Passengers on board the Quanza, unable to disembark, 1940
The Sousa Mendes Foundation and the American Sephardi Federation present the New York premiere of the documentary film, Nobody Wants Us (2019, dir. Laura Seltzer-Duny) on Sunday, August 11, 2019, 2-4:30 p.m. at the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York City.
In 1940, a ship called the S.S. Quanza left the port of Lisbon carrying several hundred Jewish refugees — most of whom held Sousa Mendes visas — to freedom. But events went terribly wrong, and the passengers became trapped on the ship because no country would take them in. Nobody Wants Us tells the gripping true story of how Eleanor Roosevelt herself stepped in to save the passengers on board because of her moral conviction that they were not “undesirables” (as the US State Department labeled them) but rather were “future patriotic Americans.” This is an episode in American history that everyone needs to know.
The film, which is 35 minutes in length, will be introduced by the filmmaker Laura Seltzer-Duny and followed by a panel discussion moderated by Michael Dobbs of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, author of The Unwanted. Other participants will include:
Blanche Wiesen Cook, the leading world expert on Eleanor Roosevelt and the author of her three-volume biography.
Annette Lachmann, who was a passenger on the Quanza in 1940.
Kathleen Rand, whose father Wolf Rand was the passenger who successfully filed suit against the shipping company, forcing the vessel to remain in port until the conflict was resolved.
Stephen Morewitz, the leading world expert on the Quanza story, whose grandparents’ Newport News, Virginia law firm of Morewitz & Morewitz was hired by Wolf Rand and successfully litigated the case.
Significance of the story:
According to Michael Dobbs, “The Quanza incident is a timely reminder that individuals make a difference. Without visas supplied by the Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, many of the Jewish passengers on board the Quanza might well have been stranded in Nazi-occupied Europe. Without the legal brilliance of a maritime lawyer named Jacob Morewitz, the ship would have been obliged to sail back to Europe. Without the intervention of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the passengers would not have been permitted to land. It took three people, from entirely different backgrounds, to save dozens of lives that might otherwise have been lost.”