On 13 May 1939, more than 900 Jews fled Germany aboard a luxury cruise liner, the SS St Louis. They hoped to reach Cuba and then travel to the US – but were turned away in Havana and forced to return to Europe, where more than 250 were killed by the Nazis.
“It was really something to be going on a luxury liner,” says Gisela Feldman. “We didn’t really know where we were heading, or how we would cope when we got there.”
At the age of 90, Feldman still clearly remembers the raw and mixed emotions she felt as a 15-year-old girl boarding the St Louis at Hamburg docks with her mother and younger sister.
“I was always aware of how anxious my mother looked, embarking on such a long journey, on her own with two teenage daughters,” she says.
In the years following the rise to power of Hitler’s Nazi party, ordinary Jewish families like Feldman’s had been left in no doubt about the increasing dangers they were facing.