Refuge Denied – Tying the US Response to the Holocaust to Today
Seven years ago I honored Dr. Clark Blatteis in my Immigrant of the Day column and talked about his being one of the dwindling group of survivors of the SS St. Louis. That ship left Germany in 1939 with nearly 1000 Jewish passengers fleeing Nazism and headed for Cuba where the passengers had visas to enter. When they arrived, the Cuban government went back on its promise to take them and the ship sat in the harbor for many days. It left and then sat off the coast of Miami hoping the US would take them in. We did not and it is a shameful episode in American immigration history. The ship was forced to go back to Europe and most of the passengers eventually perished in the Holocaust. some survived including Professor Blatteis. He eventually settled in Memphis where he has taught physiology at the University of Tennessee.
I was very happy to see an opinion piece he has written for US News and World Report comparing his experience to that of Syrian refugees trying to make their way in the world today. Who better to talk about the plight of the refugee than someone who has been in the same position of being shunned when seeking safe haven. Thank you Dr. Blatteis for your important words.
HIAS, an organization that remains at the forefront of advocating for refugees, was, by the way, the organization that helped Dr. Blatteis come to American decades ago. This is the organization that helped my family and my wife’s family come to America as well. I was lucky enough to serve on the HIAS board for many years and am still involved with the organization’s important work and in supporting it financially.