The Story Behind a Viral Message About the Holocaust and Refugees

Source: Time

By Lily Rothman

The idea had been brewing for a while, but it only took a few hours to turn it into a reality.

That’s how Russel Neiss, 33, explains the genesis of the Twitter account St. Louis Manifest, which on Friday tweeted the names of passengers on the St. Louis, a ship full of refugees from the Holocaust that was infamously turned away from the United States and Cuba in 1939.

Refugees At Portholes

17th June 1939: German Jewish refugees, looking through portholes aboard the Hamburg-Amerika liner ‘St Louis’ on arrival at Antwerp, where a temporary home was found for the 900 refugees aboard. Most were later deported. (Photo by Gerry Cranham/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

As TIME reported back then, the liner bore 937 German-Jewish refugees who believed they would be able to disembark in Cuba and from there come to the United States; arriving in the waters off Florida, they found that almost all of the passengers would be barred from landing in Cuba, and that the nearby U.S. would not take them in either. The St. Louis returned to Europe, and eventually about a quarter of the passengers were killed during the Holocaust. Those 254 names are the ones being tweeted.

“There’s a ritual around not only Holocaust remembrance, but other remembrances too, where one of the things you do is you read the names of the victims,” Neiss explains to TIME. “What does it look like to recreate this ritual for a digital age?”

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