The Refugee Crisis of 1939: U.S. Policy in the Face of Nazism

The Refugee Crisis of 1939: U.S. Policy in the Face of Nazism

October 18, 2017
Reception at 3:30pm
Film and panel at 4:00pm
McKeldin Special Events Room (6137)
Directions to Campus


The rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany forced thousands of Jews to flee Germany before and during the Second World War. Those Jewish refugees from Germany aboard the SS St. Louis desperately made their way to America only to be turned away by the Roosevelt Administration in 1939. This special screening of the film Complicit explores this untold account and features interviews of some of these refugees who later returned to the United States. Following the screening, several panelists, including survivors from the SS St. Louis, will speak. This event is hosted by the Center for Global Migration Studies, and co-sponsored by the Nathan and Jeannette Miller Center for Historical Studies, and the Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies.


Stuart Eizenstat

Former Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat served under three US administrations in a number of key senior positions, including chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981); US Ambassador to the European Union, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs, and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration (1993-2001). During the Clinton Administration, he had a prominent role in the development of a number of key international initiatives. Much of the interest in providing belated justice for victims of the Holocaust and other victims of Nazi tyranny during World War II was the result of his leadership as Special Representative of the President and Secretary of State on Holocaust-Era Issues. He successfully negotiated major agreements with Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France and other European countries, covering restitution of property, payment for slave and forced laborers, recovery of looted art, bank accounts, and payment of insurance policies. Ambassador Eizenstat has received seven honorary doctorate degrees from universities and academic institutions. He has been awarded high civilian awards from the governments of France (Legion of Honor), Germany, and Austria, as well as from Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers.

Diane Afoumado

Diane Afoumado is Chief of the Research and Reference Branch at the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Formerly Assistant Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Paris X-Nanterre and the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) in Paris, she worked for the two French Commissions related to compensation to Jewish victims. She also worked as a Historian for the Archival Division of the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine – Mémorial de la Shoah. Dr. Afoumado is the author of several books, including: L’affiche antisémite en France sous l’OccupationExil impossible. L’errance des réfugiés juifs du paquebot “St.Louis”; and La spoliation dans les camps de province.

Jeffrey Herf

Jeffrey Herf is Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland – College Park. Dr. Herf studies the intersection of ideas and politics in modern European history, specializing in twentieth century Germany. He has published extensively on Germany during the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and on West and East Germany during the Cold War. His recent books include Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989Nazi Prapaganda for the Arab World; The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust; and Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys. His research interests now focus on the Nazi period and German and European history in post World War II decades up to the collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War in 1989.

Robert Krakow

Robert Krakow is the executive director of the SS St. Louis Legacy Project, a foundation dedicated to “education through the dramatic arts.” He is a graduate of the University of Maryland and Georgetown Law School. Krakow is the creator of the documentary film, Complicit, which won 1st Prize at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in the Judaica category. The film was an official selection of the Montreal World Film Festival and the International Jewish Film Festival of Australia. In September of 2012, with the assistance of Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat and former State Department Envoy Hannah Rosenthal, the foundation was responsible for bringing 14 surviving passengers from the refugee ship, SS St. Louis, to the US Department of State where Deputy Secretary of State William Burns issued the first ever “admission of wrongdoing” for the US refusal to grant safe haven to passengers aboard the St. Louis. In November, 2016, the foundation lead a delegation of scholars and 7 surviving St. Louis passengers to Jerusalem for a special symposium at Hebrew University on the relevance of the St. Louis saga to the current immigration/refugee crisis. In 2018, the foundation will present its new film, Jews Under 30: For Your Eyes Only, which will explore Jewish identity in the 21st century and will address the issues of intermarriage, decrease in Jewish affiliation, BDS and support for Israel.