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Canada apologizes for turning away Jews fleeing Nazi Germany

10 November 2018

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized for the government's decision in 1939 to turn away a ship full of Jewish refugees who had escaped Nazi Germany.

Louis liner had 907 German Jews on board fleeing the Nazis.

The passengers were barred from disembarking at Cuba, and then denied entry in the United States and Canada due to the discriminatory immigration policies of the time. They looked for refuge in Cuba and the USA but were turned away.

Writing in the National Post on the eve of the apology, Michael Mostyn, chief executive of B'nai Brith Canada, called on the Trudeau government to take action by devoting resources to developing a national action plan to combat anti-Semitism and engage with Jewish institutions, including synagogues, on security.

"We are sorry for the callousness of Canada's response", he said.

However, the liberal government of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canadian PM from 1935-1948, did not give in to the pleas, forcing over 900 German Jews to eventually return to Europe.

The St. Louis fled the Third Reich from Hamburg in May 1939 carrying 937 passengers.

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The prevalence of anti-Semitism in contemporary society showed itself nearly two weeks ago when a gunman killed 11 worshippers inside a Pittsburgh synagogue simply because they were Jewish, Trudeau said.

In the end, 254 passengers would die in the Holocaust.

Steel's last memory of her father was holding his hand, being told to look off in the distance, and feeling someone else take her hand - saving her from the train the next day that took her parents to Auschwitz.

He said that those who rejected the desperate refugees should bear "moral responsibility for their death" arguing that "there is a little doubt that our silence permitted the Nazis to come up with their own, "final solution" to the so-called Jewish problem". Vigils were held across Canada in the aftermath of the attack.

The story of the St. Louis gained renewed interest previous year when picture and stories of the victims circulated on social media in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to ban immigration and refugee settlement from certain countries.

"I am here, the third generation in Canada, because Canada opened its arms, too late for many but in time for us".

Canada apologizes for turning away Jews fleeing Nazi Germany