Justin Trudeau Apologizes For Turning Away Jewish Refugees In 1939

Trudeau issues apology for Canada's refusal to harbor Jews fleeing Holocaust

Trudeau issues apology for Canada's refusal to harbor Jews fleeing Holocaust

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has delivered a passionate 30-minute apology to 907 German Jews, who sought refuge in Canada from Nazi persecution in 1937 but were denied entry.

The decision to turn the country's back on European Jews was "unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now", Trudeau said in his speech on the week marking the 80th anniversary of what is known as "Kristallnacht" and the start of the Holocaust.

The Jewish passengers returned to Europe where many were condemned to concentration camps, with 254 killed during the Holocaust.

"We refused to help them when we could have", Trudeau said during his apology Wednesday.

Noting that Canadian Jews "are understandably feeling vulnerable" in the wake of the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, that left 11 people dead and dozens injured, Trudeau pointed out that there have been calls to boost security at places of worship so the people could feel safe while in service, but didn't mention any new measures.

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Facing pressure from advisors, and a petition with more than 130,000 names opposed to letting refugees in, Prime Minister Mackenzie King turned down the request.

The story of the MS St. Louis resurfaced in headlines again in 2017, when an American Jewish educator launched a Twitter account that names passengers of the ship who were later killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. "We are sorry for not apologizing sooner", Trudeau said in a French and English language address.

"While decades have passed since we turned our backs on Jewish refugees, time has by no means absolved Canada of its guilt or lessened the weight or our shame". Of those Canada did let in, some 7,000 Jews were held as prisoners of war and jailed alongside Germans captured on battlefields, he said.

The story of the St. Louis gained renewed interest a year ago 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. "We must always speak out against xenophobic and anti-Semitic relations, and also of hatred in all its manifestations", - said the Prime Minister of Canada. The ship arrived in Cuba, which would not accept the refugees. "We contributed to sealing the cruel fates of far too many at places like Auschwitz, Treblinka and Belzec".

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