In the Shadow of the War
The St. Louis
Liesel Joseph was one of the 960 Jews on board the St. Louis, a ship that left Hamburg, Germany in May, 1939, bound for Cuba. The boat was not allowed to dock in Cuba even though all the passengers on board had entrance visas. They also were not permitted entrance to the national waters of the U.S. or Canada and were forced to sail back to Europe.
A story is told of how some of the children on board the St. Louis were playing on deck, pretending they were German soldiers at a blockade. One of the children approached the “German officer” at the “blockade” and asked permission to pass through. The child begged and pleaded, but the “officer” refused. The child asked why he was not allowed to pass, and the “officer” replied, “because you are a Jew, that is why.” “But sir, I am only a little Jew,” said the child.
The game indicates that the children on the St. Louis didn’t understand yet, that as far as the Nazis were concerned, they were not children, but “little Jews”, and as such, even they would not be spared.
Most of the Jews who sailed on the St. Louis perished in the Holocaust. One of the few survivors was Liesel Joseph, 13, who found haven in London. On her painting of the St. Louis there is no sign of life. The boat is painted in dark colors, although the sky in the background is pink, perhaps expressing Liesel’s hope for a better and happier future.