Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day — and it also happens to be a week in which banning an entire nationality from entering the U.S. is looking like a very real possibility. But a social media tribute to some of the victims of the Holocaust is reminding us of the tragic cost of ignoring the plight of refugees. In 1939, captain Gustav Schröder tried to find help relocate 908 Jewish refugees who were fleeing Germany and the Nazi regime by transporting them to North America aboard the MS St. Louis. They made it across the Atlantic only to be denied entry to Cuba, the U.S., and Canada. Forced to return to Europe, some of them were able to find refuge in various countries. But historians estimate that 254 of them ultimately died in concentration camps during World War II. Today, a Twitter account has been sharing the names of those who perished — and the result is powerful. "On Holocaust Remembrance Day #WeRemember the victims of Naziism turned away at the doorstep of America in 1939. #RefugeesWelcome," reads the description of the @Stl_Manifest account.
The effort seems especially poignant today. President Trump is expected to sign an executive order that would halt the refugee settlement program in the U.S., and ban Syrian refugees from coming until further notice. According to the United Nations' Refugee Agency, there are currently about 21.3 million refugees worldwide — half of whom are under the age of 18. The U.S. has only taken in a little over 14,000 Syrian refugees since the crisis began. If history has taught us anything, it's that there's a real cost to slamming the door on those in desperate need of help. As we remember those who perished in the Holocaust, it's a good time to look towards the future and wonder what type of nation we will be. Will we honor the words, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," or will we turn a blind eye?