Trudeau apologizes for turning away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in 1939

Elias Hubbard
November 8, 2018

"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.

The St. Louis ship left Germany in 1939 with around 900 Jews on board, who were fleeing persecution by the Nazis.

"We apologize to the 907 German Jews aboard the MS St. Louis, as well as their families", the Prime Minister told the Commons. After being turned away by Canada, the passengers were forced to return to Europe and more than 250 later died in the Holocaust.

Gordon said history continues to repeat itself and even today "many people are discriminated against, starving or running for their lives".

"According to the most recent figures, 17 per cent of all hate crimes in Canada target Jewish people - far higher per capita than any other group", the Prime Minister said.

"We must guard our communities and institutions against the kinds of evils that took hold in the hearts of so many, more than 70 years ago, for they did not end with the war", Mr. Trudeau said.

"Today I rise to issue a long-overdue apology to the Jewish refugees Canada turned away", Trudeau said in a speech to Parliament.

In May 2016, six months after taking office, he stood in parliament to apologize to the descendents of hundreds of passengers of the Komagata Maru, a Japanese vessel carrying Sikh, Muslim and Hindu migrants who were refused entry into Canada under 1914 immigration laws.

When Cuba, the United States and Canada turned the ship away, it returned to Europe where several countries took the refugees in and, according to historians and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), 255 of them were later killed in World War II, majority in concentration camps. She urged Canada not to fail them as it failed the passengers on the St. Louis. As Nazi Germany expanded its reach, about 254 were captured and killed in death camps, The New York Times reports.

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. The Twitter account was a protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban, which targeted refugees. "We were quick to forget the ways they helped build this country since its inception". "Anti-Semitism is still far too present", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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