Voyage of the Damned (1976) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The tragic 1939 voyage of SS St. Louis carrying hundreds of German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany that seemingly no nation is willing to save from certain doom.

  • In 1939, Germany's Hamburg-America Line announced a voyage from Germany to Cuba. 937 people, the vast majority being Jews, signed up for the opportunity to escape Nazi Germany. Unbeknownst to the passengers, the visas they purchased were from a corrupt Cuban director of immigration, and they were invalid. Upon arrival in Havana, only 28 people were allowed to disembark, while the rest remained on board for weeks as they sailed to Florida, and eventually Canada, searching for safe haven. Sadly the ship returned to Antwerp after more than a month at sea. Forced back under Nazi rule as the low countries fell, it is estimated that approximately 250 of the refugees died in the extermination camps in occupied Poland.

  • Organized by the Nazis in May 1939, nine hundred thirty-seven Jews set sail on the S.S. St. Louis, a luxury ocean liner, from Hamburg to Havana. The passengers are sailing to freedom in Cuba, where their friends and relatives are awaiting their arrival. The passengers have mixed emotions about their voyage: some are happy about freedom, some are sad to leave their German homeland, and some are angry about accepting anything from their Nazi persecutors. Some of the crew, those that sympathize with the Nazi Party, are also angry that the Nazis would allow Jews to sail to freedom and are angry about having to serve their inferior passengers. The ship's Captain, Schroeder, is a non-political man, and does whatever he can to ensure a safe and comfortable voyage for his passengers. Unbeknown to most of the crew, including the Captain, and the passengers all of whom were only issued tourist visas, a wave of antisemitism is sweeping across the western hemisphere, in part fueled by the Nazis. The passengers, as refugees, are obviously intending on staying once landed despite their visas. Thus, the fate of the ship and its passengers is uncertain when it lands in Havana Harbor. Perhaps this outcome was the Nazi plan all along so that the world could no longer object to how the Nazis deal with Jews at home.



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