Voyage of the Damned is the title of a 1976 film drama inspired by true events concerning the fate of an ocean liner carrying Jewish refugees from Germany to Cuba in 1939.
It was directed by Stuart Rosenberg, and with a screenplay by David Butler and Steve Shagan. Its "all-star" cast includes Faye Dunaway, Lee Grant, Oskar Werner, Sam Wanamaker, Lynne Frederick, Luther Adler, Wendy Hiller, Julie Harris, Nehemiah Persoff, Paul Koslo, Jonathan Pryce, Max von Sydow, Malcolm McDowell, Orson Welles, James Mason, Katharine Ross, Josť Ferrer, Ben Gazzara, Fernando Rey, Janet Suzman and Denholm Elliott.
The film was nominated for three Academy Awards:
In addition, it was nominated for six Golden Globe awards including "Best Picture" and Katharine Ross won the award for "Best Actress in a Supporting Role".
Based on factual events, the story told of the S.S. St. Louis, which departed from Hamburg, Germany, carrying 937 Jews from Germany to Havana, Cuba in 1939. By this time, the Jews had suffered the rise of antisemitism and realised that this may their last chance to escape. The film details the emotional journey of the passengers who gradually become aware that their passage has been an exercise in propaganda and that they were never intended to disembark in Cuba. Rather, they were to be used as examples before the world, the point illustrated by a comment made by a Nazi official who says that when the whole world has refused to accept them as refugees, no country can blame Germany for the fate of the Jews.
The government of Cuba refuse entry to the passengers, and as the liner waits near the Florida coastline, they learn that the United States has also rejected them. They have no choice but to return to Europe. The captain tells a confidante that he has received a letter signed by 200 passengers saying they will join hands and jump into the sea, rather than return to Germany. He says he is intending to deliberately run the liner aground on a reef off the southern coast of England.
Shortly before the film's end, it is revealed that the governments of England, Belgium, France and The Netherlands have agreed to accept a share of the passengers as refugees. As the film characters cheer and clap, a footnote at the end of the film discusses the fate of some of the film's major characters, and reveals that more than 600 of the ship's passengers ultimately lost their lives in Nazi concentration camps.
In 1998 the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum attempted to trace survivors from the voyage.