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  • Originally published 05/13/2013

    The Real Story of the MS St. Louis

    The MS St. Louis in Havana. Credit: Wiki Commons.Critics of Franklin Delano Roosevelt often use the ship the St. Louis as an emblem of FDR’s alleged indifference toward the Holocaust. In Hollywood’s version, now deeply engrained in American popular culture, the 937 German-Jewish passengers of the MS St. Louis undertook the “voyage of the damned.” The president could have saved them and did nothing. As a result, most of them perished.In our new book FDR and the Jews, we noted in passing that American officials did not order the Coast Guard to prevent the St. Louis from landing in the United States. Since our book appeared a few months ago our critics in the press -- and some surviving St. Louis passengers -- have complained about this particular statement.

  • Originally published 03/22/2013

    Dreams of saving Art Deco Havana

    HAVANA — Kathleen Murphy Skolnik gasped one recent morning as she gazed up into the stairwell of a 1939 downtown apartment building here and pointed at the chevron pattern in the ironwork, at the unpolished rust-pink marble and a simple alcove on the stairway crowned by a stepped arch.“It’s so beautiful,” said Ms. Skolnik, an architectural historian who lives in Chicago. “And it’s so run-down.”Ms. Skolnik’s words serve as an unofficial motto for the rich, wide-ranging and often neglected buildings that, experts say, make Cuba one of the world’s most significant but overlooked troves of Art Deco architecture. As some 250 Cuban and foreign connoisseurs gathered last week in Havana for the World Congress on Art Deco, there was hope the event would foster wider recognition of the island’s Art Deco heritage and the urgent need to preserve it. (The gathering, of the World Congress of the International Coalition of Art Deco Societies, ends on Thursday.)...