Voyage of the Damned: A Shocking True Story of Hope, Betrayal, and Nazi Terror
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Voyage of the Damned: A Shocking True Story of Hope, Betrayal, and Nazi Terror

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  167 ratings  ·  33 reviews
In May 1939, the SS St. Louis set sail from Hamburg carrying 937 German Jews seeking asylum from Nazi persecution. Unknown to the captain, the ship was merely a pawn of Nazi propaganda. Among the crew were members of the dreaded Gestapo, and the steward himself was on a mission for the SS. Made into an Academy Award–winning film in 1976, Voyage of the Damned is the grippin...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by Skyhorse Publishing (first published January 1st 1974)
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It seems almost trite to talk about what happened to the passengers of the St. Louis as *tragic*, given the enormity of the Holocaust (and, especially since some at least survived the ordeal), and yet, there's the added element of worldwide rejection. Here are Jews who escaped and yet were not accepted, most notably not by the United States. Their ship turns into an unintentional floating concentration camp. As the author says, they find themselves bereft of the most fundamental...more
Apr 18, 2010 Graceann rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Graceann by: My husband
Shelves: history
What an astounding, compelling, infuriating book. It is no mean feat to take a story where the ending is, or should be, well known, and make it suspenseful, but Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan Witts do exactly that here. Published in 1974, when there were survivors still present to share their memories, VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED tells the story of "the ship that shamed the world." The St. Louis left Hamburg, Germany in May 1939 with 900 Jewish refugees aboard. Their destination was Havana, Cuba and, to...more
Hillary Waldbaum
I recently visited the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. It was so hard and sad to see the graphic images. What I learned from the museum is that it was not only the Jews who were persecuted for their religion and looks but anyone who looked different than what Hitler thought they should.

I read this book as I believe my brother-in-laws father was a young boy on the SS St Louis. I wanted to read the plight of what he went through. I now see there were so many hands in the cookie jar.

I have alw...more
Following the tragic voyage of the St. Louis and the Jewish refugees that were aboard, you'll learn that the Nazis weren't the only ones who felt Jews were less then human. Bound for Cuba, you'll read about individual people who make this tragic story so heartwrenching and infuriating. From the captain who realized the ordeal he was in charge of, to the corrupt Cuban officials who only thought of money and power, there are so many interesting and complex people in this story you'll find yourself...more
Captivating and educational, Thomas and Witts managed to keep me interested in the change of events at beginning of World War II. I thought they did a great job recapturing the mood of the people and how they had to adjust to the circumstances they lived through.

Although a historical fiction, "Voyage of the Damned" is based off of true events and is written around historical documentation of a real occurrence. The people interviewed and real pictures from the event are referred to throughout the...more
A very interesting, worthwhile read, the story of the 900 or so Jewish refugees banished from their homeland, Germany in the spring/summer of 1939.

Stylistically, the book reads like a soap opera or a play, dramatizing the 'good' and 'evil' characters on the ship, from their departure in Hamburg to the arrival in Havana, and finally, the sad return back to Europe. I found this to be a bit fluffy for my taste. Captain Schroeder is an interesting character...a German Navy captain that earnestly tr...more
I read this book many years ago, but have not forgotten this painful story. Many are familiar with the saga of the S.S.St.Louis, which purportedly was to rescue Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe and deliver them to safe haven. The narration conveys the frustration, fear and outrageous, unjustifiable manipulations these people encountered in their numerous attempts to flee. Despite the fact that I had known of this ship, I was horrified to discover that Democratic USA was a party to these shamef...more
I have to admit that I'd never heard of the SS St Louis before I picked up this book, and had only vaguely heard of the title of the book, with no real associations.

Later, in some other source (I believe it was The Terrible Secret) I got some background information about why refugees were not permitted to land in places like Cuba, or Canada, or the US. Basically, the fear was that refugees would flee wholesale, spread their horror stories, and force the US and other governments into precipitate...more
It always feels strange to say I "liked" a book about the atrocities of Nazi-torn Germany. This older book was recommended by a friend who shares my interest in that era, though, and I'm glad that I took her advice and read it, because it answered a lot of questions for me.

I have always wondered how the rest of the world could sit by for so long and do nothing while hundreds of thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps and ultimately put to death by the Nazis. This book answers that que...more
Audra Marvin
I read this book in preparation for a library event focusing on the St. Louis (the name of the ship that carries the passengers on the titular damned voyage).

