Grade Level: High School



Students of the Holocaust frequently ask, "Why didn't Jewish people flee Germany when the Nazis took power?" Framed in the context of several broader issues, the story of the St. Louis offers a historical case study through which to address this question. The broader contextual issues include: German anti-Jewish policy in 1938 and 1939; the international response to the growing refugee crisis; the plight of refugees in German-occupied western Europe; and United States immigration and refugee policy during the 1930s and 1940s.

Using documentary evidence, Museum researchers have reconstructed the individual stories of many St. Louis passengers. This information will help students understand the complex issues mentioned above, especially the difficulties that Jewish refugees faced when fleeing Nazi Germany and how United States government policies influenced the fates of refugees.



  • To learn and practice techniques used by professional researchers to construct histories of individual passengers on the St. Louis
  • To examine primary source documents in an effort to determine the fate of individuals during the Holocaust and use secondary source information to fill in the broader historical context of these personal stories




Teacher Preparation

  • Print out supplementary readings and any text from The Story section that will be used as handouts


Instruction (up to 3 days)

  1. Prior to students using the Voyage of the St. Louis website, assign the supplementary reading "German-Jewish Refugees."
  2. Assign students (preferably in pairs) to explore "The Voyage," "Return to Europe," and, if time permits, the stories of the five families in The Story section. This may be done in class, at the library, in the computer lab, or as a homework assignment.
  3. Assign students in pairs to research one of the four passengers featured in The Search section. You may want to print out and copy the Written Document Analysis Worksheet for students to use during their research.
  4. Once the students have researched at least one passenger, regroup them into new groups that include at least one student researcher for each of the four passengers. Collectively, the groups will construct a timeline charting the stories of the four different passengers, chronologically listing where they were and what they experienced.
  5. Print out and assign the supplemental readings: "The United States and the Refugee Crisis"; "The Holocaust in France"; and "The Holocaust in Belgium" (seven printed pages with maps). Students should use these readings to construct a timeline illustrating U.S. and German policies toward refugees in western Europe during the Holocaust.
  6. As a class, use the timelines generated by the students in steps 4 and 5 above as a focal point to discuss what the story of the St. Louis explains, and what questions it raises about the experiences of refugees in western Europe during the Holocaust.

Students should be able to answer the following questions after becoming familiar with the material in the website.

  1. How did the United States respond to the refugee crisis and why? (Use information from the supplementary readings to answer this question.)
  2. What was life like for refugees in Vichy France and German-occupied western Europe? (All sections of the website provide useful information for answering this question.)
  3. What made it difficult for refugees to escape from the Nazis in German-occupied or German-allied western Europe? (All sections of the website provide useful information for answering this question.)
  4. What documents did a refugee need in order to enter the United States, and what did he or she need in order to leave countries in Europe? What factors affected the ability of refugees to successfully complete the visa application process? (The story of Moritz Schoenberger in The Search section, and the stories of the Hermanns, Blumenstein, and Seligmann families in The Story section provide useful information for answering these questions.)
  5. What makes it difficult to know exactly what happened to some victims of the Holocaust? What kind of documentation is required to achieve a reasonable degree of certainty about an individual's fate? (Use information and passenger profiles from The Search section to answer these questions.)