B’nai B’rith International issued the following press release today:
SENATE PASSES RESOLUTION ACKNOWLEDGING TRAGEDY OF
THE ST. LOUIS
B’nai B’rith International Helps Pen Historic Measure
(Washington, D.C., May 21, 2009)— The Senate unanimously passed an unprecedented resolution on May 20, formally acknowledging a regrettable incident in American history – the denial of entry to the United States and other countries to the passengers of the M.S. St. Louis in 1939. The resolution commemorates June 6, 2009, as the 70th anniversary of the tragedy.
The German ocean liner had 937 asylum-seeking Jewish refugees when it was turned away from a South Florida port. Strict immigration laws prevented the passengers from attaining asylum.
On June, 6, 1939, the ship began its return trip to Europe. During the Holocaust, more than 250 of the returned passengers perished, and many others suffered in concentration camps.
B’nai B’rith International (BBI) Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield played a key role in drafting the landmark resolution, which represents the U.S. government’s first formal acknowledgment of the St. Louis tragedy.
“This is a significant development,” Fusfield said. “The St. Louis tragedy is an episode of great symbolism and historic meaning. Its message of the danger of inaction in the face of evil resonates deeply today and should serve as a lesson to Americans for many years to come.
“The fact that the United States Senate has now acknowledged the tragedy and recognized its value as a powerful historical experience for policy makers and educators to draw from is greatly reassuring,” he said.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), the resolution’s sponsor, and Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), the original co-sponsor, introduced the bi-partisan resolution on April 23. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) also co-sponsored the measure.
“My hope is that this resolution will raise awareness about the tragic events surrounding the M.S. St. Louis, and the fateful decision to send the refugees back to Europe,” Kohl said. “Future generations need to know this story so that it is never repeated.”
“In our quest for tolerance and peace, we must rely on truth and knowledge,” Voinovich said. “We must never forget the atrocity that is the Holocaust and the role our nation played in the fates of the M.S. St. Louis refugees. We must continue to commit our nation and our government to a spirit of tolerance and compassion.
B’nai B’rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, is the oldest and most widely known Jewish humanitarian, human rights, and advocacy organization. For 165 years, BBI has worked for Jewish unity, security, continuity, and tolerance. Visit www.bnaibrith.org.
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