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The Journey to the Midwest

SS Navemar Conditions

Jewish refugees aboard the crowded SS Navemar

Many refugees initially hoped that leaving Austria and Germany would be enough to escape the Nazis' reach, and so they made their way to France, the Netherlands, and other European countries. With the war, Germany quickly expanded into Europe, forcing refugees to flee once again. Many hoped to make it to the United States directly or by way of Cuba, North Africa, Shanghai, or Great Britain.

The future residents of Scattergood endured disheartening journeys on their way to the United States. Walter Shostal and his family sailed from Europe on the SS Navemar, a ship that some called the "floating Gurs," in reference to the Gurs concentration camp in France. The SS Navemar was catastrophically overcrowded with over 1000 passengers. Living conditions were terrible, and there was not enough food for the journey. Six people died of typhus before finally reaching New York by way of Cuba.

Many refugees had difficulty adapting to their initial landing points in California and New York. Because they had to give up their wealth to make the journey, they might have less than $10 in their pockets. The AFSC reached out to families that needed a place to settle as well as to men who wanted to secure a position for their families still trapped in Europe.