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HIAS SS St. Louis vigils

Remembering Nazism Victims Turned Away At America’s Doorstep In 1939

On June 6, communities across the country will hold candlelight vigils to commemorate the anniversary of the day that the SS St. Louis began its fateful return journey to Europe. In 1939, the U.S. government denied safety to the hundreds of Jewish refugees on board. In 2017, communities will stand together to call on elected officials not to make the same mistake again by denying safe haven to today’s victims of violence and persecution.

Please support HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, by joining a vigil near you to show your Members of Congress that the American community fully supports welcoming refugees to the United States. Ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20, it is critical that we amplify a message of welcome and affirm our values. Make your own posters or you can download signs at

My great uncle Leon and his wife and son were on the St. Louis, which was turned away from the States and Cuba, and then, despite passengers threatening to join hands and jump overboard, returned to Europe. Most of the nine hundred-odd passengers aboard the St. Louis found haven in other countries, but Uncle Leon would not survive the war. – Billy Joel

No vigil in your area? Plan one using the HIAS planning guide and content guide for local actions.

The SS St. Louis
The SS St. Louis surrounded by smaller vessels in the port of Hamburg. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/USHMM