Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, the Sousa Mendes Foundation, and Hunter College Jewish Studies Center present a screening of the documentary film, Nobody Wants Us (2019, dir. Laura Seltzer-Duny) at the Roosevelt House at 47-49 East 65th Street, between Madison and Park Avenues, New York City. The event will be held on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2019. The event will begin with a reception at 5:45 p.m., with the program to follow at 6:30 p.m.
In 1940, a ship called the S.S. Quanza left the port of Lisbon carrying several hundred Jewish refugees to freedom. Most of them held life-saving visas issued by the Holocaust rescuer Aristides de Sousa Mendes. 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 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, “future patriotic Americans.” This is an episode in American history that everyone needs to know.
“We are delighted to bring this important film, Nobody Wants Us, to Roosevelt House, and to share it with the rest of the Hunter community,” says Harold Holzer, the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Roosevelt House. “The film offers a fresh perspective not just on the issue of immigration, but the action taken by Eleanor Roosevelt to save the lives of immigrants in need of sanctuary,” he adds.
The film, which is 37 minutes in length, will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Leah Garrett, Director of the Hunter College Jewish Studies Center. Other participants will include:
Blanche Wiesen Cook, the leading authority on Eleanor Roosevelt and author of her three-volume biography.
Annette Lachmann, who was a passenger on the Quanza in 1940.
Laura Seltzer-Duny, the filmmaker.
Significance of the story:
According to Michael Dobbs of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “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.”
Roosevelt House, an integral part of Hunter College since 1943, re-opened in 2010 as a public policy institute honoring the distinguished legacy of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Its mission is three-fold: to educate students in public policy and human rights, to support faculty research, and to foster creative dialogue. The institute provides opportunities for students to analyze public policy and experience meaningful civic engagement; for faculty to research, teach, and write about important issues of the day; and for scholarly and public audiences to participate in high-profile lectures, seminars and conferences.
The Sousa Mendes Foundation, established in 2010, is a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the memory of the Holocaust rescuer Aristides de Sousa Mendes and to teaching the importance of moral courage in a civilized world. Named “Organization of the Year” in 2012 by The Portuguese Tribune, the Foundation is engaged in a worldwide search for families who escaped the Holocaust through Portugal. Through concerts, lectures, films and other educational programming it promotes the important lesson, particularly to young people, that one person can make a difference.
The event is free of charge, but seating is limited, and is by advance reservation. For more information and to reserve tickets, please click here.