwMRFqxOya— St. Louis Manifest (@Stl_Manifest) January 27, 2017
My name is Carl Simon. The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered at Sobibor pic.twitter.com/B7f3lvWAts— St. Louis Manifest (@Stl_Manifest) January 27, 2017
My name is Dorothea Heymann. The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered at Auschwitz— St. Louis Manifest (@Stl_Manifest) January 27, 2017
My name is Manfred Fink. The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered at Bergen-Belsen pic.twitter.com/2LFnB5yp3n— St. Louis Manifest (@Stl_Manifest) January 27, 2017
The Western world’s promise after the Holocaust was “never again.” In the US, the spirit of “never again” led to the adoption of a more welcoming attitude toward people fleeing persecution. In the decades since World War II, the United States has been an unparalleled global leader in resettling refugees.
President Trump plans to end that era with the stroke of a pen. It would be particularly cruel if he did so on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
CORRECTION: This piece originally misidentified the creator of the St. Louis Manifest Twitter account. His name is Russel Neiss. You can follow him on Twitter here.