Monday, June 5, 2017

Thoughts While Lying In State: What to do with the Statue of Liberty

I had a few ideas for today's episode, but this morning, when I got up to get ready for work, I found myself bent over the porcelain pony instead of standing under the shower. Not sure why that happened, but I spent the better part of the morning feeling like this was a rinse/repeat scenario. I shan't bore you with the details, but let's just say multiple cups of tea later, I am finally sitting upright without the traditional black plastic wastebasket next to me. I will admit to having texted my erstwhile cousin Laurie to tell her I was barfing my brains out and she should probably check on me once in a while. Which she did. Many times. Another one of the joys of living one knows you're lying in state. 

Although I gave great thought to posting the "Gone Fishing" sign, I won't. There are a couple of things I want to write about, albeit briefly.
Captain Gustav Schröder

How many of you know the name Gustav Schröder? I'm guessing that name doesn't ring too many bells these days. Pity. Everyone should know who he was and what he did. But we'll get back to him in a minute.

Fifty years ago today, June 5th, the Six-Day War began. When it was over, Israel found itself the new landlords of the Golan Heights, Gaza, the West Bank of the Jordan River, the Sinai Peninsula...not exactly what everyone had in mind. Or wanted. Kind of a booby-prize of sorts...

But Israel also held all of Jerusalem. That was the cake, the icing, and all the roses and sprinkles. 

Without going into detail, eventually the Sinai was returned to Egypt. Egypt did not want Gaza back, and it appeared the Jordanians did not want the West Bank back either. Both countries eventually officially relinquished their claims to the territories leaving Israel holding the bag. I think the Egyptians and the Jordanians were laughing all the way to the bank.

In reality, this war never ended; it has flared up again and again and again. Despite the removal of settlements and attempts to have working governments in both Gaza and the West Bank, there is no peace, nor will there ever be peace until both sides stop lying to themselves...and each other. Revisionist history on both sides is not a foundation for trust. You cannot teach suicide bombing to kindergartners and expect Israeli parents to say, "Oh, how cute!" In the same breath, you cannot continue to use eminent domain to build luxury apartments and expect the local population to be thrilled. 

There are abuses on both sides. I am not a fan of Netanyahu by anyone's standard. He has done more to damage the State of Israel with his ruling coalition than any other PM in Israel's history. And it's not just about the territories. This is also very much about the treatment of Jews by Jews. Women and non-haredi Jews are denied full rights of participation because the religious courts deny them the ability to marry, to divorce, to practice their kind of Judaism. Jews denying Jews the right to pray. What a concept.

At the same time, the ongoing barrage of missiles and hate-tunnels coming from Gaza do nothing to help a people so desperately in need of help. They need food and plumbing and electricity...and a government that puts the needs of the people first. Many agencies and countries and companies have attempted to step up to the cause, yet little funding ever reaches the ground. It's a vicious cycle with no end in sight. 


However angry I get with the government of Israel, it does not change my hardliner stand, my core belief, my absolute certainty that Israel has a right to exist as Israel. Just as there are Christian countries, and Buddhist countries, and Islamic countries, Israel can be a Jewish country. It's okay to have your calendar based on the Jewish calendar, just like the US one is based on the Christian holiday cycle. You can practice whatever religion you want in Israel...other religions are not regulated by the rabbinic courts and have total freedom of practice....and just about every religion in the world can be found there. They are not second class citizens. They are not denied full civil rights. There is no special tax for a church or a mosque or a temple. But Israel is a Jewish state and has a right to remain so. 

BDS is nothing but a shield for anti-Semitism. It punishes Palestinians by stanching economic growth. Academic boycotts are ridiculous because academia should be about sharing ideas, not stopping them from being discussed. Roger Waters is an idiot because he completely misses the point that audiences in Israel are not Jewish-only. EVERYONE goes. You wanna reach people...throw a concert. If you sing it, they will come. Anyone who tells you they want to boycott, ban, or otherwise stop people from supporting or sharing information about Israel is nothing more than someone who wants Jews to be dead.

And speaking about people wanting Jews to be dead, Gustav Schröder was not one of them.

On May 13th, 1939, Gustav Schröder, captain of the MS St. Louis, departed Hamburg, Germany for Havana, Cuba with 937 passengers, most of them Jewish refugees fleeing Germany. He made that voyage a delightful experience for his passengers that had been so badly treated in Germany. Everything was done to make everyone a first class guest on board. 

