The Charlotte News
Saturday, June 3, 1939
Site Ed. Note: The tragedy of the passengers aboard the St. Louis, refused admission to Havana on May 27, resulted from anti-Semitic ravings in the Cuban press, supportive of Franco in Spain and hence sympathetic naturally to Hitler and Mussolini. As to the failure of the United States to accept them, the 1924 Immigration Act had set the annual quota for German-Austrian immigrants at 27,370; the quota was filled not only for 1939 but waiting lists existed for several years out. No one was willing to consider political asylum exceptions which have always existed for immigrants from despotic circumstances where return would mean the likelihood of political imprisonment or death. Polls showed that Americans were opposed 4 to 1 to raising the quota. The News was in the distinct minority of newspapers which favored acceptance of the immigrants, though most expressed sympathy for their plight--an utterly despicable bit of hypocrisy. Soothe one's conscience and that of readers by miming concern, but then refuse to use a little print to muster public opinion toward human justice. Cash was not so disposed.
All except 28 of the 937 passengers were turned away at Havana and the ship was forced to set sail again for Europe on June 6. Eventually, humanitarian appeals prevailed on the governments of Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium to accept the passengers, 619 going to the latter three countries. Most of these 619, however, fell under Nazi authority again when in the spring of 1940 Hitler overran France and the Low Countries. Most were interned; many did not survive the war. A few were able to emigrate to the U.S. under the established quotas.
The incident was later portrayed in the 1970's film "Voyage of the Damned".
Without A Port
Refugee Ship At Havana Points Need For Finding A Permanent Haven
The case of the German ship St. Louis, which yesterday was escorted from Havana Harbor, is one of the most appalling stories of modern times. The other day she steamed in there with a load of a thousand Jews to whom Adolf Hitler & Co. had high-handedly dispatched without bothering to secure Cuba's permission for them to land. When they showed up, the Cuban authorities decided they had no facilities for absorbing immigrants on any such scale and refused them permission to disembark. One Jew slashed his wrist and jumped overboard, was rescued. But the whole body of them threatened to commit suicide rather than return to Hitler's mercies, and the ship's officers were afraid they meant it. The women and children wept constantly, and no one went to meals. Yesterday the Cuban warships moved her out beyond Morro Castle. And then, as she steamed away, the most appalling thing of all happened: a rumor ran through the ship that the United States agreed to accept them and that they were bound for New York. But it was not so. They were in fact returning to the clutches of the brute of Berlin.
To find a parallel to that you have to go back to the Middle Ages. In 1492 the Inquisition expelled the Jews from Spain, in order to rob them of their treasures. For many months they wandered around the Mediterranean in ships, refused a refuge in every port--sometimes falling into the hands of the Saracens to have their women raped and to be sold into slavery--until at last, when anchored outside the harbor at Genoa, cholera broke out, and spread from the ships to the city. There was a kind of poetical justice in that, but it would have been fairer had it happened off Spain.
The present case dramatically points the necessity of doing something sensible about the hordes of refugees now fleeing over the world, mainly from the Hitlerian torture chamber. A just argument can be made out as to why the great crowded nations cannot accept them within their own borders. But of all the unexploited lands which exist in the world--in the Americas as well as in the British and French empires--it is idle and brutal nonsense to say that a place, in which these people can build themselves an acceptable life again, cannot be found.
A Great Man Stands Before A Hard Decision
The Hon. Robert Rice Reynolds is plainly in an excruciatingly painful dilemma. First reports out of Washington had it that Lady Lindsay had failed to invite him, along with other Senate and Congressional isolationists and twisters of the lion's tail, to her royal garden party. But Lord Lindsay, at least, seems to have been reading the American newspapers lately, and has decided hastily that he had better call in at least the most notorious Britain-baiters. So now Robert has an invitation, which he has accepted.
"But," says the great man, "I don't know yet just where I will be or what I will have to do that day. Something may come up that will prevent me from attending. There might be some friends here from North Carolina that I ought to see."
It is a safe bet that the Hon. Robert hones and yearns to go to that party. A vain fellow, he loves his pomp and circumstance as well as any man living--and to rub shoulders with a real live King and Queen--ah, masters! Moreover, since all his clientele, both in Tar Heeldom and in the ranks of the Vindicators, identify themselves with him, his presence in that party will probably give them almost as much vicarious pleasure as did his kissing of the late Harlowe. On the other hand, here is a wonderful opportunity to play the great commoner by staying away--to warn Tar Heel hearts of the spectacle of his willingness to sacrifice everything to his loyalty to them, to his will before all things to serve them. And more. Lately the great man has plainly been yearning to have himself taken seriously, particularly by the simple souls who join the Vindicators. And if saving the Republic should require that he stay away from the den of the wily old lion on the day of that party--boy, would that fetch 'em! Such is the dilemma--whether to take the immediate and certain good, or sternly yielding it up, to play for a greater glory in the unknowable future?
It is an excellent thing that the time is not long, else we shall have fears of the great man slowly going nuts under the strain.
Crime And Heroism
Both Black And White Can Proceed From A Single Source
The case of the man, Ernest Stamey, who has been paroled by the Governor in order to enter a veterans' hospital for treatment of numerous ills, is a curious and interesting one. That he is a killer seems apparent. At the age of 18, he was convicted of slaying one George Hodgins and sentenced to five years. He escaped, joined the army, came back to be pardoned by Governor Becket. Then in 1933 he was convicted of the second-degree murder of one George Dryman and handed a 25 to 30-year sentence, of which he has served somewhat more than eight years. Marvin Ritch and some others have sought to picture him as a "North Carolina Dreyfus," but the parole board has refused to intervene until now. And there is still no reason to believe him innocent. It is all right, no doubt, to release him for strictly hospitalization purposes, but care should be taken that he is not again turned loose on the public.
On the other hand, however, the fellow was indubitably a magnificent soldier. His feats in France won him the rare DSC from Congress, even while he was a fugitive from justice; and he has been decorated by several of the allied governments.
What is curious about all this, of course, is that both his criminal record and all his military heroism proceeded from exactly the same traits of temperament and character. In the one set of circumstances, those traits were useful to his country; in the other they were an intolerable menace and he had to be locked up to protect the public. It happens so pretty often. And the only pity is that he and all his sort can be permanently employed in dangerous and violent but useful tasks--to the gain of themselves and everybody else.
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