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February 28, 2013 - Image 72

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-02-28

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Dave Dombrowski, Lloyd McClendon, Gene Lamont and Jim Leyland

Jewish refugees aboard the SS St. Louis wait to hear whether Cuba will grant
them entry.

Solemn Visit

What happened to passengers on the
ill-fated ship in 1939?

Tigers stop at Holocaust Center.


he Holocaust Memorial
Center Zekelman Family
Campus in Farmington Hills
(HMC) received a visit Jan. 24 from
the American League Champion
Detroit Tigers.
The visit was part of the Major
League Baseball team's annual Winter
Caravan, which travels throughout the
state to reach out to fans.
Manager Jim Leyland, President,
CEO and General Manager Dave
Dombrowski, Bench Coach Gene
Lamont, Hitting Coach Lloyd
McClendon and FOX Sports Detroit
telecaster Rod Allen represented the
Following a welcome from HMC
board member Steven Grant and a
crowd of close to 50, the Tigers heard
presentations from docent Donna
Sklar on the significance of the
Memorial Flame and from Executive
Director Stephen Goldman on the
Henrietta and Alvin Weisberg Gallery,
the museum's newest permanent gal-
lery, which houses an authentic World
War II-era boxcar.
The visit concluded with the Detroit
Tigers presenting the HMC with a
commemorative jersey in memory of
those who died in the Holocaust, in
honor of those who survived and in
recognition of the museum's contribu-
tions to a "free and open society"

'An Important Statement'
Goldman was excited about the visit
— which publicized the HMC to the
Tiger fan-base who might not other-
wise be aware of the museum. "I think
they made an important statement
about us:' Goldman told the JN, "and
the fact that we're among other muse-
ums known around the world, like the
Detroit Institute of Arts:'
Although the timing of this year's
appearance follows an incident last
May when then-Tiger outfielder
Delmon Young reportedly hurled anti-
Semitic epithets during a drunken,
late-night scuffle in New York City, all
sides agreed that the HMC event had


February 28 • 2013


nothing to do with that incident.
"I never thought that for a minute
Goldman told the JN.
According to HMC Administrator
Selma Silverman, the Tigers estab-
lished contact by giving tickets and
making goodwill gestures to the HMC
last April, a month before the Delmon
Young episode occurred.
They resumed contact in December
to set up the Winter Caravan, and said,
according to Silverman, "You'd been
on our list a long time; we just have to
get to all the places on our list:'
Tiger General Manager Dave
Dombrowski told the JN, "For us, it's
about learning more and being part of
the community"

Young To Philly
Meanwhile, Michael Elkin of the
Philadelphia Jewish Exponent reported
that Delmon Young was signed to a
one-year, $750,000 contract to play
right field for the Philadelphia Phillies.
The paper reported that in his new
city, Young wants it known that the
episode was an aberration, not a core
belief. And the Phils' Jewish manager,
Ruben Amaro Jr., has been working to
help get the message out.
"It took me a long time to consider
this:' Amaro, whose mother is Jewish,
told the Exponent.
"I spoke with the ADL, the Jewish
Federation, Rabbi Joshua Bennett:'
Amaro said, referring to a spiri-
tual leader at Temple Israel in West
Bloomfield with whom Young had
bonded with over the past year.
Bennett, reports the Exponent, said
he sees a change in Young. "I think he
now understands more how power-
ful his voice" and his influence are
because he is a Major League player.
"He is interested in changing the
way he is perceived in the world. He is
not a bad guy" and doesn't want to be
seen as a bigot, the rabbi said. ❑

JN Senior Copy Editor David Sachs,
Michael Ingberg and Michael Elkin
contributed to this report.

Harry Kirsbaum


hen 938 German Jewish pas-
sengers on the SS St. Louis
were forced to turn back to
Nazi Europe from the Cuban shore in
1939, many thought it was the ultimate
symbol that the world did not care what
happened to Jews.
But Diane E Afoumado is not one to
"The story of the
St. Louis is certainly
emblematic of the
missed opportu-
nity to save some
Jews when most
democracies had a
chance to do so," said
Afoumado, chief of
Diane F.
International Tracing
Service Research at
the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
in Washington, D.C. "I always emphasize
the importance of chronology. Nobody
in the 1930s could have envisioned what
was about to happen to the European
Jews a few years later:'
When Germany annexed Austria
in 1938 and war was on the horizon,
German Jews began to leave the country.
The flood of refugees caused countries
around the world to restrict emigration
with quotas. By May of 1939, the only
destinations left were Havana, Cuba, and
Shanghai, China.
The passengers of the St. Louis had
landing permits, but not all had visas.
Most were on the quota list to enter
America and planned to wait in Cuba
until their numbers came up. Politics
played a big role in why only a handful of
passengers were allowed entry into Cuba
and why the rest were forced to set sail
back to Europe.
Afoumado will put the story of the St.
Louis in proper context at the Holocaust
Memorial Center in Farmington Hills on
March 10 at 1:30 p.m.
She first heard about the St. Louis
while doing research for her thesis at the
University of Paris X Nanterre.
A few years later, she heard about

fellowship opportunities at the
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
(USHMM) and thought about the St.
Louis. After seeing the wealth of mate-
rial available, she decided to write the
story of the St. Louis through the diary
of Gustav Schroeder, the ship's captain,
who published a small book in 1949,
narrating some facts that occurred on
the St. Louis, she said.
In 1999, the USHMM launched
a project to identify the fate of all
of the St. Louis passengers, the first
attempt to find out what happened to
the people who were turned back to
Europe. People can learn more about
the search and the ship's voyage on the
USHMM's website, www.ushmm.org/
There are several misconceptions
about this story, Afoumado said.
"Some people think that the St. Louis
passengers returned to Germany. They
indeed had to return to Europe but not
to the Reich since they were dispersed
in four countries: Holland, Belgium,
France and Great Britain," she said.
Of the 620 who were returned to the
European continent, 254 died in the
Holocaust. "Another misconception
people have is that the trip was orga-
nized by the Nazis. There is no evidence
of this in the archives, and it really does
not make much sense at all.
"The St. Louis was far from being
the only vessel carrying a majority of
Jewish passengers in 1939. Plus, the Nazi
authorities had other things to think
about in May 1939 than 'organizing' a
trip for about a thousand Jews."
She has been lecturing about the St.
Louis since 2005 and has given more
than 50 presentations, mostly in France.
This event is sponsored by the
Guy Stern Endowment in Exile and
Holocaust Studies at the Holocaust
Memorial Center, the Cohn-Haddow
Center at Wayne State University, the
Jewish News and the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Museum.
The event is free and open to the
public. For more information, email
cohnhaddowcenter@wayne.edu or call
(313) 577-2679. ❑

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