Chapter 9: “Will We Be Sent Back?”

Topics Covered

Immigration policies and views in the United States

Quotes From The Film

  • “Looking through the porthole was my sister, my mother, and I. And my father was on the dock, and he was reaching with his hand up to us. And the journalist took this photograph.”

— Annette, 3 years old in 1940

  • “I feel like we're never getting off this ship.I just want to be back on land.

  • A local newspaper reporter interviewed us. Maybe this will help.”

— Malvina, 11 years old in 1940

Put Yourselves in Their Shoes

On the Steamship Quanza in September 1940:

  • Look at the photo of Annette's and Malvina's mom reaching her hand down to their father's on the dock.

  • How would you feel if you were 11-year-old Malvina caught in this cercumstance?

  • How do you think Malvina's mother and father's felt when they were trying to reunite but couldn't?

  • When the Steamship Quanza was anchored in the port of Hampton Roads, VA, the newspapers said that a man in desperation jumped ship and swam over a mile before he was caught by military police.

  • What do you imagine he was thinking and feeling at that time?

  • Might you have jumped off that ship and attemped to swim to freedom? Why or why not?

The White House:

Breckinridge Long and Eleanor Roosevelt had different perspectives on how to deal with the refugees on the SS Quanza.

  • Write a paragraph and then organize a debate, as if you're the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt or the Assistant Secretary of State Breckenridge Long. Defend your position to your class. The class is the President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Help decide the fate of these refugees.

On the Steamship St. Loius in 1939:


A year before, the Steamship St. Louis was denied entry into the US, and over 900 passengers were sent back to Europe.

  • What was their fate? 

  • Now that you've examined 11-year-old Malvina's feelings, how do you think an 11 year old who was sent back to Europe felt? 

What Can I Do?

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