Canada to Formally Apologize for Refusing German Jews Sanctuary in 1939

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will formally apologize in November for Canada’s refusal to accept a shipload of German Jews seeking asylum in 1939, at the cost of more than 200 lives.

Mr. Trudeau says it was a moral failure on the part of the government of the day as he made the announcement on a conference call with Canadian rabbis Thursday. He later took to Twitter to announce the move:

The MS St. Louis had 907 Jews, who were fleeing Nazi persecution, aboard when it was turned away from both Cuba and the United States before a group of Canadians tried to convince then-prime minister Mackenzie King’s government to let it dock in Halifax.

King was unable to convince Frederick Blair, the director of the immigration branch of the federal Department of Mines and Resources, to allow them into the country.

The ship eventually turned around and re-crossed the Atlantic where the passengers met their fate.

17th June 1939: German Jewish refugees, looking through portholes aboard the Hamburg-Amerika liner ‘St Louis’ on arrival at Antwerp, where a temporary home was found for the 900 refugees aboard. Most were later deported. (Photo by Gerry Cranham/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

About half were taken in by the U.K., the Netherlands, France and Belgium. About 500 of them ended up back in Germany, where 254 were killed in concentration and internment camps.

Mr. Trudeau had announced the pending apology in May with an address to Parliament in Ottawa (see top of page).

With files from the Canadian Press

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