Canada apologizes for turning away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939

Pauline Gross
November 10, 2018

"Today, I rise in this House of Commons to issue a long-overdue apology to the Jewish refugees Canada turned away", he said in Ottawa.

Standing in the Canadian parliament chamber, Trudeau spoke in both English and French as he apologized.

The apology is months in the making and will focus on the decision by the government of William Lyon Mackenzie King in 1939 to reject an asylum request from more than 900 German Jews aboard an ocean liner that was nearing Halifax.

"We certainly hope it is a catalyst for a greater discussion about contemporary anti-Semitism and what can be done by all of us - regardless of our background - and particularly what can be done on the part of government and elected officials to fight anti-Semitism", Steve McDonald, the director of policy with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said last week.

"We all must, as individuals, communities and as a nation, help these people in every way we can", she said.

The apology connected past to present, showing how the hate that animated Canada's treatment of Jewish refugees in the 20th century is still ingrained in contemporary politics Canada, the US and elsewhere.

But anti-Semitism is not just a thing of the past in Canada as Trudeau said that some 17 percent of religious hate crimes victims in the country are against Jews.

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"And I pledge to you all now: we will do more", he said, without specifying.

The federal government's apology for one of Canada's most shameful anti-Semitic episodes was personal for some of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet ministers. "Despite the desperate pleas of the Canadian Jewish community".

The passengers, who had also been refused entry to Cuba and the United States, returned to Europe, where the passengers scattered across the continent. In November 1938, Nazi agitators attacked Jews and vandalized synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses, scattering broken glass that glittered in the streets like crystal.

The US State Department apologized for the incident in 2012 at a ceremony attended by then deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and 14 survivors from the ship.

Now was the time to show "true Christian charity", said a group of writers, historians and business people, and let the 907 German Jews of the St. Louis come ashore.

"It was very important that the government made this statement and fulsome apology for the past", said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B'nai Brith Canada.

Other reports by GizPress

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