On May 13, 1939, the HAPAG liner ST. LOUIS left the port of Hamburg with the destination Havana (Cuba). On board was 17-year-old Fritz Buff (1921-2017). He had embarked on the voyage without any relatives and summarized his experiences in an eleven-page travel report. The document is divided into three parts, which describe his journey from Hamburg to Havana, being in limbo in the Cuban port and cruising the Atlantic until finally docking in Antwerp, Belgium. Buff recorded the events immediately on the spot. In doing so, he reflected his own emotional world as well as the mood on board and the political negotiations to obtain a landing permit for the ship. A later copy differs from the original only in spelling and some word changes. The third section of the report presented here documents the events after the ship was forced to leave the Cuban port, the passengers’ holding out at sea and their temporary rescue in Antwerp.
Together with Fritz Buff, another 936 people, most of them Jews from Germany, were on the ST. LOUIS. When the ship reached the island state in the Caribbean on May 27, the Cuban government denied them entry. After fruitless negotiations, it had to leave port on June 2. The ST. LOUIS cruised the Atlantic for days. Captain Gustav Schröder delayed the return trip to Europe, and Jewish aid organizations tried to find a solution until Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and France agreed to take in the passengers.
Fritz Buff’s Account of His Journey on the St. Louis (1939) (translated by Insa Kummer), edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:source-214.en.v1> [April 21, 2021].