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Floral evening dress with purple slip worn to the Celebration Ball on the ill-fated voyage of the MS St. Louis

Object | Accession Number: 2003.58.2 a-b

Evening gown worn by Lilly Joseph on board the MS St. Louis for the Celebration and Ball on June 13, 1939. She had the gown made for the voyage, and she wore it only once, for the Celebration held the evening the passengers learned that they did not have to return to Nazi Germany. During the Kristallnacht pogrom, November 9-10, 1938, vandals broke into the Joseph home in Rheydt, Germany. Lilly and her 10 year old daughter, Liesl, hid on the third floor and her husband Joseph was arrested. He was released on the condition that he leave the country. The family sailed on the Hamburg-Amerika luxury liner, Ms St. Louis, for Havana, Cuba, on May 13, 1939. The plan was to wait in Cuba for permission to enter the US. Cuban authorities declared most permits invalid and denied entry to all but 28 of the 937 passengers. Josef chaired the passenger committee during the search for a safe haven. After a week, the ship was ordered to leave Havana. Despite urgent pleas to the US, no exceptions were made to the quota limits and the refugees were denied permission to enter the US. The ship had to head back to Europe on June 6. Jewish aid organizations negotiated with European governments to admit the passengers rather than return them to Nazi Germany. The ship docked in Antwerp, Belgium, on June 17 and the Joseph family continued on to England. Josef was imprisoned as an enemy alien, but the family received US visas and arrived in NY on September 10, 1940.

use:  1939 June 13
use: Celebration Ball, St Louis (Ship); Atlantic Ocean
creation: Bonn (Germany)
Clothing and Dress
Women's clothing
Object Type
Evening gowns (lcsh)
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Liesl Joseph Loeb
Record last modified: 2020-06-30 09:27:50
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