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Partner Spotlight: USC Shoah Foundation Offers IWitness Activity: “Voyage of the St. Louis: From Hope to Despair”

Echoes and Reflections Partners: The Anti-Defamation League, USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education, and Yad Vashem, are involved in cutting edge research, programs, and strategic thinking in the area of Holocaust studies. The Partner Spotlight highlights special events, resources, and opportunities that support educators.

IWitness activity Voyage of St LouisOn May 13, 1939, the MS St. Louis set sail from Hamburg, Germany for Havana, Cuba. Of the 937 passengers, most were Jewish refugees seeking asylum from Nazi persecution. After being denied entry into Cuba, the United States, and Canada, the MS St. Louis was forced to return to Europe. Passengers disembarked into the vicious context that soon became World War II. This voyage and the global response to the Jewish refugee crisis, offers a framework to examine the role of the bystander and our collective response to the human impact of global conflict.

As the seventy-sixth anniversary of the MS St. Louis approaches, consider using the IWitness Activity, “Voyage of the St. Louis: From Hope to Despair,” with students in your classroom. Developed as a compliment to Echoes and Reflections Lesson 9: Perpetrators, Collaborators, and Bystanders, this IWitness activity offers students the opportunity to “meet” survivors by viewing their testimonies, hear about their experience on the ill-fated voyage in 1939, and consider the effect of these events on individuals. Testimonies featured in this activity include Liesl Loeb and Sol Messinger who were children on the ship.

Jewish passengers dining while aboard the MS St Louis

Jewish passengers dining aboard the MS St. Louis

“Voyage of the St. Louis: From Hope to Despair” offers students and teachers the unique opportunity to utilize multimedia resources to enhance learning. As they build a video project, students reflect on the world’s response to the MS St. Louis, learn more about the experiences of those who were there, and consider implications of similar circumstances today.

Resources from Echoes and Reflections Lesson 9 offer the additional challenge for students to consider the role of the United States in the Holocaust. In particular, Reflect and Respond provides guiding questions that frame meaningful discussion on the role of the United States in global conflict.

For more IWitness Activities and information on integrating IWitness with Echoes and Reflections visit IWitness Intersections.

For more historical information on the MS St. Louis visit Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and read the research to trace the stories of the passengers.