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MS St. Louis floor plan

Object | Accession Number: 1991.164.116

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    MS St. Louis floor plan


    Brief Narrative
    Original floor-plan for the ship, MS St. Louis acquired by Liesl Joseph and her family, who were passengers on the ill fated voyage of the ocean liner in the spring of 1939. Liesl, 11, and her parents, Josef and Lilly, left Germany soon after the Kristallnacht pogrom in November 1938. They departed on the Hamburg-Amerika luxury liner, MS St. Louis, sailing for Havana on May 13, 1939. The plan was to wait there for permission to enter the US. But Cuban authorities denied entry to all but 28 of the 937 passengers. Josef chaired the passenger committee that tried to find a safe harbor. Liesl remembers feeling that "as long as my father was involved, we would be all right." After a week, the ship was ordered to leave. The US government refused to make any exception to the quota limits. The ship was forced to head back to Europe on June 6. Jewish aid organizations negotiated with European governments to admit the passengers rather than return them to Germany. The ship docked in Antwerp, Belgium, on June 17 and the Joseph family continued on to England. Joseph was interned as an enemy alien, but when they received US visas, the family departed on the Cameronia and arrived in the US on September 10, 1940.
    received:  approximately 1939
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Liesl Joseph Loeb
    front, top center, flanked by ship flag : Hamburg-Amerika Linie Hamburg / Doppelschrauben - Motorschiff / ST. LOUIS Twin Screw Motor Ship
    Subject: Liesl J. Loeb
    Liesl Joseph was born in Rheydt, Germany, on June 17,1928, the only child of Josef, born November 9, 1882, in Altenbamberg, and Lilly Salmon Joseph, born April 25,1901, in Odenkirchen. Her father was a successful lawyer and a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD.) The family was wealthy, with a twenty room house, servants, and a governess for Liesl. Following Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor in 1933, political opposition was violently suppressed. The SPD was one of the few political organizations that tried to resist Nazi rule. Josef was blacklisted for his membership in the SPD and barely escaped arrest. Civil rights for all citizens were soon abolished and antisemitic policies became increasingly punitive. Gentile friends stopped associating with them, and Liesl had stones thrown at her as she walked to school. During Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, Josef was arrested. The next night, a mob broke into their home; Lilly and Liesl hid with their non-Jewish tenants on the third floor. Everything was destroyed - the furnishings, all belongings, and the windows and doors were smashed. Lilly and Liesl left to live with Lilly’s relatives in Bonn. Josef was being held in a local jail and soon was released on the condition that he leave the country.

    They purchased tickets for a trip aboard the Hamburg-America luxury liner, MS St. Louis, sailing to Havana, Cuba. They left Hamburg on May 13, 1939, and arrived in Cuba on May 27. Nearly all of the 937 passengers were Jewish refugees hoping to escape from Nazi dominated Europe. The plan was to wait in Cuba for permission to enter the US, but Cuban authorities denied entry to all but 28 passengers. Josef, skilled as a lawyer and negotiator, was asked to chair the passenger committee. Liesl remember feeling that “as long as my father was involved, we would be all right. He was busy telegraphing and communicating with the rest of the world trying to find a safe place for the passengers." The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee negotiated with the Cuban president for refuge but, after a week, the ship was ordered to leave the harbor. Despite urgent pleas to the United States government, the US President and Congress chose not to make any special exceptions to the stiff US quota limits and the refugees were denied permission to enter the US. Captain Schroeder took the ship within sight of the Florida coast, before heading back to Europe on June 6. Jewish aid organizations had negotiated with four European governments, Belgium, Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands to admit the passengers rather than return them to Germany. The Joseph family disembarked in Antwerp, Belgium, on June 17, Liesl’s eleventh birthday. They then travelled to England with Morris Troper, the head of the Joint Distribution Committee, and his family on board the Rhakotis.

    The Joseph family rented a one-room apartment in London. During the Blitz, the intensive bombing campaign on London by Germany, Liesl was sent to Clifton where she attended a Jewish secondary school and boarded with the Whittington. In August 1940, her father was interned on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien. When the bombing raids ended, Liesl returned to London to live with her mother.
    In 1940, the family received US visas and departed on the Camaronia. They arrived in the US on September 10 and settled in Philadelphia where Lilly had relatives. Her mother worked as a maid and her father sold candy. In 1945, Josef learned that his sister and one of her two sons had been killed in a concentration camp. The members of Lilly’s family who had remained in Germany, including her mother and two sisters, also perished in the camps. Josef died, age 63 years, in November 1945. Liesl completed school, and in 1947, married Hans Joseph Loeb. They had a son and a daughter. Hans died in 1987. Liesl had a career as a graphic designer. She was a frequent speaker to community groups, dedicating herself to teaching others through her experiences of the Holocaust. Her mother, now Lilly Joseph Kamin, died, age 92 years, in November 1993. Liesl passed on August 25, 2013, age 85 years.

    Physical Details

    German English
    Architectural Elements
    Object Type
    Ships plans (aat)
    Physical Description
    Architectural rendering of a ship's floor plan, drawn in black on white paper with some text and room numbers in red. It depicts each of the 5 decks: Promenade, Sport deck, and decks A-D, as viewed from top. It marks each individual passenger room, room number, and number of beds contained in each room. To the left of deck A is a drawing of a ship upon the ocean. Below deck D are 3 columns of text, the key for the diagram. A red arrow inscribed St. Louis points to the lower right edge of Deck B.
    overall: Height: 33.000 inches (83.82 cm) | Width: 43.000 inches (109.22 cm)
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Corporate Name
    St. Louis (Ship)

    Administrative Notes

    The drawing was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1991 by Liesl Joseph Loeb.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-02 09:16:15
    This page:

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