Canada to apologize for refusing Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau inaugurated National Holocaust Memorial on Thursday, but the apology is still forthcoming.

September 28, 2017 12:13
2 minute read.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau visits Auschwitz. (photo credit: AUSCHWITZ MEMORIAL TWITTER)


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The Liberal party of Canada, headed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is working on an apology for the Canadian 1939 decision to turn away a boat full of German-Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, Global News reported on Wednesday.

Despite hopes that Trudeau would address the issue during the inauguration of the National Holocaust Monument, he chose not to do so, focusing instead on Jewish refugees from Europe who built their lives in Canada after World War II and warning against hatred and tyranny.

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The MS St. Louis was turned away from Cuba and the United States before Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, a conservative, decided against allowing the ship to dock in Halifax. The ship was forced to return to Europe. While some passengers were accepted as refugees by France, the UK, Belgium and Holland, 500 found themselves under Hitler’s thumb. Around half of them perished in the Holocaust.
In a June interview with The New York Times, Trudeau said Canada should face the fact that it was not always a welcoming country.

He cited other historical examples, including the MS St. Louis, for which Canada officially apologized in the past.

"Securing an apology for the MS St. Louis incident has long been a priority for the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Canada," said Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Center. " We've been engaged in productive conversations with Parliamentarians on this issue and are grateful that Prime Minister Trudeau recognized this dark chapter in our history at the unveiling of the National Holocaust Monument earlier today. Only by acknowledging our past mistakes can we ensure that in the future, our country will stand for what is right.”

The MS St. Louis story was made into a 1976 film called “Voyage of the Damned” and included Faye Dunaway, Orson Wells and Lee Grant, among others.

The Canadian Jewish Congress commissioned a monument in 2011 called The Wheel of Conscience. Created by Polish-Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind, the monument is composed of various gears that explain how the rejection of Jewish suffering occurred.

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