For years, Katharine and I have co-labored with Rosemary Schindler, who is carrying the mantle of Oskar Schindler in advocating for the Jewish people and building bridges with the Christian community. One of her long-standing projects has been seeing the justice deserved by Holocaust survivors and victim’s families come to pass. This week’s event was the fruit of long, costly years of ministry. We are blessed to pass this report on to our readers for prayer and as an encouraging note. You can see her work and support her at www.schindlersark.org.–Myles
On Monday, the day before Yom Kippur eve, members of our team heading to Israel accompanied Rosemary Schindler (pictured), the grand-niece of Oskar Schindler, to the United States Department of State to attend a special ceremony to honor the survivors of the MS St. Louis, the vessel that carried 938 German Jews fleeing the Nazi terror in May 1939. The ceremony was held at the George C. Marshall Center. Speaking on behalf of the State Department, Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns, who arrived that morning from duties in Libya surrounding the recent crisis there, and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Hanna Rosenthal of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor both officially apologized to the survivors. The event’s moderator was Director General of the Foreign Service, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
When the ship was turned away in Cuba, it requested asylum for the Jewish refugees and asked permission to dock in Florida. The request was denied by that State Department and the administration of Franklin Roosevelt. The ship returned to Antwerp and ultimately nearly one-third of the passengers perished in the German death camps.
Monday, right before Yom Kippur 5773, the United States of America made history with Deputy Secretary Burns’s public repentance at this ceremony, taking responsibility for the most shameful act in the annuls of U.S. immigration policy and placing Resolution 111 acknowledging this atrocity into the National Archives of the Department of State.
A delegation of fourteen of the remaining, surviving passengers were in attendance including the only Israeli surviving passenger. During the program, Rosemary Schindler was instrumental in bringing to light the remaining issue of restitution for claims to the descendants of Holocaust victims whose life insurance policies were never honored. While there appeared to be no press coverage of this ceremony, it was recorded in its entirety by three cameras for the purpose of creating DVDs to be distributed to every American Embassy worldwide. This DVD will be required viewing by every current and future State Department diplomatic staff as a message that this catastrophe will never happen again on our nation’s watch. Ironically, this ceremony was taking place in Washington D.C. with the people of God while the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly embracing speeches of Holocaust deniers was convening in New York.
Hanna Rosenthal stated, “We are here to take care of some unfinished business today. What is very important to me as a diplomat, as an employee of the State Department, as an American, and as a child of a Holocaust Survivor, is that we face our role and responsibility. And that is what this day is about. This government will have to share for all time the responsibility for this extermination. What we did was late and little. The State Department today is very different from the State Department of those horrible years. We are now people with superb individuals who are not only committed to improving our responses to human rights abuses around the world, but very committed to repairing this fractured world.”
Deputy Secretary William J. Burns’s opening remarks were as follows: “It really is an honor for me to be here this morning. To the survivors o f the MS St. Louis, on behalf of the president and the secretary of state, I am honored to say what we should have said so long ago: The MS St. Louis tragedy is an opportunity for public officials and educators to raise awareness about an important historical event, the lessons of which are relevant to current and future generations. So we made a committment that the next time the world confronts us with another MS St. Louis — refugees in flight — we will remind them of the MS St. Louis and be ready to rise to the occasion and fight anti-Semitism.”