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‘Ships to Nowhere’ refugees to be honored

The Jewish refugees who boarded ships to Palestine and the United States seeking freedom from the Nazi regime had no idea that for many of them, the trip would be a nightmarish journey from port to port - often lasting many months and ending back in Germany.
On October 1, the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College (QCC) will hold an opening reception in the Student Union for their newest exhibit, “Ships to Nowhere.” The reception will honor residents of Queens who were aboard the ships, including Irving Redel, Esther Katz, Margot Gold, and Jane Keibel.
Presented by using a combination of pictures and text, the exhibit will tell the history of Jews who boarded ships to escape Nazi Germany, and the difficulties they faced.
Victoria Redel, Irving’s daughter and author of The Boarders of Truth, a novel about Quanza, one of the ships that carried Jewish refugees, will speak at the opening for the “Ships to Nowhere” exhibit.
“As the daughter of a passenger on the ship Quanza, I have both a writer’s engagement and a personal engagement with the material,” Redel said.
Steve Berger, who is a volunteer at the Holocaust Center, will discuss his experiences smuggling refugees into Palestine.
Rabbi Isidoro Aizenberg, historian and Rabbi Emeritus of the Conservative Synagogue of Jamaica Estates, curated the exhibit.
Many countries, including the United States and Palestine (under British rule), had imposed quotas on the number of refugees they would take in. “Many refugees sailed from port to port and were denied entrance,” Aizenberg said. As a result, many Jews found themselves back in Germany where they started.
The trips by ship were difficult. “It wasn’t like taking a cruise ship,” said Aizenberg. Many ships exploded at sea. Other refugees committed suicide before the journey was over.
“We choose themes related to the Holocaust. We usually try to find issues not well known or not known at all,” Aizenberg said. Aizenberg said that while people may know about the St. Louis (immortalized in a 1976 Hollywood film, “Voyage of the Damned”), they don’t know that there were many other such ships.
In 1939, the S.S. St. Louis was a ship which carried Jewish refugees to Cuba. The refugees were denied entrance after authorities declared their visas invalid. The ship was forced to head back to Europe, stopping at ports in England and Belgium before arriving back in Germany.
Aizenberg spent five months researching and creating the exhibit. The photos in the exhibit came from the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Aizenberg has done other exhibits for the Holocaust Center including “Sosua, A Haven from the Holocaust in the Tropics,” and “Diplomats of Mercy.”
“Ships to Nowhere” will be on display through the fall semester. It is free of charge and is open to the public.

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