A few months back I wrote about Senate Resolution 111 which recognized June 6, 2009 as a day to remember one of the most shameful days in American history. That was the 70th anniversary of the day that the US turned away the ship S.S. St. Louis from docking in Florida. The St. Louis was a ship with nearly a 1000 Jewish passengers fleeing Nazi Germany. The ship eventually returned to Europe and more than a quarter of the passengers were murdered.
This coming week 37 of the 74 remaining surviving passengers of the St. Louis are set to gather for what some think will be their last reunion. One of the 74 survivors is University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center Professor Clark Blatteis. Professor Blatteis was born in 1932 and lived in several countries during their years trying to avoid the Nazis. He immigrated to the US from Morocco in 1948 and went on to become a nationally known professor of thermal physiology which is the study of fever.
A very interesting videotaped interview where Professor Blatteis tells the story of the St. Louis and how he made his career in physiology can be found here.
After World War II, the United States signed on to the United Nations Convention on Refugees and the refugee and asylum laws that have been passed since are designed to prevent a tragedy like this from being repeated. Professor Blatteis, like other great Americans that include Intel founder Andy Grove and Google founder Sergei Brin, is an example of a successful refugee. Most people assume our nation's top scientists enter the US under work visas. But many have arrived under this program as well.