Behind the tragedy that everyone is familiar with is another story - less known, it continues to tarnish a little more the sinking of the Titanic.
On the night of 14 April, 1912, the RMS Titanic, which was to connect Southampton (England) to New York, tragically disappeared in the North Atlantic off Newfoundland after hitting an iceberg.
While the tragedy has been abundantly recounted over the decades through books and films, a more confidential story has long been overlooked: that of six Chinese survivors, deliberately taken off from the registers by the American authorities because of their nationality.
‘Six Chinese men came out alive from the Titanic and twenty-four hours later they were erased from the story. It was not an accident. It was deliberate. It is something due to the culture of the time’, explains Steven Schwankert to the Quartz website, which is involved in the development of the documentary The Six, that is seeking to trace back the story of these forgotten passengers.
The ‘culture of the times’ described by Steven Schwankert was in fact put into place by the ‘Chinese Exclusion Act’ passed by Congress in 1882. In other words, an anti-immigration law established by the United States to prevent the arrival of Chinese people on American soil.
After escaping the tragedy of the sinking, six men of Chinese origin, who had been rescued, were thus placed under surveillance by US immigration officers at Ellis Island. A few days later, any trace of them was deliberately lost in the many loops of the administration. In the meantime, they were discreetly sent to Cuba aboard the steamboat Anetta.
They were five Chinese passengers who managed to embark on the last lifeboat, as well as a sixth survivor who was taken on the boat in extremis by the officer Harold Lowe, while he was on a door debris. ‘What is the point of saving him? He is probably dead, and if he is not, there are others who deserve better to be saved rather than a Jap,’ Officer Harold Lowe would have apparently stated before finally deciding to help the shipwrecked man.
‘The press at the time called the Chinese survivors cowards who disguised themselves as women to sneak into the lifeboats. There was no basis for that,’ says Steven Schwankert whose documentary The Six should be released this year and is highly anticipated in China.