Referring to the letter by Yardena Jacobs (“Bergson’s seminal role,” Nov. 22) and response by Rebecca Erbelding on Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s role in the creation of the War Refugee Board, it is important to recall the tragic voyage of the S.S. St. Louis in May 1939. (Erbelding was the subject of “Holocaust historian details Roosevelt’s efforts to save Jews,” Oct. 18.)
The ship sailed from Hamburg, Germany, on May 13, 1939, with 937 Jewish souls on board trying to flee from Germany with valid visas for Cuba. They were refused entry into Cuba and were also turned away from the U.S. Some passengers were returned to Germany, where 254 of them perished in the Holocaust.
May 1939 was six months after Kristallnacht, which was widely reported in all the news media, and several months before the outbreak of World War II.
Roosevelt knew about Kristallnacht, and did not yet have the convenient excuse of the war taking precedence over saving Jewish lives. Yet he still did not lift a finger even then to save any Jews. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “This was not his finest hour” and is more typical of Roosevelt’s “effort” to save Jews.