Though not an exciting read, it was extremely interesting, and - as one would expect of a book with a Holocaust theme - extremely sad. When I got about halfway or three quarters of the way through, I took a break of several weeks. I can't tell if the break was that I was getting bored with the non-action (after all, a book the plot of which...more
Jenny Karraker
I enjoyed this book about the voyage of the St. Louis, carrying Jewish passengers to Cuba, where they hoped to settle or move to the United States. The cruelty of the Nazis was nothing new, but I was surprised to learn about the corruption and greed of Cuba at that time. To enter Cuba, passengers were required by the Cuban government to buy a $500 visa. However, The Cuban director of immigration Manuel Benitez concocted a plan to sell the Jews a cheaper $150 landing permit, which was totally bog...more
Jul 12, 2014 Joel is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I'm re-reading "Voyage of the Damned" in part because of the current influx of child refugees from Central America...children seeking asylum in the US...and our disgusting response. This book is a strong reminder of what it means to deny a group of people, especially children, even the most basic of human needs, that of being valued and wanted. I would recommend this book to everyone, especially if you are struggling to come to terms with the situation at the border.
David Lowther
This was a very sound account of one of the most disgraceful stories of the immediate pre second world war period. Nine hundred passengers, a majority of them Jewish refugees from Germany sail to Cuba expecting to be allowed to stay there while they wait permission to enter the United States. You should read the book to discover what happens next.

The authors' have done their homework extremely well, using interviews from those who were there, newsreels, newspaper coverage and other sources to pr...more
This is an amazing book about a dreadful episode just before the Second World War. As the number of people trying to flee Nazi Germany increased, other countries became less and less happy to accept the refugees because of the strain it put on their own economies and social systems. In May/June 1939 one particular ship, the SS Louis, with 937 passengers aboard was refused permission to dock and offload in Cuba and this book follows the voyage day by day together with the discussions and negotiat...more
Recounts the events of 900+ German Jews ordered to leave their home country of Germany and sail to Cuba. Of course, they are first bilked of all money, their own and more from friends abroad. But they were never meant to be received in Cuba nor elsewhere because the Germans under Hitler's wicked spell cast the spell across the Atlantic through propaganda and so incited hate and fear of the refugees. Excellent writing because of the extent and honesty the authors went to get first hand accounts f...more
All I can say is after reading this book, it makes you feel ashamed to be an American. Especially during the time this event took place. The only good that comes through this event is done by a few people who more than deserve to be recognized for their noncomformity (the captain and his crew especially). Nothing is more horrific than what humans do to each other.
I would like to have given this book a 5, but I felt overwhelmed by the negotiation details and timelines. I applaud the authors for bringing this story to light, but felt it was focusing on the chronology of the events at the expense of the personal.
Fascinating historical work about a ship full of Jewish refugees in 1939 - it's a horrific chapter in history. The author does an excellent job of telling diverse stories of the various passengers & crew while still keeping the narrative thread.
This was an interesting account of 900+ Jewish refugees trying to escape pre-WWII Germany, only to find their passage corrupted by international politics and greed. Yet another insight into this disturbing chapter in human history.
I enjoy reading historical accounts that are written narratively, and this book did not disappoint. Though the subject matter was both tragic and frustrating, I'm so glad I read this and highly recommend it.
David Hill
Fairly well told story of the plight of Jewish refugees aboard the S. S. St. Louis in May/June 1939. Victims not only of Nazi abuse, but of Cuban corruption and international indifference as well.
Marcus Ionis
Really enjoyed the details from passengers, crew and diplomats. Trying to overcome an unforgivable challenge. Gustav Schroeder should be remember for his character and bravery. Recommend reading.
This reads like a novel, but dealing with real events. As a consequence, it makes a very good read and provides an effective insight into how it must have felt to be a refugee on that ship.
Was reading this on a vacation. It happened to be on the shelf of the place we were staying. I should have pinched it because now I can't find another copy anywhere. Bummer.
Difficult to read, but brings us inside to the thoughts and actions of the people on the ship. A tragic story and still begs the question: "Why didn't we (the US) do something?"
This book was well written on a very difficult subject. The story of the St. Louis with Jewish refugees trying to escape Germany before WW2 started.
sufferings of the Jews during the reign of nazism in mainland Europe...will you still choose to live than die, when you'll live a life like in hell?
Stephen Clay
Jan 13, 2014 Stephen Clay rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Absolutely
Emotionally challenging book. Many of the stories told will leave you questioning how little many value a human life.
Never before has a book where I knew the outcome had me as enthralled as this one did.
I'm not very good at writing reviews. I found this book to be quite facinating.
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Gordon Thomas (born 1933) is a Welsh author who has written more than fifty books.
Thomas was born in Wales, in a cemetery keeper's cottage where his grandmother lived. He had his first story published at nine years old in a Boy's Own Paper competition. With his father in the RAF, he traveled widely and was educated at the Cairo High School, the Maritz Brothers (in Port Elizabeth, South Africa) and...more
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