Albert’s Story

On December 28, 1938 the family embarked on their three-week sea voyage to Havana, Cuba. For Albert, it was one of the greatest adventures of his young life! The ship was a playground for the boys, who would hide down in the machine rooms or climb up and down the many ladders on the decks, and there were even special parties when all of the children could play together.

The Friedlanders in Havana, Cuba, 1940.
The Friedlanders in Havana, Cuba, 1940.

Most of the passengers on the ship were refugees, but the sailors treated them with respect. The Friedlanders had obtained first-class tickets. Some of their friends had taken second- and third-class tickets, whatever was available in order to get out of the country at that point.

The journey reminded Albert of the Passover story as told in the Bible, in which the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. He felt that his own freedom was just around the corner.

Indeed, when the Friedlanders arrived in Cuba they were able to return to a somewhat normal life, despite new difficulties. They had to search for housing, learn a new language, and make new friends. But with the support of Aunt Judith from Jerusalem, they managed to find a place to live and made connections with the growing Jewish community.

“It became a center for German refugees.”
—Albert Friedlander

Just as Albert had arrived on a ship as a refugee , many other Jews were arriving in Cuba in this same way around this time. One day, Albert went to the docks with his family to greet some of the new arrivals on one of the ships, called the “St. Louis”. Albert learned that his friend from Berlin, Peter Korn, was on the ship. Albert used to play with Peter at the Undine boat club on weekends. He was so excited to see Peter again! When the Friedlanders arrived at the harbor, they rowed out in little boats to say hello to the passengers through the ship’s windows, but no one was getting off the ship. In fact, because of a change in Cuban policy, the passengers on the “St. Louis” were not allowed to disembark. Soon, the ship left the harbor, and that was the last time Albert ever saw Peter. Albert began to realize that his own safety was a mere matter of chance.