To Hope and Back: The Journey of the St. Louis
By Kathy Kacer
Second Story Press, 2011. 204 pgs. Middle grade nonfiction
In 1939, over 900 Jews sought refugee from Hitler and the rise of Nazism in Germany by boarding the St. Louis and heading to Cuba. Having purchased costly tickets, which in some cases used up families' entire life savings, they were treated kindly by the crew, including Captain Schroeder, and they were anticipating a new life in Cuba, or after a brief stay in Cuba, in the U.S. However, as the ship was racing across the ocean, trouble was brewing, as Nazi propaganda convinced many Cubans the soon-to-arrive Jews were poor, dirty criminals. As the ship reached Cuba, no one was allowed to disembark. While a few concerned people tried to convince either the Cuban government or the U.S. government to allow the emigrants in, the Jews feared what would happen if no one would take them--because returning to Germany would mean almost certain death.
This is a first-rate book that blends fiction with nonfiction, as it follows two children, Lisa and Sol, who really traveled on the ship but who didn't necessarily experience everything that was attributed to them. I had heard of the St. Louis, but this made the story of the people come to life--and showed some of the consequences of the decisions made by hostile/weak governments.
4 stars. Clean read.