When they reached Havana, on May 27th, they were denied a docking berth and dropped anchor at the end of the harbor. Eventually, 29 passengers were permitted to disembark: 4 Spanish citizens, 2 Cuban nationals, one attempted suicide needing medical attention, and 22 Jews with valid US visas. The rest were turned away.
Prohibited from landing in Cuba, the St. Louis and the remaining 907 refugees[10] headed towards the United States. Captain Schröder circled off the coast of Florida, hoping for permission to enter the United States. Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, advised Roosevelt not to accept the Jews, however. Captain Schröder considered running aground along the coast to allow the refugees to escape, but, acting on Cordell Hull's instructions, US Coast Guard vessels shadowed the ship and prevented such a move.   (from Wikipedia)
On June 7th, 1939, the captain informed his passengers they were out of options and headed back to Europe where death loomed waiting for them. 

They landed in Antwerp on June 17th, with 907 passengers. Again, Captain Schröder negotiated on behalf of his passengers with nations that did not want them at all.

Of those passengers:
  • 288  (31.76%) were allowed to transfer via other steamers to the United Kingdom
  • 224  (24.70%) were accepted by France
  • 214  (23.59%) were accepted by Belgium
  • 181  (19.96%) were accepted by the Netherlands

We know the following thanks to researchers Scott Miller and Sarah Ogilvie of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum:
Of the 620 St. Louis passengers who returned to continental Europe, we determined that eighty-seven were able to emigrate before Germany invaded western Europe on May 10, 1940. Two hundred fifty-four passengers in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands after that date died during the Holocaust. Most of these people were murdered in the killing centers of Auschwitz and Sobibór; the rest died in internment camps, in hiding or attempting to evade the Nazis. Three hundred sixty-five of the 620 passengers who returned to continental Europe survived the war. Of the 288 passengers sent to Britain, the vast majority were alive at war's end.                               Refuge Denied: The St. Louis Passengers and the Holocaust                                                   Scott Miller and Sarah Ogilvie, Univ. of Wisconsin Press (2010).
Captain Schröder was more than courageous; he took on the world. It cost him his career and probably a lot more we don't know about. He was charged with war crimes during the de-nazification period, but charges were dropped when several of the passengers of the St. Louis came forward to speak out on his behalf. He was honored by the German government in 1957 with the Order of Merit for "services to the people and the land in the rescue of refugees." Despite the recognition, he lived in poverty until the end of his life. He passed away in 1959. Posthumously named one of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad VaShem in 1993.

But what does Gustav Schröder have to do with anything?

This guy recognized the need for a refugee people to land. He could not find one that would grant them safe haven, so he did the best he could. He got as many as he could to safety and negotiated with France, Belgium, and the Netherlands in good faith for the rest. He could not possibly know they, too, would be overrun. 

In the final analysis, Israel was the answer to our Voyage of the Damned.  Today's refugees are fleeing their homes; their Voyage of the Damned is just beginning. We should be joining together with our European allies to figure out how to provide shelter and safety. We are not doing that. 

Once upon a time, I would've expected America to step up to the plate. After all, isn't that what the statue in the harbor says? 

And if the symbol no longer applies, maybe we should retire Lady Liberty to the covfefe heap with all those Confederate statues?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
No person is all good or all bad.
Remember that the next time
you're making a snap judgment because
it's probably wrong.


  1. Israel may have many faults but I will support it even with its faults because there is no other place for Jews to go.Good or bad,it is the only place. I read many books on the St. Louis and America turned them away like other countries did. It was a different time, but hate never changes whether it is Muslim refugees or Jews, Hitler or trump(and I am not comparing him to Hitler) The people will rise up and make the changes.Only 25.6 % voted for trump.45 % did not even vote so that has to change and right has to overcome wrong.It is imperative.I still see that picture of the Statue of Liberty the same way, a destruction of this country by am man too dumb to know he is being controlled by Bannon.He's the one to get out of Washington.

  2. All in all, a very informative retelling of the fate of the St. Louis and the heroism of Schroder.

    Important to remember Jewish emigration to Mandatory Palestine was shut off at this point because the British had capitulated to the demands of the Arab aristocracy. Remember, too, the local Arab aristocracy's objection to Jewish emigration was based more on the loss of economic hegemony to a burgeoning egalitarian socialist economy being developed by Jews. This economy was so attractive that half a million Arabs from the surrounding nations emigrated to Mandatory Palestine.

    Another point, the current hegemony of the ultra-orthodox in Israel has its source in the policies of the ruling Labour Party at the founding of the State.