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Members of the Dingfelder family board the MS St. Louis in Hamburg harbor.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 31702

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    Members of the Dingfelder family board the MS St. Louis in Hamburg harbor.
    Members of the Dingfelder family board the MS St. Louis in Hamburg harbor.

Pictured from left to right are: Leopold, Rudi, and Johanna Dingfelder.


    Members of the Dingfelder family board the MS St. Louis in Hamburg harbor.

    Pictured from left to right are: Leopold, Rudi, and Johanna Dingfelder.
    Max Reid
    1939 May 13
    Hamburg, [Hansestadt] Germany
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Gerri Felder, Photo by Max Reid
    Event History
    The St. Louis was a German luxury liner carrying more than 930 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany to Cuba in May 1939. When the ship set sail from Hamburg on May 13, 1939, all of its refugee passengers bore legitimate landing certificates for Cuba. However, during the two-week period that the ship was en route to Havana, the landing certificates granted by the Cuban director general of immigration in lieu of regular visas, were invalidated by the pro-fascist Cuban government. When the St. Louis reached Havana on May 27 all but 28 of the Jewish refugees were denied entry. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) dispatched Lawrence Berenson to Cuba to negotiate with local officials but Cuban president Federico Laredo Bru insisted that the ship leave Havana harbor. The refugees were likewise refused entry into the United States. Thus on June 6 the ship was forced to return to Europe. While en route to Antwerp several European countries were cajoled into taking in the refugees (287 to Great Britain; 214 to Belgium; 224 to France; 181 to the Netherlands). Only those who were accepted by Great Britain found relative safety. The others were soon to be subject once again to Nazi rule with the German invasion of western Europe in the spring of 1940. A fortunate few succeeded in emigrating before this became impossible. In the end, many of the St. Louis passengers who found temporary refuge in Belgium, France and the Netherlands died at the hands of the Nazis, but the majority survived the war.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Gerri Felder
    Source Record ID: Collections: 1998.69.11

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Robert Felder (born Rudi Dingfelder) is the son of Leopold and Johanna Dingfelder. He was born April 21, 1924 in Uehlfeld, Germany, but grew up in Plauen, where his father ran a kosher butcher shop. Rudi had one older brother, Martin, who immigrated to the United States in 1938. The following year Rudi and his parents booked passage on the MS St. Louis. When the ship returned to Europe the Dingfelders disembarked in the Netherlands. In 1942 Rudi and his parents were arrested in Gouda and sent to the Westerbork transit camp. His parents were subsequently deported to Auschwitz, where they perished. Rudi, who had stayed behind in the transit camp, was later transferred to Vught and then back again to Westerbork. In March 1944 he, too, was deported to Auschwitz. Rudi was one of only 55 members of his convoy of 2500 people to survive the initial selection at the camp. In January 1945 when Auschwitz was evacuated, Rudi was put on a death march to Germany. He was taken first to Buchenwald and later transferred to Oranienburg. A trained toolmaker, Rudi was assigned work at Siemensstadt-Sachsenhausen, was later moved to Siemensstadt-Berlin, and finally, was sent to a factory camp near Schwerin. In the closing weeks of the war he managed to escape from Schwerin and was liberated by a group of American soldiers a short time later. After the war Rudi returned to Gouda, where he met his future wife, Gerry, the daughter of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother. In March 1947 Rudi joined his brother in the United States, leaving Gerry behind temporarily. She joined him in 1948, and they were married soon after. Rudi and Gerry settled in Detroit, where their daughter, Joan, was born. Rudi Dingfelder died in Detroit in 1986.
    Record last modified:
    2013-05-17 00:00:00
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